Roman Catholic v. Reformed: How Do we Know We Have Saving Faith?

A Discourse on Knowledge in Christianity

Recently I’ve been in conversation with a Roman Catholic named Tony Fernandez, via Twitter (@phattonez). We have a good rapport, and our discourse has been free of rancor, thank the Lord. This allows for time and effort to speak directly to the definitions and reasoning we each employ, rather than having to waste time hashing out attitudes and tone, as often happens on Twitter when trying to discuss differences in religion, politics, and so forth.

Yet Twitter remains a challenging platform for extended debate and discussion. It works great for brief volleys of thoughts and ideas, jokes and updates, but when people begin to go deep into a subject, the limitations of the site come roaring forth. As my conversation with Tony began to stretch for days, I decided to take two steps off Twitter to attempt to strengthen the discourse. First, I published a podcast episode here, in which I laid out my foundational critique of the Roman Catholic authority problem. But second, I decided I would devote time to a series of essays here, which although tedious compared to the freewheeling format on Twitter, is necessary for men who wish to give and receive intellectual challenges that create more of an impact than a momentary emotional shift.

And in Tony, I see the obvious desire to create in me a lifelong change of beliefs. That’s the only kind of conversation partner I fully respect. I, too, wish to change Tony’s thinking through persuasive argument, and with him, the whole of the faithful Roman Catholic flock. If we are loving and honest with one another, we must admit that nothing short of a full conversion of our respective Church bodies to the other’s would be good and satisfying considering all that is at stake. But for today, I will settle for simply honoring the Lord Jesus Christ through communicating His truth adequately, as He gives me gift to do.

Thesis: God Grants Saving Knowledge Infallibly

So, in this essay I will address Tony’s misapprehensions of the Reformed doctrine of irresistible grace as it relates to our comprehension of truth and equally, our apprehending Christ for salvation. Or we might ask it as questions: How can we know that we, as individuals, have adequately understood and believed what is necessary to know and believe in order to have eternal life? How do you know you believe the right things, and believe them well enough? How do we know we are hearing and believing God’s revealed truth, whether in part or the whole? Could we be self-deluded when we recite our reasons for holding the Bible and/or Church as ultimate and final authority in matters of faith and practice? Could our eternal souls be in true danger even as faithful, devoted members of the Reformed or Roman Catholic communions? We need to know how to answer this issue with no doubt.

So then, the question is how God’s knowledge becomes ours, both as the corporate Church and as the individual. In my podcast episode I talked through this briefly. Here I will lay it out more carefully. My thesis is as follows: Jesus defines eternal life as “knowing” the Father, “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom [He] sent” (John 17:3 ESV), and therefore salvation, which is functionally synonymous with eternal life, is predicated on a fixed, certain knowledge of God; this knowledge of God is given by God infallibly to individual people, secured, and infallibly kept within those same people for eternity. The logical corollary to this is that because God is always ensuring His knowledge is alive and kept by a number of individuals (a remnant), the visible Church will never perish or fully defect from orthodoxy. This is not to say that any given local church or denomination cannot apostatize, or that the majority of the visible Church in any given age cannot fall away from the true gospel; in fact, these horrific realities are replete in the history of the Church.

And also, none of this is to say that every person who knows about God, is baptized, confesses to believe in Christ, or who partakes of the sacraments have received an infallible, saving knowledge of God. The Reformed recognize two types of calling, the external and the internal. Keep these categories in mind as you read this essay; the definitions will be filled in as I continue along. The nuances within my claims must be clearly communicated and understood for this discourse to succeed.

Definitions and Clarifications

Faith

To be clear, we (the Reformed) do not say that salvation is only predicated on a mental accumulation of knowledge, as if a mental assent to a set of propositions is equivalent to conversion, regeneration, and eternal life. In fact, we confess that salvation can be granted by God without the apprehension of propositional facts about God, as in the case of infants and the mentally disabled.

We confess three aspects of faith: notitia, assensus, and fiducia.

