Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Works Righteousness

Arminians and Synergism

According to one Calvinist theologian, synergism is “the doctrine that there are two efficient agents in regeneration, namely the human will and the divine Spirit, which, in the strict sense of the term, cooperate. This theory accordingly holds that the soul has not lost in the fall all inclination toward holiness, nor all power to seek for it under the influence of ordinary motives.”  Calvinists often boast of being the opposite of this and being monergists who teach that salvation is the entire work of God meaning that God regenerates the lost sinner so that they can respond in faith to the gospel.  In other words, in the words of R.C. Sproul, a person is born again to believe and does not believe to be born again.  This flows from the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity and unconditional election.  In the TULIP acronym it is I for irresistible grace though Calvin used the term “effectual calling.”

However, are Arminians truly synergists?  There is no doubt that Roman Catholic theology embraces synergism and teaches that mankind must cooperate with the various means of grace to be saved.  There is no denying that Roman Catholicism embraces works righteousness and teaches that we are saved by grace and by our good works as well.  They combine for our justification.

Arminianism, on the other hand, embraces the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith.  We agree that we are totally unable to secure our eternal salvation by our good works (Isaiah 64:6).  Because of the nature of sin, even the “good” that we do is often tainted by our own pride.  If good works could inherit eternal life, what was the point of the cross?  Was it not to demonstrate the glory of God and the fact that salvation comes through Jesus alone?

It can be said of reformation Arminianism that we teach that salvation is the work of God.  Through God’s prevenient grace, He prepares the souls of men to hear the gospel and to respond freely.  The Holy Spirit opens the hearts of lost sinners and He also enables the sinner to either believe or reject the gospel.  The sinner is not “working with God” when they embrace the gospel.  In fact, the sinner finds that when they embrace the gospel, they find that Jesus alone saved them by His grace.  They did not earn the salvation of God.  They freely accept it but even this is a gift from God by His prevenient grace.

In Romans 4:1-8 Paul contrasts works with faith.  The text reads:

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Abraham believed God.  In contrast, in verse 4 Paul says that a works mentality is one that says I am owed this.  But, Paul adds in verse 5, the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.

Now I believe, with my Calvinist brethren, that all of this is a gift of God.  While I reject the notion that God does it all for us (I find it hard to fit how God believes for us but I understand that Calvinists would say that He makes us willing to believe to quote Sproul again), I likewise accept the fact that even my believing could not be done apart from the work of the Spirit.  He enables me to believe though this is not irresistible.

The point here is not to protect free will.  The point is that God deals with us as people.  People can reason, can think, can use logic, can act.  People are not robots.  God deals with lost sinners as people.  We should not think that our inability limits the ability of God to save sinners.  He freely saves those who come to Him and the condition that He has placed is faith and repentance but the Spirit aids the sinner in this saving process.  This is not a solo work nor us working with God.  This is us surrendering to the Spirit to save us through Christ (Titus 3:5-7).

In conclusion, I believe that reformation Arminianism is based on the belief that God alone does save sinners.  Sinners do not “aid” God in saving them.  They do surrender to His conviction as part of their freed will but this is a gift from the Spirit (John 6:44).  None of us can earn salvation.  It is impossible.  Jesus alone is our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  Our salvation is found only in Him (John 8:51).  I hope this was a helpful post on showing that we Arminians stress, like our Calvinist brethren, that salvation is the work of the Lord (John 1:12-13).

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

What the Jehovah’s Witnesses Get Right (But Much Wrong)

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult.  I want to begin there.  I don’t want there to be any confusion as to whether or not I believe that JW’s need the gospel.  I do.  I believe JW’s are caught in a works-righteousness system where they never earn God’s forgiveness nor His approval.  Their entire hope is based on their desire to live forever on planet earth.  Ironically, the JW’s, who say that Christ returned invisible in 1914 to Brooklyn, New York at the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society headquarters, believe that only 144,000 will be in heaven with Jehovah.  The rest of the faithful JW’s will be on earth which will be transformed into paradise.  Since 1935, all JW’s now believe that their hope is to be on earth after Jehovah destroys all unbelievers at the battle of Armageddon and establishes His eternal kingdom on earth.  Their hope is in their works and in being a member of God’s organization and not in Christ.  Christ is added on to this.

