Recently I began teaching a class at my local church, which I titled “Confident Evangelism without a PhD in Apologetics.” This is Week 5: Confidence in our Faith Leads to Meek Apologetics. I think you’ll really resonate with this one, my friends. In this lesson we hit on some key points regarding God’s sovereignty. Continue reading
Will God allow His children, born from His own Spirit, adopted into His family in Christ, and indwelt by His Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance (Eph. 1:14)… to apostatize and lose their justified, beloved place in His sight?
Understand what is at stake: Many who love Christ, His Word, His promises, and His gospel nonetheless teach that the regeneration unto eternal life is revocable upon crossing certain boundary markers. Put another way, they teach us that Christ has no sure hold on His people – any one of us could apostatize, lose our justified standing before the Father, who disowns us, the Holy Spirit leaves us, and we are once again headed for hell.
This is detrimental to the Christian understanding of salvation.
What would Romans 8 (Paul’s magnum opus on Christian security in Christ) look like if God actually let His children lose their faith and die under His wrath? It would be ugly – check it out:
I have been meditating on Christ’s promises to His people that He will never leave us or forsake us (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5-6).
In my decade long life in Christ, I have learned much and grown much in my knowledge of the Bible, but nothing has comforted me and created more joy in me than the promise that I cannot lose the grace of forgiveness that God has given me.
I want to hone in on Romans 8:28. In regarding this verse of Scripture, we can see that the clear testimony of the Holy Spirit is that those He has called are never lost, but will always remain the people of Christ. Let’s soak in this joy together.
Three excellent translations of the verse:
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (NASB)
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (NKJV)
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ESV)
The NASB draws from a slightly different ancient manuscript tradition than the NKJV and ESV. Let’s look at it first before the latter two, treating the three as a harmony, and like a jewel being turned in the light.
“And we know that…” Paul/the Holy Spirit is giving us assurance of the knowledge of the information in this clause. For the Christian, there is no doubting what will be said hereafter.
“…God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…” So then, for the Christian, we can always fall back on this sure knowledge: there is nothing outside of “all things” – and praise God, He “causes” everything that happens to “work together for good” for His people. Nothing is outside of God’s sovereign, gracious control. When there are calamities both within our lives and in the world at large, God is actively orchestrating and allowing these “all things” for the good of “those who love God,” which is another way of saying “Christians.” Continue reading
Our brother the Seeking Disciple posted 6 questions for Calvinists. I answered them in the best way I can, as someone not-quite Calvinist. Check it:
Rather than “Calvinist,” I qualify more so as monergist, or sovereign grace Baptist. Here’s my best attempt.
Arminian question #1. Why preach ‘repent or perish’ when the non-elect can’t repent and the elect can’t perish?
A) Because God is worthy of the repentance of every man, woman, and child on earth, and to command anything less would be to lessen His holy Law.
B) Because God uses means to accomplish His plan, and in order for His people to be saved, we must preach the gospel, and even lay down our lives to reach every tribe on earth
(2 Tim. 2:8-10 8 Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, 9 for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.)
C) Because Christ commanded it, and Christ is more loving than we can imagine. The preaching of the gospel is an expression of His love to every person, and His desire that all people would come to repentance. It is an error of rationalism to conclude that because God desires all people to come to repentance that therefore He makes equal provision for all. (More on that below.) Our hearts ought to be content in trusting our Father, that since He loved the world in such a way that He gave His only Son, that therefore every living person is a potentially “elect” person, and ought to be commanded and loved and plead with to enter the kingdom through repentance and faith. That is Calvinism as I know it, and as I practice it.
Arminian question #2. How can God hold the non-elect responsible for ‘not believing’ and damn them for it, when He deliberately did not give them the faith to enable them to believe in the first place?
The foundation of this question is flawed. God holds people responsible for knowing Him and suppressing that knowledge in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18-21). Try asking this: how could God hold the angels who rebelled responsible for their continued rebellion when He sent them no Savior or redemption? Is that fair? The Calvinist (or monergist like me) does his best to refrain from putting God on the witness stand to be judged and questioned – and we marvel that not only are a few saved, but as John sees in Revelation, a sea of people are with Christ, too numerous to count. Hallelujah!
Arminian question #3. If Christ has already made an efficacious atonement for the sins of an elect person, is that elect person actually lost during the period prior to their being saved?
Yes. Eph. 2:3 we were once the children of wrath. Calvinists who believe in eternal justification are in serious error. Also, Calvinists in general do not express the atonement in a fully biblical language, in my understanding. Christ died for everyone, and the Father applies the atonement to whom He will. (This makes me a 4.5 pointer I think).
Arminian question #4. During the period before an elect person gets saved, how are they condemned already (for not believing) when their unbelief (which is a sin) has already been paid for by Christ on the cross?
Instead of rationalism, I choose a biblical doctrine to shape my thinking. Although Jesus atoned for all (or all the elect as Calvinists say), it is not effectual for their justification until applied by the Spirit, and when they repent and trust in Christ. To force eternal justification is to do major violence to all sorts of orthodox biblical categories.
Arminian question #5. If repentance is a gift only given to the elect, what did Jesus mean when He said that some of the people in hell would have repented if they had had the same opportunity as the people to whom He preached?
God knows in His wisdom exactly what type of application is needed from person to person to regenerate them. We have to take the statement at face value. Let’s turn it a little: If God knew what it would have taken for those in hell to have repented, why didn’t He do it? A blatant proof text for monergism/Calvinism.
Arminian question #6. Why does the Spirit of God strive and convict some sinners who later prove, by dying and going to hell, that they were non-elect? What is the purpose of such movings of the Spirit?
I believe (and this is piercing into the secret counsel of God a little bit Deut 29:29) that He is demonstrating His mercies and also the guilt/depravity of His enemies, that though they are given access to all the covenant graces of Christ, yet without His decisive, effectual grace of regeneration, they will ultimately persist in unbelief and sin. In a word, demonstration.
Grace in Christ,
I will be writing on the doctrines of grace as much as possible in coming days and months. This post will deal with the Perseverance of the Saints, as it is known in Reformed theology. This post is simply one facet of this glorious doctrine, I am not trying here to speak comprehensively of all the Bible says about it.
Salvation is of Yahweh (Jonah 2:9)
If salvation is something you can attain or earn, then it is definitely something you can lose and fall away from.
But if it is not your salvation in the first place, then it is an entirely different situation. Consider the Christian doctrine of the Preservation of the saints, seen through the eyes of an Old Testament sinner.
Sung to the Key of Grace
King David raped Uriah’s wife and then had him murdered to cover it up when she was pregnant. After being confronted by the prophet Nathan, David was broken for his terrible sins, and sought repentance. Among other wonderful lines in Psalm 51, he prayed like this:
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. (NKJV)
Whose salvation did David have? The salvation of the God of Israel. Elsewhere, David praises God like this:
3 Iniquities prevail against me;
As for our transgressions,
You will provide atonement for them.
4 Blessed is the man You choose,
And cause to approach You,
That he may dwell in Your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
Of Your holy temple.
Here we see a prophecy of the cross-work of Jesus (v. 3), a vocalization given to divine election (v. 4a), and the resultant preservation of the saints in fellowship with God (v. 4b).
And in another place, David rejoices in the nature of God’s forgiveness when he sings
1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man to whom Yahweh does not impute iniquity…
Notice the “Blessed”s like in Psalm 65 above? Connect the dots of grace here. Blessed people are chosen, atoned for, transgressions forgiven, sin covered, and their iniquity is not counted (imputed) to them! God removes all of the enmity between Him and us in order to bring us to Himself.
Do you really think He would then leave the perseverance up to us after all He has done to make us His children?
He Keeps us SO THAT We Remain in Him
God’s work in saving people from the penalty of their sins is God’s work. The worker in salvation gets the glory, and the preserver in salvation gets the glory. It’s all of Him!
Often the question from Christians is “can I lose my salvation,” or, “can those who are truly born again fall away and end up in hell?” I’ve asked the question, and so have you if you are a believer.
My Lutheran brothers and sisters maintain that a truly regenerated believer in Christ can lose his salvation if he stops believing in Christ.
Similarly (but not the same doctrine as the Lutherans), many Arminians of all denominations teach that a Christian can lose their salvation, but with the added pressure of having to make the decision to be born again in the first place.
Not So, Friends
For the sake of brevity, I just want to say this: the eternal covenant of God to save His elect, the atoning work of Christ to purchase those the Father had given Him, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption are bonds of love and power that only one Being is strong enough to break, and you ain’t Him.
I’ll leave off today with the reassuring words of Jesus concerning us, His people.
37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
I praise You, Jesus my Lord.
Thanks for reading,
In late 2002 the Lord Jesus opened my heart to receive Him, and I was born again. In early 2007 the Lord Jesus opened my eyes to see that salvation is all God, and nothing of me.
Of course, I would have mouthed the credit to Him before that point, as grateful as I was, and as wretched as I was before I was saved, but I didn’t know what kind of salvation had really happened to me.
From monergism.com –
The Century Dictionary defines it as follows:
“In theology, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration – that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration.”
I could not cooperate in my regeneration, I had no part in the choice to be saved, I take no credit for even not resisting the work of the Holy Spirit. There is one thing I take credit for in having become a true Christian: the wretched sinfulness and rebellion in my nature and actions that made my rescue necessary. That’s all I contributed.
The Holy Spirit Himself is the single, active agent in the moment of initial salvation for all who are redeemed. Our response to being born again is repentance of sin (imperfect as it is), and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (who He is and what He has done).
That’s monergism – and that’s pure, beautiful, joyous Christian truth.
Some Technical Definitions
I look forward to expressing on this site a strong love of God’s sovereign grace. To be precise, I am not a Calvinist, and I am not Reformed. To be one or both of those, one has to subscribe to the Reformed and Calvinistic confessions of faith such as the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Confession of Faith.
