Posted tagged ‘common grace’

Did Christ’s Death At least Give Everybody an Incomplete Justification?

August 5, 2016

What good is an incomplete justification? If the justification is incomplete because you did not complete it, then you end up being condemned by God’s “grace” and not by God’s law.

Instead of hearing the gospel and being condemned by it, on this theory, you would have been better off not hearing the gospel and then you could not be condemned by your lack of faith in not accepting the grace “God” had for you. Had you not heard the gospel, God could not have condemned you! Those who teach that all sin is against grace have a “don’t ask and don’t tell” kind of “gospel.”

God decreed the non-election of the non-elect before the ages, and so God excluded certain humans from salvation, even while ordaining these humans to be sinners.

It is not necessary to preach law before gospel until despair is created, and only then the gospel as hope. This one-two step can be a way of assuming or implying that sinners can actually take sides against themselves without any hope of forgiveness.

True repentance is not produced by the law only, however, but by the revelation of the gospel. Since the justice of God is a part of the gospel, there is no need to preach law separately before gospel.

But even the non-elect are commanded to believe the gospel
Believing the gospel is NOT believing that “God has grace for me” or that “God has grace for everybody”

The promise of the gospel is that as many as believe the gospel will be justified, so that anybody who says I believe the promise but I don’t believe that there is grace for me….is not yet believing the promise

The non-elect do NOT “exclude themselves” from election. The gospel is not the law, and we are born condemned, so that those who never hear the gospel are still condemned. Rejection of the gospel is not the basis of condemnation ,John 3:18-20 teaches that there is no escape from condemnation except by the gospel.

John 3: 18 Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God. 19 “This, then, is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed.

Terrance Tiessen agrees with the Arminians that Christ’s death gets rid of many sins for everybody but not all the sins of anybody because he thinks it’s faith which unites you to Christ. Many Arminians think the only sin which condemns anybody is lack of faith. They think that the good news was that God loved you but you didn’t have faith in God’s grace for you.

Tiessen—“I propose that one of the universal benefits of Christ’s atoning death is the forgiveness of sins of ignorance. Because any and all sin deserves God’s judgment, namely, death, everyone who sins objectively, having done what is morally wrong by God’s standard, deserves to be punished. Before the law of God, they stand guilty. When God chooses not to punish us for unintended sin, however, he does not simply say: “That is OK, it doesn’t matter.” It does matter, and it violates God’s holiness and disrupts the shalom, the total well being, of God’s creation. When God, the Judge of all moral beings, chooses not to punish us for that unintended moral violation, his own holiness is preserved, I suggest, by the fact that Jesus paid the penalty for sin.”

Tiessen—“Of course, I am not here speaking of the complete justification that leads to eternal life, simply of acts for which God does not hold the ignorant sinner accountable. But, nonetheless, I am suggesting one of the ways in which Jesus satisfied the just wrath of God against sin, is in his providing a sacrifice of atonement which God applies to sins of ignorance, that is to say, to acts which, though sinful, were done in good faith (as per Rom 14). This was typified in the old covenant provision of sacrifices for sins done unintentionally (Leviticus 5:17-19; Numbers 15:22-28), particularly in the annual offering of the high priest, which was for his own sin and “for the sins committed unintentionally by the people” (Hebrews 9:7).

Tiessen–“Of much greater magnitude than God’s forbearance of sins done in ignorance is God’s forgiveness of sins done deliberately. No provision was made for these sins in the old covenant sacrificial system. Yet that is precisely what God does to all whom he graciously justifies, not on account of their own righteousness, but on account of the righteousness of Jesus, in whom they are incorporated by faith.”

In his attempt to say that lost people are lost only because of themselves, Andrew Fuller taught a common prevenient moral ability to believe (his false gospel).

It is now more and more common to think of all sin as sin against grace. This tends to remove the antithesis between law and grace .

William Lane Craig, In Pinnock, the Grace of god and the Will of Man, p 157—-“God desires and has given sufficient grace for all people to be saved. If some believe and others do not, it is not because some received prevenient grace and some did not. The efficacy of God’s grace is UP TO US, because every person is moved by God in a measure sufficient for salvation.”

Wesley, Working Out Our Own Salvation—“Allowing that all persons are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing that there is no man in a state of nature only. There is no man, unless he has quenched the Holy Spirit, that is wholly void of the grace of God. No man sins because he has not grace, but because he does not use the grace he has.”

Horton–God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. Yet they must embrace the promise in faith. Otherwise, they fall under the covenant curse without Christ as their mediator.

Paul Helm—“We may note that one thing that the Amyraldian proposal does is to weaken connection between the plight of the race in the fall of Adam. For now the responsibility of each of the non-elect comes simply from hearing and not receiving the message of grace.”

Tom Nettles—”The idea of universal atonement is not demanded by the Bible at all, but only by the inference drawn from a no-grace-no-justice assumption…. The piggy-backing of grace onto the command to believe the gospel does not come from the Bible. The whole idea of obligatory grace is contrary to the biblical presentation of grace.

Engelsma on Psalm 73

September 7, 2013

Prosperous Wicked and Plagued Saints: An exposition of Psalm 73, by David Engelsma (Reformed Free Presbyterian, 2007)

It’s a good book, well argued, and I am going to find it perhaps even more useful to give to people than Engelsma’s Common Grace Revisited debate with Mouw, because it starts with the biblical text and stays with it in detail. Of course it’s a polemic, but not in reaction to the passing ideas of one or two preachers.

The thesis is clearly stated: If the prosperity of the non-elect is some kind of “grace”, then the troubles of the elect must be not-grace. This antithesis is carefully argued again and again.

My favorite paragraph in the book is the second one on p 9. Here Engelsma writes about God’s justice in the gospel. God is both sovereign and just. God is not only just to the non-elect. God is also just in saving the ungodly elect, because God in Christ has a righteousness for these elect. “God blesses the elect on the ground of the righteousness of the atoning death of Christ.” Since Christ did not die for the non-elect, God has no righteous basis for blessing the non-elect.

Engelsma asks: “On what basis would God bless the ungodly, who are outside the elect church of Christ by God’s own decree of reprobation? The only explanation by those who confess the biblical doctrine that Christ died only for the elect church is that God’s grace ignores and conflicts with His righteousness….If God can bless guilty sinners apart from the cross of Christ in earthly things, why cannnot God also extend …eternal life to them apart from the righteousness of the death of Christ?”

I think this is the very heart of the issue, of the problem with most who profess to be “Calvinists”. First, many of them want to say that God has “multiple-purposes” (many intents) for the cross, and thus they say one of the reasons for the cross was to obtain “common grace” for the non-elect. In fact, God has one purpose in Christ. Everything Christ does is for the glory of Christ, and we need to be more simple about that.. We need antithesis. God’s love is not nearly “difficult” and complicated as most would have it.

Second, and even more importantly, these folks don’t see the justice of the cross—they see only sovereignty, they see only many purposes. It’s not only that they don’t see the effectiveness, the success of the cross. They don’t see the nature of the cross as a substitutionary satisfaction of divine law. Righteousness obtained and imputed demands life. Where there has been no righteousness, no satisfaction of the law, then God has no basis to give life (or any grace). Christ has not satisfied justice for the non-elect. Therefore God has no kind of salvation or blessing for the non-elect.

I was glad to see Engelsma come back to this theme on p 30. God despises the non-elect. “The Bible is clear that, apart from the basis of righteousness, there is no blessing of sinful humans.” Romans 1 teaches that the wrath of God is already being revealed to the non-elect, as sinner is being “handed over” to sinner. The non-elect are not being handed over to the elect (no theocracy for those who are not elect, no Christendom where the supposed elect govern the non-elect). But God is not only always in control, but also already in some intermediate ways, displaying His wrath to the non-elect.

