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Posts Tagged ‘Justification

The Arminian Affirmation of the Atonement

The Bible is clear that Jesus died for sinners.  No one denies this.  Both Arminians and Calvinists acknowledge that Jesus shed His blood for the souls of lost sinners.  Matthew 1:21 is clear that Jesus came to save His people from their sins.  The key question in this debate over the atonement is whether the atonement is for all sinners period.  Many Calvinists insist that the atonement is indeed for all people on some level.  For example, Dr. John MacArthur believes that the atonement provides benefits for all people while only having the power to save the elect.  MacArthur goes on to state, “Jesus Christ made a sufficient sacrifice to cover every sin of every one who believes (John 3:16-18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 4:10; 1 John 2:2.”

I do not disagree.  MacArthur states the following on 1 John 2:2 and the “whole world”:

This is a generic term, referring not to every single individual, but to mankind in general.  Christ actually paid the penalty only for those who would repent and believe.  A number of Scriptures indicate that Christ died for the world (John 1:29; 3:16; 6:51; 1 Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 2:9).  Most of the world will be eternally condemned to hell to pay for their own sins, so they could not have been paid for by Christ.  The passages that speak of Christ’s dying for the whole world must be understood to refer to mankind in general (as in Titus 2:11).  “World” indicates the sphere, the beings toward whom God seeks reconciliation and has provided propitiation.  God has mitigated his wrath on sinners temporarily, by letting them live and enjoy earthly life (1 Timothy 4:10).  In that sense, Christ has provided a brief, temporary propitiation for the whole world.  But he actually satisfied fully the wrath of God eternally only for the elect who believe.  Christ’s death in itself had unlimited and infinite value because he is Holy God.  Thus his sacrifice was sufficient to pay the penalty for all the sins of all whom God brings to faith.  But the actual satisfaction and atonement was made only for those who believe (John 10:11, 15; 17:9, 20; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32, 37; Ephesians 5:25).  The pardon for sin is offered to the whole world, but received only by those who believe (1 John 4:9, 14; John 5:24).  There is no other way to be reconciled to God.

A few thoughts here about this.  First, I appreciate Dr. MacArthur much.  He preaches salvation to all.  He never fails to call all to repent and believe the gospel.  In this sense, he follows in the steps of men such as George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon in calling all sinners to repentance.  He is no hyper-Calvinist in this regard.  There has probably never been a man who has done more for expository preaching than John MacArthur.  Having personally met him, I found him to be gracious and kind.  So by no means do I present my case against him as an enemy.  I come as a brother.

Now the Arminian can read the above words from MacArthur and agree with most of what he wrote.  I agree that Christ died for the elect.  I agree that Christ died for His sheep.  I agree that Christ died for His Church.  I agree that Christ died for Paul the Apostle (Galatians 2:20).  I agree that Christ died for us (Galatians 1:4).  But I also go one step further and believe that Christ died for all.  I agree that no one is saved apart from being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  I agree that one has to believe to be saved (John 5:24; Acts 16:30-31).  I agree that repentance is necessary for eternal life (Acts 2:38).  But I also believe that all can be saved and there is no limit on this number.

I agree that the world is opposed to God (1 John 2:15-17).  Ironically, MacArthur never limits “world” in 1 John but here in 1 John 2:2.  The world is indeed sinful, God-hating, rejecting the truth of the gospel.  I agree.  But what we find in the gospel is God calling out to the whole world to repent and be saved.  God, who is the one that the world hates, is calling to His enemies to come and be reconciled through faith (Isaiah 1:18).  This is the message of the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:47).

You’ll notice in MacArthur’s statement above also that he wants to make sure that we understand that he believes the atonement is powerful enough to cover the sins of the world if God wanted it to.  He doesn’t use those words but it seems implied by this reader.  He wants us to see how powerful and vast the work of Christ is.  I would agree.  In the cross, we do find God the Son dying for the world and shedding His precious blood for the lost.  If God wanted to, He could indeed reconciled the world through the powerful blood of Jesus.  I have no doubt.  Instead, God calls to lost sinners through His love that He demonstrated on the cross (John 3:16; Romans 5:8-9).  This is not a forced love.  This is not a forced relationship.  This is a loving relationship where the repenting sinner comes to God through His Son to be saved (Romans 2:4).  This is a genuine relationship that God initiated and not man (Ephesians 2:4-6; 1 John 4:10).  But this message, this good news is for the whole world (Luke 2:10-11; 1 John 4:14).

