Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Ministry of the Holy Spirit

The Awakened State of Sinners

John Wesley called the awakened state of man as “the almost Christian.”  Wesley believed that most people in the church were that way, they were aware of their sins but they had not truly become children of God.  They were servants of Christ but not sons.  All sons are servants but not all servants are sons.

Wesley believed that Romans 7 described the awakened state.  While nearly all Calvinists that I know of teach that Romans 7 is the normal state for Christians and Martin Luther taught that a Christian is both a sinner and a saint at the same time, Wesley taught (along with Arminius I might add) that Romans 7 describes people who are not saved.  This is what Wesley deemed the awakened state, where a person is aware of their sins and aware that they are not pleasing to God so they seek to please God by their works or by their flesh.  This cannot merit salvation (Romans 4:5).  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:7-8).

Sadly many in the modern church are in that state as well.  Many of the seeker sensitive churches preach an easy gospel that is without conviction, without true repentance, without a true knowledge of God’s holiness and our sinfulness before God.  They preach a message of “come to Christ” but they fail to convict sinners of their sins.  They ignore the Bible’s call to repentance (Mark 1:15-16).  They fail to preach repentance for the forgiveness of their sins (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19).  They seek to lead people to Christ using the goodness of God but fail to preach His just wrath nor His forbearance and patience with sinners (Romans 2:4).  Just this week I listened to two local seeker churches “sermons” and both were focused on the flesh rather than God, on what the sinner can get from God rather than repentance from their sins, and they both gave “altar calls” where the sinners just said a prayer and were said to be saved by grace.  Both failed to preach the gospel where sinners see their sins and repent of their sins against God.  Both failed to present Christ as the propitiation for our sins (John 1:29).  Both preached a message of “Christ wants to fill the void in your life.”  That is not the gospel.  That is what many people are hearing week after week in many churches.

The Arminian should preach the law of God to produce the awakened state.  Of course, the Spirit of God is the one who produces mighty conviction of sin (John 16:8-11).  The almost Christian will see their sins and their need for Christ but they don’t know how to respond to the call of God to salvation.  People believe (because of their sinfulness) that they must do something to earn salvation.  This is human thought through and through.  World religions attest to this fact.  Religious people are consistently trying to earn God’s favor, His forgiveness, or His salvation.  They think that they will be saved if their good works out number their bad works.  Others believe that their actions (sacrifices, prayers, etc.) will bring salvation.

The truth is that only Jesus Christ can save us from the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  Isaiah the prophet saw the work of Christ in Isaiah 53:4-6:

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

The Lord Jesus is the hope for our salvation.  Jesus is the hope for the awakened sinner who sees his sins but doesn’t know how to flee from them.   The hope for the sinner is not rehabilitation or reform.  The hope for the sinner is to be born from above (John 3:3-7).  The hope is for the Spirit of God to regenerate the sinner to bring about new life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Titus 3:5-7) and this only comes through faith.

Romans 3:21-26 is full of the richness of God’s mercy and grace given freely to the sinner in Christ Jesus our Lord:

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.

The sinner is justified before God only grace through faith in Christ alone (Romans 5:1).  The sinner is not justified before God by a combination of human works and God’s grace (as many cults teach).  We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  Why is this?  Because the sinner cannot merit God’s salvation.  Consider good works for a moment.  How many good works must we do to earn God’s forgiveness?  What works qualify as “good” works?  How do we know that our wicked hearts will not produce pride in our “good” works?  How will we know if God approves of our “good” works?  Are there any “good” works which we consider good but God considers as bad?  How can we know?

The awakened sinner, writes Wesley, fears God but does not love Him.  The Christian loves God and fears Him (Romans 11:20-22; 1 John 4:18).  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7) and the Christian has a healthy fear of God (Hebrews 10:31).  Too many do not fear God but sadly few actually love Him either.  The awakened sinner fears God and knows that the judgment of God is just in punishment of their sins but they do not love God.  They seek to win God’s approval by reforms, by vows, by religion.  They find Romans 7 to be true, that they are too sinful to do any “good” works.  Their flesh simply will never please God.  They find in their awakened state that they are fully aware that they are sinners but have no peace with God.