The Bible is clear that Jesus alone is our salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).  Christ alone is our Mediator before God (1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2).  The Bible makes it clear that our forgiveness comes through the blood of Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:22, 27-28; 1 John 1:7).  Forgiveness of our sins is not found in our works but in Christ alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Our justification is based not upon being in the Lord’s organization or in a church but in Christ (Romans 4:4-5, 24-5:1).

So I believe that JW’s are lost.  They need the gospel.  They are not saved and if they don’t repent, they will not be in heaven nor on earth.  They will be cast into hell (Matthew 7:21-23).  My prayer for them is Romans 10:1-4.

But I do admire the JW’s in a couple of ways.  First, JW’s are known for helping their own.  I wish the Church of Jesus Christ would do a better job of this.  I was reading just today from Galatians 6:11 and I pondered that verse.  We need to do good to all people but especially to those who believe the gospel.  The Church often leaves some of her people hurting and alone.  This should not be.  We need each other.  We need a hug.  We need a hand to hold.  We need love.  We need compassion.  We need discipline.  We need rebuking.  We need a godly word.  We need each other (Hebrews 3:12-13).

Secondly, I admire the JW’s zeal to take their message out.  I believe they are not going out because they earnestly love Jehovah but they are going out because they hope to put in more hours for their organization and for the approval of Jehovah.  I don’t want to share my faith that way.  The fact is that I am loved by God because of Christ (Romans 5:8-9) and not because of my works.  Isaiah 64:6 establishes what my works look like before a holy God.  The fact is that I cannot earn God’s approval apart from faith in Christ.  I am under God’s just wrath because of my sins (Ephesians 5:6).  Romans 1:18-32 establishes why God’s wrath is coming and it is because of our own sins.  This includes JW’s as well of course.  Apart from being in Christ, we are all under the just wrath of God.  Christ alone is able to turn aside the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  Christ alone is able to satisfy the just wrath of God and He alone (Hebrews 9:14).

Yet JW’s spend hours upon hours knocking on doors trying to get people to read their magazines.  They spend hours in training to “witness” for Jehovah.  The true and living Church should learn from this (in a way) and help our people learn to share their faith.  Obviously our motivation would not be legalism or works-righteousness but would be the glory of God.  Our passion should be the glory of the King.  Not ours.  It is not about our church or getting people to approve us but our passion for evangelism should be based on the finished work of Christ and His glory.  All should be done to the glory of God (Colossians 3:17) especially evangelism.  We want people to worship Christ and bless His name.  I am not interested in creating Arminians or Baptists or Pentecostals.  I am hungry to see people worshipping Jesus Christ and blessing His holy name (John 4:23-24).  I do admire that the JW’s go out in groups and share their faith albeit a corrupt faith.  I pray that the Church would learn from the Lord Jesus who sent His disciples out two by two (Luke 10:1).  Group evangelism or even two by two is a great way to share your faith.  It gives you confidence and the other saint is able to help you to pray, to witness, to defend, and even to rescue you from people if necessary (and by rescue I mean not so much violence but people who trap you in conversations).

In closing, I do not admire JW’s for their works-righteousness.  They have an eye on self and on pleasing their god.  I believe this is not the true saint of God’s motivation at all.  I share my faith, read my Bible, pray, worship, and adore Jesus because of what He has done in already saving me.  I am not saved by my works at all (Titus 3:5-7) but because of His grace, I am motivated to serve Him (Titus 2:11-14).  Sound theology should lead to obedience to Christ as Lord.  The JW’s are a false system.  Their motivation is based on serving the Watchtower and earning God’s approval enough to escape His wrath. In the end, they will not unless they repent.  Repentance brings forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; 3:19-20; 17:30-31; 26:20).  When we see the cross of Christ, we true saints are motivated toward His forgiveness (Romans 2:4).  I pray that the true saints of God would be so in love with Jesus that we would burn with a zeal to honor Him as Lord but we would not get caught up in pleasing Him out of the flesh.  Unlike the JW’s, we know the God loves us in Christ (John 3:16) and that we are forgiven in Christ.