As expressed in those dynamite confessions, Calvinism includes covenant theology and the baptism of infants. Without those elements and the ecclesiology of the Reformed confessions, one is not truly Reformed.
I myself am still working through the points of covenant theology (of which I am oh so close to agreement), and the resultant wet infants of the Reformed churches. With that said, this citizen of New Jerusalem is a hearty, happy Protestant, and this site will feature much more clear delineation of the doctrines of sovereign grace as the days go on.
I believe the doctrine Christ’s Church needs to be preaching in this hour of history is that solid old monergism that broke the stranglehold of Rome over the Church 500 years ago.
Be sure to subscribe to receive an e-mail when the Citizen posts, and help me develop my thinking as I grow with you in the grace and truth of our wonderful Savior Jesus the Messiah.
I’ll leave you with some gold for your pockets.
Thanks for reading,
“If our religion be of our own getting or making, it will perish; and the sooner it goes, the better; but if our religion is a matter of God’s giving, we know that He shall never take back what He gives, and that, if He has commenced to work in us by His grace, He will never leave it unfinished.”
” …the conversion of a sinner being not owing to a man’s self determination, but to God’s determination, and eternal election, which is absolute, and depending on the sovereign Will of God, and not on the free will of man; as is evident from what has been said : and it being very evident from the Scriptures, that the eternal election of saints to the faith and holiness, is also an election of them to eternal salvation; hence their appointment to salvation must also be absolute, and not depending on their contingent, self-determining Will.”
“For non-reformed theologies…”at the end of the day, the security of the believer finally rests with the believer. For those in the opposite camp [Reformed], the security of the believer finally rests with God — and that, I suggest, rightly taught, draws the believer back to God himself, to trust in God, to a renewed faith that is of a piece with trusting him in the first place.”
The Bible “locates unbelief in the total inability of sinners to effect their own liberation from the bondage of the will, and … locate faith in the unconditional election, redemption, and effectual calling of the triune God alone. God gives not only sufficient grace (that is, enough grace to enable sinners to respond positively to God if they choose to do so), but efficient grace (that is, regeneration as well as faith and repentance as gifts).”
– Michael Horton The Christian Faith, pg. 562
In my last post, I argued that moral improvement is not why God saved you, as if somehow God’s goal in creating humans was to get us to behave correctly.
In other words, Christian salvation according to the Bible is not initiated by God in order to simply clean the mud off our trousers. He saves His people primarily to glorify Himself, and to give us gifts of infinite joy and eternal life with Him. That’s the goal, a la Ephesians 1:3-14 (noting my bold emphases):
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (NKJV)
His purpose is to glorify Himself. And shouldn’t He? He is the greatest being and Person in all existence, and nothing compares to Him. It’s great news that our salvation is aimed at lifting our eyes to Him; the best gift that grants ultimate joy!
And Yet He Saves Us to Improve Our Moral Standing
God’s love for us (in Christ) is unconditional. Let’s get that straight – He loves us because He loves us because He is love because He is God (cf. Deut. 7:7-8). There’s no way out of that circle of divine, mysterious graciousness. Yet in this unconditional love, He loves in such a way that He will change our inner man. We were, after all, “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29).
Saved to be changed, conformed into an image that was previously marred in us – malformed in sin as we are conceived in Adam the sinner. The image of God in which we were originally created has been overshadowed and defaced by sin – and yet in love God predestines His people to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, who is the image of God. To say it simply, He loves us too much to see us remain in sin and defacement, because He loves His glory too much for us to take His name in vain through unrepentant, sin-filled living (Ezk. 36:16-32ff.; Heb. 12:5-11).
Once we grasp the balance here – that we are loved perfectly in Christ no matter our sins, and that we are loved in order to be changed morally – then we can live the Christian life with joy and confidence! We can now live knowing
I am a terrible, wicked sinner who is completely forgiven and loved on the basis of the perfections of Christ. My sin was placed on Him and He owned it in His death on the cross – and His perfect standing before the Father was reckoned to my account when He saved me and justified me. God sees me and counts me as perfect as Jesus Himself!
Well, then we can live however we want! What’s the point of moral improvement? Paul knew you’d think that, and answers
“How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:2-4).
Full circle. God created us and in sovereign grace saves us from eternal wrath and justice in order to (re)shape us into His glorious, holy image… BECAUSE He loves His Name, and therefore extends His love to His people unconditionally, because He loves us!
Expect to be brutally loved by God when He has given you new birth by grace through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. He’s a good Father – He will discipline us if we wander from Him and indulge in sin. Rejoice, Christian! The pleasures of sin are passing and shallow compared to the glory intended for you in eternal life with Christ Jesus our Lord. Resist the deeds of the flesh, renew your mind in Christ Jesus and His Word, and live in light of a dawning eternity of joy and sinless fellowship with an infinitely wonderful God. You are blessed.
Thanks for reading,