Posted tagged ‘election’

Chosen According to God’s Foreknowledge, or Do You Find that Too Arbitrary?

April 13, 2018

1 Peter 1- To the temporary exiles dispersed chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and set apart by the Spirit for obedience and for sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ.

Romans 8: 28 We know that God works all things together for the good of those who love God, those who are called according to God’s purpose. 29 For those God foreknew God also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.

Election (being chosen) is discrimination. Election is not a result of a meritocracy.

1. I am not intrinsically less lovable than you

2. what does “intrinsic” mean?

3. Was God less likely to love and elect rich and smart people?

I Timothy 2: God wants them to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Does the sovereignty of God mean that God can and does save sinners even while not teaching them the truth or making salvation involve the sinners ever repenting of the false gospel? NO.

Ephesians 1:9 God has MADE KNOWN to us the mystery of God’s will, according to God’s good pleasure that God planned in Him 10 for the fulfillment of the ages

God elects from all categories

Does God elect more from the category of the poor than from the category of the rich? Does the Bible say that?

Even though we don’t know why God elects one and not another, we know that God makes two kinds of vessels from the one lump. God’s love is not arbitrary but personal

What does “arbitrary” mean?

What’s the opposite of “arbitrary”

Deconstruction locates assumed binary oppositions, with one side of the “other” h parasitic upon its “opposite side” . After the binary (justification, not sanctification, or sanctification, not justification) is set up on the presupposition that the first term must be preserved by reference to the second term We inverse the value system of this binary by showing that the prior term depends upon the second term for its existence This inversion has the effect of calling into question the binary. We push towards dissolution of the terms as they have been structured.

Is the word “natural” the opposite of “arbitrary”?

Is “intrinsic value” the opposite of “arbitrary value”?

Is justice blind and therefore “arbitrary”?

Is election not blind and therefore “not arbitrary”?

If all sinners are disabled, why does God then harden some of these already disabled sinners?
Even if you say that God only “leaves the disabled where they are”, why does God not equally enable all those who are disabled?

God not only discriminates but also disables.

God is always righteous, and therefore God never adjusts to us or need to adjust

Was Christ’s death plan B? Was Christ’s death “arbitrary”. Could God have justified the elect without Christ’s death? Could God have justified the elect without Christ’s incarnation? NO NO NO

1. if righteousness comes through the new birth, then Christ came for nothing

2. if righteousness comes through Christ’s “infinite separation from God”, then there was no need for Christ to become incarnate and die

John Owen–“The fruits of the death of Christ are reckoned as of debt. He for whom a ransom is paid has a right unto his liberty by virtue of that payment”. God declares a value to the death of Christ that is not different from the intrinsic value of the death of Christ. God’s imputation is according to truth. Those God places into Christ’s death are justified.

The Lombard/ Synod of Dordt formula of sufficient for all but efficient only for the elect allows for universal atonement and then a uniting to that universal death by faith. That way you can tell everyone that God loves them but that it is the faith given by the Holy Spirit that calls the elect to that universal death. It is therefore the faith and regeneration that has priority over the death of Christ.

Proclaiming that Christ died for the sins of the elect imputed to Christ by God is saying something different than the Dordt formula. This puts the priority on the death for the elect alone. The ultimate cause of faith is the death imputed not the Spirit uniting to the death. The sinner does not impute his sins to Christ after the Spirit regenerates, nor does the Spirit impute the sins of sinners to Christ. God the Father imputed only the sins of elect sinners to Christ by legal declaration.

I deny that God “could have” willed to forgive without Christ’s satisfaction by death.

Lee Irons—“The voluntarist seizes on the notion of a voluntary condescension expressed by way of covenant. The voluntarist definition of merit is qualified as a lesser merit that cannot even exist apart from God’s gracious acceptation. But God’s sovereign covenants are the revelation of God’s JUSTICE. ”

Click to access redefining_merit.pdf

God’s justice demands the justification of all for whom Christ died

The Problem with “Us” Theology

October 14, 2015

Joshua 5:13: “Joshua lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man stood in front of him with his sword drawn in his hand. Joshua went to him, and said to him, ‘Are you for us, or for our enemies ‘”

Matthew 12:30– “Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters”

Mark 9: 38 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.” 39 “Don’t stop him,” said Jesus, “because there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name who can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For whoever is not against us is for us

“For the manifestation of His glory”—that is how the Bible itself explains everything. Romans 9:13 declares “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:22 tells the truth: “God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory.”

