Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘The Love of God

Calm Thoughts on Arminianism and Calvinism

“Why are you an Arminian?”  Seems like a straight forward question.  A friend posted this to me recently and I wanted to provide a clear, calm answer as to why I am an Arminian.  By the way, my friend is not a Calvinist.  He is probably an Arminian but he wants to be one of those who call themselves “just a Christian” or worst, “Calminian.”  In reality, he is an Arminian but he wants to avoid debates so he avoids the tag.  I did this for years before just admitting that I am an Arminian though I don’t always agree with Arminius on every issue.

My calm reply to the question of why I am an Arminian would be because I believe that God is love (1 John 4:8).  The love of God for humans is what drives me to reject Calvinism the most.  Yes I see Arminianism in Scripture but I see the love of God manifested most in His Son.  I see the Lord Jesus giving His life for all people (John 3:16) and all who come to Him can be saved (John 1:12-13; 4:13-14; 5:24; 6:40; 7:38; 8:51; 20:31).  Jesus is the Savior of the world (John 1:29; 4:42; 1 John 2:2; 4:14).  God has demonstrated His own love toward people by sending His Son to die for our sins (Romans 5:8) and all who are in Christ Jesus are forgiven and redeemed (Ephesians 1:7).  Jesus shed His blood so that all can be saved through faith in Him but only those who appropriate His sacrifice are saved (Romans 3:21-26).

This overwhelming theme in Scripture, that God is love, is what drives me to preach the gospel.  The love of God is what motivates me to prayer.  The love of God is what drives me to study theology.  I want to know this God.  I want to love this God in return.  I want to point others to the cross so that they too can repent of their sins and be baptized into Christ for their eternal salvation.

When I calmly consider Calvinism, I don’t see this theme.  I see the issue for Calvinism being the sovereignty of God. I affirm the sovereignty of God but I believe that God created a world in which people are made in His image and given freedom to either choose to worship and love God or reject Him.  Adam and Eve rejected God why their own free will.  Calvinism pictures God as loving His elect only.  I know that some Calvinist theologians have wrestled with how God loves the world and they seem to try to teach that God does love the world in some sense but He doesn’t really love the world.  He more or less tolerates the world.  As part of God’s absolute sovereignty, He has created all people as either elect or non-elect.  The non-elect have no choice in their election.  They were created for the wrath of God (Romans 9:21-24; a fact that R.C. Sproul affirms though he admits he does not like it).  So before time began, God looked down through eternity and He chose to create, to send His Son for the elect, He chose the elect, and in time, Christ Jesus died for the elect and only for the elect.  How do you know if you are elect?  None really knows.  Some reason that if you believe in Christ, you are elect but if you turn from following Christ, you were never elected to begin with.  Some, such as Jonathan Edwards, reason that some are given a temporary assurance of their salvation though they are not elect.  Either way, if you fail to persevere (which I agree with), you are not elect.

Arminianism, on the other hand, presents a God who loves and He gives genuine freedom to people.  He created Adam and Eve with the freedom to be tempted and to fall into sin because He creates people who willing choose to love Him.  He does not force people to love Him (or as R.C. Sproul teaches from John 6:44, that God drags them to salvation).  He gives us the gospel, teaches us through His Word how to come to Him for salvation, and then He tells His Church to preach this gospel to all nations (Matthew 28:19; Luke 24:47).  I am elected because I am in Christ.  Christ, and not my election, are the basis for my eternal salvation (Colossians 3:1-4).  Christ is the chosen one (Ephesians 1:3-4) and in Him, we are His chosen (1 Timothy 4:10; Revelation 17:14).

In conclusion, the reality is that I am an Arminian not because I reject the sovereignty of God nor is it the issue of the freedom of the will.  It is the love of God.  God’s love was so manifested in His Son (Luke 19:10) and Paul the Apostle tells us in Colossians 1:15 that Jesus is the image of the invisible God and that Jesus came to make peace by His own blood (Colossians 1:20).  I am thankful for this truth, that Jesus saves sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and I am a sinner in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23).  Jesus came to save me.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/01/2013 at 7:09 PM

The Ground for Israel’s Election

I was reading Deuteronomy 7:6-8 this morning and I noticed what was the ground for God’s sovereign choosing of Israel.  Notice the text (NKJV):

6 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. 7 The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

The New Geneva Study Bible adds the following note about verse 8.

The election of Israel as a holy nation set apart for God (vv.6-7) was grounded, not in any merit or intrinsic goodness of Israel, but in God’s love and in His faithfulness to the covenant promises made to the patriarchs (Deuteronomy 6:10).  God’s election of the church is based on His oath to Jesus, the son of Abraham, the Son of God (Psalm 110:4; John 17:6).

I fully agree.  It was the love of God that motivated Him to bring His people out of bondage (Exodus 2:24-25).  God had swore to Abraham to give him the land of promise (Genesis 17:7-8).  God’s promise to His people was based on His love for them and He demonstrated that love by delivering His people out of Egypt (Joshua 24:1-13).  But the basis for His election of Israel is clear: it was not they who chose Yahweh but rather He chose them because of His great love for them.

What great love is this?  That God would choose to save even one person amazes me.  I became a disciple of Jesus in 1992 and over the years I have not always been faithful.  I have sinned against Him.  I have violated His laws and transgressed His commands.  But I am amazed that He still loves me and does not cast me aside (John 6:37).  He would be just to destroy me for breaking His commands but He is faithful and just to forgive me when I cry out to Him just as the Israelites did (Psalm 107:6).  God called His people to obey Him (Deuteronomy 7:9-11) but He was ever loving and good toward them despite their failures.  That amazes me.  His love amazes me.