The gospel is the solution.  The gospel brings peace.  Jesus is the prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6).  Jesus came to bring peace (Ephesians 2:14).  Jesus came to bring us not just peace in the storms of life (as many seekers preach) but He came to bring us peace with God whom we have greatly offended by our wicked sins.  The holy God of the universe is the one that we have violated.  He is the offended one.  When we talk about salvation we are saying that we are being saved from something and that something is the wrath of God that we justly deserve for breaking His laws and shaking our fists at Him.

The awakened sinner is not saved.  The duty of the evangelist is to preach Christ to the awakened sinner and call the sinner to faith and repentance through Christ.  The blessed Holy Spirit aids us in this preaching.  The Spirit works on the sinner’s heart to free the will to believe freely the gospel of God’s grace and mercy.  May we preach Christ and Him crucified for our sins.

The Promised Spirit Through Faith

So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
– Galatians 3:14

The Calvinist view is that a person is dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-3) and therefore the Spirit must regenerate the dead sinner so that they can hear the gospel, believe, and be saved.  Many appeal to the story of Lazarus in John 11 as an example of regeneration.  Calvinists also appeal to John 3:3 saying that one must be born again to believe and enter the kingdom.

Here in Galatians 3:14 the Calvinist view has a problem.  Paul the Apostle clearly states that we receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.  The Spirit comes through faith.  The Spirit does not come before faith.  This is a problem text for Calvinists.

The Arminian understanding is that all who believe will be saved (John 3:15).  Our view is that the Spirit works through the preaching of the gospel to bring forth faith but He can be resisted and He does not force the person to believe (a point that Calvinists would agree with in regard to force).  John 6:44 is used by both Arminians and Calvinists concerning this work of the Spirit.  The Spirit opens the heart of the sinner to hear the gospel and He enables those who believe to be saved.  The work of regeneration is entirely His work (Titus 3:5-7).  But the belief, while certainly a work of grace, is done by the believer themselves.

The Arminian order of salvation then would be that the Spirit is given to those who believe (Acts 11:17; 15:9).  We are justified before God through faith (Romans 5:1) and at the moment of regeneration, we receive the promised Spirit (Romans 5:5).  There is simply no way around this.

While Charles Spurgeon was no doubt a Calvinist, I do agree with him here:

“If I am to preach the faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.”

Spurgeon battled hyper-Calvinists in his day because Spurgeon rightly preached that all could and should come and be saved while he also believed in unconditional election.  Spurgeon was inconsistent in his theology but for that I am thankful.

One final point.  Calvinists acknowledge that the Spirit convicts people of their sins before salvation (John 16:8-11).  Even if we grant that the Spirit only convicts those who are elect, how can He convict those who are dead?  The Calvinists would have to preach that the Spirit regenerates before conviction instead of before faith.  What is the point of the Spirit’s convicting work toward dead sinners if the dead sinner must be regenerated to believe the gospel?

The Arminian understanding of the convicting work is consistent with our teaching on prevenient (or enabling) grace.  The Spirit convicts the sinner through the gospel (1 Timothy 1:8-11).  The Spirit takes the law of God and He shows the sinner their sin (Romans 3:19-20; 7:7).  The sinner must believe to be saved (Acts 16:30-31) but the Spirit woos the sinner under the guilt of their sin and He regenerates the sinner who believes the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

Strange Fire Book Review: Chapter 9

You can find the original post to this book review here.  I have been reviewing Dr. John MacArthur’s book, Strange Fire.  This post will focus on chapter nine of the book.

In this chapter Dr. MacArthur deals with the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation.  This chapter marks the beginning of section three of the book in which MacArthur is going to teach the reader on the true ministry of the Holy Spirit in comparison to the false teachings he sees in the charismatic movement.

There is really nothing new here in this chapter.  The viewpoint MacArthur gives is basic and Pentecostals would agree with what he wrote here though they would differ with him over his view of the sealing of the Spirit at the end of the chapter.  Pentecostals would agree with MacArthur that the Holy Spirit is essential to salvation.  It is the work of the Spirit to draw the sinner to the Savior (John 6:44) by the conviction of sins (John 16:8-11).  It is the work of the Spirit to regenerate us (Titus 3:5-7) and to cause us to be born again (John 3:3-7; 1 Peter 1:3).  It is the work of the Spirit to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23) and to give us the assurance of our salvation (Romans 8:16).  The Spirit seals us as children of God (Ephesians 1:13-14).  The Spirit keeps us by His grace (Romans 8:38-39).