Notitia refers to the head knowledge of Christian faith, or as I said above, the apprehension of propositional claims, for example, “Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life,” and so forth. As the Church has confessed forever, no one can be saved while consciously denying the revealed truths of who God is. These truths are communicated through the teaching of Scripture by the Church. Note, James (2:14-26) draws a dichotomy between two forms of faith, which we may call true and false faith, or perhaps saving faith and empty faith. It is critical in understanding Reformed theology to apprehend this distinction. The very demons of hell have mental faith in who God is, as James points out. Many who are Christians by birth, baptism, and profession are nevertheless possessing a merely empty, dead faith, having never truly bowed the knee to God, trusting His Word in the gospel. More on this below.

Assensus refers to the personal confession of one’s own conviction that these teachings are in fact historical and true. No one can be saved who understands what the Bible says about God, but who consciously denies these doctrines as being factually, historically true. One must agree with the Holy Spirit who breathed out the words of Scripture, that this is in fact the self-revelation of the only true God.

Fiducia refers to an individual’s personal embrace of these truths as being true “for me.” A man must see Christ incarnate, sinless, crucified, buried, and resurrected for him, personally, and trust that the work of Christ on behalf of the triune God has been accomplished for the forgiveness of the individual’s personal sin against that same God, and that through Christ, reconciliation with God is made real for everyone who believes according to this living, saving faith outlined here.

As far as this goes (regarding these three elements of saving faith), I believe all major branches of the Church agree, likely with minor qualifications.

We also agree that man, in his fallen and sinful state, can only hold the first two parts of faith on his own. Our minds are damaged, our reasoning is ultimately futile, but we can still use basic logic through reasoning to understand and assent to the propositional claims in Scripture. A man can say “yes, I understand that the Bible says ‘In the beginning, God created,’ and that in fact, that is the only logical premise that explains our universe as it is”—but that man, in his sin, cannot then say “and I choose to love and trust this God for His gospel, in what He did for humanity in Christ Jesus. I repent of my sin.” In fact, a sinful, unregenerate man may say something like that, as they do every day hypocritically without living faith, but unless God overcomes that man’s sinful, hard, resistant heart to make him capable and willing to love and trust Him, then that man will never truly have saving faith comprised of all three elements outlined above.

I’m not sure if I am speaking pure Reformed orthodoxy here, but I would add that infants and the mentally disabled are saved when God grants them simple fiducia, absent notitia and assensus. David himself said “you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts” (Ps 22:9). No two-hour old nursing baby who dies has a mental assent to anything, but nevertheless he or she has a real soul by which trust in the Lord may be miraculously granted.

And I may go further to say the Reformed and Lutherans alone can make a consistent case for this means of salvation, wherein God grants salvation through faith to the tiniest human beings. Physical and mental immaturity or absence is no barrier to our sovereign Lord calling His sheep to eternal life.

Irresistible Grace

The Reformed are always facing the task of disentangling misapprehensions of this most precious truth. Most people looking at our confessions from the outside immediately interpret the meaning of “irresistible” to be that God’s grace is never resistible. This inaccurate view of the Reformed teaching would have us saying that God never allows men to exercise their own free will unto ultimate damnation. Yet He does—God allows all men everywhere to resist Him unto their own damnation, until He decides to save a man. Irresistible grace simply means God kindly grants a new heart to a man so that that man will turn from his sin and believe the gospel, unto salvation and eternal life. In other words, that man would exercise his free will directly into eternal damnation, being that he is a “slave to sin” (John 8:34b) unless God does His work of granting saving knowledge and faith. During my Twitter conversation with Tony, multiple times I made the analogy to Lazarus, in that he was dead for four days, unable to respond to the external, audible call of Jesus to “come forth.” It took an internal, miraculous call of Jesus to actually grant life to Lazarus for him to be able and willing to respond, which he was then bound to do. There was literally no possibility that Lazarus would either remain dead, or that he would remain in the tomb freshly resurrected from the dead, simply unwilling to obey Jesus’ command to come forth from the tomb.

That is the Reformed—indeed apostolic—doctrine of grace. In His saving work, God does not allow His sheep to resist the internal call of the gospel unto regeneration and salvation. We may and do resist Him throughout our lives, but in His timing and by His mercy, He grants new life to us at the exact moment He purposes.