4 For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
5 They are not in trouble as others are;

And as Engelsma makes clear (p 20), this prosperity of the non-elect is not random. Their prosperity is God’s doing. Sometimes (not always, since non-elect Syrians are starving and being killed every day) the non-elect have no pangs of conscience, and then die without much trouble–often an “easy death”. On one level, we can say that they are deeply unhappy on the inside, and that they know enough by ‘general revelation” to know that God exists and that they are in trouble (and will be). But on another level, some of these non-elect boldly ask: How can God know?

In other words, they think there is no god, or if there is a god, then this god “has no clue”. On the one hand, many of these non-elect are Kantians who claim that being moral should never be contaminated by any thought of blessing or reward. The only way to be completely self-less, they say, is to be atheist and to deny any future beatitude ((or condemnation). But on the other hand, they say, well those who believe the gospel are not getting paid for it. Like Satan’s comment to God about Job, these atheists say—nobody really is moral, because everybody does what they do to get paid, so take away Job’s blessing and he won’t be moral anymore. Thus the atheist conclusion: nobody really is moral. But some of us are getting paid, and it’s not those who are trying to be moral!

They have not considered the idea that God is on purpose INCREASING THEIR PROSPERITY ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR SIN, which is the opposite of what you would expect. Less sin, more prosperity, we tend to think, when we are not trusting God. But Psalm 73 teaches a “double bind”. God increases the prosperity of the non-elect not only because of their sin but also in order to make them more sinful and hard. What a fearful thing this is. As Engelsma points out on p 31, “God uses the “no troubles” as a means to increase their sin.

Engelsma rightly asks— what kind of “grace” is this, that is used as means to increase sin? It’s not a “strange grace” (p 32) it’s NOT grace at all! I think of Romans 6, which teaches that the justified elect are not under the dominion of sin BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT UNDER LAW BUT UNDER GRACE. Nobody understands this who does not believe the gospel. All who are not justified are still under law, and this means that God has no grace for them (unless they are elect, in which case they will be placed into Christ’s death and justified). This means that all the not-justified do is nothing but sin. It also means that that there is no kind of grace for the non-justified. They are still “under law”. Therefore sin has dominion over them. Therefore, God uses prosperity as a means to increase their sin.

I don’t think Engelsma directly referenced Job. But as I was reading his book, I kept thinking of Job. p 39–“God sent the troubles which plagued the psalmist, but the troubles were not direct judgments upon specific sins. If that were the case, the psalmist would not have had a problem with the troubles.”

I also like very much his discussion of the “wakening of God” (p 66, also with a reference to Psalm 44:23) It looks that way to us when we are not trusting God. But God is not slumbering. God is controlling every detail in the lives of the non-elect. God is not “allowing” or “permitting” anything. Thus Engelsma quotes the misguided approach of Martin Lloyd Jones (p 58) who wrote: “We have to remember God’s permissive will..He has allowed sin to develop and reveal itself for what it is.” As Engelsma very firmly points out, God’s purpose is that they slide into destruction.

18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.

I also think Engelsma is correct to see the being “pricked in heart” of verse 21 as being about the godly sorrow that the psalmist experiences (when he understands again the truth, when he comes to the sanctuary). This pricking of heart is NOT the sinful thinking he was doing before, because it is not that envy but rather it is his present repentance about that envy. He confesses: “I was like an animal”. It’s important for us to see that he doesn’t dismiss knowledge and rationalism as so many do today. He doesn’t excuse his ignorance, or blame it on other people (his preachers, his parents etc). As Engelsma concludes on p 73, foolish thinking is sin. And it’s a sin for humans to think like an animal.

One point I would stress here. I guess it depends on a distinction between indicative and imperative. If we say– well real Christians don’t ever think like that, what we mean is—Christians should not think like that. Neither Engelsma nor the psalmist is denying that Christians do sometimes think like that. But the point is that we should not think like that. We can sin, we should not sin. But our hope is not that we keep ourselves from sinning, or that we keep holding on. Our hope is that when we do sin in this way, with foolish thinking, with lack of trust, God is continually with us, holding us, keeping us from falling.

