Archive for September 2010

Arminian Evangelism

September 28, 2010

Don’t the Arminians say that all the sins of all sinners have already been credited to Christ, and that this is ineffective? Well, no, they would not agree that it’s ineffective.

Arminians simply say that the whole thing is also conditioned on faith. While the Calvinist disagrees with the Arminian about the source of this faith, as long as the Calvinist does not talk of a federal union in which God has already credited the sins of the elect to Christ, they can share the same gospel.

They can also agree not to mention that the non-elect sinner cannot believe the true gospel. They can agree not to mention that the non-elect CAN believe the false gospel that God loves everybody and that “Christ” died for everybody.

Arminians live with a contradiction between the idea that the sinner decides if Jesus has died for her and the idea of assurance that “One has been sacrificed to pay your penalty.” But the non-Christian is not commanded to believe what may not be true. Even if a non-Christian is elect (so it’s then true that Christ died for her), that is not what we can or should be telling the non-Christian.

We can tell non-Christians about Christ’s effective death for the elect without telling them if they are elect or not. We don’t know if they are elect. We do know that Christ saves all for whom He died! Therefore it is not true or biblical to say that Christ “laid down his life for us if we would trust him”.

Because the elect’s sins were credited to Christ by the Triune God, Christ died for them so that they would believe the gospel.

An atonement has already been made for the elect alone. It is not true to say to the unbeliever: “or you can trust that someone else has suffered for your sins and paid the penalty for them.” An unbeliever can believe that, and also believe that her believing is what made that penalty to be effective in her case, but if she does that, she is still in her sins, and still worshiping a false God who cannot save.

The true gospel tells sinners that God is the one who put Christ to death for the sins of the elect, and that this same Christ will return a second time “without sin”, all the future sins of the elect having been paid.

We must be careful not proclaim the false Arminian gospel. The Bible talks about “us” and “our” sins, but it never resorts to an Arminian logic. Let us try to do the same thing. When we tell people that God saves “as many as” (whosoever) has faith in Jesus, let us make sure that we tell them for whom Jesus died. Faith is not what makes Christ’s death effective for us: the Holy Spirit is not the One who makes the atonement work.

Faith is not a qualification, but a result of Christ’s death, a benefit of Christ’s righteousness. (II Peter 1:1) It is true to say that “without trust we will know no benefit through his death” , but it not the whole truth, and it becomes a lie when we do not rule out the idea that trust is what makes the death work. And we cannot rule out trust as what makes the death work, unless we teach that trust is a result given to the elect because of Christ’s death for the elect.

My worry is not that some of the non-elect will be saved. But neither should anybody worry that the elect will not be saved if they told the truth that God has a non-elect and that God does not love all sinners.

Arminians assure their non-Christian friends that “God wants you to wake up to the spiritual peril you are in”. Certainly God commands in God’s law what God has not ordained to happen. But God’s gospel does not include any idea that God “wants” things to happen that will not happen.

Commanded to Believe the Gospel

September 24, 2010

from Glad Tidings, by Abraham Booth

p 182, “If by ‘an awakened sinner’ it is taught that no one is commanded to depend on Christ for pardon and peace unless possessed of a more holy disposition, he must necessarily be more solicitous to find evidence of that prerequisite existing in his own heart, than to understand and believe what the gospel says concerning Christ.”

p 223, “The Scriptures will not permit our concluding that any pious affections are possessed by sinners before they receive the truth and believe in Christ. If we really love and revere God, it is because He first loved us, because there is forgiveness with him, because that love for the elect has been revealed in the glad tidings of reconciliation.”

p 228–”For sensible sinners to think that they dare not and ought not to believe and embrace Christ, till they be more deeply humbled, and do more thoroughly repent of their sins, and be “more fit’ to receive him; this is but a gilded deceit and a trick of a false heart.”

p232–”The apostles describe ungodly persons by their not knowing, not loving, or not possessing the truth. They received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. That they all might be damned who believed not the truth. If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth. Ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth…

p 235–”The energy of the Holy Spirit applying the word of reconciliation to their hearts, the truth is believed and their enmity subdued, in the same instant. The gospel is the instrument whereby God brings the person forth in a new birth. We are said to be born of the Spirit, nowhere said to be born of the word, but “I have begotten you THROUGH the word.”

p 238 “According to fatalism, the word of truth having no influence, is of no use in the work or regeneration, the salutary and important change being produced entirely without it…To imagine that a preparation of the mind, merely to receive the truth, is a change so great as to describe the expressions ‘born again’ or ‘born of the Spirit’ or ‘born of God’ is very unwarrantable…It is too hastily assumed that the mind is prepared to receive the light of spiritual knowledge before the truth have any influence on it.”

p 247 “Now the question is: Do the Scriptures lead us to conclude that the mind and the conscience are brought into the new state by an immediate divine energy, without the medium of either the law or the gospel? I think not. It is written: by the law is the knowledge of sin. When the commandment came, sin revived and I died…

p 249 “For an ‘awakened sinner’ to be persuaded to be persuaded that regeneration is effected without the instrumentality of divine truth, is to give an injurious direction to his prayers and expectations. He will pray for something under the notion of ‘regeneration’ in which the knowledge of Christ and a regard to His atonement have no concern…Neglecting the testimony of God concerning Jesus, he will be ready to look inside himself for some impulse to produce the important change.”.

Romans 3:22 –“the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe”.

Romans 4:13–“the promise did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith….

Phil 3:9–“and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that righteousness which comes through faith in Christ.”

Robert Haldane, p194–“there are some who, strongly impressed with the great evil of making faith a work, have plunged into a contrary extreme, as if justification were independent of faith, or as if faith were merely an accidental or unimportant thing in justification. This also is a great error. Faith is as necessary in justification as the sacrifice of Christ itself, but necessary for a different purpose.”

Now that I have Told You I Sinned, What are You going to Do About It?

September 20, 2010

Righteousness imputed demands immediate life (so that you know and love the gospel and have gospel motives). See Romans 8:10 (“life because of righteousness”.)

How do I know I am elect and now justified? Because I believe the gospel. Did my believing the gospel cause justification to happen? No! Did God imputing the legal merit of Christ’s death to me cause me to believe the gospel? Yes.

Suppose the disciple Peter would say that he was operating out of legal fear when he betrayed Jesus. That doesn’t mean that Peter really was. Maybe he wasn’t. Well, you could say, he sure got bad results.

Peter ended up betraying the Lord three times. Some say he messed up so bad, because of his legal fears. But we all still sin. We are still all getting bad results. The justified elect are still habitual sinners. They are still not doing well in morality, when they are measured by God’s standards for morality.
My concern at this point is not only with the sinning, not even the big bad sinning, or even in sounding like you are really really sorry about it. My concern is if a person is understanding and believing the gospel of grace.. If a person is not thinking gospel, then she’s lost.
I know that the Galatians were not always being motivated by the gospel. But there is a before and after, a beginning to believing the gospel. We can’t say that we were born believing the gospel. We can’t say we were born justified.
There’s an in and out.. . What is the gospel, and do you believe it?

But Didn’t Paul Address Everybody as if They were All Christians?

September 18, 2010

Romans 3:18-19–“There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth will be held accountable to God.”

To those who are still ignorant of the gospel, the apostle Paul was not writing about gratitude and freedom. Yes, we tell everybody that those for whom Christ died are thankful and free and pleasing to God. But Paul (see Romans 3:19) also tells everybody : if you don’t know the gospel and believe it, then you should be shut up to nothing but legal fear, because you are still “under the law”.

If Christ did not die for you, you should be afraid. Being afraid won’t save you. But legal fear is the reasonable response to not knowing the gospel. Because not knowing the gospel means knowing that you are not yet justified and still under the law.

I do not want to preach terror to Christians. But I never assume that everybody is a Christian. A guy can whisper as soft as anything that he was identified with Christ. I say some were, some weren’t, and that already. How do you know? Is it because you were baptised with water by a Reformed church? No, you needed to know if you are one of the ones for whom Christ died before you could rightly be baptized with water.

Don’t say: there you go again on water baptism. Forget the water for now. Do we address the people in church as if we are all elect, who have been believing the gospel all along? Paul did not.

We say: some of you may need to be reconciled. Nobody is born reconciled.

Some of the Elect Are Still Not Reconciled

September 17, 2010

II Corinthians 5:10—“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us will receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or bad.”

Since the judgment for all whom God loves (the elect) has already happened at the cross, there will no future judgment for Christians. There will not even be a side-judgment where extra goodies and rewards are passed out.

Why then is this text, II Corinthians 5, which is talking to Christians, bringing up the judgment? The answer is that Christians are being told in this text that they are “ambassadors”, not so much to each other but rather to those who are still lost

Some of those who are still lost are the elect, who even though God loves them and has loved them, are right now ignorant of the gospel. And their ignorance, their Arminianism, their legal fears, all of that is evidence that these elect have not yet been justified by God.

And since the ambassadors to whom Paul is talking don’t know which of the lost are elect or not, they are to present the good news to all sinners, and to command all sinners to “ be reconciled”. The ambassadors don’t say: some of you have already received the reconciliation but just don’t know it.

The reconciliation is received passively (by imputation) and that has not yet happened for those who are still ignorant of the gospel and still living in legalism. Look back at the time language of Romans 5:10-11—“now that we are reconciled, we shall be saved by His resurrection. We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”

Why is Paul bringing up the judgment seat, when Christians have already passed through the judgment by imputation? Paul brings up “the fear of God” (II Corinthians 5:11) because the ambassadors need to remember that there are lost people around them who have not yet been justified who need to hear the gospel and be commanded to be reconciled.

We don’t say: well if Christ died for them, then they are already reconciled and justified. They are not. Nor do we say: well, anyway, it’s sure to happen.

God works in history. God imputes in time what Christ has paid for in time. And God uses the gospel as the message heard and believed by the elect as they are being justified. So we “make it our aim to please Him.” (II Corinthians 5:9)

Does God Love you, or Are you Reading Other People’s Mail?

September 15, 2010

We can’t say: I know that God is in love with me. We can’t say: I know that God is in love with you. We need to ask: are you in the new covenant yet? Are you born again yet? Have you been justified yet?

Are you reading other people’s mail? How do you know if God loves you?

Surely we know that God will not start loving a person. Either God already loves a person or not. Surely God will not start loving a person conditioned on that person doing something or accepting something.

We do love each other that way, and we should. Choosing a husband is all about being a “respector of persons”. But God does not love a person based on a regard for what that person has done or will do.

How then do you know if you are one of the ones God loves and for whom Christ died? Do you believe the gospel? Do you know what the gospel is?

Robert Reymond: God Knows the Time

September 15, 2010

It is a non sequitur to conclude from the fact of God’s omniscience that God has no idea of succession, that is, that relative to his own existence he has no knowledge of a past, present, and future applicable to his own existence. This is to confuse the notion of the succession of ideas, which is surely not true of God if one means by this notion that God learns new facts, with the notion of the idea of succession which I submit God surely has.

Dabney observes:
If … the divine consciousness of its existence has no relation to successive duration, I think it unproved, and incapable of proof to us. Is not the whole plausibility of the notion hence; that divines … infer: Since all God’s thoughts are ever equally present with Him, he can have no succession of His consciousnesses; and so, no relation to successive time. But the analysis is false and would not prove the conclusion as to God, if correct. …

In all the acts and changes of creatures, the relation of succession is actual and true. Now, although God’s knowledge of these as it is subjective to Him, is unsuccessive [I take him to mean here that God does not first learn about them as the creature thinks and acts these changes — author], yet it [his knowledge] is doubtless correct, i.e. true to the objective facts. But these [the objective facts] have actual succession. So that the idea of successive duration must be in God’s thinking. Has He not all the ideas which we have; and infinitely more? But if God in thinking the objective, ever thinks successive duration, can we be sure that His own consciousness of His own subsistence is unrelated to succession in time?”

I concur with Dabney’s analysis. Not to do so and to insist that God is timeless, that is to say, that the distinctives of time and hence existence with succession have no reference to him, lies behind much theological mischief.

For example, Charles Hodge writes that “with [God] there is no distinction between the present, past and future, but all things are equally and always present to Him. With Him duration is an eternal now,” that “to Him there is neither past nor future … the past and the future are always and equally present to Him [as an eternal now (or present)],” and that “to Him there is neither past nor future, neither before nor after.”

Such words seem to go too far, first, in that, if taken literally, they reduce to zero significance the temporal reference in every finite Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek verb form God employed in his revelational description to us of his thoughts, words, and actions, and virtually transform them all into timeless participles.