May God save the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/31/2013 at 10:08 AM

Refuting the ICC Position on Discipleship

In the old days of the International Churches of Christ, the ICOC taught that one had to be a disciple, to have the heart of a disciple before being baptized.  I use to say that they wanted to clean the fish before catching them.  What they taught was that one had to have a heart of a disciple as Jesus taught about discipleship in places such as Luke 14:25-35 or in Matthew 10.  They pointed to John 4:1-2, that Jesus Himself baptized disciples.  They pointed to Matthew 28:19-20 and said that we had to go and make disciples first before baptizing them.

In this way the ICOC separated itself from even the traditional (0r mainline in ICOC teaching) Church of Christ teaching on baptism.  The traditional view held by most Restoration movement teachers was that one had to be baptized to be saved or to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  The Restoration movement taught that water baptism was essential to salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 10:48) and that one is baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27).  However, the Restoration movement had always taught that one is not saved until baptized and then you become a disciple of Jesus.  The ICOC said no to this and taught that one was a disciple first before baptism and then after demonstrating a heart of a disciple, they were baptized into Christ and become a Christian (Acts 11:26).  In this way, the ICOC would tell even those in other Restoration movement churches that they were lost since they had not been baptized as a disciple of Jesus.

Now let’s discuss for a minute what the old ICOC meant by a disciple of Jesus.  First, a disciple was defined by Kip McKean as “one who has a heart to do anything and go anywhere for Jesus without question.”  In the ICC (International Christian Churches) a disciple is one who meets the standard of the ICC.  Those standards would be:

  • Attend every event at their local ICC or as much as possible.
  • Be involved in a Bible talk (an evangelistic Bible study designed to evangelize non-members).
  • Have a quiet time of prayer and Bible study each day.
  • Be active in inviting others to a Bible talk or to a church service.
  • Be submissive to a Christian (already baptized member of the ICC).
  • Confession of sins to your discipler.

All of this would be required to be a true disciple of Jesus.  You’ll notice that little is actually said about Jesus here.  It is all focused on works that the person does.  Little is said here about grace.  In fact, in the entire First Principles series, grace is mentioned only a few times and a couple of those in a negative light.  Little is said about the cross, about the saving work of Jesus, about the glorious truth of Jesus being our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

So to be a disciple of Jesus in the ICC (and the old ICOC) was based completely upon the teachings of the ICC and not the Bible.  Yes the Bible is sometimes referenced but sound exegesis of relevant passages are not given.  The focus is not upon the work of Christ and the cross but instead the focus is on your works, your obedience, your sacrifices.  Where is the grace of God?  Where is the emphasis on justification by faith?  Where is the teaching that we are saved by God’s grace through faith and not by works?  Where is the emphasis on sound exegesis on the doctrine of salvation?

The refutation of ICC position on discipleship is very easy to do.  First, the Bible never teaches that we are to have one-over-one relationships.  2 Timothy 2:2 is the closest passage on this subject and was often used by the ICOC to justify this concept.  Yet the text doesn’t say that we are to teach this one-over-one but rather people to people.  Notice the plural forms in 2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV):

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.

Where is one-over-one in this text?

Secondly, where in the New Testament do we have even one example of Jesus or the Apostles telling someone that they had to be a disciple first before becoming a Christian?  The term disciple is used in the four Gospels and Acts but in the epistles we find the Apostles used the word “slave” or “saints” to describe the believers.  The Bible uses many other terms for disciples in the New Testament such as: saints, slaves, brothers, believers.  We also know that there are also false disciples in John 6:60-71 including Judas Iscariot.  Simply because someone claims to be a disciple of Jesus does not make them a disciple of Jesus.  God knows their hearts.

Thirdly, if a disciple is a Christian (Acts 11:26) then we should baptize Christians according to Matthew 28:19.  From there we are to teach in Matthew 28:20 to obey all that Jesus taught us through the Apostles.  The Apostles obeyed this in Acts 2:42.