It is true that the atonement is only effective for those who believe.  Christ died for His enemies and He even prayed for His enemies at the cross (Luke 23:34).  MacArthur even acknowledges that Christ is praying for His enemies at this passage and adds:

Some of the fruit of this prayer can be in the salvation of thousands of people in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 2:41).

Notice he adds in his note that “some of the fruit” and not all.  If it is true that Christ is dying only for the elect, why pray for the world?  Why pray for the sinners who are killing Him?  Many Calvinists point to John 17:9 as proof that Jesus does not pray for the world but only for the elect.  Yet MacArthur acknowledges that Luke 23:34 is for the lost.  He also is clear that God heard His prayer and saved some of those who perhaps killed Jesus at Pentecost in Acts 2:41.

Let us be clear here though.  None were saved by Jesus praying for them in Luke 23:34.  They had to appropriate the work of Christ just as we all do through faith.  That Jesus shed His blood saves no one.  Even Calvinists agree with this while insisting that the sins of the elect were placed on the Son.  All agree that we are saved by faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).  And even if we allow for Calvinists to believe that faith is a gift given by God to His elect, we must still acknowledge that the wrath of God is against us till we believe.

This would mean two things.  First, those who are in cast into hell are cast into hell because they rejected the sacrifice of the Son of God for their sins.  Do we have passages of Scripture that speak of Christ dying for their sins while they rejected His sacrifice?  Yes e do.  Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11; 2 Peter 2:1.  In context all these Scriptures speak of those whom Christ died who may not share in eternal life.  Even MacArthur does acknowledge that 2 Peter 2:1 is referring to false teachers who claimed Christ and so Peter mocks them by saying that they refuse to submit to the Lordship of Christ whom they claimed bought them.

What is clear is that people who go to hell go to hell because of their rejection of God and His truth.  The person is to blame and not God who gave His Son for their reconciliation.  Calvinism would place the blame on God.  God chose to reject sinners even before time began and even if you allow for the sinner’s punishability for their sins, they are sinning because God has predetermined that they be sinners in the first place by His own sovereign will (Romans 9:22-23).  If I were a Calvinist, at this point I would preach hard annihilation since the sinner is in hell tormented day and night forever because God willed that they never be saved in the first place.  Annihilation is at least charitable toward sinners who are being tormented for God’s glory in the first place in the Calvinist view.

Secondly, the application of the atonement is through faith.  Even MacArthur doesn’t preach the doctrine of eternal justification.  Consistent Calvinists such as John Gill see the truth that the elect are born sinless.  How else can it be?  If God placed the sins of the elect on Christ and He ensures that the elect will believe by His own sovereign choice from eternity past, who can one argue that God ever sees the sins of the elect?  If Christ died for my sins at the cross and God placed my sins on Him at the cross, when was the wrath of God against my sins appeased?  Gill would answer the cross.  MacArthur would answer the cross but add that I must receive it by faith.  And I would answer: Yes and this is biblical Arminianism!

Romans 3:21-26 in the ESV is beautiful (with my emphasis):

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Faith is the design of God to come into a saving relationship with Himself.  This is the sovereign will of God.  This is the sovereign decree of God.  All who repent and believe will be saved.  There is no limit to the sacrifice of the Son of God.  I have heard many Calvinists preaching like Arminians to the lost by preaching that Christ shed His blood so that they might be saved.  They call out to lost sinners to repent and believe the gospel (as if sinners could actually do this by their command).  They call to sinners to turn from their sins and be saved through faith in Christ.  And I agree!  In fact, I believe that every person whom the Calvinist evangelist is preaching to can be saved and there is no limit to the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17).  If God can have mercy on me, He can have mercy on my lost neighbors and co-workers who despise Him at this time (1 Timothy 1:15; 4:10).

As Paul the Apostle wrote above in Romans 3:24, this salvation is a gift to be received by faith.  The sinner does not earn this salvation.  There is nothing we could add to the work of Christ to be saved.  In fact, what a wicked thing to do to add to the cross of Christ by saying that we must also do our part to be saved.  We are justified though faith alone in Christ alone by His grace alone (Romans 5:1; Galatians 2:15-16; 3:13-14).  This is true of us as children of God as well as the lost sinners we are preaching to.  Salvation is the gracious work of God (John 1:12-13; Titus 2:11-14; 3:5-7).  We are saved by the work of Christ alone.