The Bible was written to those who believe the Christian gospel (not the message of tolerance and loves everybody), so when Bible readers see a “loves us”, they need to ask the question Tonto asked the Lone Ranger— “who’s the us?” https://sojo.net/magazine/january-february-2002/tonto-principle

According to the Bible, God does not love all sinners, and that love is never conditioned on the sinner. God has ordained evil things to happen to both the non-elect and the elect, but the promise of Romans 8:28 is that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Anti-individualism is the reigning ideology of our day. Most political and religious self-help books end with the exhortation to find fulfillment by finding community. We meet together to be chastised again for being too concerned about ourselves alone. We are reminded that “He loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20) does not eliminate the greater truth that “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:2).

Since me does not rule out us, then us does not rule out them. And since almost nobody talks about elect and non-elect, the truth that Christ died for His sheep cannot be understood as denying that Christ died also for goats. So the Arminians tell us. Election yes, but not when we are talking about Christ’s death

But what about the “Calvinists” who will also not talk about election when they are talking about Christ’s death and love? They only say, “if you put your trust in Him,” and will not spell out the antithesis between sheep for whom Christ died and goats for whom Christ did not die. They double-talk about God’s love. On the one hand, everyone listening to them is regarded as one of the “us” who Christ loves. On the other hand, listeners are being warned that Christ’s love depends on them “putting their trust in”. At issue here is not only the extent of Christ’s love but the nature of Christ’s love. If Christ’s love is often unrequited, then even His love for those who love Him back is of a very different nature than the biblical love which never lets go of any God gave His Son.

It does no good to say that God took the initiative, or even that God loved the unlovely. In our own relationships, one of us takes the first step. But if the other person does not respond to the first love, it amounts to nothing. Think about that. I say it quite seriously. If Christ’s love is an initiative which depends on our response, then Christ’s love amounts to nothing.

Galatians 2:20 does not say that the Son of God loved you and gave Himself for you. Nor does the text give clergy the authority to extrapolate that God loves you and gave Himself for you. Rather, the next verse says “if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” If Christ’s love depends on you keeping the law to put your trust in Him, then Christ’s love amounts to nothing and His death was for no purpose.

A love which possibly amounts to nothing? In our relationships, we love the lovely. We become lovely to those who are lovely to us. In the same way, the false gospel depends on our becoming more lovely. If we don’t become lovely enough to at least put our trust in the love of the false Christ of the false gospel, then that love fails.

What good is a love for the unlovely which depends on them becoming lovely at some point? A love which CAN amount to nothing always DOES amount to nothing. We are unlovely sinners who cannot respond to initiatives. If we think we can do one lovely thing to respond, then we presume that God is wooing us. We think God is appealing to the part of us which God finds lovely. So then, no matter what we say, we don’t really believe that God loves the unlovely. We can’t believe it.

A divine love which CAN fail amounts to a meaningless nothing, because such a love disregards the cross and the death by which Christ paid for the sins of the elect alone. Many “Calvinists” think of election and definite redemption as two different things, because they think of love and propitiation for the elect as two different things.

Not so in the Scripture! John 10 does not say that the good Shepherd loves the goats so that they can become sheep if they respond. John 10:12 says that “he who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

Notice the antithesis. The good shepherd does not act like the hired man. The hired man’s love amounts to nothing. How do we know the Shepherd loves the sheep? “I lay down my life for the sheep.” Does this mean that the Shepherd dies as a representative of the sheep along with the sheep? No. The Shepherd is not only the leader, not only the first to die. The Shepherd dies as a substitute for the sheep. Because the Shepherd dies, the sheep do not die. John 10 does not separate Christ’s love and Christ’s death. Christ loves those for whom He dies. Christ dies for those He loves.

So what’s my point? Christ did not die for “us” if you think “us” means everybody.. John 10 makes this clear and simple. It does not say, “If you put your trust in and believe.” John 10:26, “But you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep hear my voice.” It’s NOT if you put your trust in me, then you will become my sheep.

Yes, many “Calvinists” reason, we also believe in election. We know that John 10:29 tells how “My Father has given them to me”. We just don’t we should talk about that when we are talking about Christ’s loving and dying. When we talk about Christ’s love, we stay with the “if you trust in Him”, and don’t get into the business of them not being able to trust if they are not elect. Christ knew who was not elect, but we don’t

I agree that we don’t know who is not elect. Just because a person does not now believe the true gospel does not mean that person never will believe. Any person who will one day believe the true gospel is already a sheep. Christ already loves them, and Christ already died for them. But we can say all that without leaving the door open for anybody (Lutheran or “Reformed”) who teach that Christ died for everybody. (or died “in some sense” for everybody, either to make an offer or to make punishment just or for whatever reason).

If we do not say that Christ died for the elect and not for the non-elect, those who climb in other ways will be saying (not only thinking) that it all depends on “if you trust In Him”. If we don’t talk about Christ’s death and election at the same time, we ourselves will be heard preaching a love that depends on the sinner to respond.

