Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Here We Stand: The Doctrines of Grace-Unconditional Election

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)

The Doctrines of Grace: Unconditional Election

The Historical Controversy of Unconditional Election

John Calvin and Roman Catholicism
-John Calvin, the famous French Reformer whose theological writings and expository preaching have impacted the church for the last 500 years, wrote The Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536. Originally six chapters long, Calvin later expanded the Institutes to be much larger, and in 1559, the fifth edition of the Institutes became the standard edition used by scholars, pastors, theologians, and students for centuries afterwards.
-The Institutes of the Christian Religion touches upon the Reformed doctrines of election in Book 3 and chapter 21. In it, Calvin introduces the study of election and predestination as good and necessary for the Church to ponder. “First, then, let them remember that when they inquire into predestination they are entering the sanctuary of divine wisdom. Anyone who pries into it and who delves too brashly and confidently will never reach the point where he satisfies his curiosity, but will stumble into a labyrinth from which he will find no way out. For it is not right that the things which God has sought to conceal and whose knowledge he has kept for himself should be scrutinized in this way by men. Nor is it right that the lofty wisdom which he wished us to revere rather than comprehend, so that we might wonder at his greatness, should be made subject to the human mind or sought out in the depths of his eternity. As for the secrets of his will which he thought good to impart to us, he has borne witness to them in his word. And what he has thought good to impart to us was everything which he knew would be relevant and rewarding to us.” Calvin also stated before he began writing on this doctrine step-by-step that “For the moment I would appeal to all men generally not to attempt to look into things which God has chosen to keep hidden, but also not to neglect those which he has openly revealed, lest he condemn us on the one hand for open curiosity and on the other for ingratitude.”
-John Calvin defines the terms “foreknowledge”, “predestination”, “election”, and “providence”. Calvin defined foreknowledge of God’s knowledge of all that has or will happen in history. “Predestination” is God determining the course of everyone’s life, whether in judgment or salvation. “Providence” is the means whereby God upholds the world and directs what appears to be circumstantial in our lives.
-Calvin first deals with the debate whether God predestined us based on something in ourselves categorically rejects this idea because it takes away from the grace of God in our salvation. Again and again, Calvin went to Scripture as proof of the doctrine of unconditional election. For example, he said “It is clear that God’s grace alone deserves to be exalted in our election only if that election is free [unconditional].” However it cannot possibly be free if, when he chooses his own, he calculates what each one’s works will be. Thus Christ’s words to his disciples, are, we find, true for all believers: ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you’ (John 15:16). Here he rules out all previous merits, but testifies that they had nothing in themselves for which they should be chosen, except that he had already met them in his mercy. This is also the sense of Paul’s saying: ‘Who first gave to God that he might repay him?’ (Romans 11:35). In this way he shows that God’s goodness anticipates men in such a way that it finds nothing in them, either in the past or in the future, which makes it deservedly theirs.”
-Roman Catholicism’s views of predestination and election will involve man’s free will, as the Roman Catholic Church denies the total depravity of mankind. The Catholic Encyclopedia declares that “Predestination (Latin præ, destinare), taken in its widest meaning, is every Divine decree by which God, owing to His infallible prescience of the future, has appointed and ordained from eternity all events occurring in time, especially those which directly proceed from, or at least are influenced by, man's free will. Predestination (Latin præ, destinare), taken in its widest meaning, is every Divine decree by which God, owing to His infallible prescience of the future, has appointed and ordained from eternity all events occurring in time, especially those which directly proceed from, or at least are influenced by, man's free will.”
-Roman Catholicism does not deny predestination or election, but it pronounces as heretical the teachings of John Calvin. The Catholic Encyclopedia again says, “But no less grave are the errors into which a second group falls by making God alone responsible for everything, and abolishing the free co-operation of the will in obtaining eternal happiness. This is done by the advocates of heretical Predestinarianism, embodied in its purest form in Calvinism and Jansenism. Those who seek the reason of predestination solely in the absolute Will of God are logically forced to admit an irresistibly efficacious grace (gratia irresistibilis), to deny the freedom of the will when influenced by grace and wholly to reject supernatural merits (as a secondary reason for eternal happiness).” It later states, “The first quality, the immutability of the Divine decree, is based both on the infallible foreknowledge of God that certain, quite determined individuals will leave this life in the state of grace, and on the immutable will of God to give precisely to these men and to no others eternal happiness as a reward for their supernatural merits.”
-Therefore, whereas John Calvin articulated from Scripture the doctrine of unconditional election, Roman Catholicism dogmatically articulates conditional election based upon God’s foreknowledge of our righteous merits that we accrue in our life.