Thankfully both Calvinists and Arminians preach that truth.  Some Calvinists try to assert that we Arminians preach that we can save ourselves or we preach a works-righteousness system but this is not the truth.  Arminius wrote:

“I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude that, in this sense, it may be well and properly said, to a man who believes, faith is imputed for righteousness through grace, because God hath set forth his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a propitiation, a throne of grace, [or mercy seat] through faith in his blood.”

Adam Clarke wrote:

The doctrine of justification by faith is one of the grandest displays of the mercy of God to mankind. It is so very plain that all may comprehend it; and so free that all may attain it. What more simple than this-Thou art a sinner, in consequence condemned to perdition, and utterly unable to save thy own soul. All are in the same state with thyself, and no man can give a ransom for the soul of his neighbor. God, in his mercy, has provided a Saviour for thee. As thy life was forfeited to death because of thy transgressions, Jesus Christ has redeemed thy life by giving up his own; he died in thy stead, and has made atonement to God for thy transgression; and offers thee the pardon he has thus purchased, on the simple condition that thou believe that his death is a sufficient sacrifice, ransom, and oblation for thy sin; and that thou bring it, as such, by confident faith to the throne of God, and plead it in thy own behalf there. When thou dost so, thy faith in that sacrifice shall be imputed to thee for righteousness; that is, it shall be the means of receiving that salvation which Christ has bought by his blood.

And I end with John Wesley:

But there is an undeniable difference between the Calvinists and Arminians, with regard to the three other questions. Here they divide; the former believe absolute, the latter only conditional, predestination. The Calvinists hold, (1.) God has absolutely decreed, from all eternity, to save such and such persons, and no others; and that Christ died for these, and none else. The Arminians hold, God has decreed, from all eternity, touching all that have the written word, “He that believeth shall be saved: He that believeth not, shall be condemned:” And in order to this, “Christ died for all, all that were dead in trespasses and sins;” that is, for every child of Adam, since “in Adam all died.”

If Works Could Save

I am thankful to God that salvation is accomplished through the Lord Jesus Christ.  I am thankful that I do not “help” God though my efforts to be saved.  It is the Lord Jesus and Him alone who receives the glory for my salvation.  He purchased me.  He died for me.  He shed His blood for my forgiveness.  My peace with God comes through His work alone and not my works.  This is the biblical way of salvation: that salvation is through faith in the Lord Jesus and not my own works or my own righteousness (John 1:29; 5:24; 6:29; 15:1-11; Acts 13:38-39; Romans 3:22-27; 4:5; 5:1-11; 11:5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 15:1-3; Galatians 3:1-5; 5:1-4; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:1-9; Philippians 1:6; 2:12-16; Colossians 1:10-14; 2:12-13; etc).

Yet what if works could decide salvation?  What if works were the way that God saved sinners?  The problem would be two-fold.  First, who decides what good works save?  Does Bible study save?  Does prayer save?  Does being sinless save?  Does evangelism save?  Does going to church save?  Does taking the Lord’s supper save?  And how often must I do these good works?  Do I do them each day?  Does God expect me to do them only once a week or once a month?  And which one is the most important of the good works?  Does prayer take a priority over say Bible study or evangelism?  And what if I enjoy evangelism more than giving money to the poor?  What if I enjoy praying more than Bible study?  Is that sinful?

The second problem is human pride.  Can you imagine the boating we would do if we prayed more than this man or that woman?  Can you imagine the pride from those who evangelize more than others? Can you imagine the pride from those who are able to attend every church meeting (which I am not able to a lot)?  There would be so much pride from our flesh for what we are doing to save ourselves from God’s holy wrath.

This is why I am so thankful that Jesus did the work.  When He uttered those words, “It is finished” (John 19:30), what was finished?  The saving work of God.  God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  Salvation must be appropriated but is done.  The work for us is to believe the gospel (John 6:29).  Salvation by faith takes away our pride and destroys our confidence in our own good works to save us.  We must cast ourselves upon the Lord Jesus alone to save us (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).  We cannot save ourselves by our flesh but in Jesus alone.  This goes against our pride and our self-righteousness but it is the only way of God (Matthew 7:13-14, 21-27).  Our faith is credited to Him as righteousness (Romans 4:3).  This makes us mad but it is God’s only way of salvation.