My main point is not the motives of the These “Calvinists”. Surely some of them are hired men who know they won’t be hired if they talk about Christ not dying for the non-elect. Others of them sincerely have essentially the same false gospel as the thieves who teach a universal death conditioned on a sinner’s faith.

My point is that Christ’s love amounts to everything! Christ’s love meant dying on the cross for those He loved, and that love is decisive. That love is not one factor among many. Christ’s love is not about making some people lovely. Christ’s love is about a death which propitiates the wrath of God against elect sinners for their sins. Because of God’s love for individuals elect in Christ, God imputed their sins to Christ.

Norman Shepherd Begins By Telling Us Not to Talk about Election

May 8, 2013

The ultimate way we can tell people that the gospel is “outside of you” is to tell them that the gospel they MUST believe excludes even this believing as the condition of salvation. The only condition of
salvation for the elect is Christ’s death for the elect.

No debated language about the objectivity of “covenants” or “sacraments” should be allowed to obscure this gospel truth. Unless you preach that Christ died only for the elect, no matter how
confessional you are, you will end up encouraging people to make faith into that little something that makes the difference between life and death!

I am not looking for another discussion about Calvin and Luther on the extent of the atonement. I am also looking for something ambiguous enough for influential people to sign in some “alliance” or “coalition”.. I am asking us if we believe that the glory of God in the gospel means that all for whom Christ died will certainly be saved. Or has this doctrine become too “rationalistic” for us?

Would that doctrine perhaps take the grace of God out of the hands of those who hand out the “means of grace” and locate grace with the Father who has chosen a people and given them to Christ? (Romans 11:4-6) Would the doctrine of effective atonement take the starch out of those who thank God for how much changed their “hearts and souls” are?

I want more sermons about God’s love being found in the propitiation accomplished by Christ. Out there, back then!

Election is God’s love. When the Bible talks about God’s love, it talks about propitiation. I John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” If all we only stipulate that the appeasement of wrath will not work without our faith, then it’s not enough to add on that God sent His son to purchase our faith. The nature of the cross as a propitiation will not be proclaimed. Instead a James Boice (sermons on Psalm 22) will turn the gospel into law, and tell sinners that the atonement was for them but they “ruined” it for themselves.

A propitiation for the elect which is also the same and enough for the non-elect, amounts to nothing. Does the Neo-Calvinist love the gospel of election, or does he hate the doctrine and suppress it? Yes, Christ loved the church, but is the church the Norman Shepherd church of elect who become the non-elect? The Shepherd gospel is not first of all about future justification by works. It starts with the idea of talking about “covenant” instead of “election”, about water baptism instead of regeneration.

The Neo-Calvinist does not talk about Christ not dying for the non-elect. He won’t even talk about Christ not dying for those who don’t put their trust in Him. The Neo-Calvinist wants you to give yourself to Christ without knowing anything about election.

The Neo-Calvinist will even defend this non-election gospel as being the only perspective possible to us. We have to know we believe, before we can know if we are elect. I agree that knowing our election before we believe is impossible. Knowing our election is NOT our warrant to believe. (See Abraham Booth’s wonderful book against preparationism– Glad Tidings).

But this is no excuse for leaving the Bible doctrine of election out of the doctrine of propitiation by Christ’s death there and then on the cross. We can and should teach the doctrine of election. The Bible doctrine of election does not teach unbelievers that they are elect, nor does the Bible doctrine of election teach unbelievers that they can find out if they are elect without or before believing,

The glory of God does not depend on human decisions, and the gospel must not become a hostage to collaborations with evangelicals who in the name of universal atonement condition salvation on what God does in the sinner.

Packer “no ask no tell” on election, but Packer does talk about a false universal “offer”

February 19, 2012

When J. I Packer claims that election is not part of the gospel message (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God), he relegates the doctrine of election to the “hidden God” who we need not know. Besides the God who has already elected a sinner in Christ or not, there is a false god offering Christ to sinners.

Instead of a propitiation in which Christ is offered by God to God to bear the sins imputed to Him, the true nature of propitiation and imputation is not supposed to be told. It is not so much a matter of doubting how much God the Holy Spirit can teach a sinner about propitiation and imputation, but rather a desire that the truth of the matter not be known.

It’s as if Packer is being more cautious and prudent than God. Of course we don’t know who is not elect. But we do know that God has an elect, and that Christ only died for that elect, and if we leave that out, we must also leave out the whole matter of a past imputation of sins to Christ.

“Bearing sins” becomes a very flexible metaphor, in which the reality and success of the bearing are to be determined by the Holy Spirit convincing the sinner. If the Spirit fails to convince a sinner, that sinner will bear for himself the sins Christ bore for him, including presumably the sin of not being convinced by the Spirit.

The false gospel has two Gods, one wanting to save all sinners. The false gospel also cannot have a righteousness which was completed at once in the past by Christ. The false gospel can have an alien righteousness, but in the Augustinian sense that it’s God doing the work of righteousness by grace IN the elect sinner.

You can have a false God-righteousness, you can have a false election, you can say that God delivers faith to the sinner, and still have a false gospel. Because if the message is not about what Christ did by Himself outside the elect sinner, if the gospel is not about sins imputed once and taken away once, then justification becomes a theoretical footnote, and assurance depends on regeneration making you different from other people.

And instead of telling God’s elect that Christ is coming a second time not to deal with their sin, preachers still have people doing the dealing. Deal with your sins, or God will deal with them for you, is not a message about what Christ has done.

Being “Confessional” Is not Enough if You Won’t Preach Christ’s Effectual Death

February 14, 2012

The ultimate way we can tell people that the gospel is “outside of you” is to tell them that the gospel they MUST believe excludes even this believing as the condition of salvation. The only condition of salvation for the elect is Christ’s death for the elect.

No debated language about the objectivity of “covenants” or “sacraments” should be allowed to obscure this gospel truth. Unless you preach that Christ died only for the elect, no matter how confessional or sacramental or “covenantal” you are, you will end up encouraging people to make faith into that little something that makes the difference between life and death!

I am not looking for another discussion about Calvin and Luther on the extent of the atonement. I am not even looking for something “classical” enough for influential people to sign in alliance.

I am asking us if we believe that the glory of God in the gospel means that all for whom Christ died will certainly be saved. Or is that doctrine too “rationalistic” for us? Would that doctrine perhaps take the grace of God out of the hands of those who hand out the “means of grace” and locate grace with the Father who has chosen a people and given them to Christ? (Romans 11:4-6)

Remember, at this time, I am not disputing various positions on baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But I am asking now about God’s love being found in the propitiation accomplished by Christ. Out there, back then!

Election is God’s love. When the Bible talks about God’s love, it talks about propitiation. I John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” If all we only stipulate that the appeasement of wrath will not work without our faith, then it’s not enough to add on that God sent His son to purchase our faith. The nature of the cross as a propitiation will not be proclaimed.

Since there is only one propitiation, a propitiation for the elect which is also the same thing for the non-elect, amounts to nothing. Does the Neo-Calvinist love the gospel of election, or does he hate the doctrine and suppress it? Yes, Christ loved the church, but the church in the non-election way of talking is not individuals written in the lamb’s book, but a class of people who put their trust in a “jesus who died for everybody”.

The Neo-Calvinist does not talk about Christ not dying for the non-elect. He won’t even talk about Christ not dying for those who don’t put their trust in Him. The Neo-Calvinist wants you to give yourself to Christ without knowing anything about election.

The Neo-Calvinist will even defend this non-election gospel as being the only perspective possible to us. We have to know we believe, before we can know if we are elect. I agree that knowing our election before we believe is impossible. Knowing our election is NOT our warrant to believe. (See Abraham Booth’s wonderful book against preparationism– Glad Tidings).

But this is no excuse for leaving the Bible doctrine of election out of the doctrine of propitiation by Christ’s death there and then on the cross. We can and should teach the doctrine of election. The Bible doctrine of election does not teach unbelievers that they are elect, nor does the Bible doctrine of election teach unbelievers that they can find out if they are elect without or before believing,

The glory of God does not depend on human decisions, and the gospel must not become a hostage to collaborations with evangelicals who in the name of universal atonement condition salvation on what God does in the sinner.

I reject the priority of regeneration (or Christ indwelling by the Spirit) over justification. I reject the idea that regeneration is the condition for God’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect.

There is a true either-or between propitiation out there back then and our time and our place. Propitiation is not INSIDE the person who is elect, loved by God. Nor is the propitiation in the Roman Mass. Once, and then Christ sat down at the right hand in heaven.

We must not confuse the propitiation with the application of the propitiation. Romans 6 teaches that God in time places the elect into the death of Christ, and there is a resulting transition from wrath to favor. Free from righteousness, then free from sin, not under the law. But this is legal application of the atonement, not the atonement itself. This is God’s imputation, not regeneration or the indwelling of Christ.

Were the Elder Brother and the Prodigal Brothers?

June 13, 2010

At least you will not say that all men are your brothers. You are very right to focus on the elder brother’s refusal to say that the one who came home was his brother. My question: WERE they brothers? If the elder brother goes on never repenting of his legalism, is he in the family of God?

Your assumption, suited to your purpose of attacking “these people” who say that Arminians are lost, is that both are brothers. But that is a false assumption.

Though Cain and Abel are brothers in the flesh, both creatures of God, made in the image of God, both are not saved. The one who came home is saved; the elder brother is not yet saved. They ultimately do not have the same home or the same gospel.

We need to know what the gospel is. And we need to say that those who reject the gospel are condemned already. John 3:17-21 “He who DOES THE TRUTH comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

The “good works” of Christians are necessary but they are not “good works” unless the sinner has understood that his salvation is conditioned on what God did at the cross and not on these works. Faith must exclude itself as the condition of salvation, or it is not faith in the gospel and is not pleasing to God.

You say that “these people” think that “the only thing that matters is if you believe the five points. It doesn’t matter if you pray or witness, if you believe the five points.” Let me say, John, not only is this NOT what I think but also that neither you nor I know anybody who thinks that.

I pray for you, because I think it matters. I do not pray for you because I think that my salvation (or yours) is conditioned on my praying. I do not pray to get assurance. I pray because I have assurance.

Similarly I witness to you, because I think it matters. But not because I think my salvation is conditioned on my witnessing. Of course you are mad that anybody thinks you need witnessing to. I know the feeling.

I would be urgent with you. The gospel is different, much richer than you think it is. It is a great and wonderful thing that salvation is conditioned only on the death of Christ for the elect. What you call an unnecessary and unhelpful “qualifying” of the gospel is all about the glory of God in the gospel.

It is a great comfort for me to define sin as God defines it, and thus to confess my sin of conditioning salvation on the sinner. It is false comfort to tell the sinner that he can define his sin anyway he wants, and so define the gospel any way he wants.

I am urgent because I am happy in this good news. Jesus did not die for the non-elect. If you don’t submit to the righteousness, only then will we know that there never was any righteousness for you. If there was a righteousness for you but that righteousness did not save you, then that righteousness will not save me either. There is no difference between me and any non-elect person EXCEPT that righteousness.

Evangelicals All Kind of Like Conditions

January 8, 2010

In Taste and See (Multnomah,1999, p325), John Piper endorses the conditional false gospel. “Christ died for all sinners, so that IF you will repent and believe in Christ, then the death of Jesus will become effective in your case and will take away your sins. ‘Died for you,’ means if you believe, the death of Jesus will cover your sins.  Now, as far as it goes, this is biblical teaching.”

Piper then goes on to disagree with Arminians for not teaching that Christ died to purchase faith for the elect. But he does not disagree with the Arminians about propitiation and substitution and punishment.

Piper’s false gospel does not teach that Christ was specifically punished for the elect alone . It still only has a punishment in general, to be assigned later to those who believe.

But  he does insist that Christ also died for the elect to give them something extra that He will not be giving the non-elect.  Piper’s false gospel misses being true gospel in two important and related ways.

First, the false gospel fails to report that Christ was punished specifically for the elect, and when it does that, it will be heard every time as saying that there was enough punishment done to Christ to save even people who will nevertheless end up being punished.

Thus, even though it has punishment, this false gospel is not about punishment that replaces punishment for all whom Christ intended to save. It has punishment without any intention of Christ to save anybody in particular at all.

Piper’s punishment- in- general gospel (with faith purchased extra for the elect) is no gospel in a second and important way.  It makes the important atonement to be something other than the punishment of Christ. It makes the real reconciliation to be the Spirit Christ purchased giving people faith to believe, even if they happen to believe a message that says Christ died for every sinner.

The alternatives here  are to either claim that people who have never heard the gospel are saved, or to claim that general punishment for nobody in particular is the gospel. In any case, it is not the good news about the real meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection.

If we jump ahead to the things Christ has bought for believers, even including their believing, without telling it straight about the punishment of Christ specifically for the elect, then we will continue to believe and teach a gospel which has no election in it and no punishment to release the elect from guilt.

If we jump ahead in that way, we jump over why God’s love for the elect is never described apart from the death of Christ.

If the death of Christ is not that which saves any specific sinner, then the death of Christ does not save sinners. If the atonement is Christ purchasing faith to give elect sinners a portion in a general punishment, then the punishment of Christ was not for salvation.

This false gospel talks about justification by the imputed righteousness, but without ever talking about God’s imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ. It won’t say whose sins were imputed to Christ.

It refuses to say anybody’s sins were imputed to Christ, because it refuses to say it was the sins of the elect alone which were imputed to Christ. Such a false gospel nullifies the love of God for the elect.

Election causes to believe, but Election not the Gospel?

June 25, 2009

Ephesians 3:9-11 –to make all (even gentiles) see what is the fellowship/union of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ. To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places would be known by the called out elect the manifold wisdom of God According to the permanent purpose which He decreed in Christ Jesus our Lord

Ephesians 2:4-5 –But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ…

We often hear the phrase “election is not salvation” so that “election is UNTO salvation”. Or that “election is not the gospel” but that election is what causes people to believe the gospel. In this essay I want to criticize these often-stated contrasts. Of course the word “salvation” can be used in different senses.. But if the denial that “election is not salvation” is saying that the righteousness Christ earned is not for the elect until the elect believe, it makes no difference if you say that the righteousness was earned only for the elect or also for others besides the elect: In any case, it is not the righteousness which is the cause of believing. The effect of this is that Christ’s work of obedience is not the ONLY cause of salvation, so that the work of the Spirit in the sinner causing the sinner to believe becomes not a result but a condition of Christ’s work.

This false gospel will end up not glorying in the cross but putting the Spirit’s work in the sinner in the determinative place. And this false gospel, in which Christ‘s work is not the cause, will also say that “election is not the gospel” but only that which makes sinners believe the gospel.

The texts I have quoted from Ephesians will not support leaving election out of the gospel and salvation. For us to think about these verses, let us first think about time. Another common denial is that God knows about or cares time. Instead of saying that God is both outside time and inside time, the typical procedure is to deny that God is concerned with order and sequence and time.

For example, it is taught by some that people are regenerate a long time before they know or believe the gospel. Many Calvinists  teach that the sheep are no longer under God’s wrath even while these sheep now continue in ignorance of the gospel. In other words, they teach that wrath is removed at regeneration and that continued unbelief of the gospel is not a manifestation of God’s wrath.

Other Calvinists deny God’s concern with time in order to teach that God’s wrath is never ever on the elect. When I point out that this logic would deny the reality of the Trinitarian wrath of God satisfied by the God-man, the response is that we do not understand God’s relationship to time.

This kind of thinking is common: “we cannot understand God’s relationship to time, therefore your understanding of God’s relationship to time is incorrect, and our understanding of God’s relationship to time is correct.” And this affirmation is founded on another: “we cannot understand God’s relationship to sin, therefore reprobation is conditioned on sin, instead of sin being a result of reprobation.” I want to discuss this last statement in some detail, but I will give you a more correct third view right now.

It is wrong to say that reprobation is conditioned on sin: both those elected and those reprobated are sinners–if sin were the cause/condition of reprobation, then all sinners would be reprobated. The reason for reprobation is like the reason for election. God’s justice is no less sovereign than God’s grace.

If we were only thinking about God’s  sovereign justice, then there would be no reason for either election or reprobation. But the texts in Ephesians remind us that there is more to know about God than His sovereign justice: His glory is also revealed in His sovereign love and in His sovereign wrath. To know His name is to know Him as the one who has mercy on some and who hardens others.

I deny that reprobation is conditioned on sin. But this does not mean that I think that sin is conditioned on reprobation, so that God only makes sinners (ordains and predestines them to sin) in order to reprobate them. As a more consistent supralapsarian, I teach not only that sin is included in God’s purpose (so that God is not REACTING to sin, not even logically) but also that God’s very first concern is to manifest His glory in discriminating between sinner and sinner, so that election in Christ from the beginning is an election of sinners and so that reprobation outside Christ from the beginning is a reprobation of sinners.

God does not wait for sinners to sin, and then decide to pass some of them by. In the very purpose to elect and to reprobate for His glory, God determines to elect some sinners and reprobate some sinners.

BOTH election and reprobation from the outset have God as their subject and sinners as their objects. God’s choice is the first thing. Sin is not the first thing, and then God reacts. Neither is creation the first thing, and then God reacts. Sin is necessary if God is to choose between sinners. Only because of God’s choice to choose between sinners, does God ordain sin.

Uncommon grace, for the elect alone

March 23, 2009

Those who teach that Christ died for everyone are profaning the blood of Christ. But these false teachers cannot change either the justice or the sovereign effectiveness of the cross, for even their false teaching has been ordained by the same God who designed the glorious death of Christ. It does not follow that we who believe the true gospel have no purpose or need to refute the false teaching. Our prayer is that we ourselves have been predestined to expose any and all attempts to make Christ’s death common.

Christ’s death is not common for every sinner, because Christ’s death does not have only an ordinary effect of making a salvation conditioned on what sinners do with grace. Because Christ’s death is not only about sovereignty but also about justice, because Christ’s death is about not only punishment but also about imputed guilt, Christ’s death has the uncommon result of entitling every elect person to all the benefits of salvation. Elect sinners might be somewhat wary of any talk of being entitled to anything, since we know that we are still always sinning, but it is simply boasting in Christ. if we think that our sinning somehow makes us any less entitled to all salvation blessings, then we will also falsely come to think that our not sinning will bring us extra rewards. If our sinning or not sinning comes into the equation, then what Christ did is not enough.

If common, not enough

Any false 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. Not only logically, but in their existential experience, all those believing the false gospel are practical legalists. Whatever they may say or think, they sincerely believe that what Christ did is not enough and they think they need to get busy. This is the paradox: every self-righteous person who makes the death of Christ common also feels guilt for not doing more and better. Those who profane Christ’s death are objectively guilty before God, not simply because of what they feel or think about Christ, but because they are not in Christ. Only in Christ, and not in our lack of self-righteousness, do we find entitlement to all the blessings of salvation. God’s justice to Christ demands the salvation of all for whom Christ died. God’s justice to Christ is finally no different from God’s justice to all those God has chosen in Christ.

