Monday, November 17, 2014

Doctrines of Grace: Explaining Limited Atonement

I was listening to RC Sproul on RefNet this weekend. He was preaching John 17, the High Priestly prayer where Jesus asks to be glorified.

I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. (John 17:6)

Pastor Sproul went backwards for a moment to relate another verse in John, No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)

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Sproul briefly explained that their church (St. Andrews Chapel) was Reformed, noting the citation on the back of their church bulletin. He said that for those who were visiting or who had not gone to the new members class yet, he outlined the Reformation in a few sentences and quickly stated the five doctrines of grace that the Reformers (beginning with Martin Luther) had stood upon. It is widely known as an acrostic that spells the name of a familiar flower T - U - L - I - P.
T -- total depravity. This doesn't mean people are as bad as they can be. It means that sin is in every part of one's being, including the mind and will, so that a man cannot save himself.

U -- unconditional election. God chooses to save people unconditionally; that is, they are not chosen on the basis of their own merit.

L -- limited atonement. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was for the purpose of saving the elect.

I -- irresistible grace. When God has chosen to save someone, He will.

P -- perseverance of the saints. Those people God chooses cannot lose their salvation; they will continue to believe. If they fall away, it will be only for a time. (source)
A fuller explanation of unconditional election from the same source is as follows:
The second point inescapably follows from the first: since one is born totally depraved and enslaved to sin, one's ELECTION cannot be dependent or CONTINGENT on any spiritually worthy actions one commits. According to this point, God predestines or chooses to soften the hard, sin-enslaved hearts of certain fallen individuals and liberate them from their death not because of any merit they have but despite their demerits--i.e., He ELECTS to change their hearts (and thereby join them to Christ and His saving work) DESPITE the fact that they hate God and oppose Him and have hard hearts, not soft hearts, and have sin-enslaved wills, not free wills. Thus, believers have no reason to boast about themselves or their own actions: the only thing that differentiates them from Judas, Esau, or others who never respond in faith is that God gave them grace that He withheld from such reprobates (Calvinists cite, e.g., Ezek. 11:19-20; 36:26-27; Rom. 9:11-18; 1 Cor. 4:7; Eph. 2:8-10; cf. Jn. 1:13; 15:16; Acts 13:48; 16:14; 18:27; Phil. 2:13).
In a Q&A on RefNet after the sermon, Pastor Sproul was asked if it was "fair" that God chooses to elect some to salvation and not all.

What is "fair" is that we all deserve hell for our sins against God. Fair (justice) would be that all sinners would go to hell.

Alternately, taking the "fairness" issue to the extreme other end of the spectrum, what if God chose to elect all human beings to heaven, and none to hell? Is it fair that all humans who sinned receive a pardon? Where is the display of His justice? His wrath? His hatred of sin?

The middle road is that He elects some to heaven and some He leaves in their state of sin. Sproul posed the following question back, and I'll paraphrase:

If God decided to save all people, pardoning all sins for all people for all time, and leaving the person himself to decide whether to 'accept Jesus' or not, would that include the sin of unbelief? Yes, it would. So if the sin of unbelief has been paid for by Jesus, and a person dies without having believed, is it fair to punish them in hell for their sin that Jesus paid for?

Robin Schumacher wrote an essay titled, "Unlimited or Limited Atonement?" Schumacher said, "John Owen wrote what is perhaps the most definitive work on Christ's atonement in "The Death of Death in the Death of Christ",
"God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved.
... If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first, why then are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, 'Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.' But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it?
If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will." (page 61).
So once again, if God leaves salvation up to the individual's choice, and they do not choose Jesus, then Jesus paid for their sins for naught, and they are paid for twice. Yet...nothing God does is imprecise. Not a drop of blood that Jesus spilled is wasted. Not a moment of punishment in hell for the unbeliever is unwarranted. God is precise, fair, and just.

Not only is God fair, because God does it, it is fair. He is the very definition of fairness, the epitome of justice.