And then Engelsma writes about the “afterward”, the glory to come. Kant was wrong about the idea of future blessing contaminating morality. To the extent we Christian sinners are moral, our motive is gratitude for both the past and for the future which is come. Since that future glory is certain for the elect, the “thankful” category is not out of order. Faith is not something else than assurance, and therefore faith is not something else than gratitude for all that will be given in Christ. Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

The Creation is for the Purpose of the Redemption of the Elect

March 12, 2012

Ephesians 1:9-11–” making known to us the mystery of his will,
according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for
the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…”

The “common grace” theory supposes that God has a second purpose for
history, an intermediate cultural purpose. But “all things were created for Christ”. (Colossians 1:16) Jesus Christ “is before all things” (Colossians 1:17).

Jesus Christ is first in the counsel of God, logically before the
decree of election (and non-election). The elect are chosen in Christ
before the foundation of the world, and this means that logically
Christ was before the elect in the counsel of God.

Those who say that Christ died for every sinner think that they honor
Christ by saying that the decree for Christ to die is before the
decree to elect some sinners. They claim in this way to put Christ
before election.

Not only Arminians but many who call themselves Calvinists want to
place election after the decree to make atonement, so that the
atonement will not be restricted to the elect. They think of election
as something that causes the elect to believe, but they will not teach an atonement only for the elect.

But election in Christ is first! The death of Christ is not the cause
of God’s election in love. God’s election in love is the cause of the
death of Christ. Jesus Christ is first. Jesus, the incarnate, the
eternal Son of God in the flesh, is the foundation of election by
being Himself the object of election. “All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things.”

This means that the creation is for the purpose of the redemption of
the elect. This also means that God does not have a second “cultural
only” purpose for the creation.

God’s purpose in history is to bring glory to Jesus Christ. He is not simply the one who makes election work. Jesus Christ Himself is first. Jesus Christ Himself is chosen first, before all the others. All the other elect were chosen in Jesus Christ, and not apart from Jesus Christ. Those God loves are “chosen in Him”. Ephesians 1:4

Permanent Redemption

June 19, 2011

Hebrews 9:12, “Christ entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing a permanent lasting redemption.” As a a permanent lasting punishment does not mean punishing forever but punishment which is final, even so permanent lasting redemption does not mean that Christ is and will be redeeming forever, but rather that by one death, Christ has obtained a redemption which is complete and final. Like a punishment which cannot be reversed, this redemption for the elect cannot be reversed.

This permanent redemption is not the payment of a price without a guarantee that those paid for will be freed from guilt and its consequence death. Biblical redemption secures freedom for each particular elect person so that when that specific person will be (or has been, OT) joined to Christ’s death, they are justified from sin and no longer under law or death.

The false gospel never talks about election, and so it cannot rightly talk about permanent redemption for the elect. It can only talk about redemption on the condition of faith. Some with the false gospel say you can have secure redemption because of your faith, and then lose your faith and then your redemption. Others with the false gospel say that faith is like getting a tattoo that cannot be removed, and that even if you lose your faith, you will still have your redemption.

All in the false gospel are agreed in profaning the redemptive death of Christ. All in the false gospel say that Christ died for every sinner, even those who add that Christ died with extra intent for the elect. All in the false gospel say that Christ is the mercy seat for every sinner. According to this common mercy, many die unjustified but none die without mercy.

The false gospel says that God would have and could have and did have mercy on all sinners, at least until they died. The evil and deceptive gospel says that Christ in His death showed mercy to every sinner, but that such mercy was not enough alone to save any sinner.