Fourth, where do we find the Apostles instructing anyone in the book of Acts or even in the Epistles to do what the ICC says about discipleship?  Where do we find that the Apostles required people to have the heart of a disciple before baptism?  The only thing I see on this issue is that the Apostles required faith in Jesus and repentance in order to be baptized (Acts 2:37-38, 41; 3:19; 4:12; 8:12, 36-38; 9:17-18; 10:44-48; 11:15; 16:14-15, 30-34; 18:8; 19:1-7; 22:16; 26:20).  They never said anything about being sanctified in order to be justified.  Justification, according to Romans 5:1, is by faith.

Lastly, Romans 8:8 says:

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

How can someone in the flesh begin to please God?  How can someone without the Spirit honor the Lord as His disciple through faithfulness in prayer, evangelism, etc.?  The Spirit of God comes when one repents of their sins by the grace of God through the work of the Spirit.  Notice in Galatians 3:1-5 how we receive the Holy Spirit:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith.

Notice that we receive the Spirit by the hearing of faith and not by what we do.  We cannot earn the forgiveness of God.  We cannot earn the righteousness of God (Titus 3:5-7).  In fact, Isaiah 64:6 says:

We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Our sinfulness taints our good works (Romans 3:10-18).  Our sinfulness keeps us from pleasing God.  We are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-3) apart from the work of the Spirit of God to open our eyes and to bring us to salvation (1 Peter 1:3).  We cannot, in our flesh, ever earn the perfect righteousness of God (Romans 3:23).  We cannot be saved by our own good works or obedience to the law (James 2:10).  We are only justified before God when we trust totally in the completed work of Christ alone to save us (Acts 13:38-39).  Our salvation is based on Jesus Christ and Him alone and not our church membership, our works, our prayer lives, our evangelism, our obedience to the law, etc.  Nothing saves us but Christ alone (Philippians 3:8-12).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/06/2013 at 10:11 AM

The Irony of Preaching Justification by Faith

I use to believe that human beings would gladly love to hear that God saves us by His grace through faith in Christ Jesus.  I thought that that was indeed very good news to us fallen humans who have nothing to offer a holy God for our salvation or for our forgiveness.  I was convinced that the Church needed to preach this good news and the world would gladly hear the gospel message, repent of their sins, and embrace the Lordship of Christ over their lives.

How wrong I was.

The truth of Romans 1:18-32 and especially in verses 18 and 25 continue to ring true the more I am involved with evangelism.  People do not love God.  They do not love the truth of God.  They despise God and His laws and they refuse to have Him reign over them.  Each person seems to want to be the master of their own fate, the captain of their souls.  They want to do it their way.  They want to love and cherish and worship their sins rather than the one true God.  The idea of justification by faith is offensive to those wrapped in their sins and who believe that they can earn their own salvation.  I even had one guy tell me, “When the day of judgement comes, I will stand and take it like a man.”  I told him he would not stand and take it like a man but would tremble in fear and seek to run away from the awful presence of a holy and just God (Hebrews 10:31).

People love darkness rather than light (John 3:19-21).  The NIV reads:

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

People do not desire the truth of God.  They want their sin and their open rebellion against God.

Yet this should not cause us not to preach the gospel to the lost.  Scripture says that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20).  Paul the Apostle, despite intense persecution, saw the glory of God revealed in the gospel as he faithfully preached the Word (Acts 18:1-11).  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, makes it clear that the success of evangelism lies not in our methods or our dress or our style but in the faithfulness of God.  God is the one who saves sinners for His own glory and honor (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).  Jesus makes it clear in John 6:44 that none can come to the Father unless the Father draws them.  This same Greek word for draw here in John 6:44 is found in John 12:32.  When we lift up Jesus in truth, He saves sinners.  Our duty is to simply preach Jesus to the lost.  God will save sinners (1 Corinthians 1:21).

Preaching justification by faith does not often bring people joy but hatred.  Religious people want to believe that it is God’s grace plus their works that obtain salvation.  They want to add to the work of Christ.  Few surrender to the teaching that salvation is wrought completely by God.  Most want to believe it is faith in Jesus plus our works that keep us saved or at least help God along.  This is simply not true.  God saves us and keeps us by His grace through faith.  Salvation from beginning to end is by grace through faith (2 Corinthians 1:24).  We are not to add to the work of Christ through some false belief that it is our works, our obedience to the law that keeps us right with God.  What keeps me saved is grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus, and not even my faith, is my salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  Jesus is my faithful high priest before the Father (Hebrews 7:25).  Jesus’ blood forgives me of my sins (Acts 13:38-39) and His blood is what helps me remain pure before God (1 John 1:7).  The work of Christ is my total salvation.  I bring nothing to the table to offer a holy God.  Jesus alone is the very One who has redeemed me by His grace (Mark 10:45).

