Archive for July 2014

The Marrow Conditions the Atonement on What God Does in the Sinner, by Hanko

July 30, 2014

The Marrow view involved a view of predestination that was essentially Amyrauldian. The counsel of God with respect to predestination contained a determinative decree and a hypothetical decree. The former belonged to God’s secret will and the latter to God’s revealed will. The Marrow taught that the revealed will of God expressed God’s will as desiring the salvation of all who hear the gospel.

The Marrow Men claimed that by making this salvation conditioned upon faith, they in fact made the work of salvation particular because only the elect actually came to faith. But salvation was made dependent upon man’s faith, because one had to explain how only some were saved when in fact God desired the salvation of all, earnestly urged all to come to Christ, and provided an atonement which was sufficient for all, intended for all and available to all.

It is true that the Marrow Men taught that saving faith was worked in the hearts of the elect of God. And it was in this way that they hoped to escape the charge of Arminianism. But this will not work for two reasons. In the first place, how is it to be explained that God on the one hand desires to save all and expressed this desire in the preaching of the gospel; and on the other hand actually gives faith and saves only a select few? The Marrow Men, as the Amyrauldians before them, resorted to a distinction in the will of God but such a distinction sets God in opposition to Himself as being One Who on the one hand desires to save all, and on the other hand, desires to save only some.

In the second place, by making faith the condition of salvation, faith is set outside the benefits of the atonement. if the atonement is for every sinner, but faith is not for every sinner, then faith cannot be a blessing given by means of the atonement. Then faith is not one of the blessings of Christ’s death, but becomes a condition for making Christ’s death effective. One cannot have it both ways. Faith is either part of salvation or a condition to salvation; but both it cannot be.

Some have maintained that the Marrow Men were concerned with a conditional grace caused by hyper-Calvinism. Christ, so it was said, was being separated from His benefits in the preaching. The church could not offer the benefits of Christ to all because they were only for the elect, and the church had to know who were the elect before these benefits could be offered them. But those who were elect could be known as elect only by the manifestation of election in their lives. Thus Christ’s benefits hinged on this manifestation of election in a holy and sanctified life. The conclusion is, so the argument went, that the offer of the gospel was made conditional. One receives salvation only if he is elect, i.e., if he manifests election in his life and if he is assured of his election. Hence all the salvation was made conditional on the works of sanctification that prove election.

This interpretation, found among the defenders of the well-meant gospel offer, is an attempt to turn the tables by charging those who repudiate the offer as teaching conditions, while those who maintain the offer are the ones holding to sovereign and free grace. This interpretation is, however, false. The General Assembly (against whom the Marrow party reacted) never taught a conditional salvation. The Assembly did maintain that the promises of the gospel were only for the elect — that is true. But it did believe that the gospel had to be publicly and indiscriminately proclaimed along with the command to repent and believe in Christ.

The Marrow Men taught that everyone has a warrant of God that Christ is for him. This warrant from God is based on the cross, in which Christ became dead for everyone. Why are not all then saved? All are not saved because the condition for having Christ in possession is faith in Him, and all do not fulfill the condition. That is conditional salvation.

The idea was that while all those to whom the gospel came did not have Christ in actual fact, they possessed the warrant to have Christ, and therefore the warrant to believe. The best way to explain their use of the word “warrant” is to substitute the word “right”: all who heard the gospel have the right to believe. They have this right to believe because God has expressed in the gospel that nothing can possibly stand in the way of their salvation. Those who hear the gospel have no excuse for not believing what the gospel proclaims.

But this means that when the gospel proclaims that Christ died for sinners, those who hear have the right to say, Christ died for me; I have a right to believe that Christ died for me. It means, in fact, that when, more specifically, the gospel says that Christ died for His people, the individual hearer has the right to say, “I am one of God’s people, if I believe.”

First, if we are to press home this “warrant” to believe, we must make clear that the promises of the gospel are objectively for everyone. In the second place, we press home the “warrant” to believe by stating emphatically that the God who promises Christ to all who hear, even objectively, can do so only because, objectively, He loves all and desires their salvation. “God gives you the right to believe because He loves you and wants your salvation.”

Third, as far as the hearer is concerned, when persuaded that he has a right (warrant) to believe, he has also the promise of God along with the assurance of God’s love for him and God’s desire to save, Fourth, the only reason why a man with this warrant to believe is not saved is because he does not believe. Everything hinges on his faith. To have Christ in possession rests on faith. He has Christ in warrant, but in possession only at such a time that he “closes with Christ.” Faith itself is not included in this warrant proclaimed, and it is not included in God’s promise of Christ. This false gospel is Arminian and Amyraldian.

The twelve Marrow Men, among whom were Thomas Boston, James Hog, and Ebenezer Erskine, who opposed the decisions of the General Assembly that condemned Edward Fisher’s book, had to say something about the extent of the atonement of Christ. The Marrow Men insisted that by this condemnation the Assembly had made the preaching of the gospel to all men impossible. They claimed that the Assembly had made it impossible to fulfill the divine commission to preach salvation in Jesus Christ to all men without distinction.

The Marrow Men denied that they taught universal atonement, but their denials rang false. These men distinguished between a giving of Christ in possession and a gift of Christ as warranted men to receive Him. Where did this warrant come from? It had to come from the atoning sacrifice that Christ completed on Calvary. The Marrow Men approved of Fisher’s book The Marrow of Modern Divinity, which taught that (and again we have a very strange distinction) while Christ did not die for all, He is dead for all. They solemnly assured the Assembly that they considered it heretical to teach that Christ’s atoning sacrifice was for all men; but they approved of the expression that Christ is dead for all men. The distinction is impossible to understand, and can only be interpreted as a rather subtle way to introduce into the teachings of the church a universal atonement of our Lord. It was intended to teach, I think, that while Christ did not in fact die to save all men, nevertheless, His death has universal significance and benefit.