There is little to disagree with here.  I agreed with MacArthur in nearly every part he wrote of regarding the Spirit’s work.  I am thankful to God for the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  I would take an exception with MacArthur only in regard to his view of the sealing of the Spirit.  Here MacArthur takes the position that we are “eternally secure” in the Spirit.  Of course, he fails to mention that he believes that if a person lives in sin, they were never saved to begin with (1 John 2:19).  He believes on the one hand that the Spirit gives us the assurance of our salvation but then he would deny, in essence, this assurance by teaching that a sinning person is probably never saved to begin with (1 John 3:4-10).  I agree that a disciple of Jesus must forsake sin (2 Timothy 2:19) and I agree that the Spirit helps us sanctify us (2 Thessalonians 2:13).  I agree that a person can know that they are saved but I believe this is through faith in Christ Jesus and faithfulness to Him as Lord (Matthew 7:21-27; 1 John 2:3-6).  I agree that the Spirit seals us but the sealing here is a pledge, a guarantee that we are in Christ Jesus.  This comes by faith (John 1:12-13; 6:29; Ephesians 2:8-9) and we are kept by faith (2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Peter 1:5).  MacArthur would say that our faith comes from the Spirit but the faith is not God believing for us but us believing because of the work of the Spirit.  Arminians would agree in that the prevenient grace of God enables the sinner to believe.  We need the aid of the Spirit to believe and to keep believing but living in sin shows our rebellious hearts and leads only to death (Romans 6:23; James 1:12-15; 5:19-20).  We are called to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17) and not live in sin.  The Spirit helps us to do just that, to be holy and to remain holy as He is holy.

That withstanding, this chapter was a basic premier on the work of the Holy Spirit toward the world and in the life of the disciple of Christ.

Strange Fire: A Charismatic Response to John MacArthur

British blogger Adrian Warnock has written an excellent reply to the Strange Fire Conference and John MacArthur.  You can find the article here.

My thoughts are the conference are:

  • Grateful that the conference has caused people to once again study the person and work of the Holy Spirit.  So often we easily understand the Father and we understand the Son but we have a tough time understanding the Holy Spirit.  We tend to think of Him in terms such as “ghost” who flies around doing things for God.  We need to teach biblical His person and His work among us.
  • While I didn’t like John MacArthur’s words toward charismatics, most of the speakers were gracious and seemed to just want to teach on the Holy Spirit while addressing the other issues at they went.  The tone was good overall and I appreciate the acknowledgement some gave toward charismatics being Christians.
  • Had the conference been named with an emphasis on the biblical doctrine of the Spirit, most charismatics (including myself) would have just written it off as another conference on the Spirit.  But the emphasis upon the charismatics made it a conference that took cheap shots at the movement such as making TBN and TV preachers as the spokespeople for the movement or by saying that nothing good comes out of the movement. I have no problem with cessationists wanting to address the Holy Spirit and give their reasons why the disagree with charismatics but do so with grace and love and not with anger or by claiming that all charismatics are blaspheming the Spirit.
  • My favorite part was the story that came out about Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald crashing the party by coming to the conference and offering free books in the parking lot.  Various reports have said that GCC asked Driscoll to leave while some say that they were nice toward him.  I do find it ironic that on the Internet, non-charismatic Reformed guys were pounding charismatic Reformed guys over the issue, trying to make Driscoll look evil (especially since he is opposed to JM over the issue of cessationism).  While sad, it shows me how divided even the Reformed believers are.  We are so far from unity (John 17:22-23; Ephesians 4:1-6).
  • I would love to see the charismatic movement counter this with a conference on the Holy Spirit.  I would love to see men such as Wayne Grudem, Jack Deere, Adrian Warnock, John Piper, and Michael Brown all coming together to teach on why they believe the Spirit continues to give us the revelatory or sign gifts.  Make sure a book is coming out near the conference too!
  • Phil Johnson has agreed to appear on Dr. Michael Brown’s podcast, The Line of Fire.  I plan on listening and I pray that Dr. Brown and Mr. Johnson can show how to truly talk about these issues.  We can disagree but do so with a spirit of grace and love all while accepting each other as brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.  God doesn’t save charismatics or Arminians or Calvinists.  He only saves sinners (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15).
  • Finally, I hope a day will come when we can talk about our differences over the gifts of the Spirit without trying to use quotes from Kenneth Copeland to prove the charismatic position wrong (or any other Word-Faith teachers).  Let us wrestle with Scripture instead of propping up various teachers (who are mere flesh) as the example of why or why not you believe in cessationism.  Why does every debate over spiritual gifts have to turn into using TBN as a reason why you reject certain gifts?  Why not instead turn to Scripture?