A warning to all sinners is not God’s mercy to all sinners. Hebrews 10 is not assuming that God has been merciful to all who are being warned. Many died under the Mosaic law without mercy. Even though the ceremonies of the Mosaic economy proclaimed gospel by the death of Christ and not by our doing, God was never merciful to anybody in the Mosaic covenant except those who were elect in Christ.

Paul’s kinsmen according to the flesh, “Israelites, to whom belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises, “ (Romans 9:4) did not receive mercy unless they were elect. We cannot talk about mercy without talking about election, because there is no mercy except for the elect.

Not all in the family are promised redemption from sin, because “it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God.” (Romans 9:6) Christ’s covenant of blood which secures redemption, and this mercy is only for the elect.

There is no common “covenant” mercy, and then extra special mercy for the elect. “Though they were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election would CONTINUE, not because of their works but because of His call.” (Romans 9:11)

There is no grace for those who are not effectually called. The false gospel claims not to teach salvation by works, but it cannot avoid it because it will not teach calling and election. Some with the false gospel claim to teach both election and universal love, but where there is no election, there is never any love.

What kind of love is it that does not redeem? The gospel is not a conditional promise which warns that love will run out for those who don’t believe. The gospel is that, before they did good or bad, before they believed, the elect were already loved in Christ so that Christ died for them and not for others.

Loving Enemies, Even When God Doesn’t

April 1, 2011

Most Reformed do not think it is their responsibility to love their enemies. They may blow smoke about God’s “ordained” (and thus they think legitimate) nation-state, but the reality is that they are packing guns and ready to kill, and tell you that you are tempting God if you don’t pack guns and kill for your family.

Most of them (except the theonomists) don’t even concern themselves about what standard God judges the nation-state. Many of them talk about a “natural law”, but what is natural and obvious to them is not to other people.

I guess I think the key, both to pacifism and to the duty of loving enemies (Luke 6), is the distinction between God and us humans. We are not God. We have no right to act like God, or as if we were his agents to kill.

This means we can be commanded to do “more” back to them than they would do, without this saying that God is going to love them more than they love God.

I don’t think God loves them at all, at least not our non-elect enemies. God is going to get even, more than that, God is going to destroy them. So the “be ye perfect” (not Luke but Matthew) is a command for us to not discriminate, even though God does discriminate.

God is kind to the “ungrateful and the evil” elect. I am not convinced that God is being kind to the tares, the goats, the non-elect. Rain is not a blessing for them,
Romans 1:32. “Even though they know that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Having exchanged the true God for a lie, their next sin becomes God’s wrath for their last sin, and God’s wrath is being revealed not only in the future but even now in their sin.

God’s punishing them now, and God will destroy them at the second death.

Are you the Kind of Calvinist an Arminian Can Approve?

February 18, 2011

The preachers who “play it safe” enough for nobody to notice their “Calvinism” easily do so because they are really Arminians

Any “gospel” which says that Christ died in common for every sinner but that not all these sinners receive a common salvation is logically saying that Christ’s death is not enough for any sinner.

In John chapter 10, Jesus says that he dies for the sheep. Jesus also says that those who do not believe do not do so because they are not his sheep.

There are many all statements in the NT. II Cor 5:14-15 identifies the “died for all” with the “all have died”. This is representative substitution. Some Arminians give lip-service to the idea of penal substitution. More logically consistent Arminians denies that this is the nature of the atonement.

In any case, unless you are an universalist, then you cannot teach from II Cor 5:14-15 that non-elect sinners have died.

To go to one more “all” statement, Romans 5:18 teaches that one trespass (Adam’s by imputation) led to condemnation for all, so one act of righteousness (Christ’s death) leads to justification and life for all. Again, unless you are an universalist, you cannot read this to teach the justification of every sinner. Neither can you read it to mean the possibility of justification, if extra conditions are met.

Even though all the elect are born in Adam, they do not stay in Adam. Only the elect are in view on both sides of a verse like Romans 5:18 (also I Cor 15:22, where the resurrection of the non-elect is not in view).