Canons of Dort and the Remonstrants
-Roman Catholicism was not the only group who denied unconditional election. In the Netherlands, Jakob Hermanszoon (known by his Latinized name Jacobus Arminius) taught theology at the University of Leiden. He had originally been a student of Calvin’s protégé Theodore Beza in Geneva, and was ordained as a Dutch pastor in 1588. However, during a sermon series on the book of Romans, Arminius began to teach doctrines that ran counter to Calvin’s theology. In 1603, Arminius continued to stir up controversy when he assumed the role of a professor of theology at the University of Leiden. He nurtured a movement known as Arminianism that publicly revolted against the teachings of the Reformed churches in 1610. This resistance, known as the Remonstrance, issued five points that sought to refute Reformed teachings of God’s sovereignty of salvation. Specifically regarding the doctrine of unconditional election, the Remonstrants stated, “That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ His Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of a fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ's sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ, according to the word of the gospel in John 3:36: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him," and according to other passages of Scripture also.” While the Arminians rejected the view of Roman Catholicism that believes that God elects men based on the merits they will accrue, they stated that God instead chooses men by knowing that they will first choose Him.
-The Reformed churches met in the city of Dordrecht in 1618-1619 and produced official articles of doctrine, known as canons. The Canons of Dort state as the confessional teaching for the Reformed churches that “Election [or choosing] is God’s unchangeable purpose by which he did the following: before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, he chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery. He did this in Christ, whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation. And so he decided to give the chosen ones to Christ to be saved, and to call and draw them effectively into Christ’s fellowship through his Word and Spirit. In other words, he decided to grant them true faith in Christ, to justify them, to sanctify them and finally, after powerfully preserving them in the fellowship of his Son, to glorify them.”
-Article 9 of the first point of doctrine states that God’s choice to save us is not based on foreseen faith. “This same election took place, not on the basis of foreseen faith…but rather for the purpose of faith.” Article 10 declares, “But the cause of this undeserved election is exclusively the good pleasure of God. This does not involve his choosing certain human qualities or actions from among all those possible as a condition of salvation, but rather involves his adopting certain particular persons from among the common mass of sinners as his own possession.”

Calvinism and Arminianism
-Even after the Canons of Dort officially ruled on the doctrines of grace, the debate still continued. Charles Spurgeon, the “prince of preachers”, stated in a sermon entitled “Election” that “In the very beginning, when this great universe lay in the mind of God, like unborn forests in the acorn cup; long ere the echoes awoke the solitudes; before the mountains were brought forth; and long ere the light flashed through the sky, God loved His chosen creatures. Before there was any created being—when the ether was not fanned by an angel’s wing, when space itself had not an existence, when there was nothing save God alone—even then, in that loneliness of Deity, and in that deep quiet and profundity, His bowels moved with love for His chosen. Their names were written on His heart, and then were they dear to His soul.”
-Spurgeon in response to critics who stated that it was both wrong and unwise to preach on this doctrine responded, “Some of you have never preached on election since you were ordained. “These things,” you say, “are offensive.” And so you would rather offend God than offend man. But you reply, “These things will not be practical.” I do think that the climax of all man’s blasphemy is centered in that utterance. Tell me that God put a thing in the Bible that I am not to preach! You are finding fault with my God. But you say, “It will be dangerous.” What! God’s truth dangerous? I should not like to stand in your shoes when you have to face your Maker on the day of judgment after such an utterance as that.”

The Biblical Doctrine of Unconditional Election


-In Genesis 12:1-3, the Lord chose to set His special favor upon the patriarch by calling him out of idolatry to be the forefather of God’s chosen people. There was nothing particular in Abraham that distinguished him from his brothers Nahor and Haran, yet God chose Abraham rather than Nahor or Haran. 
-The apostle Paul states that God chose Abraham not only to be the forefather of the Israelites, but also of all those who come to faith in Jesus Christ as a result of God’s sovereign election (Galatians 3:7).
-Furthermore, God’s sovereign ability to choose was illustrated in God choosing Isaac to be the child of promise (Romans 21:12) rather than Ishmael or the other sons that Abraham sired (Genesis 25:1-2).

-While many other peoples (such as the Midianites) were direct descendants of Abraham, God set His special favor and love once more upon Isaac’s youngest son Jacob (Genesis 25:23), whom the Lord later renamed Israel (Genesis 35:10).
-Jacob was no more virtuous than his older brother Edom, yet God chose Jacob over Esau (Malachi 1:2-3; Romans 9:10-13).
-God chose Israel and the nation that came from him to be His special chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:6-8).
-Scripture repeatedly declares that God was the One who chose Israel to be His own possession for His own glory (Deuteronomy 14:2; Acts 13:17).
-Israel certainly did not ever deserve to be God’s special covenant people chosen by Him. He declared it was not because of their worth but rather His glory that He would bring them out of exile and once again restore them as His people (Ezekiel 36:22-28).

Jesus and the Disciples
-During the ministry of the Lord Jesus, He chose twelve particular men to be His disciples (Matthew 10:1-4). They were not worthy of being the disciples of the Son of God, let alone being worthy of an ordinary rabbi.
-Jesus repeatedly reminded His disciples that they did not choose Him as their Teacher, but rather He chose them to be His followers (John 6:66-71; John 15:16)

The Church
-The apostle Paul in particular is an amazing example of unconditional election. Paul was converted on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9). When the Lord instructed Ananias to free Paul of his blindness, He clearly stated that He had chosen Paul even though Paul had done nothing in his life to warrant it (Acts 9:10-15).
-Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul became an apostle of God’s sovereign grace to the church of Jesus Christ. 
-Paul teaches that God has predestined us for adoption into God’s family (Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 1:11). The verb Paul uses for “predestine” is προορίζω (proorizo). This also appears in Romans 8:29, and it means “I foreordain”. The One who foreordains is the God who foreordained Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be the patriarchs of His chosen people.
-Paul declares that God foreordained us to salvation because God chose us (Ephesians 1:4). The Greek verb is ἐκλέγομαι (eklegomai), meaning “I choose” or “I elect”.
The same verb in Ephesians 1:4 is used in Deuteronomy 14:2 (LXX) to refer to God’s sovereign choice.
-For those who would object to the fairness of God’s choice to elect some to salvation and pass over others, we must remember what Paul says in Romans 9:22-23. Not a single human being ever deserved to be chosen by God, and yet to the praise of God’s divine grace, He has chosen us to be a people for His own possession through no merits of our own (1 Peter 2:9).


