Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Saving Grace

The FACTS of Arminianism: Freed by God’s Grace

The first point of the five points from FACTS is “freed by God’s grace.”  This has to do with the doctrine of prevenient grace by which the sinner is able to believe the gospel and to be saved and yet the Spirit frees the sinner so that the decision by the sinner is the free will choice of the sinner.

Arminians believe, as Calvinists do, that the sinner is bound in their sins.  We agree with our Calvinist brethren that sinners are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1) and that apart from the grace of God, none could be saved (John 6:44).  Romans 3:10-18 establishes point by point the nature of our depravity.  There is nothing in us that is not effected by our sinfulness.  Our minds, our hearts, our will, our speech – all this is bound in our sins.  We are depraved.  We are sinful.

A better term than “total depravity” would be “total inability.”  The sinner is totally unable to come to salvation apart from the intervention of God.  We do not love God.  We don’t want to serve God.  We don’t even see our need for salvation apart from the grace of God opening our eyes to our sinfulness.  The entire work of salvation is a work of grace.  Regeneration in both Arminianism and Calvinism is a work of God, a monergistic work by God alone (John 3:3; Titus 3:5).

Arminius affirmed total inability.  He wrote:

In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace. For Christ has said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” St. Augustine, after having diligently meditated upon each word in this passage, speaks thus: “Christ does not say, without me ye can do but Little; neither does He say, without me ye can do any Arduous Thing, nor without me ye can do it with difficulty. But he says, without me ye can do Nothing! Nor does he say, without me ye cannot complete any thing; but without me ye can do Nothing.” That this may be made more manifestly to appear, we will separately consider the mind, the affections or will, and the capability, as contra-distinguished from them, as well as the life itself of an unregenerate man.

However, despite agreeing that we are dead in our sins, that our wills are held captive by sin and only the grace of God can set the sinner free, Arminius went on to write that God’s grace enables the sinner to believe.  He wrote:

“What then, you ask, does free will do? I reply with brevity, it saves. Take away FREE WILL, and nothing will be left to be saved. Take away GRACE, and nothing will be left as the source of salvation. This work [of salvation] cannot be effected without two parties — one, from whom it may come: the other, to whom or in whom it may be wrought. God is the author of salvation. Free will is only capable of being saved. No one, except God, is able to bestow salvation; and nothing, except free will, is capable of receiving it.”

Certainly the Arminian position is that salvation is all of grace (Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:8-9).  Romans 11:6 is clear that salvation is not by works but by grace!  Good works cannot obtain salvation because they are often tainted by our sinfulness (Isaiah 64:6). If good works could save, how many good works must one do to be saved?  If God requires perfection to be in His presence, who can boast that they are ever perfect save the Son of God?  Scripture is clear that we are sinners (Romans 3:23) but Scripture is also clear that Jesus alone is perfect (Hebrews 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).  2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that Christ shed His blood for us, for our sins, and He bore our sins on the cross.  Jesus was the sinless sacrifice for our sins.  He was the absolutely perfect sacrifice that secures our eternal salvation!

Yet God does not force people to believe.  Because of our sinfulness, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to our need for salvation through the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).  The Spirit brings conviction of sin (John 16:8) and He exposes our wicked hearts to the gospel truth that Jesus shed His blood for our sins (John 3:16).  The Spirit thus does His work of grace in us so that the freed will of the sinner can believe and be saved.

Arminius wrote about the work of the Spirit in bringing repentance:

Because, after the gate of grace has by the just judgment of God been closed on account of a malicious continuance in sins, no passage is open for the Spirit, who is necessarily the author of repentance. Therefore let these words always resound in our ears, “Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Heb. iii, 7, 8; Psalm xcv, 7, 8.) And this exhortation of the Apostle, “Workout your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” (Phil. ii, 12, 13.) May this be graciously granted to us by God the Father of mercies, in the Son of his love, by the Holy Spirit of both of them. To whom be praise and glory forever. Amen.

Arminius affirmed that the work of salvation is the work of God’s grace through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Arminius wrote about this saving grace:

In reference to Divine Grace, I believe, 1. It is a gratuitous affection by which God is kindly affected towards a miserable sinner, and according to which he, in the first place, gives his Son, “that whosoever believers in him might have eternal life,” and, afterwards, he justifies him in Christ Jesus and for his sake, and adopts him into the right of sons, unto salvation. 2. It is an infusion (both into the human understanding and into the will and affections,) of all those gifts of the Holy Spirit which appertain to the regeneration and renewing of man — such as faith, hope, charity, &c.; for, without these gracious gifts, man is not sufficient to think, will, or do any thing that is good. 3. It is that perpetual assistance and continued aid of the Holy Spirit, according to which He acts upon and excites to good the man who has been already renewed, by infusing into him salutary cogitations, and by inspiring him with good desires, that he may thus actually will whatever is good; and according to which God may then will and work together with man, that man may perform whatever he wills.

The Arminian position then is that we are saved by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, by the work of Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.  This gospel comes through the preaching of the inerrant, infallible Word of God.  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17) and sinners need to hear the gospel to be saved (Romans 10:14-17).  The name of Jesus alone saves (Acts 4:12) and He alone is the meditator before God for sinners (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Sinners are commanded to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15-16; Acts 2:38; 3:19-20; 17:30-31).  This salvation is the work of God from beginning to end.

Three Facets of Prevenient Grace

Was reading a bit today from a Wesleyan scholar and he noted three ways we see prevenient grace in the world today.  They are:

  1. Anthropology – We are created in the image of God and thus He laws and His existent are written upon every human heart (Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 1:18; 2:15).  Because of sin, we oppress this truth of God’s grace.
  2. Cosmological – We see in God’s creation His mercy and His grace but again, because of sin, we reject His rule over us (Romans 1:20).
  3. Pneumatology – The Holy Spirit is at work in the earth today to open the hearts of sinners to the gospel, to convict of sin, and to regenerate those who repent (John 16:8-11; Titus 3:5-7).