Schumacher concludes his essay this way,
>Dr. James White speaks to the simplicity and beauty of limited atonement when he says, "In its simplest terms the Reformed belief is this: Christ's death saves sinners. It does not make the salvation of sinners a mere possibility. It does not provide a theoretical atonement...Christ's death saves every single person that it was intended to save."
Calvin's doctrines of grace are in fact an answer to Jacobus Arminius, for whom the opposing viewpoint is named, Arminianism. In Arminianism, one can lose their salvation it is not secure.
Some Arminians, however, believe that mankind has so much influence in their own salvation that their actions can cause God to revoke it. They believe we must continually reject sin and live a godly life in order to maintain our position with God. (source)
Hence RC Sproul's wit regarding the daisy. He said,
"If you went to the new member class, you'll know the Reformed view. But if you don't, the acrostic flower stands for, Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the saints". This flower differs from the Arminian flower, the DAISY. Which is, 'He loves me, He loves me not..."
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Dear friends, if you are saved, it was not your choice, but Father God through Jesus. He saved you through no merit of your own, but to glorify Jesus. No one can snatch you from His hand, and your salvation is securely sealed within you, the Spirit being the deposit of this guarantee, until the Day. Our sovereign and merciful God is the author and finisher of our faith, and He keeps us in it until the time when all men are glorified in heaven. Then as Jesus prayed in His high priestly prayer,

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)

O, Jesus, we long to be with You, our High Priest, too!
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Further reading:

FMI: Calvinist Corner

Why I am a Calvinist, Part 1 (of 5)

What is Calvinism? Is Calvinism biblical?

32 comments :

  1. Honestly, Elizabeth, one thing about Calvinism that troubles me is the potter-clay defense. The problem is that every time I read Romans 9, I come away a little bit more convinced that Paul's potter-clay remarks don't apply to the salvation of individuals in a general sense.

    The reason I feel that way is because that's not what Paul is talking about in that passage of Scripture. He's talking to the Jews about God's sovereign choice of Isaac over Esau to continue the messianic line, which begs the question:

    Does God have the right to choose whomever He wishes to carry out His sovereign will?

    Answer: Of course He does, whether for good or evil. Nobody I know who disagrees with Calvinism believes otherwise.

    The problem I see is that when you generalize that idea to the salvation of individuals, the "whosoever wills" end up being forced to mean "whosoever God sovereignly chose according to His unknowable will." Not quite the same, in my opinion.

    I just don't clearly see from Scripture how the potter-clay argument from Romans 9 can be used as a solid defense of the belief that unconditional election does not violate God's justice.

    Not looking to argue...just my opinion.

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    1. Greg, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Every time I've been unsure of a doctrine, I have asked the Holy Spirit to help clarify it in my mind and to settle my heart. And He always has. This is His ministry.

      1 Cor 2:14, Eph. 1:17-18; 3:18-19; 2 Cor. 3:14-16; 4:6

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    2. I heard John MacArthur teaching on this subject years ago and it stopped me dead in my tracks...he said when we think God is unfair, we are in essence considering our own sense of fairness superior to His. God forbid! If we consider God unfair, it is our own sense of fairness which has been skewed by sin. Let God be true, and every human being a liar. (Romans 3:4)

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    3. First and foremost, Greg, recognize that Romans 9 puts it as a hypothetical: "WHAT IF God had predestined some to destruction?"

      It need not be the case--BUT, as he goes on to say, the logical conclusion is that God can not be judged unjust even if so!

      Consider this gedankenexperiment: Suppose no one is saved from the start; that all men are hell-bound. This is the Scriptural truth, no? Suppose that only those whom God actively saves are saved from hell. Again, core doctrine. So all whom God does not actively save are damned, because they were damned from the beginning. Suppose then that God by actively saving the saints, BY EXCLUSION chooses who will be damned, by default. Supposing that God knows who these damned will be ahead of time, then, God would have no major incentive for preserving the damned on earth as outwardly righteous people. Suppose then that God actively works to remove His grace from these people in such ways that they behave in a manner that undoubtedly identifies them as unregenerate, unrepentant and undeserving creatures. God's major action here then would not be one of qualitatively differentiating persons but mainly one of degree--those who are saved, He sanctifies, and those who are not saved, He does not sanctify--what is the opposite of sanctification? Deepening corruption.

      I think this might be a valid understanding of "22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,"

      How can there be longsuffering if the vessels identified are perfectly holy, or at least even more righteous than the vessels prepared for glory? No, obviously the longsuffering indicates that the vessels are "evil men going from worse to worse," actively "storing up wrath" for themselves, and so in the midst of this, does God act unjustly if He removes His Spirit from them so that their deeds might all the more demand their ultimate justice?

      I think that's a Reformed take on the word "foreknew" also. Free-willers like to think of it as "knowing beforehand that a person would choose Him," but I think it means "knowing someone intimately, from eternity past." Would God damn those He knows intimately, so as to call His children? No, for He says that those who come to Him He will never cast out. I think that in the mystery of God's atemporal being, He is saying in that passage that He knew from before we were born that He would have a loving father-child relationship with every saint, and that on the basis of this relationship that He chooses to initiate, He determined - perhaps even as an "afterthought" - to save that person, so that He would not condemn those He sanctifies. Nor would He do the opposite.

      Speculative theology, but I don't think I've said anything that contraverts doctrine. Now, you should always take the approach that if your understanding of mine or anyone else's words lead you to question a Scripture, then it is the human side that is wrong, and it is better to disregard it and focus on "the more sure word," so take what you can get out of this and leave the rest. I just rambled a little bit and offered a not-frequently-expressed nuance of an idea.

      Pardon the wall-of-text. :)

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    4. John MacArthur has a good series on the book of John that addresses these issues. One I just finished listening to is called Twin Truths:God's Sovereignty and Man's Responsibility. Basically you cannot take Romans 9 without Romans 10, the fact is God chooses us but holds us fully responsible for our unbelief. Parallel truths that we will not understand this side of heaven. It's great series, worth a listen.

      http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/43-15/twin-truths-gods-sovereignty-and-mans-responsibility?term=john%203:16

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  2. Paul's arguments are nothing more than showing God's choice for service - NOT salvation.

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  3. I agree with Greg and Glenn... Romans 9 is about God's choice of Israel for service, not a passage about individual salvation.

    As Ariel Ministries said regarding Romans 9, "Some take this passage and apply it to the individual in relation to his eternal salvation or condemnation, which wrests the Scriptures and forces upon them a meaning which they do not carry."

    -Carolyn

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    1. It is valid to identify that the context is of nations at that point, but equally valid to note that Paul does in fact use the term vessels, which does not seem to refer to nations but to the numerous individuals that make them up. And again, it's in the context of a hypothetical, so you don't have to believe that God does that, but at the same time the point of it is that you must recognize that God has that right and would be just to do it if it is the case that that is how He operates.

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  4. I'm not going to throw any more fuel on this little brush fire, because I know from bitter experience that it goes nowhere. I am perfectly happy to let Calvinists remain Calvinists, because I know they'll never be convinced otherwise. God bless them. And I greatly appreciate the same attitude from them, because neither will I ever be convinced otherwise.

    I am personally convinced that this is one of those issues where you just read the Word, shout "Glory!" and see it one way, or you just read the Word, shout "Amen!" and see it the other way. And in the vast majority of cases, it seems that never the twain shall meet on the issue. So be it.

    "I am happy to concede that there are things the God can resolve that I can't."
    --John MacArthur

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    1. I'm sorry Greg but this issue can be resolved and it has been. You simply refuse to believe it, or see it. Like pre-tribulation rapture.

      The only twain that cannot meet is man's understanding between God's sovereignty in His election of the saved, and man's responsibility for his sin.

      I was Ok until you used a quote by John MacArthur. It is from a blogger with a negative view of MacArthur, picking apart a Q&A MacArthur was in. The blogger dismisses MacArthur's experience, and picks apart his response, and in fact the context in which he said it was a joke, as an intro to explaining the tension between the election of the saved, and man's responsibility for his sin. MacArthur said of this tension,

      "I am happy to concede that there are things the God can resolve that I can't."

      It is something he has preached on and has said many times. He was NOT saying that the doctrine of election is a mystery or discerning it or understanding it from scripture is any dilemma to the Spirit-filled seeker of truth whatsoever.

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    2. Good point with identifying the proper nuance there, Elizabeth.