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:3-6)



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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Here We Stand: The Doctrines of Grace-Total Depravity

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-2)

The Doctrines of Grace: Total Depravity

The Historical Controversy of Total Depravity

Augustine and Pelagius

-The first historical controversy of note about the doctrine of total depravity came in the dispute between Augustine and Pelagius. Pelaius was a British monk who lived c. 360-418 A.D, and Augustine was a north-African Christian theologian and philosopher who lived 354-430 A.D. A raging controversy erupted in early 5th century regarding the nature of original sin and man’s moral will. According to R.C. Sproul, “The controversy began when the British monk, Pelagius, opposed at Rome Augustine's famous prayer: ‘Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire.’ Pelagius recoiled in horror at the idea that a divine gift (grace) is necessary to perform what God commands. For Pelagius and his followers responsibility always implies ability. If man has the moral responsibility to obey the law of God, he must also have the moral ability to do it.” Pelagius denied that mankind was stained by original sin and that man could freely morally choose between good and evil. Pelagius’ ideas spread throughout the church, especially in the region of Carthage. He wrote On the Nature and Defense of the Freedom of the Will where he attempted to refute Augustine’s writings. Augustine in turn wrote The Books on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins in 412, On the Spirit and the Letter in 414, and A Treatise Concerning Man’s Perfection in Righteousness in 415. Augustine, in contrast to Pelagius, advocated that humanity has fallen entirely into original sin and that his will is captive to his sin.
-Dr. R.C. Sproul also stated, “Augustine did not deny that fallen man still has a will and that the will is capable of making choices. He argued that fallen man still has a free will (liberium arbitrium) but has lost his moral liberty (libertas). The state of original sin leaves us in the wretched condition of being unable to refrain from sinning. We still are able to choose what we desire, but our desires remain chained by our evil impulses. He argued that the freedom that remains in the will always leads to sin. Thus in the flesh we are free only to sin, a hollow freedom indeed. It is freedom without liberty, a real moral bondage. True liberty can only come from without, from the work of God on the soul. Therefore we are not only partly dependent upon grace for our conversion but totally dependent upon grace.”
-In the book On the Grace of Christ and on Original Sin, Augustine wrote that “You informed me in your letter, that you had entreated Pelagius to express in writing his condemnation of all that had been alleged against him; and that he had said, in the audience of you all: I anathematize the man who either thinks or says that the grace of God, whereby 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,' 1 Timothy 1:15 is not necessary not only for every hour and for every moment, but also for every act of our lives: and those who endeavour to disannul it deserve everlasting punishment. Now, whoever hears these words, and is ignorant of the opinion which he has clearly enough expressed in his books—not those, indeed, which he declares to have been stolen from him in an incorrect form, nor those which he repudiates, but those even which he mentions in his own letter which he forwarded to Rome—would certainly suppose that the views he holds are in strict accordance with the truth. But whoever notices what he openly declares in them, cannot fail to regard these statements with suspicion…
Your own fidelity, however, enables you clearly to perceive how such a profession of opinion as this differs from that true confession of grace which is now the question before us. And yet how easily can it be obscured and disguised by their ambiguous statements!”
-Augustine also stated regarding Pelagius’ views on “free will” that “As if that faculty were infirm which God Himself placed in our nature; while the other two, which, as he would have it, are our own, are so strong and firm and self-sufficient as to require none of His help! so that He does not help us to will, nor help us to act, but simply helps us to the possibility of willing and acting. The apostle, however, holds the contrary, when he says, Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12) And that they might be sure that it was not simply in their being able to work (for this they had already received in nature and in teaching), but in their actual working, that they were divinely assisted, the apostle does not say to them, For it is God that works in you to be able, as if they already possessed volition and operation among their own resources, without requiring His assistance in respect of these two; but he says, For it is God which works in you both to will and to perform of His own good pleasure; (Philippians 2:13) or, as the reading runs in other copies, especially the Greek, both to will and to operate. Consider, now, whether the apostle did not thus long before foresee by the Holy Ghost that there would arise adversaries of the grace of God; and did not therefore declare that God works within us those two very things, even willing and operating, which this man so determined to be our own, as if they were in no wise assisted by the help of divine grace.”
-The controversy went before the Synod of Diospolis in December of 415, and while Pelagius was not condoned, he was not condemned as a heretic either. However, Pelagius was later condemned as a heretic by Rome and Semi-Pelagianism was condemned by the Council of Orange in 529 A.D. Augustinianism defeated Pelagianism, but Semi-Pelagianism persisted in the church.