The religious, the sin lover, the unbeliever – these are the ones who despise the most the truth of justification by faith.  The gospel is offensive to our human pride (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).  We may acknowledge the giving of God’s Son for our salvation but few really believe that Jesus is our total salvation.  Many semi-Pelagians abound who believe that God does His part and we do ours.  No!  The work of salvation is all of God (Acts 15:11).  Jesus alone is the One that we must cast our total faith in to save us from the wrath of God (Romans 5:8-9).  As 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10 (NASB) reads,

8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.

I pray that you and I would be among those who marvel at the work of Christ and long for Him to be glorified among His saints!  I long to see His salvation not just come but to be preached by the Church of Christ throughout the nations (Mark 16:15).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/21/2013 at 11:06 AM

Evangelism and the Arminian/Calvinist Debate

Can Arminians and Calvinists unite to preach the gospel to the lost?  My answer: yes!  And why you ask?  Simple: we both believe that salvation is a divine work of God wherein the enslaved person must, by grace and by the work of the Spirit of God, repent of their sins and be saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His work upon the cross.  Once a person repents, we can disagree to whether they were chosen from eternity past or became the elect of God by grace through faith but either way, we should rejoice that the sinner repented and believed the gospel.

I have seen quotes from some Calvinists who seem to believe that we Arminians would argue for free will and that a person, any person, all persons, can just believe when they want to and be saved.  That is not true.  We Arminians agree with our Calvinist brothers and sisters that people are slaves to sin and by nature hate God.  We agree that apart from the grace of God and the convicting and drawing work of the Holy Spirit, none could be saved.  Arminius stated:

This is my opinion concerning the free-will of man: In his primitive condition as he came out of the hands of his creator, man was endowed with such a portion of knowledge, holiness and power, as enabled him to understand, esteem, consider, will, and to perform the true good, according to the commandment delivered to him. Yet none of these acts could he do, except through the assistance of Divine Grace. But in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace.

If Arminius believed that a person can be saved by mere free will, he certainly did not express this in his sentiments.  Arminius further stated about divine 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.

Arminius said about the free will of mankind:

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.

Arminians then believe, with our Calvinist brethren, that apart from the aid of the Spirit of God through grace, none can be saved.  When we preach salvation to the lost, we preach the same as Calvinists do, that God calls people to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30-31) but we agree with our Calvinist friends that salvation is the work of God and not mankind (Romans 1:16-17).  The Lord alone saves sinners for His own glory and honor (Ephesians 1:4-13).  Salvation is not accomplished by the will of mankind (John 1:12-13) but by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We deny that works either save us 0r keep us saved (Titus 3:5-7) though works flow from our state of salvation in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14-26).

To further separate us from the Pelagians, let us read this from Arminius:

Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace. That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word “grace,” I mean by it that which is the grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration. I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the actions, and bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires. This grace goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succour in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and have fallen, establishes and supplies them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it.

So let us preach the gospel to all (Mark 16:15) knowing that God is the One who saves sinners by His enabling grace.

Did Arminius Affirm Salvation by Grace or Works?

I read a Calvinist piece in which the author showed his utter misunderstanding of Arminianism.  He never cites Arminius, never cites a prominent Arminian theologian but nonetheless he asserted that Arminianism holds to “works salvation” because we deny that God forces people to believe the gospel.  His seeks to build his case from Romans 3:10-18 by showing that mankind is so depraved that apart from God first regenerating them, none could be saved.  He sees this as all of grace whereas Arminianism teaches that we believe the gospel and then are regenerated and so we believe in works salvation because we believe salvation must be received freely by grace through faith.