Let us then keep our eyes on Jesus for He alone saves us by His grace (Hebrews 12:1-2).  May He be the one that we praise and rejoice in for He alone saved us by His grace (Revelation 5:12).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/28/2014 at 5:59 PM

Does A Literal Reading of John 3:16 Destroy Arminianism?

I was listening to an apologetic call-in program that happens to be hosted by a Calvinist.  I actually enjoy the podcast and appreciate his defense of the faith however he does often get sidetracked by Calvinism.  For example, in a recent broadcast he spent his time defending unconditional election and he spent his time seeking to prove that John 3:16 does not teach unlimited atonement.  I want to focus on the issue of John 3:16 for a moment here.

Young’s Literal Translation has John 3:16 like this:

for God did so love the world, that His Son — the only begotten — He gave, that every one who is believing in him may not perish, but may have life age-during.

This Calvinist took John 3:16 and he sought to prove that Jesus did in fact die only for the elect based on the literal reading.  His focus was on “every one who is believing in Him” and sought to show that those who believe are only the elect.

Let me point out several things about this.  First, the literal reading does not affect Arminianism in the least bit.  In fact, John 3:16 is still a powerful verse for Arminianism’s doctrine of unlimited limited atonement.  After all, Arminianism rejects universalism and we believe and teach that only those who place their saving faith in Jesus are truly saved (as do Calvinists).  In that case, John 3:16 in its literal reading does not add one thing nor take away one thing from the Arminian-Calvinist debate.

Secondly, we agree that every one who is believing in Him may not perish.  We believe that salvation is based completely on Christ Jesus and that only those who justified by faith and those who remain in faith in Christ Jesus are truly the elect of God.  Believing must continue from start to finish (1 Corinthians 15:3; Colossians 1:21-23).  Our salvation is secure if we are in Christ Jesus by faith (Jude 24-25).  The promise of God is to keep us as we abide in Christ (John 15:1-11; 2 Corinthians 1:24).  Thus believing is necessary for initial salvation and for continued salvation (Hebrews 3:6-19; 6:4-20; 10:19-39).  The blood of Jesus washes away our sins when we initially come to God in faith and repentance (Acts 2:37-38; 3:19; 16:30-34; 17:30-31; 22:16; Ephesians 1:7) but we must walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7).  This is continuing to trust Jesus by faith that He alone saves us by His grace.

Thirdly, if John 3:16 were the only passage we had for unlimited limited atonement, Arminianism would be in trouble.  Thankfully it is not.  We have a host of passages of Scripture that emphasize the love of God for all.  Consider just a few such as 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 1 John 2:1-2; 4:14.  The call of Acts 2:38-39 goes out to all.  While Calvinists acknowledge the general call to repentance, they deny that God will grant repentance to all who come to Him but only to His elect (John 6:37 – a passage I will deal with in another post).  Arminians point to 1 Timothy 4:10 which is clear that only the elect are those who come to Christ for salvation but this does not deny that He is the Savior of all people in the sense that He gave His life for all so that whosoever may come and be saved (John 3:14-18; Romans 10:13).

And finally, I found it interesting that in this dialogue, the Calvinist brother pointed to Colossians 2:14 as proof that Jesus died only for the elect.  He said that the elect’s sin were nailed to the cross.  I was wondering if the Calvinist believes that he was born sinless.  If Colossians 2:14 means that Jesus shed His blood to take away the sin’s of the elect then surely at the cross, at the moment Jesus died, He died to secure the elect’s salvation.  This is a point most Calvinists will accept.  Yet if this premise is true then why do Calvinists deny either A) eternal justification since God chose His elect before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) or B) that the elect are born sinless since Christ died for the elect’s sin already.  In other words, if Bill is part of the elect and he was born in 1977 then logically Christ died nearly 2000 years ago for Bill based on the Calvinist reading of Colossians 2:14.  Bill then was born sinless since, according to Calvinism, Bill cannot be punished for his sins twice (this would be double jeopardy).  The typical Calvinist response is that Bill’s sins were not forgiven until he was effectually drawn to Christ by the sovereign grace of God.  Yet what about Colossians 2:14?  If Christ died for Bill, Bill, in the mind of God, was chosen in Christ before time began (Eph. 1:4 again) and Bill was eternally justified before God because God, in His absolute sovereignty, knew that Bill would believe the gospel and be saved.  Bill never had any sins because God knew that Bill was elect even before time began and God gave His Son to die for Bill so that Bill could be legally justified before God.