Luther and Erasmus
-During the Reformation, this controversy arose again in a similar manner between the German Reformer Martin Luther and the humanist philosopher Erasmus. Erasmus, an important scholar and thinker within Roman Catholicism, wrote in September of 1524 a book entitled On Free Will. In it, he defended the idea that human beings possess a will that can freely choose between good and evil and that God’s grace aided man’s free will as man freely chose salvation. Luther countered strongly and publicly against Erasmus in his own book On the Bondage of the Will in December of 1525. Standing within classic Augustinian theology (Augustin having stood in classic Pauline theology), Luther stated that “Let all the 'free-will' in the world do all it can with all its strength; it will never give rise to a single instance of ability to avoid being hardened if God does not give the Spirit, or of meriting mercy if it is left to its own strength." He also stated, "All the passages in the Holy Scriptures that mention assistance are they that do away with "free-will", and these are countless...For grace is needed, and the help of grace is given, because "free-will" can do nothing."
-Luther also stated, "I frankly confess that, for myself, even if it could be, I should not want "free-will" to be given me, nor anything to be left in my own hands to enable me to endeavour after salvation; not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground ; but because even were there no dangers. I should still be forced to labour with no guarantee of success. But now that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him. Furthermore, I have the comfortable certainty that I please God, not by reason of the merit of my works, but by reason of His merciful favour promised to me; so that, if I work too little, or badly, He does not impute it to me, but with fatherly compassion pardons me and makes me better. This is the glorying of all the saints in their God."
This book became Luther’s favorite book of his writings, and it upheld the biblical teaching of total depravity and man’s incapacity to choose good apart from divine grace and favor. This book became a seminal work in the Reformation, and those who came out of the Reformation held to Luther’s views.

Calvin and Roman Catholicism
-John Calvin originally was Roman Catholic, but was saved out of Roman Catholicism and became the second-most influential theologian in the history of Christendom after Augustine of Hippo. In his defining theological work Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin wrote that “...our nature is not only destitute of all good, but is so fertile in all evils that it cannot remain inactive. Those who have called it concupiscence have used an expression not improper, if it were only added, which is far from being conceded by most persons, that everything in man, the understanding and will, the soul and body, is polluted and engrossed by this concupiscence; or, to express it more briefly, that man is of himself nothing else but concupiscence.”
-In writing on Calvin’s theology, Thomas Gregory wrote “Calvin depicts the unbeliever as trying to do the impossible by seeking to eradicate from his consciousness all thought of God. Attempts to suppress the awareness of God16 lead to the constructing of false ideas of God. But the “instincts of nature” which speak of the true God cannot be silenced or satisfied. Fearful tensions develop. Instead of seeking to make peace with the one offended, man attempts to eliminate his guilt by constructing a view of reality in which guilt has no existence, or imagining a God in whom there is no holy wrath or vindictiveness. But these attempts are vain and become a boomerang. They do not even relieve man’s dreadful guilt before God. The self, seeking to save itself, becomes increasingly self-destructive.”
-In contrast to John Calvin, the Roman Catholic Church did not adhere to the doctrine of total depravity. Tim Staples, a Roman Catholic apologist with Catholic Answers wrote “Once Calvin deduces “total depravity” via poor exegesis of a relatively few texts of Scripture, all sorts of unbiblical notions follow. For example, Calvin also concludes from this that human nature is so totally depraved that free will is an impossibility. It's a farce:

The grace offered by the Lord is not merely one which every individual has full liberty of choosing to receive or reject, but a grace which produces in the heart both choice and will (Institutes, Bk. II, Ch. 3, Para. 13).
According to Calvin, man's total depravity means necessarily that he does not have the capacity to cooperate with God’s grace.”
-Roman Catholicism did (and does) affirm the doctrine of original sin. Paragraph 389 of the Catechism states, “The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the "reverse side" of the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of all men, that all need salvation and that salvation is offered to all through Christ. The Church, which has the mind of Christ,
 knows very well that we cannot tamper with the revelation of original sin without undermining the mystery of Christ.” However, Roman Catholicism effectively denied man’s bondage of the will as articulated by Augustine, Luther, Calvin (and most importantly, the Scriptures). Paragraph 406 states, “The Church's teaching on the transmission of original sin was articulated more precisely in the fifth century, especially under the impulse of St. Augustine's reflections against Pelagianism, and in the sixteenth century, in opposition to the Protestant Reformation. Pelagius held that man could, by the natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God's grace, lead a morally good life; he thus reduced the influence of Adam's fault to bad example. The first Protestant reformers, on the contrary, taught that original sin has radically perverted man and destroyed his freedom; they identified the sin inherited by each man with the tendency to evil (concupiscentia), which would be insurmountable."