Tony replied to this that “many are called, few are chosen,” which he takes to mean that the call is broadly resisted, since not all the called are chosen. I never got the chance on Twitter to elaborate on the external/internal distinction, and how this solves the issue of a broad rejection of the gospel by many who hear. Simply put, the external call of the Church to the whole world is always resisted, unless it is accompanied by the mysterious, sovereign, internal call of God.

Free Will

We recognize four states of the will in man:

1) Pre-fall Adam and Eve had a truly free will, circumscribed only by creaturely limitation, (could not will to exist for eternity, to blink out of existence, or to change one’s fundamental nature). Could choose good or evil without internal inability.

2) Post-fall humanity is born dead in sin and trespass, and the will is enslaved to the moral nature. We are constitutionally unable to please God apart from His gracious intervention to restrain our evil desires so that we may tend toward and choose good, virtuous things. Our free will, in this regard, is free in potential, but in actuality, constrained by the power of evil such that we will never, and do never choose what is ultimately good unless God quite literally changes our nature from evil to good beforehand.

3) Post-regeneration, when the Holy Spirit has given us new life, we are enabled and made willing to choose the ultimate good, which is trust and faith in Christ. Our wills are freed will once the Spirit inhabits our bodies in salvation, sealing us for the day of redemption. Though by the nature of our flesh, which is unredeemed, we continue to do and desire evil, we have a renewed ability to fight that flesh and to choose good for good’s sake, for God’s sake.

4) Glorification, the utterly freed will when we are resurrected in new bodies, unable to choose to sin. Indeed, brother Tony, think of how our supposed “free will” is violated in eternal life wherein we cannot sin ever again. In fact, it is the most gracious and good thing God does for us to take away the “freedom” to do evil, which is in fact slavery.

There is so much more to say here, but I just needed to get a basic definition on the table. In the rest of this essay, I will explore the relationship between irresistible grace and an individual’s apprehension of God’s revelation in Scripture. This then extends to the question of authoritative tradition through creeds, confessions, and councils.

Church

For the distinction between visible and invisible Church, see here. I have nothing more to add to it than a couple of mentions herein.

How Do we Come to Know God’s Truth Savingly?

In the midst of our discussion, Tony said “If we have to wait for a perfect teacher, then we would have to wait for the second coming.” See our exchange here:Screenshot_2019-08-13 Tony Fernandez ✝️ on Twitter KaneTruth Fortfirefly He was wrong to do it, I'm not denying that I'm ju[...]

What we uncovered here was the foundational difference between us in regard to grace, and the rest of our conversation so far has born that out.

In case you need this simplified before we move on, the Roman Catholic position is roughly: “we cannot know for sure that we are hearing Jesus’ voice as the Shepherd of the sheep. It would violate our free will for God to make us know Him unto eternal life.”

The Reformed position is: “Because God determines to infallibly save His people, He also infallibly calls each one of us by name so that we know Him savingly, having eternal life, never falling away from Him into perdition.”

Again, Jesus defines “eternal life” as indicated by the state wherein a person “know[s] you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Our question is, how does one come to possess that saving knowledge by which he has eternal life? By what means and actions on God’s part and ours?

The answer is found by examining the foundation of all truth.

A Brief Warning to the Reader

Now keep in mind here, we must never allow a conclusion we do not wish to embrace to control the clear logic of a truth claim. For example, because I do not wish to believe that the Pope is the true successor of the Apostle Peter, I would be prone to subconsciously twisting my own reasoning so as to keep myself from being persuaded by a plausible argument. This is a danger to all of us, as I am reminded of Justin Martyr arguing with Trypho the Jew in second-century Ephesus, saying “[even] though one should speak ten thousand words well, if there happen to be one little word displeasing to you, because not sufficiently intelligible or accurate, you make no account of the many good words, but lay hold of the little word, and are very zealous in setting it up as something impious and guilty” (Dialogue chap. 115). I fear this for Tony because of the length to which I am going in this essay; because of the many words, there is the danger that some one or two things out of place would be the opportunity to forget any other points I secure. I urge you, reader, and myself, to be vulnerable to the most persuasive elements of a good opponent’s arguments, and to treat more lightly his missteps.

