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The Saints Keep on Being Saints

Posted by heyrandy on October 11, 2008

The final letter in the TULIP acrostic stands for the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints.  This means that those who believe with saving faith, having been chosen to salvation by God from before the foundation of the world, will continue in that faith until the end.  This doctrine is sometimes called “the eternal security of the believer”.   While eternal security is true, the traditional term has the advantage of implying the struggle, the need to persevere, that is part of the Christian life.

The doctrine of perseverance follows from the doctrine of election.  If God chooses some to salvation, those chosen will indeed be saved.  Perseverance is also related to the other points we have discussed.  By now it is obvious that the entire five points form a cohesive whole.

Some have objected to the idea of perseverance saying that such a doctrine breeds carelessness in a Christian’s life.  It is usually replied that such carelessness is not evident, and when it is it is a sign of a false believer.  Perseverance is not an excuse for idleness.  It is a motive to activity.  Perseverance encourages effort.  Perseverance tells the believer that it is not up to him; God is working within him to ensure success.

The realization that God is working in the believer to “do His good will” is in keeping with the previous four points.  Salvation is God centered from beginning to end.  There is no room for man to glory, to brag, about his success.  The Christian can only “glory in the Lord”.

If the believer was left to himself, he would fall away.  No human is strong enough to resist all that the devil will throw at him.  This is why perseverance is so vital.  There is struggle in the Christian life, but there is sustaining grace from God to prevail in that struggle.  The Christian is not abandoned.

It is further objected that perseverance means that the Christian can sin all he wants.  After all,  if once saved, always saved, why not just indulge in sin?  Again, as with the previous objection, there is the issue of evidence of a false believer.  Perseverance does not mean that Christians are sinless.  Perseverance fully realizes that Christians do sin and do so frequently.  Perseverance says that one does not lose one’s salvation by committing a sin.

Those who raise this objection often say that sinning does cause one to lose one’s salvation.  If it is true that one does lose one’s salvation at every sin, how does one ever know that one still has that salvation?  Does not the Scriptures say If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us? 1 John 1:8

The apostle Paul take up the matter of perseverance in Romans 8:30: and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.  The key word is “He”.  It is all of God.

Sin is a fact of Christian living.  There is no escaping it, even with our new nature.  This is why perseverance is so important.  We would have no hope without it.  Without God to bring us through we would never get past the first day.

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Grace is Irresistibly Good

Posted by heyrandy on October 8, 2008

Irresistible Grace is the fourth letter in the TULIP acrostic.  It means that those on whom God has bestowed his eternal love will respond to that love by believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  The elect cannot do otherwise.  They do not want to do otherwise.

It may seem that this doctrine is a violation of man’s freedom of choice.  It is not.  Man is free to chose according to his nature.  In the natural, unregenerate state, man always chooses to not believe.  It is man’s natural desire to flee from God.  Man, until changed by divine grace, cannot do otherwise.  It is as if one jumped from an airplane: falling is an inevitable effect.

This why there must be a heart of flesh place into man before man can believe the gospel.  The heart of stone can do nothing other than reject the truth.  The heart of flesh can do nothing other than believe the truth.  It is the nature of the hearts that determines their action.

Irresistible grace is sometimes called effectual calling.  This is a good synonym because it emphasizes the effectiveness of the divine command upon the new heart.  The purposes of God are not thwarted by unregenerate man.  The new heart of man is designed to obey the divine command to believe.  The new heart always does what it is designed to do.

It is this calling, this application of grace, that enables man to respond.  Without such grace, man will give his natural response: rejection.  We see this in the account of the encounter of Nicodemus with Jesus in John 3.  Jesus explains how the new birth is necessary.

The effects of the new heart are given to us in Ezekiel 11:19-21:  “And I will give then one heart, and put a new spirit within them.  And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them.  Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.  But as for those whose hearts go after their detestable things and abominations, I will bring their conduct down on their heads,” declares the Lord God.

Here the effects of the new birth are evident: walking after the ways of God.  Also evident are the effects of not having a new birth: their “hearts go after their detestable things and abominations.”  It is a matter of will; it is just that nature determines will.  It can be no other way.  Will is not neutral.  It is determined by one’s nature.  This is why grace must be applied to the heart before the proper response to the gospel can be made.  With out this calling, this irresistible application of grace,  we would always go after “detestable things and abominations.”

The doctrine of irresistible grace follows from the doctrine of total depravity.  Since man is in a state of total helplessness, man cannot extricate himself.  Man requires what only God can give.  Let us be thankful that God does give it to those He loves!

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God Accomplishes His Purpose

Posted by heyrandy on September 4, 2008

In the TULIP acrostic, the “L” stands for limited atonement.  This doctrine states that the atoning death of Christ is only for the elect of God.  This is a controversial idea in much of Christianity.  It is commonly believed that Christ died for all men everywhere and in every time.  The Bible teaches that Christ died to redeem the ones given to Him by God.

Limited atonement is sometimes also called particular redemption.  That is, particular people, not everyone in general, benefit from the death of Christ.  The basic question addressed by the issue of limited atonement is whether Christ died to make salvation possible or to accomplish salvation.  This is the central issue.  It is not a question of whether Christ’s atoning death is unable or insufficient to save all men everywhere.  Christ was certainly able to accomplish this had it been the Father’s design to do so.  Proponents of particular redemption believe the Bible teaches that the death of Christ was designed from eternity to save those sinners that were given to Him by the Father.

Many objections to particular atonement are based on a faulty understanding of some well known scripture texts.  As with the misunderstanding of election, an appeal is made to those passages in the Bible that use terms such as “all”, “the world”, “every”, etc.  On first glance many of these text seem to teach a general atonement.  On closer examination it is seen that this is not so.  For example, 1 John 2:2 is often cited by those who oppose particular redemption.  Here it seems that John is saying that Jesus is the propitiation for all the sins of the entire world.  Does this mean that Jesus’ death paid the price for everyone?  If so, no one should perish.  This would be universal salvation, something the Bible does not teach.  The answer lies in the use of the word “world”.  Does John mean every person on the planet?  Or is John making a distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles?  Is John saying the atonement is local, for the Jew of Palestine, or also for the elect Gentiles throughout the world?

The same question of meaning must be make when the word “all” is encountered.  Does it mean everything, everyone?  When Paul said that “all things were lawful for him” (1Cor. 6:12, 10:23) he was not saying it was lawful for him to sin.  If “all” meant every person everywhere, when Paul wrote 1Cor. 15:22, “as in Adam all died, so in Christ all will be made alive,” he would be saying that all would be saved, hell would be an empty place, and the final judgment by God would be meaningless.

It is essential to keep in mind this idea of how the words are used when interpreting the universal sounding passages.  It is the mark of shallow Bible study to not go beyond first impressions of the text.  This is not to say that first impressions are necessarily wrong, but do not stop there.  Scripture is written with great depth of meaning.  It is a lifetime of study.  Much truth is missed because we do not press into more difficult areas.

Did Christ actually make an atonement for the sins of His people?  This is the fundamental question.  The scriptures teach that Christ did indeed make an atonement for those given to Him by the Father.  “I lay down my life for my sheep.” John 10:15.  Here we see Jesus describing the extent of His death: for His sheep.  A few verses later Jesus tell the Jews, “You believe not because you are not my sheep.” John 10:26.

In Ephesians 5:25-27, Paul tells us that Christ gave Himself for the Church.  It was not for the entire world, only for the Church that Christ died.

We see this also in John 6:37-40.  The Lord came to do the Father’s will.  All those given to Him by the Father would be redeemed; none would be lost.  Jesus came with the specific purpose to redeem those so predestined by the Father.

In Romans 8:28-39 Paul speaks of the certainty of salvation in Christ.  There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ.  In v. 32 he asks a rhetorical question:  “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”  The word “all” there refers to the redeemed, the Christians.  This is the all for whom Christ died.

We see the nature of the atonement in Christ’s name.  In Matthew 1:21 Joseph is told to name the child “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sin.”  In the name of Jesus is found both the particularity of the atonement and the doctrine of election.

The atonement of Christ is powerful.  It cancels the sin debt.  It frees the prisoners of sin.  Is saves to the uttermost.  It is the only means of salvation.  All people outside of Christ are condemned to eternal torment.  This is the just punishment for their sin.  The atoning death of Christ brings about the salvation of those God gave to His Son.  God accomplishes His perfect plan.

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Total Depravity: It’s the Way It Is

Posted by heyrandy on August 11, 2008

In the previous post that introduced this one, I mentioned that the five points of Calvinism could be easily remembered with the acrostic TULIP.  It is with the “T” that I am dealing in this posting.

The “T” stands for Total Depravity.  This important point is often misunderstood by many unfamiliar with the teachings of Reformed Theology.  By Total Depravity it is not meant that we are as bad as we can be.  It is quite true that most people do not do all the evil they are capable of.  If they did, there would be so many of us in prison that there would not be enough jail space.  It cannot be objected against this doctrine that “We haven’t murdered, raped, robbed, etc. like so and so.”  True, we have not, but we are nevertheless totally depraved.

Some of the confusion comes from the way that depraved is commonly used in English.  The word is often used to refer to a calloused attitude on the part of someone, a hardened wickedness, a lack of pity or mercy.  “With depraved indifference” is how some unusually heinous crime is described by the judge at the sentencing of a convicted criminal.

The Calvinists use depravity to indicate the state of man in relation to God.  The Calvinistic view of God and sin is such that any sin, no matter how minor in the our opinion, renders us subject to God’s righteous judgment and wrath.  God regards us as objects of His wrath.  Any sin transgresses the pure holiness of God.

Not only does depravity mean that we are standing under the judgment of God for our sin, depravity also means that we can do nothing about our state.  It is this idea of human helplessness that is at the heart of the issue of depravity.  We cannot change our state. We are immovably fixed in the state of sin and helplessness.  You are “dead in trespasses and sin” (Eph.2:1).  No amount of effort, no strenuous good doing, no amount of religious ritual will alter our state.  We are depraved.  God will not spare us.

In addition to the deadness in sin, depravity also has other effects.  To be part of the fallen mankind means to rebel against and abhor the things of God.  It is to reject God and all that is His.  This the unchangeable characteristic of natural man.  Natural man “does not accept the thing of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”  (1Cor. 2:14)  In this text the apostle expresses the great truths the man both cannot, not “will not”, understand the things of God, and man does not accept these thing because he regards them as foolishness.

Man is spiritually dead to God; man rejects what he hears of God; and man has not ability to understand the truth, because he regards it as foolishness.  It cannot get any worse in terms of effect, but in terms of affect it does get worse.  Satan has “blinded the minds of the unbelieving so they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  (2Cor. 4:4)  In addition to the natural inability and hostility of the unbelieving, there is the active effort of Satan to preclude man from believing.  This combination is deadly.

This sad state all began in the Garden of Eden with our first parents, Adam and Eve.  In Gen.3 we read of the temptation and fall of the first couple.  The effects of this sin were, and still are, profound.  We see in their actions immediately after they eat the forbidden fruit the effects of depravity.  They hid from God when they heard Him coming.  They lied and made excuses about what happened and how it happened.  We do the same thing.

There are no exceptions from this.  “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.” (Rom. 3:10-12)

I have discussed depravity, but not the “T” part, the Total.  What does it mean to be totally depraved?  It means that depravity is complete through out all of our being.  There is no area that is exempt from the effect of your sinning.  Total depravity means that all of our good works are contemptible, like “filthy rags”.  (Isa. 64:6)  These works not only do not justify us before God, they condemn us before God.

We live in an age of human potential.  We are constantly told that we have hope of improvement.  If we just had the latest perfect diet, exercise regimen, or a positive thinking attitude, we could be perfect.  Onward and upward.  This line of thought does not account for the fact of God’s pending judgment.  Self-improvement may make us feel better and give us an ephemeral earthly happiness, but it will never suffice before the throne of God on Judgment Day; it will not change our nature.  We are still totally depraved.

Total depravity reflects the fact of our true nature: that of a practicing sinner born as a sinner in Adam into a world that is cursed by sin.  It is this nature of a sinner that each of us gets from Adam and Eve that makes us so helpless before God.  We are dead and blinded.  We are incapable of receiving the truth as anything but foolishness.  It is impossible for any of us to change our nature.  It would be like a leopard changing its spots.  (Jer. 13:23)  We are stuck.  We are without hope in ourselves.

It is because of our depraved state that God takes the initiative.  Left to ourselves, we would be content to remain just as we are: dead in sin and rejecting the things of God as foolishness.  Without God’s prior regenerating grace we would never understand the Gospel.  Without God first opening our hearts, we cannot believe the gospel.  Praise Him that He does this!

We see the action of God in the conversion of Lydia (Acts 16:14) where God “opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”  Lydia was no different then than we are now.  We too need the opening of our hearts by divine action before we will believe the Truth.

Yet the Bible speaks of an even more radical transformation: the heart transplant.  In Ezekiel 11:19 the prophet tells of God’s action to remove from His people the “heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.”  The Apostle Paul speaks of confessing with the mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing “in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  (Rom. 10:19)  Without the heart first being made to believe, the heart is incapable of believing.  It is as dead as a stone.

The doctrine of depravity is no small matter.  It states the condition of fallen man.  It is because of this condition of helplessness, of rejection of the things of God, of inability to obey God that God must first act upon man.  Total depravity is the way it is.

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Tulips and Theology

Posted by heyrandy on July 30, 2008

The theology of the Reformation is often called Calvinism, after John Calvin, a reformer based in Geneva in what is now Switzerland.  There were other theologians of the Reformation such as Luther, but it is Calvin’s thinking that dominates.

Calvin’s influence is no surprise.  He was a brilliant man.  His writings were prodigious. He wrote a commentary on every book of the New Testament except Revelation.  His main work, however, was the Institutes of the Christian Religion. He was constantly expanding this book.  The book is a masterly exposition of Christian doctrine.  His thinking was so profound that he gained a wide audience outside of Geneva.  His writings are still read by many today.

Calvinism is often associated with five points, as in the five points of Calvinism.  The five points did not originate with Calvin.  In fact, the five points were not spoken of until after Calvin’s death.  The five points did not originate from Calvin’s successors at Geneva.  The five points are Dutch.

The five points are from a protest, a remonstrance, brought by followers of Jacob Arminius objecting to the Dutch church’s doctrine in five areas.  It is this objection brought by the Arminians, or Remonstrants as they are sometimes called, was settled by the a committee appointed by the Dutch Parliament.  The committee met in the Dutch city of Dort.  The Canons of Dort are the work of this committee.  The Canons of Dort deny the protest and reaffirm the validity of Calvinist doctrine as the correct interpretation of the Bible.  The Arminians were declared to be heretics.

The five points are usually remembered by the word TULIP.  This is rather neat because the tulip flower is often associated with the country of Holland. The five points are usually stated thusly:

Total Depravity

Unconditional Election

Limited Atonement

Irresistible Grace

Perseverance of the Saints

Since these matters are important regardless of one’s theological views, I am going to start a short series to introduce each of these points.  I hope to explain them to help people understand them.  There is much objection to Calvinism, much of it based upon a faulty understanding of these key ideas.  If you are going to intelligently object and disagree, you must have a correct understanding of the opposing view.

I am writing as one who holds the five points to be correct.  I believe that the five points portray the correct understanding of the teaching of the Bible.  The points are true, and they are TRUTH.  It is my purpose to magnify these ideas so all the world may know of the glorious truth of God.  To Him alone be all praise and glory!

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God is Sovereign in Human Salvation

Posted by heyrandy on January 1, 2008

When some of my Christian friends and I discuss the matter of divine sovereignty, they usually object when I assert the biblical teaching on God’s electing grace. My friends object that it is “unfair” for God to chose some to eternal life and not to choose others. Since we all are agreed that the Bible is the word of God and is authoritative in all matters, I have developed a list of question about those biblical texts that I think most clearly address divine sovereignty is salvation.

 

a) What is the relationship of evangelical obedience (faith and repentance) to regeneration? b) Does faith cause regeneration, or does regeneration cause faith and repentance? c) From where does evangelical obedience come? d)Is it self-generated or is it a gift from God? e) What is the meaning of Jn. 1:12-13? f) Is not human will excluded?

    a)What is the state of natural man with regard to spiritual things? b) Is fallen man just injured, or is he in a worse state? c)What state? d) How is this state changed? e)What is the meaning of Jn. 3: 19-21? f) Relate this passage to Rom. 8:7-8. g) How can natural man do anything to please God? h) What is the meaning of 1 Cor. 2:14? i)Why is it that he “cannot (not “will not”) know them”? j) What process is it that enables the natural man to regard the the preaching of the gospel as other than foolishness?

 

    a) Is it fair for God to give to some what He does not give to others? b) How does the gospel apply to the devil and his angels? c) What choice do they have? e) What choice did Lazarus have? (Jn. 11) f) What does this resurrection show? g) Why was only one man healed in Jn. 5? h) Why do only some of the dead hear the voice? h) Are any more dead than others?

 

    a) Where in scripture are the terms “world”, “all”, etc., used in a sense other than a universal? b) Why did he hate Esau? c) What is meaning of Prov. 16:14?

     

    a) If God will draw all men to himself, why do they not come? b) It does not say I will make it possible for all men to be drawn, but I will draw. d) Why were not many of the high and noble called? 1 Cor. 1:26 e) What are the implications for Jn. 12: 32?

 

    a) What is the meaning of Mt. 11:20-24? b) If they would have repented, why were the miracles not preformed there? c) How does Rom. 9:14-23 apply? d) Does this show that prescience is as determinative as predestination? e) If the Sodom residents had repented they would have been there; so why was the appointed method, foreknown to be successful, not used? f) Were they “vessels of wrath appointed for destruction”?

     

    a) What is the meaning of Jn. 10:26? b) If unbelievers are children of the devil who want to do the works of their father, how do they become sheep who can believe? c) Note: it does not say believe to become a sheep. d) Why? e) What is the meaning of Acts 13:48?

     

    a) Why was Isaiah sent to preach to people who were unable to believe? b) How is this text used in Jn. 12:40?

     

    a) What is the meaning of passages such as Prov. 21:1? b) Does God only direct the hearts of kings? c) One must believe from the heart, but how can one believe until the stony heart is changed to one of flesh (Ezk. 11:19, 36:26; Jer. 24:7)

     

    a) What is the relationship of 2 Cor. 4:4 to creation? b) What is it that produces light? c)How is it that light is produced in one person and not in another? d )What do natural men do to and with the light? What did Adam and Eve do once they sinned? Why?

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