I know that much of this is philosophical in nature but I hope you see my point.  The Arminian reply to all this is simple: Bill was saved when the Spirit of God opened his eyes through the preaching of the gospel (John 6:44) and by faith Bill was justified before God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  The entire work of salvation belongs to God alone (John 1:12-13) but God does not believe for Bill.  Bill must believe to be saved and this only happens because of the grace of God (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 notice the calling through the gospel and not by anything else in this text).  Bill’s salvation is based completely on Christ Jesus alone and he becomes the elect of God when he repents and believes the gospel.

The blood of Jesus is sufficient for all to be saved but only is appropriated to those who repent and believe the gospel (John 3:36).  A point I think we all agree on.  May we preach the blood of Jesus to all!

His Resurrection Guarantees Our Justification

Romans 4:25 reads,

“Who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Jesus gave His life for our sins.  He died a cruel, unjust death at the hands of sinners.  Yet Jesus did this for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6).  His blood was shed so that we could have peace with God (Ephesians 2:14).  His blood was shed to wash away our sins (Ephesians 1:7).  He committed no sin yet He bore our sins (1 Peter 2:22-24).  2 Corinthians 5:18-21 reads,

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

He died to take away our sins (John 1:29) and in Him alone do we find forgiveness of our sins (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 9:22, 27-28; 10:10, 14; 1 John 2:2).

Yet the resurrection is key to this forgiveness.  Without a resurrection, there is no forgiveness.  This is the point of Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 15:16-19:

16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But since Christ has been raised from the dead (Matthew 28:6; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:6-7; John 20:1-10; 21:24-29), we have the blessing of knowing that our sins are truly forgiven.  This is not merely God ignoring our sins or simply by-passing His just law to forgive us just by the waving of His hands but this is true forgiveness.  Jesus took my place on the cross.  It was my sins that He bore.  He died in my place and He stood condemned  for me.  

And how do I know this?  Because of Romans 4:25!  Jesus was raised for my justification before a holy God.  My only hope for salvation, my only assurance of my forgiveness before a holy God is the blood of Christ that He shed on the cross.  The Father raised Christ from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:4; 8:11) and showed that the Father had accepted the sacrifice of the Son.  Jesus was crucified for my sins and He was raised for my justification.  Now I have peace with God because of Christ Jesus and because of Christ alone (Romans 5:1).

What a glorious truth is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus!

Does Unconditional Election Bother You?

Having just read Greg Dutcher’s book, Killing Calvinism, Dutcher tells the story of his being asked by a non-Calvinist friend if the doctrine of unconditional election bothers him.  Dutcher was honest to his friend and said, “It does.”  Nonetheless, Dutcher feels that he must surrender to the authority of Scripture and affirm the doctrine despite his acknowledgement that the doctrine does bother him.  He writes that Calvinists should be honest about their feelings toward their doctrinal views without fear.  He said his friend believed that Calvinists had no feelings toward people and just viewed them as robots or pawns in a divine chess game.  Dutcher writes that his honesty was a good starting point to discuss Calvinism with his friend.

I appreciate that about Dutcher.  Like R.C. Sproul before him, he is willing to admit that he doesn’t like everything about Calvinism while accepting it as true.

I would add another approach to this though and that would be to just admit that the doctrine is wrong.  The doctrine of unconditional election is not based on the clear reading of the Bible but upon taking the TULIP and forcing it upon the text.  That is my approach to this issue.  I agree with Dutcher that it bothers me that God has not chosen to save many, many, many people and in fact He has chosen to damn them for eternity all while holding them responsible for a gospel that they could never have accepted in the first place.  That bothers me too.  It bothers me that someone could read the “all” passages such as John 3:16 or Romans 11:32 or 1 Timothy 2:3-6  or 1 Timothy 4:10 or Revelation 22:17 and says that the “all” there is simply the unconditional elect that God has chosen before time began.  It bothers me that God would grant Adam and Eve free will to fall into sin but then He, in His sovereignty, chooses to save only a few for His glory when He could save all for His glory and make the foundation of that election faith in His Son.  That does bother me.

So I choose, from my free will, to reject the teaching of unconditional election.  I don’t do so blindly.  I do so because I don’t see it in Scripture.  I see God choosing people for His own purposes such as Abraham or Moses or Jeremiah or Paul.  I see God choosing nations such as Israel or Egypt.  I see Jesus choosing His disciples (John 15:16).  But I don’t see these as guaranteeing salvation (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).  Romans 9 is clear about this with regard to Israel.  Only those who place their faith in Jesus become His elect that He foreknew (Romans 9:30-33; 10:9-17; 11:2).  Through God’s foreknowledge (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2), God knows those who will freely believe the gospel and be saved.

I choose instead to affirm a conditional election.  I believe in the sovereignty of God.  I believe that God, in His sovereignty, has chosen to send His Son to be the elected one who will die for our sins.  Jesus shed His blood for all men but only those who appropriate His sacrifice are those accepted in the beloved (1 Timothy 4:10).  Romans 3:21-26 are powerful verses on this point.  It reads:

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

We are justified before God through faith (Romans 5:1) and not unto faith.  At what point are we then saved?  In Calvinism, God’s election of the person means that Jesus shed His blood for that elected person.  When Jesus died on the cross (in Calvinism), He died to save the elect that God had ordained before the world began.  Thus Jesus died to secure the elect’s salvation.  Now when were the elect justified?  Where they justified before time began when God ordained that Jesus would be the Lamb of God for the elect (Ephesians 1:4; Revelation 13:8)?  If this is the case, are the elect eternally justified?  Most Calvinists will answer no to these questions.  Calvinists, like Arminians, will acknowledge that the elect are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  But if Jesus died to secure the elect’s salvation, are what point are they saved?  When Jesus died or when they place their faith in Him?  Further, are the elect born regenerated since regeneration must occur before faith because dead men cannot place their faith in the living Christ?

I believe that we are saved when we place our faith in Christ.  Most of my Calvinist brethren do too.  While some of them will say that we are regenerated before faith in Christ, they all acknowledge that they are saved by grace through faith.  I am thankful for that.  We agree on that.  But I wonder, are they, the elect, born without sin?  If Christ died for their sins on the cross (and none of His blood was spilled in vain according to this view), then the sins of the elect were atoned for when Jesus died.  Thus the elect are born sinless?  Correct?  So how can an elect person then need to be justified through faith if in fact Jesus already shed His blood for their sins even before time began?

Perhaps I am wondering here a bit but my point is that the unconditional election view leads to other issues.  I am not asking for them to be resolved here.  I don’t mind that we all appeal to a bit of uncertainty when it comes to some theological issues (the Trinity is a tough one to grasp and though I try,  I have not been able to but I don’t reject the doctrine because I do see it in Scripture).  But when it comes to unconditional election, I do reject it and not just because of where it logical leads (to reprobation of sinners by God’s sovereign choice and makes God guilty of sin and favoritism which He is not in any way) but also because I see the best alternative in Scripture, conditional election based on God’s foreknowledge.  This view, to me, not only is based on the sacrifice of the Messiah but also the doctrine of God Himself wherein He has revealed Himself as loving, good, and just.  The focus of election, in the works of Arminius, is based on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the focus of election.  He is the elected One and not only that but He is the foundation for our election.  I was just reading from Ephesians 1:3-14 and it is amazing to me how much “He” and “Him” appear in the text (I was reading it from the NASB).  “He” and not “me” is the focus of election.

I pray that I have not misunderstood Calvinism as this point.  I know many godly Calvinists who are active in evangelism despite their agreement with unconditional election and I am grateful for that.  I don’t mean to cast Calvinists as being ignorant of God’s Word in the least bit.  Many of them are far greater thinkers than I am but I do acknowledge that I am not comfortable, as Dutcher has above, with the doctrine of unconditional election and my rejection of it is, in my mind, based on both Scripture and logic.

 

Arminius on the Justification of Man Before God

IX. THE JUSTIFICATION OF MAN BEFORE GOD

I am not conscious to myself, of having taught or entertained any other sentiments concerning the justification of man before God, than those which are held unanimously by the Reformed and Protestant Churches, and which are in complete agreement with their expressed opinions.