By these three means, the Lord is working to draw sinners to Himself.  The gospel, however, must be preached for sinners to be saved (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; Romans 10:14-17; 1 Corinthians 1:21).  The Holy Spirit uses the above to draw sinners but the gospel must be preached.  This is the means by which God has ordained to save sinners, through the gospel (Romans 1:16-17).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/05/2013 at 10:17 AM

Faith Receives but Does Not Merit Election by Thomas Oden

These wise words come from Dr. Thomas Oden on the subject of faith and whether it is meritorious in election.  He writes this in his recommended book, The Transforming Power of Grace,

Faith is not a meritorious cause of election, but it is constantly attested as the sole condition of salvation.  Faith merely receives the merit of atoning grace, instead of asserting its own merit.  God places the life-death option before each person, requiring each to choose.  The ekletos are those who by grace freely believe.  God does not compel or necessitate their choosing.  Even after the initial choice of faith is made, they may grieve and quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

Faith is the condition under which God primordially wills the reception of salvation by all.  “He chooses us, not because we believe, but that we may believe; lest we should say that we first chose Him” (Augustine).  Faith receives the electing love of God not as if it had already become efficacious without faith, but aware that God’s prescience foreknows faith like all else.

In accord with ancient ecumenical consent, predestination was carefully defined in centrist Protestant orthodoxy as:

“The eternal, divine decree, by which God, from His immense mercy, determined to give His Son as Mediator, and through universal preaching , to offer Him for reception to all men who from eternity He foresaw would fall into sin; also through the Word and Sacraments to confer faith upon all who would not resist; to justify all believers, and besides to renew those using the means of grace; to preserve faith in them until the end of life, and in a word, to save those believing to the end” (Melanchthon).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/01/2013 at 10:50 AM

Common, Saving, and Prevenient Grace

Both Arminianism and Calvinism hold that they believe in salvation by God’s grace.  Grace is not merely taught as an abstract concept of theology.  Both systems affirm that grace is more than just “God’s riches at Christ’s expense” but is the actual empowering presence of God in the life of the individual wherein the person is empowered by grace to be saved.  The presence of the Spirit of God is absolutely necessary for regeneration to occur (Titus 3:5-7).  Without the work of the Spirit, none of us could be saved (John 3:1-7; Romans 8:9-11).

Yet both systems argue over the nature of God’s grace on humanity in general.  Calvinism, for example, teaches common grace.  Common grace means that God does not pour out His just wrath upon all of humanity but instead, because of His love and mercy, allows people to live their lives in their sin.  God could wipe us all out but instead He has chosen a remnant of grace (Romans 11:5-6).  This remnant has been predestined by God for salvation by God’s saving grace.  Saving grace is different from common grace.  Common grace gives people the knowledge of God, the knowledge of their sin even but it does not save them but only condemns them so that they go to hell because of their own sins.  Yet God does not extend His saving grace to all but only those whom He elected before time.  Common grace is given to all.  Saving grace is given only to the elect.

Arminianism differs with Calvinism over this.  Arminians affirm common grace but we go one step further and teach that God’s common grace has been given so that people will heed the gospel.  Certainly we agree that salvation is all of grace (Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:8-9) but we believe that God’s prevenient grace comes from this common grace.  The condemnation of the unjust comes through their own sinfulness and rebellion against God who has demonstrated His desire to save them through His Son (John 3:17-18).  Prevenient grace is not foreign to Calvinism and both Arminians and Calvinists acknowledge that prevenient grace is necessary for salvation.  Prevenient grace is simply enabling grace.  Because of the nature of our utter depravity before God concerning His perfect righteousness (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23), none of us are capable of saving ourselves.  We need God’s aid, His work to save us.  John 6:44 is absolutely correct, that none of us, in our own power, can come to God.  We are sinful by nature (Ephesians 2:3) and our hearts are far from God (Jeremiah 17:9).  We need the work of the Spirit to save us.  This is the work of the Spirit, to enable us to believe the gospel and so be saved (1 Corinthians 1:21).

We differ, however, over whether prevenient grace is resistible.  Calvinism says no.  Arminians say yes.  I would point to the examples of Scripture of people resisting God.  Israel is a case in point as Paul points out in Romans 11:7.  The elect are those who receive His grace as Paul points out in Romans 11:17-24.  In fact, Paul says in Romans 11:32 that He will have mercy upon all.  And yet not all are saved.  There remains those who resist His will and resist His gospel.  Many Jews to this day continue to resist the gospel.  Israel, writes Paul in Romans 9:30-33, has pursued God by works and not by faith.  This has led to their demise.  It was their own sinful choosing.

Prevenient grace, however, does not make humans savable in the sense that the grace of God now allows for us, by our own human efforts, to please God and be saved.  I don’t want you to believe this common mistake.  Humans are saved by God’s grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit.  God’s grace does open our eyes to our sin, does expose our rebellion and our hardness to His gospel but this does not mean that we are then able to save ourselves.  Salvation is the work of God.  God saves sinners by His own grace and power (John 1:12-13).  This is not the grace of God giving us the ability to now help God along the way of salvation.  God’s grace enables us to believe the gospel and be born again but not by works on our part but upon the sovereign grace of God (Romans 4:5).  Prevenient grace is not assisting us to believe but the grace of God is the totality of our salvation from beginning to end.

On the next post I will discuss the issue of prevenient grace as it relates to Romans 9:19-24.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/19/2013 at 12:50 AM

%d bloggers like this: