Practical Wisdom For Calvinists

Practical & Theological Guidelines for Those
Who Embrace the “Doctrines of Grace”

The following practical and theological items, although they apply to every believer regardless of their particular theological tradition, are especially directed to those who adhere to Reformed/Calvinistic theology.

I. Recognize that Salvation is Broader than the Calvinist Camp.

1. All of us, at one time or another, were Arminian in our thinking. A professing Arminian may be just as unregenerate as a professing Calvinist, but one’s adherence to Arminian theology does not necessarily exclude them from the kingdom of God. It is disturbing to hear some Calvinists assign all Arminians to the lowest abyss while conveniently forgetting that they too, at one time, were Arminians. Although the great 18th century evangelist, George Whitefield, had his differences with the staunch Arminian John Wesley, he was able to see the hand of God in Wesley’s ministry and count him as a brother in Christ. Thus, we must be patient with our brethren and recognize that both ethical and theological maturity takes time. In fact, there are some truths that, for whatever reason, we may not yet be ready to receive – as Jesus told His own disciples, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12).

2. God commands us to accept one another in Christ, in spite of our differences (Romans 14:1; 15:7). If Christ has accepted our Arminian brethren, who are we to reject them? The 19th century Baptist preacher, C.H. Spurgeon, once said:

We give our hand to every man that loves the Lord Jesus Christ, be he what he may or who he may. The doctrine of election, like the great act of election itself, is intended to divide, not between Israel and Israel, but between Israel and the Egyptians – not between saint and saint, but between saints and the children of the world. A man may be evidently of God’s chosen family, and yet though elected, may not believe in the doctrine of election. I hold there are many savingly called, who do not believe in effectual calling, and that there are a great many who persevere to the end, who do not believe the doctrine of final perseverance. We do hope that the hearts of many are a great deal better than their heads. We do not set their fallacies down to any willful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus, but simply to an error in their judgments, which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think us mistaken too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy; and when we meet around the cross, we hope that we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus (New Park Street Pulpit [London: Passmore & Alabaster, Vol.6] p.303).

In another place, he also said:

Far be it from me to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views (cited in Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon [Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1966] p.65).

3. Most Arminians reject the Doctrines of Grace out of gross ignorance, misunderstanding, or misrepresentation on the part of sincere, but misinformed Calvinist’s. Thus, often they are not rejecting genuine Calvinism, but distortions of it. One’s heart may be right, while one’s head may be wrong.

4. Calvinism is not the Gospel. One is not saved by a proper understanding of election, Divine sovereignty, or the extent of the atonement. These issues, no doubt, are important, but they are not the core of the Gospel; they indirectly relate to the Gospel (as do many other Biblical teachings), but are not the essence of it. The puritan, John Bradford, stated: “Let a man go to the grammar school of faith and repentance, before he goes to the university of election and predestination.” In the same way that it is wrong to detract from the Gospel message, so it is wrong to add to the Gospel message one’s particular theology. Once again, this is not to deny that the five-points of Calvinism are not important matters; but simply to point out that the minute one makes mandatory for salvation a correct understanding of election, effectual calling, or the extent of the atonement (regardless of how true they might be), they are guilty of adding to the Gospel. This is usually the error of young, zealous Calvinists (although not always), but to use the words of James, “My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (James 3:10).

II. Don’t Make the Mistake of Accepting Everything “Reformed” or “Calvinistic.”

1. Scripture alone is the final standard of authority for doctrine and practice (Isaiah 8:20; Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21), not Luther, Calvin, Owen, or any other great Reformed theologian. This is not to deny that these men – and men from other theological traditions – have made great spiritual contributions to the church, but only that they are not the final arbiters of truth. I know that many Reformed people would assent to this, but how many truly practice it? If we accept everything under the banner of “Reformed” or “Calvinistic,” without serious scriptural investigation, are we truly practicing “Sola Scriptura”? Let us not make a pope out of Calvin, Luther, or any other mere mortal (Jeremiah 17:5).

2. Be very careful about accepting entire systems of theology (e.g., Covenant theology, Dispensationalism). Most often, the truth is found somewhere in the middle – and usually, a system of theology contains a part of the truth, but not the whole of it. It appears that God has spread His truth throughout various theological traditions (Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc.) so that we might not put our trust in men or institutions, but in the testimony of God’s Word.

3. The truth is, some aspects of Reformed theology are erroneous.

A. Infant Baptism. For a thorough evaluation and refutation of this doctrine, see Paul K. Jewett, Infant Baptism & The Covenant of Grace (Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1978); T.E. Watson, Baptism Not For Infants (Worthing, England: Henry E. Walter, 1962); Alexander Carson, Baptism: Its Mode and Subjects (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications [Reprint]); Greg Welty, A Critical Evaluation of Infant Baptism (Fullerton, CA: Reformed Baptist Publications, n.d.).

B. The Covenant of Grace. For a critique of this view, see Jon Zens, “Is There A ‘Covenant of Grace’?” Baptist Reformation Review (Autumn – 1977, Vol.6/No.3), pp.43-53; Richard L. Mayhue, “Hebrews 13:20: Covenant of Grace or New Covenant: An Exegetical Note,” The Master’s Seminary Journal (Fall – 1996, Vol.7/No.2), pp.251-257.

C. The Reformed View of the Law. For an evaluation and critique of the traditional view of the Law and its relationship to the believer under the New Covenant, see Douglas J. Moo, “The Law of Christ as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses: A Modified Lutheran View,” [Chapter 5] in The Law, The Gospel, and the Modern Christian (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993); “‘This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him!’: The Foundation for New Covenant Ethics and Ecclesiology,” [ed. Jon Zens] Searching Together (Summer – Winter, 1997, Vol.25/1,2,3); Fred G. Zaspel, “Divine Law: A New Covenant Perspective,”Reformation & Revivial [Journal] (Summer – 1997, Vol.6/No.3); Stephen Westerholm, Israel’s Law and the Church’s Faith (Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1988); John G. Reisinger, Tablets of Stone (Southbridge, MA: Crowne Publications, 1989).

D. Theonomy. In fairness, not everyone who is Reformed accepts Theonomy or Christian Reconstructionism. I have noticed, however, that many who embrace the Doctrines of Grace, make the unfortunate mistake of accepting Theonomy. For a critique of this unscriptural system, see Jon Zens, “Moses in the Millennium: An Appraisal of Christian Reconstructionism,” Searching Together (Vol. 17:2,3,4 – 1988); [eds. William S. Barker & W.R. Godfrey] Theonomy: A Reformed Critique (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990).

E. The Protestant Reformers Persecuted the Anabaptists and Catholics as Well as Sanctioned the Use of the Sword Against their Opponents. The Reformers had no scriptural authority to malign, persecute, and even kill such groups as the Anabaptists and Roman Catholics. While this is no longer a practice among those who are Reformed, there were many prominent Reformation theologians who thought it was perfectly acceptable – even to the point of citing Scripture for its justification (e.g., Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, et al.). This, once again, demonstrates how important it is to not accept everything that comes from the pen of our Reformation heroes since, not only did they err in their interpretation of Scripture at points, but they sometimes engaged in great acts of sin. The late historian, William Warren Sweet, was correct when he said:

There is a widespread notion among Protestant groups that the separation of church and state, and thus religious liberty, was one of the immediate products of the Reformation, that the early Protestants were advocates of a large tolerance, and that religious liberty was but the logical development of the principles held by all the Reformers. Just where this notion arose is difficult to say, and no reputable historian of our times would endorse it. The fact is that the rise of Protestantism was accompanied by an unprecedented outburst of intolerance (Religion in Colonial America, p.320).

J.C. Ryle, a favorite author among many Reformed people, was quite candid in stating:

Any religion, like that of Mahomet, who made converts with the sword, is not from above but from beneath. Any form of Christianity which burns men at the stake, in order to promote its own success, carries about it the stamp of an apostasy. That is the truest and best religion which does most to spread real, true peace (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Vol.4], pp.387-388).

In light of these statements, one wonders what Ryle, and even Reformed people today, would think of Calvin, who had Michael Servetus burned at the stake, or of Zwingli’s complicity in the drowning of the Anabaptists? These men, indeed, should have known better than to commit such evil deeds against other humans – particularly in the name of the Prince of Peace! But, as the old adage goes, “The best of men are men at best.” For more on this, see Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren (Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1964); Leonard Verduin, The Anatomy of A Hybrid (Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1976); William R. Estep, The Anabaptist Story (Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans [Revised], 1996).

F. Rigid Clericalism/Unscriptural Ecclesiology. The Protestant Reformers as well as most Reformed churches today, have been unable to break with the strict clericalism which they have inherited from both Rome and Constantine. The Reformers were right in their soteriology (doctrine of salvation), but wrong in their ecclesiology (doctrine of the church). They rediscovered the Gospel, but were unable to fully recover the ecclesiology of the New Testament. Thus, in many respects, the Reformation was only a partial reformation. Not only did the Reformers fail to break with the rigid clericalism of their past (including the error of infant baptism), but church attendance in Protestant territories was compulsory. Thus, believers and unbelievers were forced to gather together under the same church membership:

It is one of the incredible paradoxes of history that the Reformers, who so boldly and effectively recaptured the Gospel of grace from its medieval distortion and restored the central message of justification by faith, should have retained the mass church of the mixed multitude, the territorial church of the Constantinian compromise, in which real faith was not a requirement for membership (H. Bender, These Are My People, p.70).

Unfortunately, much of the ecclesiology within our historic Reformed denominations is fraught with practices and cherished traditions which run counter to the New Testament. For further study, see Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership (Littleton, CO: Lewis & Roth Publishers, 1986); William A. Beckham, The Second Reformation (Houston, TX: Touch Publications, 1995); Greg Ogden, The New Reformation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990); Frank A. Viola, Rethinking the Wineskin (Brandon, FL: Present Testimony Ministry, 1997); Alex R. Hay, The New Testament Order for Church and Missionary (Published by the New Testament Missionary Union, 1947).

III. Don’t View Any Period of Church History as Perfect (e.g., the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century), Nor Any Particular Group of Christians (e.g., the Reformers, Puritans, Anabaptists).

1. We must value the spiritual contributions of different men and different periods of time within church history, but never idolize them.

2. We must be willing to look at both the good as well as the faults of our spiritual and theological heroes.

3. We must seek to guard ourselves from the error of a party-spirit as well as from making a virtual pope out of Calvin or Luther – something which, by the way, the apostle Paul explicitly told us not to do (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 3:1-6; 4:1).

4. When we fail to realize the faults of our spiritual/theological heroes, or when we are guilty of idolizing the past, we end up:

A. Making man the measure or standard of righteousness, instead of the Lord Jesus Christ.

B. We fail to see the progression of church history and end up chained to the past – not recognizing that each period of history has its own unique contribution and blessing (including ours in the twenty-first century).

  1. Romanticizing the past (“the good-old days”). We end up viewing history from a romanticized perspective, rather than from reality, which includes both great achievements as well as great down-falls. If even the Bible records the failures and sins of the greatest saints (e.g., David, Peter, et al.), why should we then ignore the faults of lesser saints throughout church history (e.g., Calvin, Luther, et al.)? Perhaps one of the major reasons why God allowed the failures of various biblical characters to be recorded, is so that we would not idolize such persons nor form theological parties around them. For those willing to look at the faults of our Reformation and Puritan heroes – not for the purpose of discrediting them, but for the purpose of seeing a true picture – I recommend the following: Thomas N. Smith, “The Perils of Puritanism,” Reformation & Revivial [Journal]: Puritanism I (Spring – 1996, Vol.5/No.2), pp.83-99; Jon Zens, “What Can We Learn From Reformation History?” Baptist Reformation Review (Autumn – 1978, Vol.7/No.3), pp.1-13; Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren(Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1964).

IV. Because We Have Been Given Greater Scriptural Insight, Calvinists Should Be the Model of Humility and Love.

1. Consider the grace and blessings which God has lavished upon you: He could have chosen to create you into a mouse or even a cockroach but, instead, chose to make you into a member of the human race; He could have chosen to plant you in the most remote and harshest place on this planet but, instead, chose to plant you in the free and prosperous land of America; He could have left you in sin and darkness but, instead, chose to redeem you and adopt you as His child through Christ Jesus; And He could have left you in your Arminian confusion but, instead, chose to graciously reveal the Doctrines of Grace to you. Therefore, do you have any excuse for pride or arrogance toward others – particularly toward our Arminian brethren? As the apostle Paul says, “For who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

2. Because of the tendency to become prideful over the Doctrines of Grace (1 Corinthians 8:1), we must continually remind ourselves of the words of our Lord: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35; cf. John 15:12,17; Romans 12:3,10; 1 Corinthians 13:4,13; Ephesians 4:1-3,32; Philippians 2:1-4; Colossians 4:6; 1 Peter 3:8; 1 John 3:14-18; 4:11). For further study, I highly recommend: Jonathan Edwards, Charity and its Fruits (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust [Reprint], 1969).

3.Seek to cultivate and improve such spiritual characteristics as patience, kindness, and non-retaliation. Robert Chapman, whom Spurgeon considered to be the most saintliest man he ever knew, once said: “There are many who preach Christ, but not so many who live Christ. My great aim will be to live Christ” (Robert L. Peterson, Robert Chapman: A Biography [Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1995] p.29). This, likewise, should be the goal of the Calvinist (or any believer for that matter).

4. The only way to reverse the common assumption that Calvinists are haughty and proud, is to simply not behave in this way.

5. Although those who adhere to the precious Doctrines of Grace should be ready always to articulate and explain their beliefs, we must be careful to not go looking for debates or disputes with our Arminian brethren – as Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:3, “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Let us also remember that we do not always have to have the last word, nor is it necessary to always “win the debate” – as Spurgeon wisely warned his own students at The Pastor’s College:

In all probability, sensible conversation will sometimes drift into controversy, and here many a good man runs upon a snag. The sensible minister will be particularly gentle in argument. He, above all men, should not make the mistake of fancying that there is force in temper, and power in speaking angrily. A heathen who stood in a crowd in Calcutta, listening to a missionary disputing with a Brahmin, said he knew which was right though he did not understand the language – he knew that he was in the wrong who lost his temper first. For the most part, that is a very accurate way of judging. Try to avoid debating with people. State your opinion and let them state theirs. If you see that a stick is crooked, and you want people to see how crooked it is, lay a straight rod down beside it; that will be quite enough. But if you are drawn into controversy, use very hard arguments and very soft words. Frequently you cannot convince a man by tugging at his reason, but you can persuade him by winning his affections (Lectures to My Students [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Reprint, 1977] Vol.1, p.188).

6. Christian love, however, does not exclude a proper and humble boldness. Proverbs 28:1 reminds us that “the righteous are bold as a lion” (cf. Acts 4:29,31; Philippians 1:14).

V. Don’t Major on the Minors. Be very Careful Where You Plant Your Flag.

1. There are some issues or controversies not worth getting involved in – at least not to the point of disrupting the unity and peace of the church.

2. If you end up majoring on things not truly essential, you will either ignore those that are important and worthy of your efforts – or – people will tend to not take you seriously on vital matters because of your propensity to make a big deal over insignificant issues. This would be the spiritual or theological counterpart of “crying wolf.” I am amazed at how many Christians are obsessed with reclaiming America as a “Christian Nation” or who spend most of their available time warning other Christians of the threat of secular humanism or the latest conspiracy theory, yet cannot define the doctrine of justification (Martin Luther believed that justification was the article by which the church stands or falls). Many of these same people want the Ten Commandments to be the moral basis for our country, yet cannot even name them! Quite frankly, if the Devil can divert you to endlessly chase unedifying or non-essential issues, he has won the day.

3. Don’t allow others to drag you into their personal theological controversies.

  1. In many cases, those who are in constant friction with others over relatively minor theological issues, do so because: (1) They are spiritually immature; (2) Lack discernment in recognizing what is essential or non-essential; and (3) They engage in unimportant disputes because they’re not truly engaged in genuine spiritual warfare. It’s akin to soldiers, during peace-time, who concentrate on the relatively petty details of shining shoes or making certain that their uniforms are always starched because there’s no real war to fight. Thus, they spend much of their time concentrating on insignificant duties. Actually, the Christian who pursues “fruitless discussions” (1 Timothy 1:3-7) stands under the disciplining hand of God since, unlike the soldier who serves during peace-time, our war is not over, but continues to rage on until Christ returns (2 Corinthians 10:3-4; Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Peter 5:8-9).

VI. Recognize That You Can Learn From Those Who Are Outside of the Reformed Camp.

A number of years ago, a young Calvinist fellow told me, “I only read Reformed authors!” My immediate response was, “Why limit yourself?” Apparently, he thought that God only teaches those who are Reformed or that they are the only ones who have anything worthy to say. The truth is, God can use the lowliest or most uneducated saint to teach us His truth – including our Arminian brethren. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to agree with everyone we converse. It does mean, however, that we must be willing to listen to those outside of our theological tradition and to accept that which agrees with Scripture and reject that which doesn’t. Don’t limit the avenues which are available for your instruction and sanctification.

VII. Seek to Be A Man/Woman of the Text of Scripture.

That which separates the men from the boys, theologically speaking, is the ability to define and defend one’s theology from the biblical text. Some Christians argue their case from philosophy or general theological assumptions, but the Christian who is able to articulate his views from Scripture itself will stand head over everyone else because, not only does he have a proper starting-point, but his arguments will carry greater weight because they come from God’s Word. Instead of speaking in vague generalities about spiritual or theological matters, they are able to precisely and exegetically support their opinions because they are daily studying the contents of Scripture. To his own students, Spurgeon wisely advised:

There is one book which you all have, and that is your Bible; and a minister with his Bible is like David with his sling and stone, fully equipped for the fray. No man may say that he has no well to draw from while the Scriptures are within reach. In the Bible we have a perfect library, and he who studies it thoroughly will be a better scholar than if he had devoured the Alexandrian Library entire. To understand the Bible should be our ambition; we should be familiar with it, as familiar as the housewife with her needle, the merchant with his ledger, the mariner with his ship. We ought to know its general run, the contents of each book, the details of its histories, its doctrines, its precepts, and everything about it . . . A man who has his Bible at his fingers’ ends and in his heart’s core is a champion in our Israel; you cannot compete with him: you may have an armory of weapons, but his Scriptural knowledge will overcome you; for it is a sword like that of Goliath, of which David said, “There is none like it” (Lectures to My Students[Vol.1], pp.195-196).

VIII. In Purchasing Books, Be Selective and Purchase Only the Best.

A man’s library is a good indicator of his thinking and theology. The wise believer, therefore, should not waste his money or time on the sensational and shallow. Although the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:12 are true (“the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body”), this does not undermine the value of securing profitable books which help to inform our minds and clarify the meaning of Scripture (2 Timothy 4:13).

IX. The Calvinist, Above All Others, Should Seek to Be Productive in His Walk For Christ.

1. Knowledge brings accountability. The more knowledge that one has of the Word of God, the more accountable they are to live in obedience to it and to manifest the fruits which spring from that knowledge. Thus, there is no excuse for an unproductive and lazy Calvinist. Don’t be a spiritual fat cow!

2. Don’t settle for low levels of grace within your life. Seek to excel in your Christian walk – as Paul urges us in Romans 12:11, “not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10; Hebrews 6:10-12).

3. Practice disciple-making. It amazes me how many people grow in the Doctrines of Grace and who excel in their grasp of God’s revelation, but who never make any effort to disciple others. Think of the many experienced and older Christian men who never impart their wisdom and knowledge to younger men. In my opinion, this is a waste of the rich spiritual and intellectual resources which God has given to each one of us, as well as disservice to the body of Christ. For more on mentoring and disciple-making, see Paul D. Stanley & J. Robert Clinton, Connecting (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1992); Bill Hull, The Disciple Making Church (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1990).

4. Be optimistic about your future and service unto Christ – as was William Carey, the founder of modern missions, who said: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

5. The Calvinist should seek to be the model of hospitality and charity (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9).

6. Be generous and liberal in your giving to others (Deuteronomy 15:10; 2 Corinthians 8:1-4; 9:7). William S. Plumer, “He who is not liberal with what he has, does but deceive himself when he thinks he would be more liberal if he had more.” Henry Ward Beecher, “In this world it is not what we take up but what we give up that makes us rich.”

X. Develop A Theology of Listening.

1. So often, when we converse with other believers, we tend to talk past each other because we have not learned the value and discipline of listening. James 1:19 tell us, “But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”

2. I am persuaded that most of our doctrinal controversies throughout church history could have been solved or perhaps eased had Christians been more willing to listen carefully to one another.

3. Learn to be patient with the verbal blunders of others – “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well” (James 3:2).

4. As hard as it may seem, learn to value the criticism that you receive from others. Spurgeon wisely advised his own students at the Pastor’s College in London to not view criticism as necessarily a bad thing:

You must be able to bear criticism, or you are not fit to be at the head of a congregation; and you must let the critic go without reckoning him among your deadly foes, or you will prove yourself a mere weakling. It is wisest always to show double kindness where you have been severely handled by one who thought it his duty to do so, for he is probably an honest man and worth winning . . . The best of people are sometimes out at elbows and say unkind things; we should be glad if our friends could quite forget what we said when we were peevish and irritable, and it will be Christ-like to act towards others in this matter as we would wish them to do towards us . . . A sensible friend who will unsparingly criticize you from week to week will be a far greater blessing to you than a thousand undiscriminating admirers if you have sense enough to bear his treatment, and grace enough to be thankful for it. When I was preaching at the Surrey Gardens, an unknown censor of great ability used to send me a weekly list of my mispronunciations and other slips of speech. He never signed his name, and that was my only cause of complaint against him, for he left me in a debt which I could not acknowledge. I take this opportunity of confessing my obligations to him, for with genial temper, and an evident desire to benefit me, he marked down most relentlessly everything which he supposed me to have said incorrectly. Concerning some of these corrections he was in error himself, but for the most part he was right, and his remarks enabled me to perceive and avoid many mistakes. I looked for his weekly memoranda with much interest, and I trust I am all the better for them (Lectures to My Students [Vol.2], pp.169-170,175).

5. Criticism Will:

A. Keep you humble. Criticism helps to deflate swollen-egos.

B. Inform and educate you.

C. Keep you dependent upon your heavenly Father.

D. Help to confirm that you are not a man-pleaser – as Jesus warned His own disciples: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you” (Luke 6:26).

XI. Don’t Allow Your Past Failures to Hinder Your Service to God.

1. It’s important to remember that the greatest of men within redemptive history have had their short-comings and failures, yet we still used by God. Therefore, “Let us press on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1; cf. Philippians 3:12,14).

2. Don’t allow yourself to fixate on the failures and sins of your Christian life, but look to the greater work of sanctification that God is doing in your life. Soldiers don’t quit! John Owen, “Think of the guilt of sin, that you may be humbled. Think of the power of sin, that you may seek strength against it. Think not of the matter of sin . . . . lest you be more and more entangled.”

3. While it is granted that a Christian may act hypocritical at times, a genuine believer will not continuously live a life of hypocrisy (1 John 3:9-10). Henry Scudder, in his classic work, The Christian’s Daily Walk, writes:

Uprightness being part of sanctification, is not fully perfect in this life; but is mixed with some hypocrisy, conflicting one against the other. It has degrees, sometimes more, sometimes less . . . A man is not to be called an upright man, or a hypocrite, because of some few actions wherein he may show uprightness or hypocrisy: for a hypocrite may do some upright actions, in which he does not dissemble, though he cannot be said to do them in uprightness; as Jehu destroyed the wicked house of Ahab, and the idolatrous priests of Baal, with all his heart (2 Kings 10). And the best man may do some hypocritical and guileful actions, as in the matter of Uriah, David did (1 Kings 15:5). It is not the having of hypocrisy that denotes a hypocrite, but the reigning of it, which is, when it is not seen, confessed, bewailed, and opposed. A man should judge of his uprightness rather by his will, bent, and the inclination of his soul, and good desires, and true endeavors to well doing in the whole course of his life, than by this or that particular act, or by his power to do. David was thus esteemed a man according to God’s own heart, no otherwise; rather by the goodness of the general course of his life, than by particular actions: for in many things he offended God, and polluted his soul, and blemished his reputation (pp.159-160).

XII. Recognize That Your Greatest Power is Found in Prayer.

E.M. Bounds once said, “To give prayer the secondary place is to make God secondary in life’s affairs.” In his book, The Weapon of Prayer (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Reprint, 1991), he further stated:

The men to whom Jesus Christ committed the fortunes and destiny of His church were men of prayer. To no other kind of men has God ever committed Himself in this world. The apostles were preeminently men of prayer. They gave themselves to prayer. They made praying their chief business. It was first in point of importance and first in results. God never has, and He never will, commit the weighty interests of His kingdom to prayerless men, who do not make prayer a conspicuous and controlling factor in their lives. Men who do not pray never rise to any eminence of piety. Men of piety are always men of prayer. Men who are not preeminently men of prayer are never noted for the simplicity and strength of their faith. Piety flourishes nowhere so rapidly and so rankly as in the closet. The closet is the garden of faith (p.33).

Written by Darryl M. Erkel (1998)

 

If God starts it–He WILL finish it!

road to nowhere 11

I have always heard that if you are going to teach something, you should teach what you are passionate about. I am passionate—more like adamant—about the eternal security of the believer. Or as Steve Lawson would say, “I’m not just dogmatic–I am bulldogmatic” about this subject. I am absolutely convinced that if a person is truly saved, they are saved forever. And today we’re going to see why.

Let me start with an illustration—and when I say “Let me” I’m not looking for your permission, I’m telling you in a nice way, “I’m doing this whether you like it or not.” Let me start with an illustration. Have you ever been to Bryson City, NC? It is a tourist town nestled in the Smoky Mountains. And in Bryson City there is an odd sort of tourist attraction. It’s a bit of an unintentional tourist attraction. If you take Everett Street out of the city, it eventually becomes Fontana Road. Go past Swain County High School about 6 miles, and you come to a tunnel. And on the other side of the tunnel is…wait for it…NOTHING!

Fontana Road has actually gained a more colorful nickname by the locals, many of whom call it, the Road to Nowhere. It stands as a monument to governmental efficiency. Actually, there’s a good reason they didn’t finish it. During the construction process they found rock that was highly acidic, and if they were to disturb it, the acid would cause severe environmental damage. For all you children of the ’70’s, I will leave off any references to “acid rock”.

tunnel

We have our own “Road to Nowhere” here in Knoxville, it is called the James White Parkway (named after the man who founded Knoxville, TN. Not the wonderful Christian apologist. But if I had my way…). Got started and has still not been finished, and it appears it never will be finished. The Foothills Parkway, which was originally supposed to be 72 miles long, running from Tennessee to North Carolina–how many miles are complete, anybody know? About 22.

So, my point is this: do men begin projects that they do not finish? Wives, please hold your comments about husbands until we are finished, OK? My dad was notorious for that. So many times we begin things we have every intention of finishing–but for whatever reason, those things remain unfinished.

On the other hand, if God starts something, will HE finish it? Oh, absolutely. And that is a truth we find in our text today. And that text is Philippians 1:6. No, I actually need to start at verse 3. Philippians 1:3-6 (NASB)3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Of all the verses that so clearly spell out the fact that a saved person is saved forever, this is one of the clearest. When I first got saved, I was like a lot of people probably are. I thought that, “Well, yeah, you can be wicked enough to lose your salvation!” But that’s because I was looking at it in the same way as anyone else who thinks you can lose your salvation—I was only looking at salvation from the human side, not taking into account that it is not that we save ourselves, but that God saves us, sets us apart as His own, and will do everything He has to do to keep the one He has adopted. I like what John Calvin said about this verse—

“Let believers exercise themselves in constant meditation upon the favors which God confers, that they may encourage and confirm hope as to the time to come, and always ponder this in their mind: God does not forsake the work which his own hands have begun, as the Prophet bears witness, (Psalm 138:8; Isaiah 64:8) we are the work of his hands; therefore he will complete what he has begun in us. When I say that we are the work of his hands, I do not refer to mere creation, but to the calling by which we are adopted into the number of his sons.”

And in that quote, he lists two Old Testament verses to support is argument, Isaiah 64:8But now, O LORD, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand. Psalm 138:8The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; do not forsake the works of Your hands. So in these three verses—Philippians 1:6, Psalm 138:8 and Isaiah 64:8—we see this most beautiful picture that God has taken us mere lumps of clay, and is shaping us, molding us, making of us a vessel of mercy to show His grace, and that He will not leave that good work undone.

OK, so let’s look at our text from Philippians. Let’s start off by talking about the good work. What is the good work? Salvation. Who began the good work? God did. Otherwise, Paul would have said, You who began the good work in you… Right? But he didn’t say that. He said He who began the good work. So obviously somebody other than you began the good work in you. Somebody not named “You” began the work of salvation in you. In fact, Paul uses the word ἐνάρχομαι (enarchomai). It means “to begin”. You hear the word “arch” in there, like archangel or archetype. It comes from the same Greek word as ἀρχή (arche). John 1:1 (Greek NT)ἐν ἀρχή (en arche) In the beginning. The word Paul uses refers to the very beginning of something. Not, “You had the idea, and God showed you the rest.” God started it. When Jesus asked His disciples “Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” and Simon Peter said “Thou art the Christ”, Christ did not say, “Good job Peter! How did you ever figure that out? You’re one smart cookie” I don’t think the phrase “smart cookie” was part of the Greek or Hebrew lexicon at the time, but anyway. It was GOD who showed Simon that Jesus is the Christ. Simon didn’t have the idea in his head and God came along and said, “Yep, you got it!”

Titus 3:4-64 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior. Did God look down on creation, and say, “Hey, ya know, that Donny guy, he’s a pretty good fellow. I think I’ll save him”? No, because there is no such thing as a “good person”. We are all wretched and wicked and we all deserve Hell. If you have a problem with that, then go to your Bible and rip the entire 3rd chapter out of the book of Romans. We are, as he would tell the Ephesians, dead in trespasses and sins. And by the word “dead” he means……DEAD! But God grants new life to us, washes us, puts His Holy Spirit in us, and opens our eyes to the truth. We have an example of this action by God in Acts 16:14A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. When we send out missionaries, mission teams, when we commission them to the work, what do we often ask in prayer? We pray God would grant His missionaries mercy; that He would protect them, but what do we pray for the people they witness to? Do we say, “Lord, I hope the people are smart enough to believe us!” or “Give us eloquent speech so we can convince them to follow us!” No, we pray that God would open their hearts to believe the gospel. Because one cannot believe the gospel, cannot confess Jesus Christ as Lord unless the Holy Spirit acts on their heart (1st Corinthians 12:3).

Next let’s look at the word confident. When we think of confidence, what do we normally think of? Someone that can walk into any situation, and they are “confident” they can get the job done. The heart surgeon, or the brain surgeon. “I am Dr. Big Man, and I am going to save your life!” That is self-confidence. And in some circumstances that can be a good thing. I want the guy cracking my chest open and holding my still-beating heart in his hands to know what he’s doing. “Gee, I hope I can get this thingy back in there!” is not something I want to hear him say. But when it comes to salvation, is self-confidence a good thing? Absolutely not!! But the person who says you can lose your salvation is indeed basing your continuing in salvation on your confidence in yourself. When you boil it all down, that person is saying, “Great! God has saved you! Now, make sure you do enough good things, and you don’t do enough bad things so you lose that salvation!” That is basically what they are saying—that God started it, but now it’s up to you to keep it going. That was the whole problem with Galatia. The Judaizers were telling the new Christians in Galatia that yes, you may have been saved by grace, but you keep yourself saved by keeping the Law of Moses.

And that is basically what these people do—they set the person up to embrace a form of legalism. If you do this many of this sin and that many of that sin, and if you don’t do this or this then you’re lost again. Galatians 3:3Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Having been saved by the washing of regeneration by God, are you now kept by obeying a list of rules and regulations that if you don’t live up to them God will disown you? Paul put no confidence in his flesh. Paul is not confident in man’s ability to keep himself. Just the opposite—he knows than man’s flesh is weak and he cannot save himself. And he certainly cannot keep himself saved. In fact, if one says that a saved person can be wicked enough to lose their salvation they are, by default, saying that one can be righteous enough to keep it. Paul’s confidence is in God and in God’s ability to keep that person. Being confident of this. Confident that God began the work, and that if He has begun the work He will perfect it.

That word perfect. That is the key to this whole verse. The Greek is ἐπιτελέω (epiteleo). The root word is τελέω (teleo). Does anybody know what the 3rd person passive indicative of that word is? How can you not know the 3rd person passive indicative of τελέω (teleo)? What’s wrong with you people? The 3rd person passive indicative of τελέω (teleo) is τετέλεσται (tetelestai). Do you know where we find the word τετέλεσται (tetelestai) in the gospels?

John 19:30 (Greek NT)τετέλεσται (tetelestai) “It is finished.”

Did Jesus complete the work of redemption and salvation on the cross? If God begins a good work in you will He complete it? ἐπιτελέω (epiteleo). τετέλεσται (tetelestai). If you are saved, your salvation is every bit as complete as Christ’s work on the cross. He who began a good work…will complete it.

Unfinished bridge, discontinuity, interruption.

Let’s look at some other verses that say pretty much the same thing. Hebrews 10:14—and of course we can’t start with verse 14, let’s start with verse 11. Hebrews 10:11-1411 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. Under the old covenant, if you sinned today, you bring an animal to the priest, he would kill it, cut it up, burn it. You sin tomorrow, does that animal you brought yesterday do you any good today? No. So what do you do? You bring another one. The priest kills it, cuts it up, burns it. You sin again the next day–you get the picture. The goat that was killed on the Day of Atonement one year—was it still good the next year? No. What did they have to do? Bring another animal. The year after that, are the two goats you brought the previous two years any good? No, you bring another one. 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins fora little while—no? One sacrifice for how long? For all time. 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God. Did the priests ever get to sit down? When you have 2 million plus people, you’ve got a whole lot of sin. And when you had a whole lot of sin you had a whole lot of animals that needed to be killed, cut up and burned. How many sacrifices did Christ offer? One When He finished that one sacrifice, how many more sacrifices did He have to make? NONE. So what did He do? He sat down. Why? Because He was done. τετέλεσται (tetelestai). 13 waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. And here we go. 14 For by one offering He has perfected……for the time being those who are sanctified. Is that what that says? No. NKJV–He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. I mentioned before that when I first got saved I did not believe in eternal security. Wasn’t gonna have it; wasn’t even gonna hear it. But after a while I started reading more, and just when I was about to the point of accepting it, I read this verse. Game over. Period, paragraph. He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. And actually, the ESV describes us as those who are being sanctified—much closer to the Greek.

Listen to the tenses. He has perfected. And by the way, the word perfected in Hebrews 10:14? Guess what Greek word that comes from? τελέω (teleo). Who has been perfected? Those who are being sanctified. This verse cannot be talking about some future, possible, “do everything you can to get there, maybe you’ll get there and maybe you won’t” kind of idea. Those who are right now being sanctified have been already perfected.

Now, someone may ask, “Well, what about the one who believes for 20 years and turns his back on Christ? What do you say about that one?” I asked one of our pastors about that way back then. He said, “That person was never saved to begin with.” And I thought that was kind of a cop-out. But in reality, that’s the truth. If someone believes for a little while—goes to church and listens to Christian music and even teaches or sings in the choir—if they turn their back and walk away from Christ, that is one who went out from us but they were not of us—how do we know they were not of us? Because if they had been of us, they would have continued with us (1st John 2:19). That was a work that was not begun by God. That was a work begun by the flesh, and anytime a person seems to get saved, and seems to continue in the way for a little while, but they defect and return to their old ways, it is proof that they were never saved to begin with. God did not begin the work in them because if it was God who began that work in that person, would He complete it? Of course He would! He who began a good work…will complete it. But if the work is not completed, then it was never started by God.

“Many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord! We’ve done all these great things in Your Name!’” What will Jesus say? “I never knew you. I didn’t begin a work in you. Be gone!” Turn to 2nd Timothy 1:12For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am…pretty sure that He might keep what I have committed to Him for a little while. No, that’s not what it says. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded—same word he uses in Philippians 1:6 as confidentI am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. What was Paul committing to Him until that Day? His eternal soul. Can we trust God with our eternal soul? If we cannot trust God with our eternal soul, then what kind of hope could we ever have? Read through all of Paul’s letters. See if you ever read where Paul uses words like ‘maybe’ or ‘perhaps’ or ‘he might’ or ‘it’s possible’ or ‘for the time being’. Paul does not use wishy-washy, milquetoast, equivocating language. When Paul writes he uses words like ‘confident’ and ‘able’ and ‘He will’ and ‘I believe’ and ‘until that Day’. What kind of hope could we ever have if we can’t even trust God to keep our eternal soul?

But I can lay my head on my pillow at night, knowing that I am trusting my eternal soul to a God who is not only able, but also faithful to keep that soul safe. Chris H, I love ya brother. You’re a fine pastor, I’m sure you are a good father, a decent man. But I’m not gonna trust you with my eternal soul. Because you’re human. And humans fail. Manfred, I’m not trusting you either. Jungle Missionary, sorry. My wife Laurie, I love you honey. But I’m not trusting you either. I’m not trusting anybody who contributes to this blog, or comments on it. I’m not trusting John MacArthur or RC Sproul or Ligon Duncan or Voddie Baucham. And in fact, out of all the 7 or so billion people on planet earth—out of all those 7 billion people, do you know who is the LAST person on earth I would trust with my eternal soul?

ME.

If it is up to me to keep my soul safe until the day of Christ—I might as well pack for an eternal marshmallow roast right now because I know me—I’m gonna screw it up!! And if it is up to me to keep myself saved I will more than surely lose it. And so will you if keeping your salvation were up to you.

But this is the good news–it’s not up to us!! God does not leave our eternal salvation in our hands because we would all surely be lost! I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. And why can I trust Him with My soul? Because if He began the work, He will complete it. He did not leave it up to me to complete it. Let me show you another passage.

Ephesians 1:13-14. These are two verses in a long, long paragraph. But we’re just gonna take a look at one concept in this passage. And we are going to read it from the King James. Ephesians 1:13-14 (KJV)13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, 14 which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. OK, did you see that word in verse 14? Your translation may say ‘pledge’. ‘Guarantee’ is the most common rendering. I like earnest. I like the translation ‘earnest’ because it carries a certain meaning. Much like the word ‘betrothed’ in the gospels, Mary was betrothed to Joseph, that betrothal being more than simply an engagement. An earnest was a down payment, but it was more than that. By putting down an earnest, the buyer was pledging, as solemnly as possible, that he would pay the rest of the money and finalize the transaction. Now, who is the one paying the earnest? God. How? By sealing us with the Holy Spirit. Now listen carefully and if you remember nothing else that you have read, please remember this: If God puts down the down payment, who will complete the transaction? If God gives us the Holy Spirit now, promising that He will complete the transaction, will He complete that transaction? If God put down the down payment, then how in the world can yo ever hope to come up with enough to finish paying it off? That kind of thinking is nothing short of absurd. And it has led countless Christians into lives of legalism and Law-keeping trying to do what only God can do.

So, here are some questions you need to answer:

If God begins your salvation, will He finish it? YES.
Is He able to keep your soul until the day of Christ? YES.
If He put down the down payment, will He finish the transaction? YES.
Has He perfected forever those that He has set apart? YES.
Is He able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him? YES.
Does He ever live to make intercession for us? YES.
If the Father draws a person to Christ, will Christ lift him up on the last day? YES.
Is He the Good Shepherd who will not lose even one of His sheep? YES.
If one of His sheep wanders off, will He go bring them back? YES.
Do His sheep know His voice and will they follow Him? YES.
Will His sheep follow a stranger? NO.
Can anyone snatch His sheep from His hand? NO.
Can anything separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus? NO.

So to argue that one who is truly saved can be lost again, you would have to throw out all that Scripture. You would have to cut it out of your Bible, or use your Sharpie™ as a highlighter through those passages. The person might argue, “But doesn’t it say ‘He who endures to the end will be saved’?” Yes. And that person will endure who has been sanctified by God, who began the good work and will complete it.

One last verse. 1st John 5:4For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. Are you born of God? Will you overcome the world? I rest my case.

One Elected to Salvation, Others Elected to Reprobation

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God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved1st Timothy 2:3-4

Arminians use the above verse as a proof-text for their erroneous belief that God tries to save everybody and gives people the same chance to go to Heaven. They pluck this verse off the page, slap it down, and say, “Ha!! See!! God wants to save everybody, and he gives everyone the same chance because God is love, all the time love, nothing but love, love, love!” To them, God would never mandate that a certain people were not yet wicked enough for Him to destroy them yet. A God who is all about love, love, love. And if this passage were the only verse in the entire Bible, one could make that case. However, there are thousands more verses in the Scriptures and many of them say the opposite — that Jesus did NOT die for every single person in the whole wide world ever. That Christ’s death was only for particular people, specifically His sheep. (He never said, “I lay down My life for My sheep–and the goats and the dogs and the swine”).  And this the same God once said “I can’t destroy them yet because they’re not bad enough.”