There was lately a short controversy in relation to this subject, between John Piscator, Professor of Divinity in the University of Herborn in Nassau, and the French Churches. It consisted in the determination of these two questions:

(1.) “is the obedience or righteousness of Christ, which is imputed to believers and in which consists their righteousness before God, is this only the passive obedience of Christ?” which was Piscator’s opinion. Or

(2.) “is it not, in addition to this, that active righteousness of Christ which he exhibited to the law of God in the whole course of his life, and that holiness in which he was conceived?” Which was the opinion of the French Churches. But I never durst mingle myself with the dispute, or undertake to decide it; for I thought it possible for the Professors of the same religion to hold different opinions on this point from others of their brethren, without any breach of Christian peace or the unity of faith. Similar peaceful thoughts appear to have been indulged by both the adverse parties in this dispute; for they exercised a friendly toleration towards each other, and did not make that a reason for mutually renouncing their fraternal concord. But concerning such an amicable plan of adjusting differences, certain individuals in our own country are of a different judgment.

A question has been raised from these words of the Apostle Paul: “Faith is imputed for righteousness.” (Rom. 4) The inquiry was,

(1.) Whether those expressions ought to be properly understood, “so that faith itself, as an act performed according to the command of the gospel, is imputed before God for or unto righteousness — and that of grace; since it is not the righteousness of the law.”

(2.) Whether they ought to be figuratively and improperly understood, “that the righteousness of Christ, being apprehended by faith, is imputed to us for righteousness.” Or

(3.) Whether it is to be understood “that the righteousness, for which, or unto which, faith is imputed, is the instrumental operation of faith;” which is asserted by some persons. In the theses on justification, which were disputed under me when I was moderator, I have adopted the former of these opinions not in a rigid manner, but simply, as I have likewise done in another passage which I wrote in a particular letter. It is on this ground that I am accounted to hold and to teach unsound opinions concerning the justification of man before God. But how unfounded such a supposition is, will be very evident at a proper season, and in a mutual conference. For the present, I will only briefly say, “I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude that, in this sense, it may be well and properly said, to a man who believes, faith is imputed for righteousness through grace, because God hath set forth his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a propitiation, a throne of grace, [or mercy seat] through faith in his blood.” Whatever interpretation may be put upon these expressions, none of our Divines blames Calvin or considers him to be heterodox on this point; yet my opinion is not so widely different from his as to prevent me from employing the signature of my own hand in subscribing to those things which he has delivered on this subject, in the third book of his Institutes; this I am prepared to do at any time, and to give them my full approval. Most noble and potent Lords, these are the principal articles, respecting which I have judged it necessary to declare my opinion before this august meeting, in obedience to your commands.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/21/2013 at 8:47 PM

John Wesley’s Plea to Unbelievers To Be Justified Through Faith

I love these words from John Wesley as he pleas in his sermon, Justification by Faith, to unbelievers to repent and turn to Christ alone for salvation.  His words are what we need to be preaching to a dying, sinful world that loves their sinning more than Christ.

Thou ungodly one, who hearest or readest these words! thou vile, helpless, miserable sinner! I charge thee before God, the Judge of all, go straight unto him, with all thy ungodliness. Take heed thou destroy not thy own soul by pleading thy righteousness, more or less. Go as altogether ungodly, guilty, lost, destroyed, deserving and dropping into hell; and thou shalt then find favor in his sight, and know that he justifieth the ungodly. As such thou shalt be brought unto the “blood of sprinkling,” as an undone, helpless, damned sinner. Thus “look unto Jesus!” There is “the Lamb of God,” who “taketh away thy sins!” Plead thou no works, no righteousness of thine own! no humility, contrition, sincerity! In nowise. That were, in very deed, to deny the Lord that bought thee. No: Plead thou, singly, the blood of the covenant, the ransom paid for thy proud, stubborn, sinful soul. Who art thou, that now seest and feelest both thine inward and outward ungodliness? Thou art the man! I want thee for my Lord! I challenge “thee” for a child of God by faith! The Lord hath need of thee. Thou who feelest thou art just fit for hell, art just fit to advance his glory; the glory of his free grace, justifying the ungodly and him that worketh not. O come quickly! Believe in the Lord Jesus; and thou, even thou, art reconciled to God.

Let us preach this truth from every rooftop and from every mountain that God alone can justify the sinner before Himself through faith in His only Son (Romans 5:1).  Salvation is by grace through faith and not by works whatsoever (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/21/2013 at 11:30 AM

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