If everyone who hears the preaching has a “warrant” from God to believe in Christ, that “warrant” must have a juridical basis. That is, if I promise ten men a thousand dollars each if they will come to my house, I had better have ten thousand dollars available to me, or my “warrant” is a lie. If God gives everyone who hears the gospel a “warrant” to be saved if they believe in Christ, that salvation must be available for the non-elect. If it is not, the promise of God is false

But God did not impute the sins of the non-elect to Christ, and Christ did not die for the non-elect, and the promise of the gospel is only for those who believe the gospel. As true it is that nobody can know if they are elect until after they believe the gospel, it is also true that nobody can know if Christ’s death has any benefit for them until after they believe the gospel.

Christ Did Not Wait To Get To Heaven to Become Our Priest—Already a Priest as He Died on Earth

July 13, 2014

Hebrews 7: 17 For it is witnessed of him,

“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”
18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

20 And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 21 but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:

“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever.’”
22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost[ those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he DID THIS ONCE FOR ALL WHEN HE OFFERED UP HIMSELF. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who HAS BEEN MADE perfect forever.

The closing verses of Hebrews chapter 7 supply a conclusive demonstration that Christ was priest and exercised the priestly office, while He was here on earth, and which He is now continuing to do in heaven. First, the description given of Him as “High Priest” in Hebrews 7:26 has no pertinency whatever if it  does not treat of what He was here upon earth. Take the expression, “undefiled”—what is there in heaven to defile? Nothing whatever· But understanding it to describe one of Christ’s perfections while He was here in the world, it is full of significance.

Rightly did George Smeaton declare, “Hebrews 7:26, 27 show Christ on earth, as both Priest and Sacrifice. The ‘such’ of verse 26 refers not back to verses 1-25, but to verse 27, The qualifications described, holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, are descriptive of what He was here on earth when brought into contact with sin and sinners”.

Again, mark well the expression, “made higher than the heavens” in Hebrews 7:26. Who was? The first part of the verse tells us:–our “High Priest”! Note also that the last clause of verse 27, “this He did once, when He offered up Himself”. In what specific character is Christ there viewed? Why, as “High Priest”. As we are told in Hebrews 2:17, “He was a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation (Greek) for the sins of the people”, and as Romans 3:25 plainly declares, He made propitiation AT THE CROSS. So again, in Hebrews 4:14 we read, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest that is passed into the heavens”.

HE DID NOT ENTER HEAVEN TO BECOME A PRIEST. Christ was “Priest” when He “passed into the heavens”.

There is no excuse whatever for a mistake at this point, and our only reason for laboring it is that many who have boasted so loudly of their orthodoxy have systematically denied it. That Christ’s sacrifice was a priestly one is clear from Ephesians 5:2, “Christ . . . hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God”: not only as a “sacrifice” but as “an offering”, and none offered to God the sacrifices of Israel save the priests.

That Christ did not become Priest after He entered into heaven is also unequivocally established by Hebrews 9:11, 12, “But Christ being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands . . . by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, HAVING OBTAINED eternal redemption for us”. Therefore we say that they who teach Christ became priest after His ascension are unconsciously or consciously, ignorantly or maliciously, corrupting the Truth of God and denying one of the most cardinal articles of our holy faith.

A W Pink

Do Lost Sinners Need to Know about Election Up Front?

July 10, 2014

Is knowing about election like sex after marriage? Is it not supposed to happen until after you are in the family?

In Assured by God (ed Parsons, Presbyterian and Reformed, 2006, p 45), Philip Ryken informs us that “election is a family secret”. Ryken writes: “To ask if you are among the elect is to really ask if you are in Christ. If you want to know whether God has chosen you, all you need to know is it you are in Christ.”

This sounds simple but it’s not. Which Christ? Is the Christ of the people who deny election the same Christ as the Christ of the people who rejoice in the good news of election? And perhaps more to the point, is the Christ of people who “don’t know about election” the same Christ as the Christ of the people who do know about election?

It’s important to make a distinction here between knowing about election and knowing that you are elect. I certainly agree with Ryken
that nobody can know if they are elect before they believe the gospel. But this is NOT the same thing as saying that nobody can know about election before they believe the gospel.Though Ryken teaches that election is a family secret, the Bible teaches election as inherent in the gospel, and as something to be proclaimed to all who read the Bible and who hear the gospel. (Romans 9:11)

The Christ who died only for the elect is not the same Christ as the counterfeit Christ who died for everybody. Those who believe that Christ died for everybody do not believe in what the Bible says about election and therefore do not believe in the gospel.

It does not matter if we say that these people (most evangelicals) don’t know about election or if we say that they know about election
and reject it in favor of their preference for a “Jesus” who died for everybody. There is no “don’t ask don’t tell rule” by which we should not talk about election to professing Christians for fear that they may reject it.

In either case, be it ignorance or rejection. most professing Christians do NOT believe that all for whom Jesus died will be justified. Even most people who do not profess to be Christians are sure that Jesus died for them. In every place in the United States, even most of the non-professing Christians think that Jesus died for more sinners than will be saved. They think they know that God loves everybody, but they also think that some of those people will be lost. As a result, most people do NOT believe in the “finished” work of Christ. They only believe in a “to be determined”
work of Christ.

I agree with Calvin that we shall not find proof of our election in ourselves. But neither can we find proof of our election
in our believing a false gospel which teaches a false Christ who died for those who will perish. Ryken writes: “Since election is in Christ, it is often best understood after one becomes a Christian…While you are outside of God’s family, you may not hear about predestination at all; once you are in the family, however, it makes the most perfect sense in the world.”

The irrational irony of this claim by Ryken is that he knows that most who claim to be now in God’s family STILL do not believe in election. Ryken knows that most of these people have not even heard about election, and all the soundbites about “Calvinists when they pray” do not change this sad reality. Some “evangelical Christians” are open theists who deny that God even knows the future. Others of Ryken’s fellow evangelicals say that God knew ahead of time who to “elect” because God saw ahead of time who would “accept Jesus by faith”. Now it could be said that this shows that they do believe in a kind of election, but becoming elect by accepting Jesus is not what the Bible teaches, and it’s not the “secret” Ryken is talking about in his essay.

Ryken wants to claim that the kind of election about which he’s talking makes good sense to people after they become Christians. How then does he explain that most “Christians” still don’t know the family secret? If there were indeed an election-free gospel which one could accept and thus get oneself united to Christ, why would it be important for these Christians to learn later the “family secret”?

Ryken does not question the salvation of those who don’t learn the “family secret”. Nor does he question the salvation of those who deny the “family secret”. Nor does he pause to doubt the assurance of those who think the “secret” is that God knew ahead of time who would believe. Ryken might in general question the salvation of open theists, or even of those who teach “easy-believism carnal Christianity”, but too many of his constituents are Arminians for him to ever doubt that these folks have believed the gospel. Whatever their “gospel”, Ryken (like Boice before him) agrees with them that their faith in their gospel has effectively united them to Christ so that they are now “in Christ”.

The words of Jesus Christ in John chapter 10 about the sheep hearing the voice of the Shepherd and not hearing the voice of strangers must have something to do with morality and behavior and discipleship, because to Ryken’s mind those words can have nothing to do with election. So what if a lot of Christians continue to believe that they elect themselves to salvation with their faith? Now, they have Ryken and other Reformed booksellers to teach them the “secret”….

Why talk about Romans 8 or John 10 when you can quote Donald GrayBarnhouse? “Imagine a cross like the cross on which Jesus died, only
so large that it has a door in it and a sign over it: whosoever may come….On the other side of the door, a happy surprise waits the one
who enters. From the inside, anyone glancing back can see the words on this side of the door: chosen…”

And perhaps they will find some books written by Boice, Barnhouse and Ryken! But just to deal with the empirical reality of what
evangelicals now believe, how does Ryken explain that so many don’t ever look back and read the word “chosen”? And why do so many still
understand that “chosen” to mean “because you chose first and God saw you would choose”? And why do so many Christians insist that any talk
of election is not “good news” but to be rejected?

If I myself refuse to believe in any God who would elect some to salvation and not others, why would I want others to know the “secret”? If I myself refused to believe that Jesus didn’t love everybody and die for them, why would I think of that truth as a “happy surprise”?

Romans 9:11 “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of His call.”

When evangelicals like Ryken attempt to leave out the “for the elect alone” and discuss the gospel without talking about election, mostly all they can say is “not because of works but because of faith alone”.

Even if you believe the false gospel that Christ died for every sinner, “Reformed evangelicals” will tell you that God effectually called you to believe that falsehood. Of course in some Sunday School class for smarter people (or in conferences that charge you big dollars) they will explain a more educated and precise view of things which you might want to add on to what you already believe without needing to repent of a false gospel.

To get into the family you believed in a faith alone gospel and that caused you to get into Christ, and now you still believe in a faith alone gospel but now you know that the faith came from God.

Faith is hearing produced by God by means of the gospel. The power is in the true gospel, not a false gospel. I Corinthians 1:18–“for the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, IT is the power of God.”

The true gospel needs to be proclaimed to all sinners. The gospel is only good news for the elect, but we don’t know who the elect are until they have believed the gospel. If the object of the faith alone is a false gospel which says that Christ loves everybody and died also for everybody on the wrong side of the door, then this faith alone is not in the true Christ but is instead in faith alone. But “faith alone” is not the condition of justification, and to see that, we need a message which tells us about God’s election.

Romans 1:16, “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Evangelicals understand this as teaching that salvation is conditioned on faith alone. Evangelicals don’t understand the gospel.

Election is God’s idea. This idea goes along with the idea of not works. Romans 9:11: “In order that God’s election might continue, not because of works.”

Romans 11: 5, “So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. But if it by grace, it is no longer by works; otherwise grace would be no more grace.”

Doesn’t the apostle Paul understand that you can say “not by works “ without talking about election? Why doesn’t he just say: “by faith and not by works”? Why does he bring in this idea of an elect remnant? Paul writes about election in order to explain what he means by faith. Paul does not regard faith as a substitute for works.

God imputes the righteousness revealed in the gospel to a person justified by the gospel. The “it” which is imputed by God to Abraham is the obedient bloody death of Christ Jesus for the elect alone. The righteousness of God obtained by Christ for the elect alone is imputed unto the elect alone.

We certainly can and should talk about election to all people, because teaching the good news of election does mean that we need to know who is elect. People cannot know that they are elect before they believe the gospel, and all for Christ died will believe the gospel. Teaching election is not going to keep any elect person from believing the gospel. Election is not a secret thing, who is elect (or not elect) is a secret thing. So when we think of election, do we only think of as the application, causing regeneration. Or do we think of election as defining Christ’s death as the effective reconciliation?

Election is not only about having ears to hear and believe the gospel. Before election deals with application (union), election tells us that all for whom Christ died will be saved by that death, and not by some other factor, for example, having ears to hear. This is why lost people need to hear about election, because they need to understand the reason for and the nature of Christ’s death. And this cannot be taught without talking about election. People can say “substitution” but if Christ died for everybody, then it’s not substitution. But if we teach that the sins of the elect were imputed to Christ, then we can teach that the law demanded Christ’s death for those sins and that the law demands that those elect sinners be saved from God’s wrath.

According to Romans 9:11, we cannot say grace alone without saying “for the elect alone”. “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of His call.”

I want you to see the connection between “not because of works” and election. When evangelicals attempt to leave out the “for the elect alone” and discuss the gospel without talking about election, mostly all they can say is “not because of works but because of faith alone”.

Even if you believe the false gospel that Christ died for every sinner, “Reformed evangelicals” will tell you that God effectually called you to believe that falsehood. Of course they won’t tell you it’s heresy, but in select groups (for examples, conferences that charge you big dollars) they will explain a more precise view of things which you might want to add on to what you already believe without needing to repent of a false gospel.

Before you believed in a faith alone gospel, and now you still believe in a faith alone gospel but now you know that the faith came from God. Election is what caused you to believe. But it is still not taught that Christ only died for the elect, and that all will be saved for whom Christ died. That election is not taught, and neither is God’s past imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ.

Galatians 3: 8, “ And the Scripture, forseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham….

Faith is hearing produced by God by means of the gospel. The power is in the true gospel, not a false gospel. I Corinthians 1:18–“for the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, IT is the power of God.”

The true gospel needs to be proclaimed to all sinners (and not just those who have the time and money to get to Reformed conferences). The gospel is only good news for the elect, but we don’t know who the elect are until they have believed the gospel.

If the object of the faith alone is a false gospel which says that Christ loves everybody and desires to save everybody but that faith is some kind of condition of this salvation, then this faith alone is not in the true Christ but is instead in faith alone as the saving factor. Since Chrsit supposedly died for all sinners, but not all sinners are saved, then “faith alone” becomes what really saves. But “faith alone” is not the condition of justification, and to see that, we need a message which tells us about God’s election.

Romans 1:16, “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Evangelicals understand this as teaching that salvation is conditioned on faith alone. Evangelicals don’t understand the gospel. Election is God’s idea. This idea goes along with the idea of not works. Romans 9:11: “In order that God’s election might continue, not because of works.”

Romans 11: 5, “So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. But if it by grace, it is no longer by works; otherwise grace would be no more grace.”

But can’t we say “not by works “ without talking about election? Why doesn’t the apostle Paul simply say: “by faith and not by works”? Why does the apostle bring in this idea of a remnant? Paul writes about election in order to explain what he means by faith. Paul does not regard faith as a substitute for works. Christ’s obedience unto death is the substitution. God imputes the righteousness revealed in the gospel to a person justified through faith in the gospel. The “it” which is imputed by God to Abraham is the obedient bloody death of Christ Jesus for the elect alone. According to Romans 4:5, faith alone is “not works”. The point of faith alone is grace alone. “To the one who does NOT work but trusts Him who justifies the ungodly, righteousness is counted.”

Jesus died on the cross. It’s a fact. Is that all people need to know? Fundamentalism attempts to discover the least that can be said. But even if we could discover that “least which can be said” (which Machen says we can’t), why would we then attempt to say the least?

But the problem is not “how much” or “how little” is being taught by Arminians. The problem is that Arminians are teaching the opposite of the truth. Does the holy God of truth save sinners for His glory by using the opposite of the truth? We need antithesis. Which of the five points believed by Arminians is part of the gospel? If none of them is the gospel, why would we think that those who are teaching those five points are teaching the gospel? This leaves me to ask three more questions. 1. What is the gospel? 2. is the fact alone that Christ died the gospel? 3. Does God save some people without any gospel, even with a false gospel?

There is only one “Good Death”, and all other Deaths Are our Enemy

July 8, 2014

If you were to look at the top two shelves of books beside my desk, you would see nothing but books about death. How We Die, by Nuland. The Gift of Death, by Derrida. Death and Eternal life, by John Hick. Immortality and Resurrection, by Oscar Cullman. The Denial of Death, by Ernest Becker. From Grave to Glory, by Murray Harris. The list goes on and on. My mother is 81 years old. My father is 88 years old. I think a lot about death.

I hear a lot of talk about death being a blessing for Christians. The idea seems to be that death is no longer our enemy after we become Christians. Many follow the Roman Catholic tradition is teaching that death is what takes us to either purgatory or to heaven. In this tradition, there is no need for Jesus Christ to return to earth, because death will supposedly take us to Christ in heaven.

But the Christian hope is not our own deaths. Our hope is not going to heaven, but the Resurrected Christ one day coming back again to earth and raising us from our death. Our hope is not our dying. Our hope is Christ’s death. There is only one “good death” and that death is not our death but the death of Christ as the righteousness which satisfies all the demands of the law. Our hope is not our death, but legal identification with Christ’s good death. There are not two “good deaths”, but only one “good death” and that’s why “imputation” is so important

Romans 6 is about Christ the public representative of the elect first being under death “for” the elect, in their place, as their replacement, as their substitute.

Romans 6:7 “For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now since we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death NO LONGER has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died HE DIED TO SIN once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

Christ was never under grace and is still not under grace. Christ was under the law because of the imputed sins of the elect. Romans 6 is about Christ’s “good death” as the complete satisfaction of God’s law. Christ after His resurrection is now no longer under law and therefore now no longer under death.

The death of the justified elect is that VERY SAME legal death. The resurrection (present and future) of the justified elect in Romans 6 is the result of Christ’s justification from being under law and death. There is only one “good death”, and that was Christ’s death.

Christ was never under the power of sin in the sense of being unable not to sin. Christ was always unable to sin. The only way Christ was ever under the power of sin is by being under the guilt of sin. The guilt of the elect’s sin was legally transferred by God to Christ.

Christ’s death to sin was death to the guilt of sin, and since the elect are united with a death like his, the death of the elect is also a death to the guilt of sin. And this is what Romans 6:7 teaches: “For one who has died has been justified from sin.”

Yet many commentators tell us that “set free from sin” must mean the elect’s transformation by grace and by the Spirit so that the justified elect cannot habitually sin (or that their new nature cannot sin) They tell us that justification was in chapter five and that chapter six must be about something more if it’s to be a real answer to the question “why not sin?”.

But Christ was never under the power of habitual sin or any sin, and the death of the elect is not their own death or their own dying. The death of the elect in Romans 6 is the same one “good death” which Christ Himself died.

Romans 6:10, “For the death He died He died to sin.” When the elect consider themselves dead to sin and alive to God, they think of themselves as dead to the guilt of sin. Death to the guilt of sin means justification and life before God.

Romans 6:14 does not say, For sin shall not be your master, because the Holy Spirit has changed you so that you cannot habitually sin, but only occasionally and always with repentance. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin shall not by your master, because you are not under law but under grace.”

Christ also died to purchase every blessing, including the giving of the Spirit and our believing the gospel. But it is not believing which frees the elect from the guilt of sin. Our hope is being legally joined to Christ’s “good death”. Romans 6 teaches that being “baptized into” Christ’s death is what frees the justified elect from guilt. Romans 6 does not teach that the Holy Spirit is the one who puts us into the “good death”. The gift of the Spirit is a blessing which results from having been placed into Christ’s ‘good death”.

Make no mistake. I know that some deaths are worse than others. We all have to die, but some of us die quickly. Others of us are given just enough notice to say and do the things we want to with regards to our family and friends. And then others of us will go through great suffering, many medical procedures, with much pain and expense, for ourselves and for those we love. Some of us die young, and others of us die after we are so old that our health is bad and we would rather be dead already. It is not good to die, but since we all have to die, sometimes it is better for us to die sooner rather than later. And though we submit to and recognize God’s sovereignty over life and death (which is one reason we do NOT kill or cause other humans to sacrifice their lives), we simply do not now see why God thinks it’s better for some of us to die later rather than sooner (and others of us to die “early”). We do not have to deny that God does all things “on time” to confess that we do not understand why God has some of us live so much longer than others live.

This “variety” in death applies to both Christians and non-Christians. Even bigger is the difference between the death of a Christian who has a real hope of resurrection, and a non-Christian who has no such hope. In both cases, we all have to die. Unless we are still living when Jesus Christs returns, we all will be dead for a while. But even in death the Christian is “in Christ” and this means that even our dead humanity in legally joined to Christ’s living humanity so that Christ has the right to our resurrection.

But the “catholic” tradition teaches an instant consciousness after death for Christians and a trip to heaven, all without a body. From the phrase in James, “the body apart from the spirit is dead”, the tradition infers that “the spirit apart from the body is alive.”

John 5: 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, as many as hear my word and believe him who sent me has the lasting life of the age to come… They do not come into judgment, but HAVE PASSED FROM DEATH TO LIFE. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the graves will hear his voice 29 and come out…

Instead of recognizing from Genesis 2 that “souls” are “living beings”, the tradition begins with the idea that “souls” are non-material spirits with consciousness that can nevertheless be seen and heard. Thus the tradition reads John 5 as saying that it’s only the bodies which will come out the graves. It can’t be the persons, the tradition explains, because it already knows that “souls” go straight to heaven. Thus the teaching that Christians have a “good death” of their own. Thus the teaching that all humans have an immortality of their own, and that no human ever really dies. Thus the teaching that Christians don’t really have a “good death”, because their death is not really death.

I Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

We will not precede them. They will rise first. This is NOT about “never-dying souls” of dead Christians getting into heaven before we do. Leave your dead body behind. Do not pass go. Get a new body in heaven now, as soon as you die, and before they even bury your old body. No, none of that is the hope. Nor is our hope some experience of disembodied consciousness That is a stoic hope for those who fear human emotions so much that they think mainly of control. Duty and law become so important to them that they entertain a gnostic hope for triumphal worship before and without
Christ’s second coming. I could say that in a more gentle way—“over-realized eschatology” leaning toward preterism—-but I think it’s important to see that there is no hope outside of the one “good death” of Christ. There is no hope in our own dying, or in our own law-keeping, but only in Christ’s death which has completely satisfied the law.

Human persons, elect and non-elect, justified and condemned, will not be left in the graves. But now they wait in the graves, and then the elect will be changed in the twinkling of an eye and clothed with immortality. Then “the dead in Christ will rise first. Only then, at His coming will those saints who are alive and remain be caught up together with dead saints [all at one time, at the same time)] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air as He comes to earth. This meeting is not to go back to heaven, but the coming of heaven to earth. Thus “we shall always be with the Lord.”

The non-elect will also be raised on that day but only to come into judgment, and then to perish in the second death. But the justified elect will be raised and “shall not come into judgment” but will from then on, in the lasting age to come, be with the risen Christ with bodies like his glorious body.

The “catholic” tradition causes folks to read “those who have fallen asleep” as “those bodies which sleep”, because people thinks they already know that “perfected souls” are already ascended to heaven and now worship 24/7 without sleep.

John 3: 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that as many as believe in him shall have the life OF THE AGE TO COME. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that as many as believe in him should not perish but have the life of the age to come.

The tradition presumes that all the saints who have died the first death have only died in their bodies and that their “souls” have already ascended to heaven. ( The orthodox tradition does not teach that these “souls” were pre-existent and descended from heaven.) So presumably the promise of “not perish” is only about the bodies, because the tradition knows that “souls” can never die or perish, no matter what God did in giving His Son, no matter what Christ did in being lifted up on the cross.

The tradition of intermediate hope of conscious souls in heaven immediately at death is not taught by the Bible, but is contradicted by what the Bible teaches in defining “living being” (Genesis 2:7) or describing the “good death” of Christ (“pouring out his soul, Isaiah 53).

The Bible says, wait and be patient. But the tradition says instead: the people left living behind wait, but the Christians who die get a ‘good death” which is not really death but which gets them right away to conscious worship (until presumably all that is interrupted by needing to go with Christ to earth for earthly things, like resurrection, judgment, other Christians, and bodies.)

Hebrews 12: 18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

The tradition ignores the “ye have come” for the sake of what it thinks will happen in our own “dying”. “First comes the perfecting of our souls when we die”. Even though the tradition does not teach that the “blood that speaks” (be it that of Abel or Christ) is literal, it is sure that disembodied “souls” are now not only conscious but already perfected and glorified. Neither does the tradition understand “consuming fire” in a literal way.

The tradition acts as if “soul” is not a “thing that has been made”. Does this mean that our bodies can be shaken (having being created) but that our “spirits” (souls) cannot be shaken?