Hebrews 10:28-29, “Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the One who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which He was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace.” I want to look at this text rather carefully, not only because it has the idea of making the blood unclean, or profaning the sacred. This text is also one which is often used to teach a grace which is common to both elect and non-elect. It is used to teach that the new covenant can be broken, and that the covenant is bigger than election, and that grace is for more than the elect. The idea of common grace is that God has some grace for everybody, more grace for those in the covenant, and even more grace for the elect. This idea of common grace is not biblical.

I used to think that a person could somehow be right on the gospel but wrong on God offering to save sinners that God wanted to save in one way but didn’t want to in another way. But I am now seeing that this doubletalk is very much the same as saying that Christ died in common for everybody but that Christ also died with the extra intent to purchase the faith for the elect to meet a condition. Whether a person is looking to include in their gospel a return to the Jewish temple (the Hebrews context) or to include in their gospel a death of Christ common enough to offer to every sinner, that person is not glorying in the blood of Christ alone. Christ Himself was sanctified by His blood, which is the blood of the covenant. The Hebrews 10 warning is not saying that an apostate experienced grace or resisted grace. Non-elect sinners always resist God, but they do not resist God’s grace.

The blood by which Christ was sanctified

The Hebrews 10 warning is not saying that an apostate was in the new covenant. I do not think it is even saying that the apostate appeared to be in the new covenant, although this is a possible interpretation if you want to work out a visible and invisible church contrast. The “Son of God” is the closest antecedent of the pronoun “he” in the phrase “the covenant by which he was sanctified”. Of course we need to remember that “sanctify” does not mean to get better and better, as most systematic theology would have it. “Sanctify” is to set apart before God, both in the Old Testament context of Hebrews 10, (blood of the covenant, Zechariah 9:11, Ex 24:8) and in John 17. “And for their sake I sanctify myself, that they shall also be sanctified.”

Those who profane the death of Christ teach that Christ sanctified Himself in common for every sinner so that maybe (and maybe not) these sinners will be sanctified. Not only do they wrongly define sanctification as getting better, but they turn that getting better into the condition which can make the common death something special. But the book of Hebrews instead gives all the glory to Christ’s death. “We see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He would taste death for every… (2:10). The verses which follow tell us every “son to glory”, every ”those who are sanctified”, every “the children God has given me”. Those who profane the death of Christ tell us that the glory and honor of Christ is dying for many sinners who will never be glorified. They tell us that the One crowned was sanctified for more than are sanctified. They dishonor Christ by telling the children God gave Him that Christ died also for those who are not and who will never be children of God.

Christ is crowned with honor and glory, not ultimately because of three hours suffering before death, but because “of the suffering of death.” Many have died, but none but Christ has died as the sinless Son of God. Many have suffered, but none but Christ has died because of the imputed sins of the elect, the children God gave Christ. Christ sanctified Himself does not mean that Christ got better and better but that Christ set Himself apart to die for a people set apart before the creation of the world. These elect people are one day sanctified by faith given by Christ’s Spirit, but before that, in both the Old and New Testaments, God’s elect are set apart by the death, by the blood of Christ. Hebrews 5:9, “And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to those who obey Him.” All the elect will obey the gospel but it is not their doing so which is the source of their salvation. But if Christ died in common for every sinner, and not every sinner is set apart, then it is not the blood of Christ which sanctifies. It is not special, and it does not do anything special. God forbid!

Securing an eternal redemption

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 an eternal redemption.” As an eternal punishment does not mean punishing forever but punishment which is final, even so eternal 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 final. Like a punishment which lasts and cannot be reversed, this redemption for the elect lasts and cannot be reversed. This 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 very person will be (or has been, OT) joined to Christ’s death and thus justified from sin and no longer under law or death.

But the false gospel never talks about election, and so it cannot talk about either redemption or security for the elect. It can only talk about security on the condition of faith. Some with the false gospel say you can have security because of your faith, and then lose your faith and your security. 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 can be secure. But all in the false gospel are agreed in profaning the 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. They say that God would have and could have and did have mercy on all sinners, at least until they died. They say that Christ in His death showed mercy to every sinner, but that such mercy was not enough alone to save any sinner.

No mercy except for the elect alone

The warning of 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 the kinsmen are children of the promise, because “it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God.” (Romans 9:6) Even though there is discontinuity between the Mosaic covenant and Christ’s covenant of blood which secures redemption, there is continuity in God’s mercy. Mercy is only for the elect.