Thoughts on The Strange Fire Conference

Dr. John MacArthur is not stranger to theological debates.  I first heard of Dr. MacArthur when I was a young believer over the issue of Lordship salvation.  At that time his book, The Gospel According to Jesus, was influencing many people to preach against “easy believeism” and was causing a stir.  His other books that have hit a nerve in terms of debates have been, Charismatic Chaos and Ashamed of the Gospel.  I read the book, Charismatic Chaos, while being fully involved with a Pentecostal church.  I thought the book was a book that Pentecostals and Charismatics needed to read and interact with.  I hoped the book would promote a new look especially into the faulty theology of the Word- Faith movement.

Now Dr. MacArthur is taking up the charismatic movement again with his new book, Strange Fire.  I have not read the book but do plan to and will offer a review in time.  This week Dr. MacArthur is hosting a conference at his church in Los Angeles called, The Strange Fire Conference, in which he plans to address the issues of the charismatic movement and teach correctly what the Bible says about the person and work of the Holy Spirit.  I do hope to watch some of the conference online as time permits.  I know that the conference will produce countless of other blog posts and articles on the charismatic issue.  This is good in my estimation.  We need a good biblical discussion about the Holy Spirit and His work.

Some have taken exception with the conference.  Most notably has been Dr. Michael Brown.  Dr. Brown has written several articles on the conference for Charisma Magazine.  Dr. Brown believes that Dr. MacArthur needs to interact with serious charismatics like himself instead of attacking and lumping together all charismatics to the likes of Todd Bentley or Benny Hinn.  Dr. Brown also questions Dr. MacArthur’s use of “blasphemy of the Spirit” in relation to the charismatic movement and he believes that this is dangerous, to say that charismatics are blaspheming the Spirit since this would imply that they are not saved and never can be (Matthew 12:32).  Who can make such a claim about a person other than God?

I stand in-between on this debate.  In fact, I rarely address the spiritual gifts issue here because it is not my theological passion.  I would not even label myself as a charismatic but as a partial cessasionist (as I believe that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God and the final authority for all things).  That said, I agree with Dr. MacArthur that there are excesses in the charismatic movement.  However, not all Pentecostals or Charismatics can be lumped together.  I don’t think it is fair to lump all charismatics in with the Word-Faith movement.  They are not one and the same.  I know of many godly Pentecostal men and women who truly love Jesus, love the gospel, preach the truth of the gospel, long for souls to be saved, are educated, love the Word, and are seeking to be holy.  I myself was saved in a Pentecostal church and currently attend a Pentecostal church where you would not find excesses nor would you find people chasing their feelings about the Scriptures.  I don’t know of any perfect Pentecostals so perhaps if you talked to someone long enough you might find something you disagree with but you would not find wacky, shaking, longing for subjective experience people in our midst that I am aware of.  Further, I have known many Pentecostals over the years and none of them have elevated their own experiences above the Word of God.  I have met some weird people but I don’t see that coming from their Pentecostal theology as much as just being ignorant of God’s Word period.  And to be honest, I have met weird people from all walks of life and from different religions.  Pentecostals are not unique in that regard.

I also agree with Dr. Brown that there are many godly men and women around the world serving Jesus and preaching His gospel while disagreeing with Dr. MacArthur over his view of the gifts of the Spirit.  MacArthur would acknowledge this as well.  I know of one brother who is laboring in Southeast Asia for the kingdom.  He is preaching the gospel, discipling the saints of God, and he loves the Word of God.  Yet he is charismatic.  Is he blaspheming the Spirit?  I don’t think so.  Why lump him with the likes of a John Crowder?  I do appreciate the fact that Dr. MacArthur has stated that he does believe many Pentecostals and charismatics do love Jesus and do preach the gospel yet he believes that the movement, as a whole, is off base.