”God will put forth upon that soul that has left the body a concentration of his sanctifying grace and power that will immediately complete the work of conforming the soul to the moral likeness of Christ.” The tradition has no understanding of the one “good death” of Romans 6, and so it ignores the forensic (Christ died under the law, we died with Him, we are not under the law) meaning and displaces that forensic meaning with an “in us” idea of some “definitive” regeneration in which we don’t sin (much) anymore (like we used to).

That “in us” view cannot account for the “one and only one good death” teaching of Romans 6. Christ had no need for the Spirit to conform him to the pattern of Christ. Our death with Christ to the guilt of the law is NOT brought about by our conformity to Christ. The death of the elect to the guilt of the law is the same as Christ’s good death to the guilt of the law. There is only the one “good death”, and that only belongs to the elect by imputation. The only death which takes the sting out of our own deaths, the only hope is Christ’s “good death”.

I certainly agree that dead Christians do not sin anymore after they die. But that is no reason to claim that our own death is our hope. Nor is it reason to deny that death is our enemy. Indeed, I doubt very much that even the non-elect will continue to sin after their second death, even though they most certainly will sin as they gnash their teeth at the judgment which has not yet come. But agreeing that dead Christians no longer sin has nothing to do with proving that their conscious spirits are now in worship in heaven. Nor does it prove that our own deaths are now good deaths.

Who is the dead person? Presumably, according to the tradition, the dead person is not the body, because the body is merely only something the person has. Is the “immortal conscious soul” the person? Or does the person also “have a soul”? If so, what is the person who “has a soul”? And where is that person, when the body sleeps and the “soul” worships?

Spurgeon writes about John 17: “You bend your knee in prayer and say ‘Father I will that thy saints be with me where I am.’ Christ says, ‘Father I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.’ Thus the disciple is at cross-purposes with His Lord. The soul cannot be at both places; the beloved cannot be with Christ and with you too….You would give up your prayer for your loved one’s life, if you could realize the thoughts that Christ is praying in the opposite direction.”

What does “realize the thoughts” mean? Must we agree with what Spurgeon is preaching, even though it has no logic? Should we stop taking our children to the doctor, because that might be in “cross-purposes” with what Jesus wants? Or should we only think this way, after our loved ones die, but not before they die? Why would that timing matter? And to replay my previous question–are we praying for their “souls” to be with us, or is it our desire for them as persons to be with us? Is Christ praying for their persons or only for their “souls”?

The presumption of the tradition is that the way to be “with Christ” is “instantly at death”. The tradition evades any sense of the resurrection being the hope which is “far better” in Philippians 1 or II Corinthians 5. The tradition rejects any idea of a time-lag between “departure” and conscious life with Christ at the resurrection. Even though the tradition will concede that “nakedness” is not the way that the Bible speaks of glorification, it still assures us that our comfort is “largely” based on a desire for instant conscious nakedness before God as soon as we die.

Christ said: “to be with me where I am”. The tradition presumes that this means heaven as soon as we died, and ignores the hope of Christ coming to earth to be with His (then resurrected) people. The tradition ignores the wait involved in hope, so that no Christian gets to glory before another Christian, so that we not precede each other. The tradition presumes that the “sleep” of I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4 is not about the real us (our persons), but only about the “bodies we have”.

According to the tradition, Stephen’s prayer (Acts 7) to “receive my spirit” means that Stephen the person never really died. The tradition expects beatific vision as soon as a Christian dies, and argues for this based on a vision Stephen had before Stephen died. Because Stephen prayed, “receive my spirit”, the tradition assumes that his means that Stephen had a never dying spirit. Stephen the person didn’t really die. Only his body did.

The Lord Jesus prayed, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. (Luke 23:46, Psalm 31:5). Does this mean that Jesus the real humanity of Christ person never died either, but only part of his humanity, that is, only his body? I certainly do not begin to understand the incarnation or the mystery of Christ’s death, which is why I am not about to explain it on the basis of a “never-dying soul” so as to prove that the humanity of Christ really did not die. I do not question the unceasing nature of the “hypostatic union” of Christ’s two natures, but I do not presume to explain it by assuming that the real humanity of Christ never died. To the contrary, my only hope is the “good death” of Christ.

I Timothy 6:13 “I charge you in the presence of God, WHO GIVES LIFE to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach UNTIL THE APPEARING of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 WHO ALONE HAS IMMORTALITY, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and lasting dominion. Amen.”

While we could not say that “Christ lives in us” when we are dead, nevertheless even then (when we will have died and be dead) we will continue to be legally “seated in the heavenlies” by means of our federal relation to Christ, whose humanity is now absent from us and living in heaven. Christ indwells us now, lives in our humanity now, but when we are dead, the hope that the Holy Spirit will transform us from death is not based on any idea of the Spirit having now already transformed us so that we already are immortal. In our “theology of glory”, the glory has not yet come for us and we must die and wait for Christ’s coming, with a hope not based on what has now been put in us but a hope for future transformation and resurrection based on Christ’s own death and resurrection.

Romans 8: 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, HE who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies THROUGH HIS Spirit who dwells in you.

Hebrews 13:20– The God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the lasting covenant

If you Flush Your Old Conversion, Does that mean that You will Probably Also Flush your New Conversion?

July 1, 2014

I experienced a “real” conversion to the false Arminian gospel when I was twelve years old. I went three days and three nights without sleep or food, because I was a very serious and sincere person convinced that Christ’s death for all sinners depended on the sinner to make it work, and that I had to make a decision. After three days, the decision was emotional, cathartic. Now I had signed the check and so “jesus” would save me, and my faith I did not consider a work, but I knew that my faith was the difference between saved and lost.

When I was 45 years old, I learned what the true gospel was. I learned that God had either already imputed the sins of a sinner to Christ or not. I learned that Christ’s death saves the elect. Over a process of time, I came to repent of my idolatry. I grew to become ashamed of the things I once gloried in. I never gloried in my immorality. I never thought my immorality recommended me to God’s favor. But from the time I was twelve I had gloried in my “conversion”.