Biblical Epistemology

How does an individual come into possession of saving knowledge? We must first ask what is the fountain of all wisdom and knowledge in general–a fountain without which no human being can give a rational account for his ability to reason. I defer to Paul, who said “Christ” is Hein whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3), for it was “by him” that “all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (Col 1:16). Make the connection here–Jesus is the source of all things in creation, and He is the hidden treasury of all wisdom and knowledge.” Put negatively, if a man attempts to explain anything in the world, including his own sapience, without acknowledging the Son of God as the beginning and source and telos of that principle, whatever it may be, then that man will stumble into contradiction, error, and foolishness. The Hebrew sages of antiquity knew this without having ever met the Incarnate Son, having written “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov 1:7), and “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord” (21:30). These are epistemological claims; these are deductive premises laid out in the wisdom literature breathed out by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, to seek any form of truth or understanding without holding the Word of God, the Son, at the center and source, is to become a fool. The Psalmist joins in the fray, saying “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” (36:9). That latter clause is an all-encompassing principle of wisdom, in that God’s “light,” metaphorical for His Being, His own wisdom, and His shared nature within us, His image bearers, indicates the beginning and rational explanation for man’s sapience. It is by God’s eternal Being reflected within each of our rational minds that anything at all external or internal becomes intelligible. The wise Christian must acknowledge the preeminent place of the Son of God in his own claims to any sort of knowledge, including how and why saving, eternal-life-giving knowledge of God enters into our minds and souls. Conversely, we know nothing by ourselves–without God, knowledge is impossible, certainty is gibberish, and the very concept of sapience is thrown into absurdity and scorn.

Look now at how the sovereign Lordship of the Son relates to our certainty of saving knowledge.

The Son of God who was to be born of the virgin had lived for eternity past as God with the Father and the Spirit, but it is in this Son of God, and by Him, that the creation of all things began, and to this day “hold[s] together” (Col 1:17). Jesus the God-Man is ruling the cosmos by sovereign power, as He claimed before His ascension: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18), and which Daniel saw from over five centuries before in a vision:

I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
    there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
    and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
    and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
    should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
    that shall not be destroyed (Dan 7:13-14).

 

So we see the clear reality that Jesus has total authority over the cosmos, He is the treasure house of all wisdom and knowledge, and all things were created by and for Him. Simply put, the universe, the earth, and human beings are created for Jesus, who defined eternal life as knowing the true God.

He also prayed in thanksgiving to the Father, who gave Jesus “authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given [Jesus]” (John 17:2). Jesus was grateful to the Father that His (Jesus’) authority as King of the universe was adequate for the grand goal of giving “eternal life to all whom you have given” to the Son. This speaks to the mission of the Son in His Incarnation. The Father gave His sinless Son authority over all flesh, “to” give eternal life–the “to” is the Greek ἵνα (hina), which indicates the subjunctive mood (which normally indicates a possibility with unknown outcome), but in the hina clause, with a certain outcome, as for example in 1 John 3:8 “εἰς τοῦτο ἐφανερώθη ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἵνα λύσῃ τὰ ἔργα τοῦ διαβόλου”–“for this reason the Son of God appeared, SO AS TO destroy the works of the devil” (author’s translation). We recognize this common form of grammar, and I rest my case regarding the appearance of hina in John 17:2, so we understand Jesus has been given sovereign authority over the entire world of human beings to the end that His elect people would each receive eternal life, infallibly, which in the next verse is defined as knowledge of the triune God. This is not to say this is the sole purpose for Christ having been given this Kingdom and authority, but it is featured prominently throughout the apostolic writings as being in the forefront of God’s purposes for the Incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of the divine Son.