I do believe that we need to know the truth of the Holy Spirit.  His work is vital to the Church and to the growth of the disciple of Jesus.  I do believe that all movements need correction from time to time.  It is possible to lose focus from the Lord Jesus and begin to focus on the gifts of the Spirit above the gospel of the kingdom.  I have seen churches lose focus from the gospel and embraced a social gospel instead of the gospel that sets sinners free by the grace of God.  It is possible that some charismatics have glorified the Spirit above the Lord Jesus and this should not be since Jesus said the Spirit would glorify Him (John 15:26).  I have seen Calvinists in love with Calvinism above Jesus or KJV only followers in love with the KJV above Jesus.  It is easy to lose focus and become unbalanced.

I do welcome The Strange Fire Conference.  I believe we need such a conference but I do pray that Dr. MacArthur would interact with godly men such as Dr. Michael Brown or other Pentecostal theologians.  This would include him interacting with Reformed charismatics such as Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Matt Chandler, and many others.  In reality, Dr. MacArthur is attacking a large part of the body of Christ whom he disagrees with but I also fear using Matthew 12:31-32 for all of these brethren.  This is dangerous and I agree with Dr. Brown that we must careful when this assertion.  I disagree with many aspects of Reformed theology but I would not dare label their worship as false or worse, as blasphemous to God.

One final note.  I too have been troubled by the “revival” movements of the past including the Toronto Blessing and the Brownsville revival.  I actually visited the Brownsville revival on three separate occasions.  I walked away seeing some good and seeing some bad.  While I rejoice that some people did repent, I have no doubt that there was much flesh that I witnessed.  I also struggle with “charismatic” television such as TBN or the God Channel.  I once visited the TBN station in Atlanta, GA and found it to be full of idolatry and the worship of flesh.  I believe those in the Pentecostal and charismatic movement should speak out more against the false teachings and misleading statements that are made by popular charismatic preachers.  How I wish that unknown heroes of the faith such as Terry Roberts, pastor of Trinity Assembly of God in Columbia, SC, would be the standard and not a Joel Osteen or a Kenneth Copeland.  We need more faithful men of God who love the Word, preach the truth of God’s grace, and are full of the Holy Spirit instead of the likes of a Todd Bentley or a Paula White filling our homes with their teachings.

And those are my thoughts on that issue.  I will say no more.

Praise God For Pentecost!

Pentecost Sunday.  The Church celebrates the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Church.  We rejoice that God has poured out His Spirit just as He promised He would through Joel the prophet (Joel 2:28-32).  Peter the Apostle saw the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost as the fulfillment of that prophecy (see Acts 2:16).  Just as the Father had promised the coming of the Spirit through the Old Testament Prophets so the Lord Jesus had promised His own disciples just ten days earlier that He would send the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4-5).  The disciples obeyed the Lord Jesus and for ten days they prayed in the upper room waiting Jesus’ promise (Acts 1:14).

The day of Pentecost marked a transformation in the plan of God.  The people of God would now be the people of the Spirit.  All people could enjoy being the people of God through the ministry of the Spirit (John 10:16).  The gift of the Spirit would not be given to only the Jews but to all people who would come and be saved through faith in Christ Jesus (Acts 2:21; Galatians 3:13-14).  In fact, Paul the Apostle would later write in Romans 8:9 that if any person does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.  The baptism by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ is essential to salvation (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

I rejoice that the Comforter has come.  When my mother passed away last August, the Holy Spirit was a sweet friend to me.  I rejoiced time and time again at the words of Jesus in John 14:26-27 (KJV):

26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

The Comforter was a dear friend to me as I grieved the loss of my mama.  I sensed His sweet presence.  I sensed His praying (Romans 8:26-27).  I sensed His security (Ephesians 1:13-14).  I sensed His gentle loving hand upon me.  He brought me through.

And He has done this other times as well.  How often have I felt like giving up and felt like I didn’t want to pray anymore.  Yet the gentle love of the Comforter has always been my strength to help me rise up and seek God.  I rejoice that He is not just my Comforter but He also is my convictor (John 16:8).  He gently deals with me about my sins.  The Holy Spirit never condemns me but He gently and lovingly shows me my sins.  He does not lead me to condemnation (Romans 8:1) but He gently leads me to forgiveness in Christ (1 John 1:9).  What a precious friend He is.

This day, I rejoice in the Comforter.  I rejoice that He has come.  I rejoice that He has filled me.  I rejoice that He abides with me both now and forevermore.  I pray that I would not grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30).  I pray that He would be my guide forever.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/19/2013 at 6:58 PM

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