In analogy to Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3, I learned to “flush” my old emotional conversion. I don’t try to reform it, redeem it, explain, re-narrate it, polish it. I count it as nothing. I count it as dung. Surely my repentance from Arminianism has not been without emotion. It cannot be dismissed as “mere assent”. But God’s effectual calling always has its object the true gospel and effects a turning away from the false gospel.

My story does not prove anything. Many Arminians would agree that “conversion” to a Mormon gospel or a Roman Catholic gospel does not result in lasting life from God. But the “what is the true gospel” question can never be escaped. If we tell our children that they are already born into the new covenant and the church, then we are teaching them a false gospel.

But if we tell  sinners a false gospel conditioned on the sinner, and promise them that they will be saved if they believe it, then we have not told the truth and we have not given the glory to the God revealed in the Scriptures.  Even though Christ indwells the justified elect, they do not look inside themselves for the righteousness. THIS IS AN EITHER OR. We need to trust in the righteousness that is in heaven, which is the merit (value) of Christ’s death and resurrection (outside us events). .

If I look inside, despair. If you tell me to look both out and inside, despair. If you tell those who look out to look in, and those who look in to look out, despair. Assurance is found in Christ’s death. Not in our finding and not in our flushing.

God’s Love is Difficult to Understand if God Desires to Save those who Refuse God’s Offer

July 1, 2014

D A Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, Crossway, 76—-“If one holds that the Atonement is sufficient for all and effective for the elect, both sets of texts and concerns are accommodated.”

John Calvin— “This passage of the apostle (1 Tim. ii. 4) was long ago brought forth by the Pelagians, and handled against us with all their might. . . . I have nevertheless extorted from Pighius this much: that no one but a man deprived of his common judgment can believe that salvation was ordained by the secret counsel of God equally and indiscriminately for all men. The true meaning of Paul, however, in this passage now under consideration is clear. The apostle is exhorting that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: for kings and all that are in authority. Who does not see that the apostle here is speaking of orders of men rather than of individuals? ”

Calvin: “But Paul teaches us (continues Georgius) that God would have all men to be saved. It follows, therefore, according to his understanding of that passage, either that God is disappointed in His wishes, or that all men without exception must be saved. If he should reply that God wills all men to be saved on His part, or as far as He is concerned, seeing that salvation is, nevertheless, left to the free will of each individual,

Calvin: “I, in return, ask him why, if such be the case, God did not command the Gospel to be preached indiscriminately from the beginning of the world? why he suffered so many generations of men to wander for so many ages in all the darkness of death? ”

David Engelsma—The love of God of John 3:16 and the will of God for the salvation of sinners of John 3:16 are expressed in the giving of the only begotten Son to the death of the cross: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” If the love of God of the text and the desire of God for the salvation of sinners in the text are universal, so also is the atonement of the cross universal. The editors of the book themselves teach this idea of God’s desire to save all sinners in their introductory essay. They deny that the love of God in John 3:16 “refers to his love for the elect.” Explaining the love of God in John 3:16 in the light of their own notion of “the universal offer of Christ to all,” they open the way to viewing the giving of the Son in John 3:16 as a giving for the salvation of all, that is, as universal atonement (40). Typical of the weakness in the matter of the “well-meant offer” that runs through the entire book (From Heaven He Came) is Schreiner’s explanation of I Timothy 4:1. “God desires all to be saved” (386)

Engelsma—Schreiner does not hesitate to draw out the implication of the supposed desire of God for the salvation of all, which is Schreiner’s theology. He speaks of “a desire of God that is frustrated.” Thinking to mitigate his heresy of a frustrated God, Schreiner adds, “in part” (393). In fact, the words, “in part,” only make the heresy palpable. Schreiner’s God is at odds with Himself. Like us mortals, He cannot make up His mind. Does He, or does He not, desire to save Esau? With His sovereign will of reprobation, no. With His fervent will of love and love’s desire, yes.

Davenant’s last words on the the atonement appeared in his posthumous “A Dissertation on the Death of Christ, as to its Extent and special Benefits.” The core thesis of the “Dissertation” posits two divine wills: “There was in Christ himself a will according to which he willed that his death should regard all men individually; and there was also a will according to which he willed that it should pertain to the elect alone” (424, 425).

D. Broughton Knox— Were it not true that Christ had died for all men, it would not be possible to extend a universal offer; for the offer, if it is to be a true offer, must rest on true and adequate grounds, which cannot be less than the death of Christ for those to whom the offer is being made (468).

Engelsma—To every human without exception, in his own words, “every person on the planet,” John Piper preaches, “God loves you, and he offers you in Christ the fullest possible redemption in everlasting, all-satisfying fellowship with himself” (665). Boldly avowing the contradiction which is Piper’s gospel, Piper declares that “Jesus sincerely desires all to be saved, yet he does not always act to bring all to salvation.” Similarly, “God desires the salvation of the lost, but he does not save all of them.” Piper teaches an incoherent, heretical doctrine of a will of God for the salvation of sinners that fails to save (which implies, as none of the contributors seemingly recognizes, that the explanation of the salvation of some is not the will of God, but their own will)

According to John Murray, “many benefits accrue to the non-elect from the redemptive work of Christ,” and chief among the benefits is “the free offer of the gospel.” That is, Christ died for all in certain respects, including God’s making to all humans an offer of salvation that is grounded in His saving love for all; that expresses a sincere desire of God for the salvation of all; that may announce to all that Christ died for them all; and that unmistakably leaves the impression with all that the efficacy of the cross with regard to their salvation depends upon their decision to accept the offer (657).

Engelsma–Piper’s tortured account of God’s love makes a mockery of that love. In His love for all, God offers salvation to all, desiring to save all. But at the same time, God decrees not to save all, so that His universal love actually increases the punishment of many. His love, and the giving of the Son to the death of the cross in this love, fail to save.