Let’s think back to the God of the Old Testament. Is He the same God that we find in the New Testament? To the Arminian, the answer is “no”. The Arminian says that the God of the Old Testament–the one who destroyed entire cities off the face of the earth (Sodom and Gomorrah and the ten surrounding cities), who decreed that entire people groups would come to an end (the Edomites)–is now an “everybody gets a chance” kind of God in the New Testament. But let’s think about it. Who did God give His Law to? The Israelites. Did He give His Law–with all its offerings and sacrifices that covered over sins until Christ came–to the Amalekites and the Hivites and the Jebusites and the Perizzites and the Hittites? No. Well that’s not fair! (PSSSST–Do you really want God to be “fair”? Think about it!) Did God tell Moses that on the Day of Atonement he should go out and gather all the people from all the lands all around them to come to the tent? Or did He tell Moses to gather only the people of Israel? I think we know that answer. The language of Sovereign election is all throughout Scripture, from God choosing Abram (which we will look at shortly) to God choosing the nation of Israel itself, all the way into Revelation, when God chooses which 144,000 descendants of the tribes of Israel will have His seal put upon them. Continue reading

Important Article Regarding Mark Cahill

Recently, CARM published an article regarding evangelist Mark Cahill. This article was authored by my friend and mentor, Tony Miano, who has had direct interaction with Mr. Cahill. The article was written as a public rebuke of Mr. Cahill’s uncharitable and derogatory treatment of Christians who believe in the Doctrines of Grace. Mr. Cahill has been spoken to privately and publicly on several occasions regarding his unbiblical behavior, however, he continues to publicly decry those who believe in reformed doctrine, going so far as to even refer to them as worshipping a false god. Because of his continued unbiblical behavior, this article been written to caution Christians in their dealings with him.

The article was not written in an effort to be judgmental of Mr. Cahill, nor to decry his Arminian beliefs, rather it was written to caution the brethren in supporting him until such a time as he repents of his mistreatment of other Christians. Part of the article reads as follows:

“Throughout my conversation with Mark, I asserted that I do not believe Calvinists and Arminians worship different gods or believe different gospels. I assured him that so long as we agree we are saved by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone (the Jesus of the Scriptures) we are brothers in Christ. I told Mark I would welcome the opportunity to evangelize the lost with him, and he was welcome atop my box to open-air preach, anytime. Sadly, by the end of our phone conversation, Mark would not affirm me as his brother in Christ. I repeatedly asked Mark if I was his brother in Christ. He refused to answer.

Sadly, Mark Cahill’s ongoing campaign to marginalize, vilify, and otherwise mistreat Calvinists has necessitated the writing of this article.

This article will document how, for more than two years, Mark Cahill has quietly and behind the scenes engaged in a campaign of misrepresentation, malignment, and malevolence toward Christians who ascribe to Calvinism and to those who associate with Calvinists. The timing of this article coincides with the recent publication of Mark Cahill’s new book, The Watchmen, in which he speaks disparagingly about Calvinism. It also coincides with the recent development of Mark speaking disparagingly about Calvinism during some of his recent public speaking engagements.”

I encourage the readers of this blog to go to the main article here and read it in it’s entirety.

I do wish to make the disclaimer now that this is not going to be an open forum to assault and argue the viewpoints of Calvinists and Arminians. This article is for the sole purpose of calling a Christian brother to repentance. Therefore, comments that are submitted which intend to do otherwise will not be allowed. Please read the CARM article and share it with others. And please be in prayer for Mark Cahill that he would repent of this behavior and be reconciled to his brethren. Thank you.

Things I have learned–Foster Parenting Vs. Adoption

Ephesians 1:3-53 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.

Foster parent.

The term conjures up various images in different people depending on their own experiences, the experiences of others, or simply the way foster parents are portrayed in the various media. And the many who do foster do indeed come at it from various angles and for varied reasons. Some do it out of a desire to give hope and a chance to kids that come from broken, crime-riddled, and abusive homes. Some do it (as in our case) in the midst of an emergency when no other family member is suitable to care for the children. And, yes, some do indeed do it for the money. Depending on the ages of the children, the number you take, and so forth, one can come out ahead financially.

But no matter what the reason is that someone decides to be a foster parent, they all have one thing in common. If the burden is too much, or if the children are too much for them to handle, or if they just tire of the children, they can call the agency and the children will be placed with another family. In other words, the family fostering the children can simply send them back.

Most Arminians think of God as being a foster parent, rather than being the adoptive Father that He is. If we are smart enough (so the thinking goes) to take advantage of the opportunity that God has placed before us, and our “free” will makes the right decision, then God will gladly adopt us into His family. But, if we act up too much, or we get on His nerves one too many times, then He will just as quickly send us back to our old master, Satan. One Arminian author, writing on the Synod of Dordt, said the following:

True believers can fall from true faith and can fall into such sins as cannot be consistent with true and justifying faith; not only is it possible for this to happen, but it even happens frequently. True believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish. (Peter Y. DeJong, Crisis in the Reformed Churches: Essays in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dordt, 1618-1619, 220ff).

In other words, we are foster children who can bug our Foster Father to the point He pushes us out the door. To the Arminian, when we become children of God, it is only a probationary relationship. At any point in time, God may, in His (supposed) capriciousness, end the relationship. “Yes, you have believed, and according to My word I have given you the right to be My child (John 1:12). But at this point I just don’t think this is working out. So I think it’s best if we just part ways. Sorry.” Continue reading

Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism

Considering the recent dust up in my church group (we southern Baptists ain’t – yet – a denomination), documented here and rightly rebutted here, it may be beneficial to review the theological presuppositions at work in both camps. The snippet below is from page 5 of a 15 page document entitled “Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagian” (click the title for the whole article). The author makes a compelling argument that there ain’t much tangible difference between the two, although I personally disagree with him as to whether or not Arminianism is heresy (how can you read any of the 5 points of the remonstrance and not consider it heresy?).

Summarizing, most Arminians hold to these distinctive features of prevenient grace. 1) It is bestowed upon all men at birth. 2) It mitigates the effects of the fall mainly by restoring to man libertarian free will that is able to respond positively to the gospel by exercising faith. 3) It allows men to be enlightened concerning the truth of the gospel. 4) It is not saving grace but it leads to faith which does save. 5) It is resistible by virtue of the fact that it enables the ability of the will to act contrary to it if one so chooses. Thus, in order to activate its power one must cooperate with it by not resisting it. 6) It precedes regeneration and thus the spiritual transformation of the believer.

Let us examine ourselves and repent of any and all man-centered, flesh gratifying false theology.

Soli Deo Gloria!