      Greg, there's no reason to be wary of Calvinism. As Spurgeon said, "it is a nickname to call it Calvinism, Calvinism is the Gospel, and nothing else." It was given that name ex post facto just like the name Protestant was given to us ex post facto and the name Christian was given to us ex post facto. It has been how the world sees us, but we have always been Biblical Christians.

      Calvinism, as presented by hostile witnesses, is always a worrying proposition at first, I should think. It took me a year of letting it simmer and seeking out different explanations available on-line before I finally submitted to full agreement, but what it was that really got me was not the persuasions of good theologians but the fact that everything they said was SOLIDLY supported by Scripture. I couldn't interpret the Bible any other way. And that is what finally led me to throw in on the side of the 'Calvinists.'

      You've just got to keep working at it. And like Elizabeth said, it is not something that can't be understood or resolved. Use your motivation to not be like the World, which rejects truth and doesn't try, and keep searching the Scriptures, praying and not neglecting to consult the wisdom of age and tradition--it can never supplant Scripture, but it can help point you to the right understanding thereof by its witness.

      That's my encouragement to you,

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  5. I'm afraid I honestly don't know what you're talking about. For the record, I got the quote here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NVaOWJijik

    Well, I sure don't want to quote the venerable Johnny Mac out of context, so let me try to a bit more clear. I was thinking more along the lines of the following:

    "Those statements defining God's sovereign choice of believers are not in the Bible to cause controversy, as if God's election means sinners don't make decisions. Election does not exclude human responsibility or the necessity of each person to respond to the gospel by faith. Jesus said, 'All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out' (John 6:37).

    "Admittedly the two concepts don't seem to go together. However, both are true separately, and we must accept them both by faith. You may not understand it, but rest assured--it's fully reconciled in the mind of God."

    -- John MacArthur, from "http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A191/Is-the-Doctrine-of-Election-Biblical"

    By the way, for what it's worth, I am 100 percent dispensational pre-mill pre-trib. I have no idea what I ever said that might have led you to believe otherwise.

    And please keep in mind that when you say such things, you're not just slapping around some clueless schmuck that wandered into your blog. I've got pretty thick skin...I can handle that. I pretty much saw it coming anyway.

    But you're also slapping around some of the finest preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ that ever cracked open a Bible and stood behind a pulpit. Fleshly, thick-headed reprobates devoid of the Spirit? I'm thinking no.

    Bottom line: I was trying to politely disagree. Obviously I failed. Sorry what I said provoked such an angry response.

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    1. Yes :

      "Admittedly the two concepts don't seem to go together. However, both are true separately, and we must accept them both by faith. You may not understand it, but rest assured--it's fully reconciled in the mind of God."

      that's what I was talking about. However election itself as a doctrine is biblical and it is clear. There is no mystery, and being confused can be cleared up by asking the Holy Spirit to clarify. I had hoped to leave the discussion at the former point, at the Spirit's doorstep in mentioning that the ultimate appeal for clarity is through Him.

      I'm not angry. Nor slapping around anyone. You "saw it coming" yet persisted anyway. Now who is provoking? :)

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  6. "Now who is provoking? :) "

    I wasn't trying to provoke you, Elizabeth. Honestly. I just felt compelled to say what I said, all the while knowing I'd likely end wishing I'd kept my mouth shut. :)

    Yes, I understand the Bible teaches election. Clear as day. Never said it didn't. But I believe it also teaches our responsibility to respond to the gospel and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I just think it's wrong to separate those as if the former had to nullify the latter, which is what I perceive Calvinism doing. And I think that's what JM was trying to point out. John MacArthur is right. We CAN'T reconcile those. But both exist and are reconciled in the mind of God. I have no problem with that.

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    1. Well then I'm in the wrong, and I apologize. Please forgive me if I offended you...

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    2. Elizabeth, my dear sister in Christ, there is nothing whatsoever to forgive. I'm the one who should be apologizing to you for my (apparently congenital) snarkiness.

      It's just that people like me view the resolution between God's sovereignty and man's free-will choice in a way that disagrees with what Calvinism traditionally teaches. I'm sure I'm just expressing it clumsily.