Not all in the Mosaic covenant were 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 work but because of His call.” (Romans 9:11) God’s call is God’s grace, and God’s grace is not resisted. There is no grace for those who are not 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 mercy is it that does not save? What kind of calling is it that fails to bring faith to the called? The gospel is promise for the elect. 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.

No foreknowledge, no mercy

Hebrews 10 warns that, even though the new covenant is different from the Mosaic covenant, election is still election, and no mercy is still no mercy. Hebrews 10 does not teach that some in the new covenant die without mercy. Christ never sacrificed His blood for those who profane the covenant. The Spirit outraged is the Spirit of grace, but the Spirit was never gracious to those who outraged. The “foreknowledge of God” is not God’s knowing who will not profane the covenant. God does know about when and where and how people will say that Christ died for everybody, but this is not what I Peter 1:2 calls “foreknowledge.” God knowing a person is God electing a person which is God loving a person. In the context of the first paragraph of I Peter, the result (and not the cause) of foreknowledge is the Spirit setting apart a person to believe.

The Bible does not talk about this love or foreknowledge without also talking at the same time about Jesus Christ and “sprinkling with His blood”. To see the significance of this expression, we look back to the animal sacrifices and also we remember Romans 5:9. “Now being justified by His blood…” If His blood had been for every sinner, then every sinner would one day be justified by it. His blood justifies. Nothing but the blood justifies. But His blood was not shed for every sinner. Only the sinners joined to the death (Romans 6) and sprinkled with the blood (I Peter 1) have His blood in common. The Spirit does not cause them to obey the truth in order to get the blood. The blood was shed for them alone, and then imputed to them alone. The elect alone are sprinkled with the blood, and this is the legal cause why the Spirit causes them to obey the promise and “do what is true.” (John 3:21)

Not God previewing the movie

“Foreknowledge” in I Peter 1 is not God previewing the movie to know what the sinner will do so that God can then decide what God will do later in the movie. We know this from I Peter 1:20 which describes Jesus Christ as foreknown. “You were ransomed not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, who through him are believers in God….” In another chapter, we will consider the glorious truth that Christ is for the elect alone. But notice here that Christ is the elect one, and that all elect sinners are elect in Him, and not because of their believing in Him. Christ was not made manifest for everybody, but for a particular you, which is not only those who first read Peter’s letter. This particular you is those who “through him are believers in Christ.” The idea is not that people get to be in Christ through believing. In antithesis to the false gospel, the elect get to be believing the true gospel through Christ.

Loved always, yet under wrath for a time

Christ has always been the elect of God. Every elect sinner has always been loved by God. We are puzzled by the time gap before or after Christ’s death for the elect and them being joined to Christ. In the Old Testament, the elect are justified, not under the wrath of God, even though the Son of God has not yet come under the wrath of God for them. In the New Testament, the elect are condemned, under the wrath of God, until they are joined to Christ, even though the Son of God has already come under the wrath of God for them. Though this is difficult to try to understand, it is no more difficult than the idea of Jesus Christ always being loved by God and yet under the wrath of God until He died for all the sins of the elect. Even when we factor in the fact that it is not God the Father punishing God the Son, but the triune God punishing and Christ punishing and the one being propitiated who propitiates, we still cannot escape the need for the blood. The sovereign decision to love is not enough. Yes, Christ was always elect, always the Surety for the elect alone. But Christ was not always imputed with the sins of the elect, and Christ is not now imputed with their guilt.

I try to talk about these things, not because I think everything I try to explain is clear, but because nothing is more important. If the gospel is that Christ died but that we don’t know for whom or why, then I think we have just agreed with the scoffers that the death was unfortunate, foolish, and not at all decisive. We cannot understand the nature of redemption without understanding the extent of redemption, and we cannot understand election without understanding redemption. Even if we say that Christ only died for believers, then we have not described either the nature or the extent of the redemption. God did not sneak a look ahead into the movie to see who would believe, and then retroactively (or timelessly, as many sophists would have it) determine that Christ would only die for the believers. God did not have two intentions, first to dishonor Christ by having Christ to die for every sinner, and then second to honor Christ by having Christ also have an elect to give faith to make a common death special. Christ died for the elect. God has an elect. God gave children to Christ, and Christ is the Everlasting Father to these children (Isaiah 9:6) and not to other children.

Enabling the profaners

Christ died for the elect alone, and only the elect are taught by God not to profane His death. The elect may not be able to explain everything as clearly as they would like. But they know enough to use the antithesis. They can say, not for the non-elect. They can say, for the elect. All those who claim to believe in election but do not talk about election are enabling everybody around them to keep profaning the cross. Everybody thinks they know that God loves everybody, and when a preacher talks about propitiation and holiness and sanctification without talking about God having set apart a people, that preaching becomes only another occasion in which the sinner presumes that he or she has another opportunity to put the special into the blood, yes, even the blood of Christ!