The basis for my election and your election is not you.  It is God.  It is His love that motivated Him to save you.  God does not choose us because He sees us striving to enter into His rest in our own free will power.  He loves us and saves us even while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:6-8).  It was His love that motivated Him to send His Son to die for our sins (John 3:16).  Scripture even tells us that God is love (1 John 4:16) and we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  No doubt it was also God’s holiness that motivates Him to send His Son but over and over again we see that it was God’s love that was manifested in the giving of His Son.

This destroys pride.  We are not chosen because we hold to a certain form of theology or, like Israel, because there is intrinsic goodness in us but because of the love of God.  God reached down and saved us by His grace (Ephesians 2:4).  It was God who first sent His Son, drew you unto Himself through the cross (John 12:32) and He saves you not because of your worth or your goodness or your prayers but because of His great saving love.

What love is this!

 

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/25/2012 at 10:30 AM

Posted in Election, Love

Tagged with ,

God’s Love For the Unsaved

One of the most difficult aspects for Calvinists is how to reconcile the biblical statements about God’s universal love with the fact that most people are not part of the elect.  In what sense then does God love all people.  Some Calvinists such as John Gill have simply come to the conclusion that God actually doesn’t love all people and in fact He hates many of them.  The reality of hell for the Calvinist shows that God does not love all people but in fact does hate some so much that He is willing to send them by His sovereign choice to an eternal torment in an eternal hell for His glory and honor.  Other Calvinists such as John MacArthur argue that God does love all people but He does not love all in a saving way.

George Bryson, in his excellent book The Dark Side of Calvinism, writes about this view of love expressed by many Calvinists.  Bryson argues that the modern Calvinist view of God’s love is actually worse than a hyper-Calvinist such as John Gill since it says, “God loves you but not really.  In the, you have no hope” whereas Gill simply says, “God hates you.  You have no hope.”  Calvinist D.A. Carson wrote a book called, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.  Carson argues that the doctrine of God’s love is difficult because of the many texts that state that God does love humanity.  Both Carson and MacArthur wrestle with John 3:16 and how could we proclaim this verse to the non-elect when in fact they are going to hell because God has not chosen them and therefore does not love them enough to save them.  MacArthur states, “Let us honestly admit that on the face of it, the universal love of God is difficult to reconcile with the [Reformed] doctrine of election” (MacArthur, The God Who Loves).

MacArthur goes on to argue that the love of God is both a love and hatred at the same time.  He calls this a “love-hate relationship”.  God loves the person while He utterly hates them at the same time.  God loves the sinner and makes His rain to fall on them (Matthew 5:45) yet at the same time He hates them because they persist in their unbelief and sin.  By the way, they do this in Calvinism because God renders all things certain including their sinfulness.  Yes the sinner is guilty of their sin and unbelief but God makes sure they never receive the grace needed for their salvation.  God withdraws His saving love for the elect from the sinner and makes certain they go to hell for His glory.  So God loves the sinner and allows them to live their lives but He hates them at the same time and knows for certain that they will not be in heaven with His elect.

How troublesome that is to read for us Arminians.  It defies logic.  In the words of John Wesley, “It makes our blood boil.”  Arminianism teaches that God does love all people and He does desire to save all people (1 Timothy 2:3-4).  His will is not for the unrighteous to continue in their sins and be lost forever but to repent and be saved (Ezekiel 18).  It is not the will of God that any should perish in their sins (2 Peter 3:9).  God loved humanity so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for our sins and thus prove God’s love for the world (John 3:14-18).  1 John 4:14 says that Jesus is the Savior of the world.  2 Corinthians 5:18-21 says that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.  Certainly those who reject His love and His salvation go to hell because of their own sins (Romans 2:7-10).  All must be saved through faith in Jesus Christ which comes through hearing the gospel (Romans 10:9-17).  Jesus alone is the way of salvation (Acts 4:12).

The Arminian, therefore, is not holding back when we preach that God loves the sinner.  His passion is demonstrated in the cross.  Jesus shed His blood to ransom for God those dead in their sins (Mark 10:45; Acts 13:38-39).  Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord can be saved (Acts 2:21).  This promise of salvation is for all people (Acts 2:38-39) and we can declare that God loves all and desires to save all who come to Him through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Arminianism doesn’t have a “mystery” when it comes to God’s love for the world.  He truly does love the world and His will is for their repentance.  God does hate sin and He cannot tolerate sin in His presence which is why we must be cleansed through Jesus Christ to come into His presence (Ephesians 1:7) but God’s hatred is not for the sinner but that the sinner would turn from His sins through faith and repentance and be saved.

Ironically, when I have asked Calvinists the question, “Why did God choose you?”  They have no reply.  They don’t have a reason other than God’s grace.  I agree that God chooses us by His grace (Ephesians 1:3-14) but I believe that He loves me infinitely and He proved this in His Son (Ephesians 2:1-9).  John 3:16 is a delight for me because the gospel is contained there in a nutshell.  God truly loves me because I am part of the world that John 3:16 speaks of.  Romans 5:8-9 is precious to me as well.  I understand that most Calvinists will take exception here and say that they know God loves them too but do you really?  Perhaps you are not truly part of the elect.  Perhaps you are not truly saved and are only tasting the good things of the Lord for a season (Hebrews 6:4).  It is possible my friend that you are not truly born again and are a false convert.  You may never know.

Thank God that I believe that God loves all people and desires all to be saved and not a select few (Revelation 17:14).  His desire is that all who look to Him may be saved (John 12:36).  2 Peter 1:10-11 says that we all are to make our calling and election sure and we do this by continued faith in the Lord Jesus to save us and keep us by His power (Jude 24-25).  As long as we look to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), we are saved (John 3:14-15; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 12:21-13:5).  Let us keep our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-29).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/12/2011 at 3:19 PM

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