Did Arminius hold that salvation was by our works?  Notice what he wrote here about salvation and how we are saved:

This vocation is both external and internal. The external vocation is by the ministry of men propounding the word. The internal vocation is through the operation of the Holy Spirit illuminating and affecting the heart, that attention may be paid to those things which are spoken, and that credence may be given to the word. From the concurrence of both these, arises the efficacy of vocation.

Arminius affirms that the Word of God must be preached to the lost for them to be saved (Romans 10:17).  This is why evangelism is necessary (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  People must hear the gospel to be saved.  Arminius called this “the external vocation.”  The internal vocation was the work of the Spirit in bringing sinners to Christ (John 6:44-45; Acts 16:14-15).  Arminius clearly affirms that sinners must hear the gospel and the Spirit must open their hearts by His grace for salvation.

Arminius further wrote,

We say that “it is a gracious and merciful act; “not with respect to Christ, as if the Father, through grace as distinguished from strict and rigid justice, had accepted the obedience of Christ for righteousness, but with respect to us, both because God, through his gracious mercy towards us, has made Christ to be sin for us, and righteousness to us, that we might be the righteousness of God in him, and because he has placed communion with Christ in the faith of the gospel, and has set forth Christ as a propitiation through faith.

Here Arminius affirmed that salvation was the gracious act of God and that our acceptance before God is based on the work and merit of the Lord Jesus Christ and not our works.  Jesus is our propitiation through faith which is clearly the same as what Paul the Apostle wrote in Romans 3:25.  Arminius makes the focus of salvation on the work of Christ and not on the work of mankind.

Arminius wrote also:

Christ has not obtained by his merits that we should be justified by the worthiness and merit of faith, and much less that we should be justified by the merit of works: But the merit of Christ is opposed to justification by works; and, in the Scriptures, faith and merit are placed in opposition to each other.

Faith is how we are justified before God but Arminius is careful not to place our faith as the basis for our salvation.  The basis for our salvation is not our faith but faith in Christ.  Christ is our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  Christ and His work on the cross secures salvation for those who believe the gospel (John 6:29).  Arminius correctly notes that faith and merit are placed in opposition to each other as in Romans 4:4-5.  To receive salvation through faith is not to earn salvation or to work for salvation but to humbly receive the finished work of Christ for that which He has already obtained by His own blood (Matthew 26:28).  None are saved merely because Christ died on the cross but all must come through faith to the saving work of Christ on the cross (Romans 3:21-27).  That Paul makes salvation conditioned upon faith in Christ does not negate the fact that faith is not a work for salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Arminius states,

The proximate end of vocation is, that they who have been called answer by faith to God and to Christ who give the call, and that they thus become the covenanted people of God through Christ the Mediator of the New Covenant; and, after having become believers and parties to the covenant, that they love, fear, honour, and worship God and Christ, render in all things obedience to the divine precepts “in righteousness and true holiness,” and that by this means they “make their calling and election sure.” (Prov. i, 24,; Heb. iii, 7; Rev. iii, 20; Ephes. ii, 11-16; Tit. iii, 8; Deut. vi, 4, 5; Jer. xxxii, 38, 39; Luke i, 74, 75; 2 Pet. i, 1, 10.)

Thus those who, by faith, believe the gospel become partakers in the New Covenant with Christ as the Mediator.  This makes their calling and election sure.

Arminius affirmed salvation by grace as he wrote,

Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace. That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word “grace,” I mean by it that which is the grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration. I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the actions, and bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires. This grace goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succour in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and have fallen, establishes and supplies them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it.

I confess that the mind of a natural and carnal man is obscure and dark, that his affections are corrupt and inordinate, that his will is stubborn and disobedient, and that the man himself is dead in sins. And I add to this — that teacher obtains my highest approbation who ascribes as much as possible to divine grace, provided he so pleads the cause of grace, as not to inflict an injury on the justice of God, and not to take away the free will to that which is evil.

Notice that Arminius affirms with the Reformers that salvation was entirely a work of grace.  He states that the free will of mankind cannot produce salvation apart from grace.  The will of mankind is tainted by sin and we are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).  We need the grace of God for salvation.  Clearly then Arminius affirmed salvation by grace and opposed works to produce the righteousness that God requires which is none other than perfection.

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