Engelsma—This is outrageous theology. Sailing under the flag of the Reformed faith, it pretends that the Canons of Dordt do not exist). The day I am deceived into believing this outrageous theology is the same day I become one of the most fervent advocates of universal salvation the world of theology has ever seen. The cross of Christ cannot fail of achieving the loving purpose of God and of His Christ. By virtue of the saving love of God, the almighty will of God, and the very nature of the cross, this is absolute certainty. The cross of Christ cannot fail. Every one for whom Christ died will certainly be saved. For even one to perish in whose stead Christ died, in the loving will of God, would be the “ungodding” of God, the exposure of Jesus Christ as both unjust and a failure.

more from the outrageous theology of D A Carson—

Surely it is best not to introduce disjunctions where God himself has not introduced them. Of one holds that the Atonement is sufficient for all and effective for the elect, then both sets of texts and concerns are accommodated. As far as I can see, a text such as 1 John 2:2 states something about the potential breadth of the Atonement When Jesus Christ died, John rejoins, it was not for the sake of, say, the Jews only or, now, of some group, gnostic or otherwise, that sets itself up as intrinsically superior. Far from it. It was not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world. The context, then, understands this to mean something like “potentially for all without distinction” rather than “effectively for all without exception” – for in the latter case all without exception must surely be saved, and John does not suppose that that will take place.

Carson—In recent years I have tried to read both primary and secondary sources on the doctrine of the Atonement from Calvin on. [Footnote 3: One of the latest treatments is G. Michael Thomas, The extent of the Atonement: A Dilemma for Reformed Theology from Calvin to the Consensus (1536-1675), Paternoster Biblical and Theological Monographs (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1997).] One of my most forceful impressions is that the categories of the debate gradually shift with time so as to force disjunction where a slightly different bit of question-framing would allow synthesis. Correcting this, I suggest, is one of the useful things we may accomplish from an adequate study of the love of God in holy Scripture. For God is a person. Surely it is unsurprising if the love that characterizes him as a person is manifest in a variety of ways toward other persons. But it is always love, for all that.

Carson—I argue, then, that both Arminians and Calvinists should rightly affirm that Christ died for all, in the sense that Christ’s death was sufficient for all and that Scripture portrays God as inviting, commanding, and desiring the salvation of all, out of love . Further, all Christians ought also to confess that, in a slightly different sense, Christ Jesus, in the intent of God, died effectively for the elect alone, in line with the way the Bible speaks of God’s special selecting love for the elect

Carson– This approach, I content, must surely come as a relief to young preachers in the Reformed tradition who hunger to preach the Gospel effectively but who do not know how far they can go in saying things such as “God loves you” to unbelievers. When I have preached or lectured in Reformed circles, I have often been asked the question, “Do you feel free to tell unbelievers that God loves them?” No doubt the question is put to me because I still do a fair bit of evangelism, and people want models. I have no hesitation in answering this question from young Reformed preachers affirmatively: Of course I tell the unconverted that God loves them.

Carson: Certainly it is possible to preach evangelistically when dealing with a passage that explicitly teaches election. Spurgeon did this sort of thing regularly. But I am saying that, provided there is an honest commitment to preaching the whole counsel of God, preachers in the Reformed tradition should not hesitate for an instant to declare the love of God for a lost world, for lost individuals. The Bible’s ways of speaking about the love of God are comprehensive enough not only to permit this but to mandate it. [Footnote: see somewhat similar reflections by Hywel R. Jones, “Is God Love?” in Banner of Truth Magazine 412 (January 1998), 10-16.]

Carson—The Arminian believes that the cross is the ground of the Christian’s acceptance before God; the choice to believe is not in any sense the ground. Still, this view of grace surely requires the conclusion that the ultimate distinction between the believer and the unbeliever lies, finally, in the human beings themselves. That entails an understanding of grace quite different than the view that traces the ultimate distinction back to the purposes of God, including his purposes in the cross.

Assuming that whatever the taught was “the bible but not system” view of things, Spurgeon took the Arminian view of I Timothy 2:4 I quote: “You must, most of you, be acquainted with the general method in which our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text. “All men,” they say,–”that is some men”: as if the Holy Ghost could not have said “some men” if he had meant some men. “All men,” say they; that is, some of all sorts of men”; as if the Lord could not have said “All sorts of men” if he had meant that. The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written “all men,” and unquestionably he means all men. . . .

Spurgeon: “As it is my wish that it should be so, as it is your wish that it might be so, so it is God’s wish that all men should be saved; for, assuredly, he is not less benevolent than we are. . . . It is God’s wish that the sick should not suffer. Do you doubt it? Is it not your own wish? And yet the Lord does not work a miracle to heal every sick person. It is God’s wish that his creatures should be happy. Do you deny that? He does not interpose by any miraculous agency to make us all happy, and yet it would be wicked to suppose that he does not wish the happiness of all the creatures that he has made.”

Hugh L. Williams, in his excellent article on this sermon, gives a good reaction to Spurgeon’s assertions: “This is wrong. The Holy Ghost did not by the apostle write ‘all men.’ He wrote pantas anthropous. Now the question is what does the phrase mean.” Williams goes on to show that this means “all without distinction” rather than “all without exception.”

But hear more of what Spurgeon thinks he knows from the Bible: “God has an infinite benevolence which, nevertheless, is not in all points worked out by his infinite omnipotence; and if anybody asked me why it is not, I cannot tell…”

Spurgeon can tell you dogmatically what the Bible texts means. When contradicted (by an invented rhetorical dissent), instead of examining again his own reading, Spurgeon affirms the contradiction. and labels all dissent as rationalism: “Those who will only believe what they can reconcile will necessarily disbelieve much of divine revelation..Those who receive by faith anything which they find in the Bible will receive two things, twenty things, or twenty thousand things, though they cannot construct a theory which harmonizes them.”

mark: yes, I know that a confession is more than a system of theology, but it’s not less.