I do not teach that Christ died for all sinners. I do teach that Christ will save all for whom He died. There are many differences between Calvinists, but any “Calvinist” who denies that Christ will save all for whom He died is not a Calvinist.

A propitiation which does not propitiate is not a real propitiation. A redemption which pays the price but does not redeem is not a redemption.

Arminians assume that the default baseline interpretation of John 3:16 is what Billy Graham says, that Jesus loves everybody that He died to give everybody a chance. John 3:16 teaches that only as many as believe in Him will not perish. It does not teach that Jesus died to condemn anybody or to make anybody an offer. It certainly does not teach that God loves those who perish.

Anybody who denies that the death of Christ is what makes the difference between saved and lost will self-righteously add something else to the equation, something other than Christ’s death, to make the difference between saved and lost., Anybody who teaches that Christ died for every sinner but not every sinner is saved, is thereby conditioning salvation on something in the sinner being saved, even if they give God the credit for putting that something there.

Isaiah 53;11—“out of the anguish of his blood he shall see and be satisfied, by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”

My point is not simply about the extent or intent of the cross; it’s about the nature and necessity of that death. This “justice” which demands salvation for all for whom Christ died is the joy of my life.

To give some NT texts: John 17:2 “You have given the Son authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given Him.” The Lord Jesus asks for the elect, not for the world (in this text, the non-elect, not everybody) based on the fact that “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work you gave me to do.”

Christ’s justice, the righteousness of the last Adam, leads to eternal life, according to Romans 5:21. As Romans 8:10 teaches, “the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” II Peter 1:1 teaches that those who are given faith in the gospel obtain that faith “by the righteousness of our God and Savior Christ.”

Calvinists like John Piper say that they are also Arminians (plus some more). I am not like them. I am not an Arminian also. While they do philosophy about “common grace” and “offering what Christ didn’t do”, I am sticking with Scripture. They are welcome to all the labels like classical and evangelical.

Lutherans teach baptismal regeneration and that the once justified can become apostate and that Christ died for all sinners. While Lutherans are not exactly Arminians, I am not bound to a Reformed confession. I am content to talk about the righteousness, the justice, what really happened at the death of Christ.

I judge that Arminians are still ignorant of the gospel, not yet Christians. The nicer and kinder Calvinists of whom Arminians approve judge that I am simply ignorant, and that I am incapable of understanding what I read from them.

I appreciate it when Arminians and tolerant Calvinists begin to see that we are not talking about two versions of the same thing, with one group being on the better side of the road.

There is no contradiction between the idea of God saving as many as believe, and the many Scripture texts which teach that God has chosen some sinners to salvation, and to believe. I Cor 1:16 “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.”

It is a false Calvinism which would teach that God saves people apart from the true gospel. I Cor 1:16 teaches that the message of the cross (the death, what was it for, what difference did it make?) is the power of God. Where there is a false gospel, there is no power of God to save. The necessity of believing the gospel by no means contradicts the truth that “God chose you to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” (II Thess 2:13)

The false teachers of adding circumcision do not deny that Jesus died, but they deny that the death alone saves. Since Arminians teach that Jesus died for every sinner, but not every sinner will be saved, then Arminians also deny that the death alone saves. It’s something else added which must save, according to their view.

The Scripture teaches that there is a repentance which does not please God, and a repentance which does. Any repenting that thinks that it’s the extra thing (besides the cross alone) which will make the cross work is a repenting which God finds to be an abomination. Such a repenting sets itself up in competition with Christ’s death.

Some Arminians think there is only kind of Calvinism, the kind they know, the kind which they approve.

Unconditional election is incompatible with “the free offer”. I agree on this point with Arminians against all those Reformed people in the middle. That being the case, I find it ironic that these same Arminians fault me for not being an “orthodox Calvinist”.

If their point is that “orthodox Calvinists” contradict themselves, then why would they want me to be one of those guys. Unless of course they need a strawman which says that all Calvinists contradict themselves!