      If you or anyone else cares to know *exactly* what I personally believe about the issue of God's sovereignty vs man's free will, take a couple of minutes to read the following short article entitled "The Gospel According to Schroedinger's Cat" by Wendy Wippel, molecular biologist and regular contributor to the Omega Letter. I've never seen it expressed any more clearly or succinctly:

      http://www.omegaletter.com/articles/articles.asp?ArticleID=7761

      If anyone disagrees with this or views it differently, that's fine. If you deem her to be a heretic peddling vile heresies spawned in the pit of hell, no problemo. If you're convinced that she (along with all the scripturally illiterate ninnies that have fallen for such putrid lies) will fry in the flames of hell for eternity, so be it.

      Now, if any Calvinists out there reading this wonder why people react with such intense negative emotion to unconditional election the way it's taught by Calvinism, I think I can help you out with that:

      What Calvinists say: "If you would just read the Scripture and let the Holy Spirit speak to your heart, you'd be able to see that unconditional election as taught by Calvinism is right and biblical and truly the gospel."

      But...what non-Calvinists hear: "If you'd just read the Scripture and let the Holy Spirit speak to your heart, you'd be able to see that our loving, holy, just God is really a capricious monster up in heaven playing solitary games with the sentient beings He created like so many sock puppets."

      Now, obviously we don't believe that, and down deep we *know* that you don't either...so put the pitchforks down. But that's where non-Calvinists see Calvinism dragging them, and that's why we tend to start kicking and screaming (and refuse to listen).

      Or put another way:

      What Calvinists say: "I have a number of verses of Scripture written out that will prove to you once and for all that unconditional election as taught by Calvinism is right and biblical. If you'd like, I'd be happy to go over them one by one."

      But...what non-Calvinists hear: "I have a wonderful 10-page mathematical proof that 1 + 1 = 3. Every step is rigorously backed up with rock-solid logic, and if you follow along I know you'll be convinced. If you'd like, I'd be happy to go over it with you line by line."

      Again, that's why we tend to start kicking and screaming (and refuse to listen).

      For the record, I have no interest in trying to get anyone to abandon Calvinism. I'm not trying to convince anyone I'm right and they're wrong. Why should I? I believe my view is in line with what God's Word teaches, and that's the only thing that counts.

      I know others feel the same way about Calvinism, and that's fine. I'm content to let the Lord straighten it all out for us when we get to heaven.

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    3. But...what non-Calvinists hear: "If you'd just read the Scripture and let the Holy Spirit speak to your heart, you'd be able to see that our loving, holy, just God is really a capricious monster up in heaven playing solitary games with the sentient beings He created like so many sock puppets."

      Greg, I hope I'm not going where angels fear to tread, but may I please just point out something for you to consider? Even though I believe in the doctrine of election, I do struggle sometimes with how it all works out in an existential sort of way...but I realize what always trips me up is my view of who God is. I'd like to think that I have the right view, based on a lifetime of solid teaching and 30 years of personal study, but I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that my old nature and its way of thinking exerts itself continually. My idea of fairness is one of these ways.

      Your comment above seems to be an example of this...what you hear is based on what your view of God is...but isn't it possible that your view is based more on human reasoning than Scripture? The Word of God is replete with stories throughout of God seemingly playing solitary games with the sentient beings He created - Job being perhaps the ultimate example.

      We might not like the idea that God would treat us so, but His ways are not our ways.

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    4. I would have to say that what it was that gave me the most personally convincing proof (apart from Scripture--it was obvious after a time that the Bible taught such and such, but it was a different matter to subsume the knowledge) of Total Depravity, and as a result of that, Unconditional Election (which essentially follows from the former. If election is not unconditional, man is not totally depraved, and works-based soteriology is possible), was personal experience. I had to have my assumption that other people approached truth claims the way I do totally shattered. I had thought that others would want to know what was true, more than they would want to feel comfortable, but in hindsight I think that was an evident sign of God's drawing me to salvation, that I had such a clearheaded contemplation of reality and didn't make worldview decisions on the basis of feelings quite on the level that the World does. So in my dealing with people, I was depressingly forced to admit, again and again despite much striving, that men really truly do not care about the truth. Total Depravity is true and the evidence is in any unrepentant sinner confronted with the Gospel. Witness the irrationality, Behold the inability to will to be saved! And because they have no interest in seeking the true God, they could not ever believe in Him so as to be save, *without* His prior action to convert their will (Spurgeon says as much in a well-laid-out sermon on the subject).