Canons of Dort and the Remonstrants

-The controversy over the nature of original sin and man’s free will continued after Calvin. In 1618-1619, the Reformed churches in the Netherlands convened to settle a theological controversy that had become inflamed. Jacob Arminius, a professor of theology at Leiden, opposed the teaching of John Calvin. After Arminius died, his adherents presented five points in the “Remonstrance” (protest) in 1610. They denied total depravity and instead taught partial depravity. Therefore, the Dutch Reformed churches convened a Synod in Dordrecht (Dort) to settle the matter.
-The Synod produced five main points of doctrine (canons) whereby they responded and refuted the five points promoted by the followers of Jacob Arminius. The 3rd and 4th Canons state in the following articles what the Reformed churches believed in accordance with the teachings of Scripture…

Human beings were originally created in the image of God and were furnished in mind with a true and sound knowledge of the Creator and things spiritual, in will and heart with righteousness, and in all emotions with purity; indeed, the whole human being was holy. However, rebelling against God at the devil’s instigation and by their own free will, they deprived themselves of these outstanding gifts. Rather, in their place they brought upon themselves blindness, terrible darkness, futility, and distortion of judgment in their minds; perversity, defiance, and hardness in their hearts and wills; and finally impurity in all their ­emotions. Human beings were originally created in the image of God and were furnished in mind with a true and sound knowledge of the Creator and things spiritual, in will and heart with righteousness, and in all emotions with purity; indeed, the whole human being was holy. However, rebelling against God at the devil’s instigation and by their own free will, they deprived themselves of these outstanding gifts. Rather, in their place they brought upon themselves blindness, terrible darkness, futility, and distortion of judgment in their minds; perversity, defiance, and hardness in their hearts and wills; and finally impurity in all their ­emotions.”—Article 1: The Effect of the Fall on Human Nature

“Therefore, all people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin. Without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to such reform.”Article 3: Total Inability
-In Articles 4 and 5, the Synod of Dort rejected the notion that human nature for God’s Law offers a remedy to man’s fallen nature. It is only the saving power of the Gospel (Article 6) that can rescue man from the bondage of sin and death and set his will free to choose the things of God.

Calvinism vs. Arminianism
-Today the controversy over this doctrine persists. In what was once a denomination founded by Baptists of Reformed theology, the Southern Baptist Convention (the largest Protestant denomination with 15,700,000 members in 2015) in recent years has been flooded by debates between “Calvinists” and “Arminians”. Even in confessionally-Reformed denominations, many believers reject the doctrine of total depravity, and many mainstream Reformed churches and seminaries implicitly deny it in their attempts to attract congregants and students.
-The resurgence of Reformed soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) within evangelicalism has earned the title “New Calvinism”, yet opposition persists. The only authoritative source that settles the controversies of history is the Word of God.

The Biblical Doctrine of Total Depravity
-In Genesis 3, what God created as a perfect cosmos was plunged into sin. In verses 1-7, the Serpent deceives the woman into eating the forbidden fruit. In verses 8-13, the Lord reveals their sin, and in verses 14-19 the Curse is declared upon the world. In verses 20-24, God drove mankind out of the Garden of Eden so that he would not live forever and sin.
-The effect of the Fall upon the world and humanity was catastrophic. The entire world lies under the bondage of sin (Romans 8:22), and all of humanity as well (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:9; Romans 3:23).
-All of humanity now inherits the sin of Adam (Romans 5:12-14) as expressed by the writers of Scripture (Psalm 51:5). Our souls are enslaved to sin (Jeremiah 17:9) and our sin causes us to transgress in a multitude of ways (Romans 1:29-32; Titus 3:3).
-Our condition is not that of being spiritually sick, but being spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13). Paul uses the word νεκρός (nekros) which always refers to those who are dead, i.e. a lifeless corpse (Matthew 8:22). We do not need to be healed, we need to be brought to life spiritually.
-Because we are naturally dead in sins, we are unable to choose God (Ephesians 4:18). We know God exists, yet we chose to deny him because we are in bondage to sin (Romans 1:18-21).
-As a result, we cannot choose God, nor do we desire God, even if we desire the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Instead, we freely choose what our hearts desire: sin and death (Jeremiah 16:12; Jeremiah 18:12).
-Scripture declares that man’s dead heart is so spiritually hardened that they cannot soften it themselves (Zechariah 7:12).
-God’s Law calls us to do righteousness, yet we cannot do so and hence incur God’s just and righteous wrath (Romans 2:5). Yet even when faced with God’s wrath, men will not repent in their spiritually-dead condition (Isaiah 42:24-25; Revelation 9:20-21).
-What we need is the power of the Gospel to give us new life and a new heart (Colossians 2:13-14; 1 Peter 2:24).
-In the Gospel, God gives us the gift of repentance and faith so that we may be saved (2 Timothy 2:25).
-Through the power of the Holy Spirit of God, we have been regenerated, or “born-again” from spiritual death to spiritual life (Jeremiah 24:7; Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26; John 3:3).
-Having been born again, we are now a new man in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24)
-Having been made alive in Christ, our desires have fundamentally changed. Now we desire God (Psalm 73:25-26; Philippians 3:8).
-Having been made alive in Christ, we now desire to live godly lives having been saved by our Lord Jesus Christ (Titus 3:3-8)

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:3-7)



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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Here We Stand-Soli Deo Gloria: Glory to God Alone

“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (Psalm 108:3-5)

The Necessity of God’s Glory Alone

The Denial of God’s Glory Alone
-Before the time of the Reformation, the brightness of the glory of God had been greatly dimmed. In fact, in describing the effect of the Reformation in restoring the glory of God, the Latin phrase post tenebras lux became common—after darkness, light. Particularly in Calvin’s Geneva, the phrase became very common. However, why would the period previous to the Reformation be described as “darkness”?
-During the days previous to the Reformation, men and women gave glory to many different objects of worship and veneration besides God alone. Mary was adored. Saints were venerated. Relics were upheld as objects that would infuse divine grace and blessing—even when shown as spurious, such as when three different skulls of John the Baptist floated around Europe around the same time. 
-Roman Catholicism teaches that Mary must be adored and venerated if one is part of the Church. Paragraph 917 states, “The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship. The Church rightly honors "the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of 'Mother of God,' to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs…This very special devotion…differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration. "The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an "epitome of the whole Gospel," express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.”” Mary herself did not say any of this; on the contrary, Mary said that her soul glorified the Lord (Luke 1:46).
-Regarding the official canonized saints of the Roman Catholic Church, the Catechism teaches that they intercede for us (paragraph 956) and also that we are united to them which enables us to grow in our union with Christ. Paragraph 957 states, “It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself."
-The Council of Trent in session 25 stated in its second decree, “The holy Synod enjoins on all bishops, and others who sustain the office and charge of teaching, that, agreeably to the usage of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, received from the primitive times of the Christian religion, and agreeably to the consent of the holy Fathers, and to the decrees of sacred Councils, they especially instruct the faithful diligently concerning the intercession and invocation of saints; the honour (paid) to relics; and the legitimate use of images: teaching them, that the saints, who reign together with Christ, offer up their own prayers to God for men; that it is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them, and to have recourse to their prayers, aid, (and) help for obtaining benefits from God… Moreover, that the images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other saints, are to be had and retained particularly in temples, and that due honour and veneration are to be given them; not that any divinity, or virtue, is believed to be in them, on account of which they are to be worshipped; or that anything is to be asked of them; or, that trust is to be reposed in images, as was of old done by the Gentiles who placed their hope in idols; but because the honour which is shown them is referred to the prototypes which those images represent; in such wise that by the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover the head, and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ; and we venerate the saints, whose similitude they bear: as, by the decrees of Councils, and especially of the second Synod of Nicaea, has been defined against the opponents of images…”
-Some might think that relics have been left behind in modern-day Roman Catholic theology, especially after Vatican II. However, Pope John Paul II made statements about relics in the Code of Canon Law in canons 1281-1289.
-Furthermore, the glory of God is lost in the Gospel of Rome, the unbiblical church hierarchy of Rome (pope, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and priests), the unbiblical teaching of the sacraments indeed darken the brightness and purity of God’s glory.

The Defense of God’s Glory Alone
-In the five Solae of the Reformation, the Christian faith is clearly articulated. Beginning with the formal principle of the Reformation, it was founded upon a firm commitment to the sacredness and supremacy of the written Scriptures as the sole infallible authority for Christian faith and practice. The material principle of the Reformation was the very heart of the Gospel: we are justified by faith alone. No works or merit of ours or others can save us, as the third Sola states that we are saved only in Christ alone. It is in fact the grace of God alone that has saved us through the redeeming work of Christ on our behalf. And it is all of these that restore the glory of God in the doctrine and subsequent worship of the true church of Jesus Christ.
-In his expository commentary on the Psalms, John Calvin stated, “The whole world is a theatre for the display of the divine goodness, wisdom, justice, and power, but the Church is the orchestra, as it were—the most conspicuous part of it; and the nearer the approaches are that God makes to us, the more intimate and condescending the communication of his benefits, the more attentively are we called to consider them.”
-The recovery of the Gospel in the Reformation all glory from men and restored it to the rightful recognition of God’s glory alone. As Martin Luther stated, “It is true, that the doctrine of the Gospel takes all glory, wisdom, [and] righteousness . . . from men and ascribes them to the Creator alone, who makes everything out of nothing.”
-Question and Answer 1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, in reflecting the recovery of Soli Deo Gloria a century earlier in the Reformation, states,

Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

-Question and Answer 12 of the Westminster Larger Catechism states that God’s glory is the reason why all things come to pass (including the providential unfolding of the Reformation).

Q. 12. What are the decrees of God?
A. God's decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of his will, whereby, from all eternity, he hath, for his own glory, unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men.

The Nature of God’s Glory Alone

The Definition of God’s Glory

-The glory of God is not an attribute, but rather the sum total of all of His attributes and perfections. Both God’s communicable (love, wisdom, etc.) and incommunicable attributes (omnipotent, omnipresence, eternality, etc.) are God’s glory. The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible defines “glory” as “The singular splendor of God and its consequences for mankind.”
-In the Old Testament, the Hebrew
כָּבוֹד (kabod) refers to glory. In the New Testament, the Greek δόξα (doxa) is used for the splendor and weightiness of God’s glory. These words describe God’s intrinsic and infinite worth and splendor.
-The concept of God’s glory means God’s glory is weighty, distinctive, and praiseworthy. Hence why God is described repeatedly as “glorious” in the Scriptures (Nehemiah 9:5).
-Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God is described as the “God of Glory” (Psalm 29:3; Acts 7:2).

The Supremacy of God’s Glory
-God’s glory has repeatedly manifestly appeared to His people, such as Moses at Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:15-18) and the dedication of the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-35) and Temple (2 Chronicles 7:1-3).
-The supremacy of God’s glory appears from the beginning to the end of Scripture: the cry of the believer is that God’s glory will be manifested in the world (Psalm 57:5; Psalm 72:19; Psalm 108:5)
-God’s glory will endure forever and ever, in contrast to any false god or object that we would glorify rather than Him alone (Psalm 104:31).
-God’s glory rightly opposes that which does not glorify Himself, such as the episode at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) or the toppling of the idol Dagon in the Philistine temple (1 Samuel 5:1-5).
-God cannot and will not give glory to any other (Isaiah 42:8; Isaiah 48:11).
-The glory of the Lord stands in contrast to man’s sin, such as the grumbling of the Israelites and the glory of the Lord (Exodus 16:6-12). In fact, Paul makes this very clear in one of the most iconic statements of Scriptures (Romans 3:23).

The Importance of God’s Glory
-God’s glory has been most wonderfully displayed in the Person and work of His Son (Hebrews 1:3).
-However, we are by nature blinded to the glory of God displayed in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4), but for God’s glory His divine grace and power has given us new hearts and opened our eyes to the glory of the Gospel of Sola Fide (2 Timothy 1:9-10; Titus 3:4-7).
-We have been saved through every act of God Soli Deo Gloria—for the glory of God alone (Ephesians 1:11-14).
-God’s glory has been demonstrated throughout history in there always being a people of God for His own possession (Isaiah 43:7) to declare His glory of redemption (Psalm 145:10-12; Isaiah 43:21).

-It is the glory of God that is our eternal hope. The glory of God will give light to the New Jerusalem in the new heavens and the new earth. This will be our eternal state: residing in the presence of God’s glory forever and ever (Revelation 21:23) when Christ Jesus appears (Colossians 3:4).
-God’s glory was displayed when He spoke to His people Israel at Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 5:24), and His glory is displayed in churches today when He speaks to us through His preached word (2 Timothy 4:1-2). Hence why a pulpit replaced the altar in churches: God’s Word is central in the worship and focus of the church.
-Rather than a church superstructure of a pope, a college of cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and priests, Christ established that churches be led by elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13). These are “under-shepherds” who feed God’s flock as led by the Chief Shepherd Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:1-4).
-As the people of God, we are called to ascribe glory to the Lord (1 Chronicles 16-24-29).
-As one of the great practical outworkings of the Reformation, congregational singing returned to the churches once again (Psalm 66:2; Psalm 96:1; Psalm 104:33; Isaiah 12:5).
-It is because we were saved for God’s glory and continue to live for God’s glory, we have hope no matter what we may face in this life (2 Corinthians 4:13-18).

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)


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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Here We Stand-Sola Gratia: Grace Alone

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.(Romans 3:23-24) 

The Necessity of Grace Alone

The Denial of Grace Alone
-Roman Catholicism defines “grace” in a manner at first that seems consistent with Reformed definitions, yet grace is not viewed the same way. Paragraph 1996 states, “Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.”
-Roman Catholicism teaches that justification is by faith, yet their Catechism defines this in a manner different than the gospel of grace within Reformation theology. The following paragraphs state the following…

1987 The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ…”

1993 Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom. On man's part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent.”
-Later on, the Roman Catholic Catechism defines “grace” more clearly in paragraph 2003. “Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments. There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning "favor," "gratuitous gift," "benefit." Whatever their character - sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues - charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church.”
-It is paragraph 2010 of the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church that most clearly distinguishes their view of grace from the biblical gospel: “Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious action.”
-Paragraph 2027 also states, “No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods.”

The Defense of Grace Alone
-In contrast to the teachings of Roman Catholicism, grace functions much differently in Reformation theology. According to the Question and Answer 33 in the Westminster Shorter Catechism,
Q: What is justification?
A: Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
-Martin Luther stated in a sermon on Titus 3:4-8 the following about grace alone…

“So he [Paul] discards all boasted free will, all human virtue, righteousness, and good works.  He concludes that they are all nothing and are wholly perverted, however brilliant and worthy they may appear, and teaches that we must be saved solely by the grace of God, which is effective for all believers who desire it from a correct conception of their own ruin and nothingness.”
“Yes, dear friend, you must first possess heaven and salvation before you can do good works.  Works never merit heaven; heaven is conferred purely of grace.”
“The delusive doctrine of works blinds the Christian’s eyes, perverts a right understanding of faith, and forces him from the way of truth and salvation.”
“He who does not receive salvation purely through grace, independently of all good works, certainly will never secure it.”
“Truly, then, we are saved by grace alone, without works or other merit.”
“Notice [from John 3:16], all who believe have eternal life.  That being true, believers certainly are just and holy without works.  Works contribute nothing to justification.  It is effected by pure grace richly poured out upon us.”
“We receive absolution [forgiveness] and grace at no cost or labor on our part, but not without cost and labor on the part of Christ.”

