Saturday, April 4, 2015

Understanding the Doctrines of grace in the face of the death, burial, & resurrection of Christ

This Holy weekend we focus on the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I offer these thoughts and this sermon by Phil Johnson which is actually a brief overview of church history with a focus on the doctrines of grace, which most people know as 'Calvinism'. Initially one may wonder how these two streams of thought are intertwined, but as you will see, they are intertwined so tightly that a clearer understanding of Jesus and the faith he secured for us through His death, burial, and resurrection will be made manifest.

Perceiving that Christ is in total control of each and every salvation, through understanding these biblical doctrines, will hopefully do several things in the reader's and listener's heart. One, is that the dear reader will never, ever again use the terrible phrase, "decisions for Christ." We do not decide to become a Christian. The author and finisher of our faith is Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 12:2).

Secondly, on this most precious of weekends, understanding the biblical doctrines of grace will offer a clearer view of Jesus and His love for humanity. Here is a very good teaching by Phil Johnson. He gives an overview of church history which illustrates when the eruption between the two camps originated. It was 410AD. The two camps are: we decide for Jesus vs. God's sovereignty in salvation AKA Pelagianism vs. Calvinism. Hopefully, you will understand that the opposite camp, Pelagianism, minimizes the seriousness of sin and nullifies the need for Divine grace. This weekend is about grace!

Pelagianism was declared heresy in 430 AD. Yet its ideas remained, modified somewhat, and then was called Semi-Pelaginaism. This also was declared heresy in 529 at the Council of Orange. Still not firmly stamped out, strains of Semi-Pelagianism ideas advanced and nowadays modern Arminianism is the result of those debates from earlier centuries. If you hear the phrases walk the aisle, pray a prayer and decide for Christ, it's from Arminianism.

The synopsis of Johnson's teaching is below. I'm sorry, I was not able to find a transcript. It is audio only with powerpoint slides.

I want to emphasize, WE DO NOT DECIDE FOR CHRIST. On this most important of weekends, understand who Jesus is and what His death, burial and resurrection means, by understanding the full expression of His work in authoring and finishing our faith. Phil Johnson biblically lays this out.
Calvinism is not some quirky anomaly in the history of Christianity. It is not a recent departure from  the mainstream that is headed off in some bizarre direction. The truth is these ideas have always belonged to the mainstream of sound theology throughout church history. It is one of the distinctive doctrines of Christianity itself. It is the anchor of sound doctrine that our faith is the result and not the cause of God's work in our hearts. ~Phil Johnson

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Synopsis of the teaching-sermon: The Christian doctrine of 'Election' has caused more difficulties to believers than any other. It is indeed one of the most frequently misunderstood of all Biblical teachings. Many have been distressed by what they think this teaching means. But rather than causing Christians concern, this doctrine is actually one that should fill believers with comfort and a much better grasp of the great and sovereign God that they serve. ... a very helpful overview of Calvinism and its history, which actually sets the doctrine of election in the context of the Biblical teaching with which it is most commonly associated. Once correctly understood, election is seen to be actually a demonstration of the Lord's love for his people. These two recordings will be a great help to those who are struggling to understand this most difficult, yet wonderful, doctrine.
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Guest introduction by R. Craig Fulford:

Given it is Easter weekend you might expect me to post a tremendously dynamic sermon on the resurrection. But I’m not!

Instead I have chosen to share with all of you a sermon delivered by Phil Johnson entitled “The Story of Calvinism”. Now before you run screaming for the exits, allow me to explain.

For the most part, in today’s Church environment, any mention of the term Calvinism is met with an almost automatic response of “thrown up hands” and criticism. And that has been the result of many years in Biblical doctrine being compromised in favor of the belief that somehow man is in control and can make his own decision about whether or not he will accept God’s grace and His gift of salvation. The belief that a lost and spiritually dead man somehow has the “free will” to control his own salvation is now epidemic.

Phil does a tremendously effective job of diffusing the animus which exists between those who adopt the Arminian (Synergistic) view and those who are committed to the Monergistic (Reformed) view. Or at least he makes a strong attempt in trying to accomplish that goal without sacrificing Biblical truth.

Monergism says that the Holy Ghost acts independently of the human “will” in the work of regeneration. Monergism is the position in Christian theology that God, through the Holy Spirit, works to bring about the salvation of individuals through spiritual regeneration without any cooperation (interference) from the individual.

Synergism is the position of those who hold that salvation involves some form of cooperation between divine grace and human “free will”. Synergism is upheld by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches and by the Methodist, Episcopal, Charismatic and Pentecostal traditions of Protestantism. It is an integral part of Arminian theology and is simply the belief that the human can and might choose to cooperate (influence) with the Holy Ghost in His “work” of regeneration.

It’s important to note that “free will” is never once mentioned in Scripture nor is the concept. I know, neither is the “Trinity” but the truth of that concept is unmistakably taught.

So, you must be asking yourself, are there born again believers in churches that have adopted the Arminian doctrine? And if God has already pre-destined those who will be born again, why should Christians ever bother to witness? I mean, “What difference does it really make”?

Listen to Phil’s message and see the slides to have these kind of very serious questions answered! It only seems appropriate, while our minds are on His resurrection this weekend, to examine what it means to us as sinners in need of a Savior. It is too important that we understand what His sacrifice and victory over death represents to get it wrong!

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Particular atonement: Christ's death had a particular purpose, and a special reference for the elect, so that God's design was first of all to save them, and Christ's death secured the guarantee of their salvation. Christ's death accomplished everything God designed it to accomplish. ~Phil Johnson





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Further Reading:

Altar Calls: Why You Should Refuse to Walk the Aisle part 1, and 2, and 3.

What is 'decisional regeneration?'

A holy Saturday


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