      If you have trouble with unconditional election, my recommendation is to engage with unrepentant sinners in large groups, especially academics. Try to reason with them. And don't forget the Gospel. Watch the intelligence turn to ignorance before your eyes. And stand amazed, and believe that God's salvation is a mystery in how it works, but undeniable as a fact set in stone, THAT it does work.

      That's my 'advice.' Not to imply I'm superior in faith. Just offering an encouragement through my unique experience for the edification of the Body.

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  7. Most Christians I know seem to believe that election is really just foreknowledge of who will respond to the gospel. I've wondered for years why they don't understand that if God has foreknowledge of events, by default He is electing them to happen by allowing them to happen. You really can't get away from the sovereignty of God. It is just our sense of "fairness" that prevents us from acknowledging it.

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    1. "I've wondered for years why they don't understand that if God has foreknowledge of events, by default He is electing them to happen by allowing them to happen."

      ...and I'm content to let the Lord straighten *that* out for you when *you* get to heaven. =:)

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  8. Actually, since all are born spiritually dead and do not respond to the Gospel unless God in His grace draws them, then all would die in their sin. And God would be just and we would get what we deserve. But God in His mercy, before the foundation of the world, before your feet ever hit the planet, elected some people for His own, by grace, and Jesus came down and died for them. That is why He is seen as the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. The Trinity had a plan of God, Jesus executed it and the Holy Spirit seals it. They were not making an attempt to get people to choose. Christ saves His people. So He has known who we are from before the foundation of the world. That is why we come when he calls. He chose us first. Call ie what you will but that, my friends, is what the Bible calls the Sovreignty of God. Jesus Christ did not go out ineffectually or go out to pay the sin penalty for those who will end up in the lake of fire.
    This is proven in John 15:16.
    God has made his choice and you are either a seed of the serpent or a seed of the woman.
    It's amazing that God chose anyone!
    So don't give yourself glory for choosing God for He shares His glory with no one. Alleluia what a savior!
    Pam

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  9. Nowhere is Scripture will you find that mankind is UNABLE to respond to the Gospel, or UNABLE to seek God. That idea came from Augustine and was regurgitated by Calvin.

    It is NOT giving glory to self to choose for God. Choosing God gives glory to God.

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    1. Glenn, it is in scripture. Calvin brought that out after it was hidden by the Catholic Church. He did not regurgitate anything but preached what had always been there.

      John 6:44, Jesus says, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up on the last day (KJV)."

      Man is totally unable to come to God. Man cannot save himself- we cannot choose Him because we're dead.

      Ephesians 2:1a also

      Man is also spiritually blind (John 3:3) and spiritually deaf (Acts 16:11-15). He cannot see, hear, or comprehend spiritual things, so he is unable to come to Christ. He does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12)

      It is God who enables us to respond. When it is His timing, then we respond. If He did not do it we never would

      If we choose Christ I can boast in self-glorification. I chose Jesus at age 42, years before such and such a person did. Another may say, well, I chose Christ when I was 6, so I must be more spiritually discerning than you. And they both can say, we're more discerning and smart than the man who chose Christ at age 56, or 75.

      God is the author of our faith and the finisher. He does it from start to finish, from blank page to coffin.

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    2. Another applicable verse is I Corinthians 2:14:

      But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

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  10. Glenn, those who respond do so because they were chosen in eternity past by a sovreign God. They have ears to hear and the rest cant. But they are still held responsible. God knows His people and they know His voice when He calls. All mankind would be unable to choose God and would get their just due if God, in His great mercy had not elected some for salvation. We don't know who they are so that is why we preach the Gospel to all and those with the ears to hear respond. Glenn, you chose God because He had mercy on you before He formed the world and chose you.
    Don't you see the beauty in that? You couldn't do anything to gain that or lose it because you hadn't even been put in the planet yet. God's plan was to bring glory to Himself and His Son for saving wretches like you and me. It's all of mercy and grace, Glenn.
    You believed because you were chosen. God's Sovreignty in choice or election is evident from the very beginning of the Bible.
    For me, I feel secure in God knowing He made the decision and I believed Him. Glenn, He even gives us the faith to believe!
    What amazing grace!
    Pam

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  11. Thanks for all the assertions, Pam. I don't know how you can feel secure, since you CANNOT know if you are one of the elect. CANNOT!