“Our salvation must exist, not in our righteousness, but…in Christ’s righteousness. …Let his righteousness and grace, not yours, be your refuge.”
-John Calvin stated in a sermon on Galatians 2:15-16, “Now then, I ask you all, where do we stand? Those who say that they will be justified by their merits, or meritorious works as they call them, have they not been driven to excessive pride by the devil? For who can match David, or Noah, or Abraham, or Daniel? Surely, even those who have done well in God’s school, and who are fired by true zeal in giving themselves totally to God, are convinced that they are still far from having reached the standard set by David, or even Noah or Daniel! Knowing this, therefore, we can see that the Holy Spirit is here casting down those who exalt themselves overmuch, to convince us that we have not the merest drop of righteousness, so that we seek all that pertains to our salvation in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now we understand what the statement implies when it says that no flesh shall be justified. It is as if Paul were saying that, when it comes to our nature, we are only evil within, despite what appears to be the case outwardly. We may be greatly praised and respected by the world; we may be surrounded by vain flattery; but until God works in us to change us, we are full of filth. Indeed, all the virtues that men exalt are nothing short of vices that will lead men to destruction and plunge them into hell. For even those who have been renewed by the grace of God, and who have learnt to obey him by doing the things which God loves and cherishes, even they can bring nothing to God that can settle their accounts with him. They will always be in debt because all the good gifts they have proceed from God; also, even such men are corrupt through sin and infirmity. Thus, we must be stripped of all trust in our own righteousness. For, from the greatest to the least of us, we are all condemned. If we seek justification by the law, we are greatly deceived--we will never find it. Now we can understand much more clearly the truth of what I have been saying concerning the Lord Jesus Christ as a refuge for those who are convinced of their spiritual need.”

The Nature of Grace Alone

The Origin of Grace Alone
-The origin of divine grace finds itself (as do all the Solae) in the divine nature of God Himself. (Exodus 34:6) This Hebrew term חַנּוּן (channun) applies only to God in the Scriptures (Psalm 86:15; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 116:5). This is God’s divine favor and mercy bestowed upon sinners.
-The Lord is a God full of grace particularly towards His covenant people, as grace is a relational attribute of God (Nehemiah 9:17).
-The Lord is a God who is not short on grace, but rather full of compassion and grace towards is people (Psalm 111:4; Psalm 112:4; Psalm 145:8)
-The Lord’s grace is part of God’s great redemptive blessings towards His redeemed people (Numbers 6:24-26).

The Outworking of Grace Alone
-In the very beginning, the self-sufficient triune God who exists eternally in three Persons created the world (Genesis 1:1). God did not need us in any way—the existence of the planet, the universe, of every human being who has ever lived, is because of the grace of God in creation.
-God’s grace throughout redemptive history is demonstrated in the bestowal of His divine favor upon particular individuals, such as Noah finding grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:5-8) who saved them through the Ark and the establishment of the Noahic Covenant (Genesis 6:9-22).
-God’s grace has been demonstrated throughout history through the establishment of covenants with His people, such as the covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:1-6) and the covenant with David (2 Samuel 7:12-26).
-God’s grace was demonstrated by rescuing His people from death and destruction, such as the rescue of Lot (Genesis 19:15-22).
-God’s grace was most marvelously displayed in the Old Testament by the greatest Old Covenant redemptive event: the Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 2:23-25; Exodus 14:19-31).
-It is solely upon the basis of God’s grace that intercessors in the Old Testament appealed when pleading with God to forgive His people (Exodus 33:12-13; Exodus 34:8-9).
-Throughout the history of redemption, God extended divine grace and favor upon the lowly (Proverbs 3:34)
-In the great eschatological salvation of Israel, the Lord promises that their salvation is purely by His grace (Zechariah 12:10).
-When Israel did not deserve it, God graciously forgave them and restored them from the land of captivity for 490 years of stubborn sin and rebellion towards their Lord (Jeremiah 29:11-14)
-God’s grace has been most wonderfully demonstrated in Jesus Christ (John 1:17) through the establishment of the New Covenant and resultant salvation (Matthew 26:28).
-We have been saved through the justifying work of Christ on our behalf purely by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 11:6).

The Purpose of Grace Alone
-God’s grace can generally be divided into two categories: common grace and sovereign grace. God extends common grace towards all men (Matthew 5:45) and it is only by His common grace that anyone is created or given length of days or receives any kind of blessing in this life.
-However, Scripture most often speaks of God’s divine, unmerited favor towards His elect, covenant people (Acts 15:11), commonly identified as sovereign grace in the Gospel (Ephesians 1:7).
-It is only the grace of God that has saved us (Romans 3:24; Titus 3:5) through election (Ephesians 1:1-4) and regeneration (Romans 8:10-11).
-The grace of God that saves us is the grace that sanctifies us and calls us to live a holy life in Christ (Titus 2:11-14).
-We are by no means to consider God’s grace as an opportunity to sin (Romans 6:1-2), for grace not only has justified us but also is sanctifying us (Hebrews 10:14).
-It is the grace of God that causes us to bear spiritual fruit in Jesus Christ (John 15:16) and do good works in His name (2 Corinthians 9:8).
-In light of God’s grace, we are called to work out our salvation, but this is not done in addition to grace, but only in God’s grace (Philippians 2:12-13).
-It is the grace of God that gives us strength in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9-12) and strength in our calling (1 Corinthians 15:10).
-It is God’s grace which continuously helps us day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment (Hebrews 4:16).
-It is the grace of God through the seal of the Holy Spirit that assures us we will be secure for the day of redemption (Jude 1:24-25).

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)


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