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    1. We can, Glenn, because the elect are the saved. Before we are saved, you're right, we don't know if we are one of God's elect (sheep/saved/saints). Additionally, Post salvation, when we witness to someone who is not saved, we do not know if they will become one of God's sheep. However the saved know when we have become saved. We know our Shepherd's voice. (John 10:27). We can discern spiritual things. (1 Cor 2:14). We test ourselves to see that we are in the faith.(2 Cor 13:5)

      "the fact that believers are elect is indisputable (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:4-5, 11; 1 Thessalonians 1:4). Belief is evidence of election." Source FMI,
      Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/one-of-the-elect.html#ixzz3JoQi7aUu

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    2. Thanks for the nuance, Elizabeth. I get that criticism from unbelievers often. But the distinction is that we can't know for absolute certain *the state of someone else's salvation*, but we can know our own. Of course, one can be self deceived, but there are ways to know that, too, so that hurdle can be overcome.

      I take the inexplicable changes in desires (mark, not outwardly monumental like the total loss of sexual appetite, as might be desirous) such as the joy that comes from discovering a new brother or sister in Christ, or the urge to preach the Gospel, or the deep anguish over sin and tearful gratefulness over God choosing me despite myself -- these are emotions, yes, but mark, I'm an INTJ/P on the 'myers-briggs' spectrum, and am "not emotional." I predominantly perceive emotions as something that happens to me, that I experience, not mainly as a part of who I am or how I think about things. So the fact that these emotions come seemingly out of nowhere lead me to believe, based on the evidence, that they are Spirit-manifested outworks of sanctification, and they give me GREAT reason to rejoice, because it assures me that I am saved.

      So yes, we can know whether we ourselves are saved. We can be fairly confident about others based on evidence, but never to the point of absolute certainty in the same way that God can, and most of all, since we don't know the future, we don't know who God will choose, and thus there is no reason to withhold preaching from anyone.

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  12. Interestingly, our adult Sunday School class started studying I Peter last week and we didn't get past verse 2 because of the doctrine of election, so we've spent the last two weeks discussing it. It seems basically there are two things that trip people up: one, that it seems to make God a monster, and two, the verses that talk about God wanting all men to be saved (I Timothy 2:4, II Peter 3:9, I John 2:2, Acts 17:30-31, II Corinthians 5:14-15, and even John 3:16). As for the first point, I've already commented that our sense of fairness is tainted with sin and cannot be a accurate judge of God's "fairness." But the verses are difficult to understand in light of other Scriptures that seem to contradict them. When my husband and I were discussing this on the way home this afternoon, he made a statement that I think is brilliant...it might be overly simplistic, but here it is: God loves everyone and it is in His heart that they not perish, but for whatever reason that may only be known to Him, that isn't what's right.

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    1. Very well stated, thank you!

      When I read those verses, I take the "all" to mean all those He chose, not all the people who ever lived. Otherwise it would mean that God failed. If He wills none shall parish and some perish, then...and we know that cannot happen so the all means all He has deemed since before the foundation of the world as elected to salvation.

      FWIW, John Piper wrote the following

      Are There Two Wills in God?
      Divine Election and God's Desire for All to Be Saved
      http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/are-there-two-wills-in-god

      My aim here is to show from Scripture that the simultaneous existence of God's will for "all persons to be saved" (1 Tim. 2:4) and his will to elect unconditionally those who will actually be saved is not a sign of divine schizophrenia or exegetical confusion. A corresponding aim is to show that unconditional election therefore does not contradict biblical expressions of God's compassion for all people, and does not nullify sincere offers of salvation to everyone who is lost among all the peoples of the world.

      ...

      Nevertheless I will try to make a credible case that while the Arminian pillar texts may indeed be pillars for universal love, nevertheless they are not weapons against unconditional election.

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