And so, my argument might be diagrammed like so:

Major premise: eternal life is granted to the individual by means of specific saving knowledge of God

Premise: God ensures that that knowledge is received by each individual He has given to His Son

Conclusion: every individual given to the Son by the Father is then granted saving knowledge of God by the action and initiative of the Son, and thus infallibly brought to the state of eternal life

How Jesus Taught This

Jesus’ discourse of the good shepherd in John 10 is entirely purposed around this teaching. Without opening a full-blown exegesis of the first 30 verses, Jesus is explaining here how, in contrast to false and selfish shepherds, He is the selfless Shepherd of His sheep who will never fail us or let us be lost.

The striking, relevant language He uses begins in verse 3: “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” Anyone who denies the individual, infallible election unto salvation that we confess must seriously reckon with these words. Jesus does not say something like “Everyone hears his voice, and those who come to him become his sheep,” or “some of his sheep hear his voice, while some reject it,” but rather, Jesus’ voice calls to His own sheep by name, and not to be downplayed, He “leads them out.” In what way could these words be more clear, that the Son of God literally gathers His individual sheep one by one by means of an irresistible call?

Look, He strengthens the point further: “When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (4). He does not leave one behind, for it is only “when he has brought out all his own” that He proceeds onto the next thing. There is most literally no room within these words for the possibility of a sheep of His hearing and rejecting His voice, for He brings out all His sheep whom the Father gave Him, and He does it by the power of His sovereign glory as ruler of the universe.

It is actually a mark of deep impiety to artificially introduce man’s will here as the force by which God is eternally stymied in His plan, as if God somehow chose a person to hear the voice of His Son, goes through all the trouble of bringing the world to the moment when that person hears the call, and then by an act of sheer free will, the Son is denied His sheep whom He called by name, He who has omnipotent glory and authority to gather His people out of the world. This impious and sub-Christian doctrine is framed as God not wishing to violate our free will, but without even needing to drive this logic to its absurd ends, we need only return to Jesus’ own words as the Shepherd to be denied such a folly. Look, and open your eyes:

So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one” (24-30).

The Jews present before Him as still unbelieving, in spite of all the evidence of His Messiahship that they have seen. Jesus here gives us the direct, from the mouth of God Himself reason for unbelief–“you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.”

Notice, it’s not “you are not among my sheep because you do not believe.”

It is condition: unbelief followed by explanation of condition: not belonging to the group of people whom Jesus has come to save.

2,000 years of Church history is replete with men furiously wearing down their quills trying to explain away these types of stark revelations, but the Word of God will never pass away, and Jesus’ words are absolute and final.

We can know that whom He saves, that one can definitively hear His voice, for He promised it would be so.

We can know that because He is the source and foundation for reality, including the rational bedrock of human knowledge and wisdom, that any claim or argument butting up against His words will fail. In this case, Tony’s argument that God does not grant saving knowledge to a man unless that man first allows it to happen by free will is to invert the universe, to enthrone fallen man, and to privilege our sense of fairness and rightness above the clear, unambiguous teachings of Christ and His Apostles.

To conclude, Jesus has been given all authority over the universe in order that He might grant saving, eternal-life-giving knowledge of God to every person whom the Father gave to Him. He claims that He calls His sheep by name, and that “no one may snatch them out of my hand.”

There are hard questions that flow from this truth, such as why throughout the New Testament there are warning passages about falling from grace and shipwrecking one’s faith, but we must not leap to those arguments while leaving this starting point incomplete. Deal with, reckon fully with the words of Jesus here presented, and do it exegetically, or else yield your claims as inferior to this mighty truth we confess in the Reformed churches.

God bless the reader,

Adam

The Difference Between Christianity and Everything Else

This blog exists to usher people into human liberty, which is only available to those who embrace Christian theology. The difference between true, pure Christianity and all other religious/philosophical truth claims is grace.

Christianity is the sufficient, absolute, totally gracious gift of God through His Son Jesus Christ. Forgiveness for free. Eternal life based on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection alone.

That’s right. There is nothing of ourselves in our acceptance with God; there is no merit, no obedience, no sincerity, no sacrament, no church membership, no Bible reading that secures our forgiveness: NOTHING adds to the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ given to us by grace alone through faith alone in His gospel alone.

Sincerity in worshiping and obeying God is a gift of His grace, not our own meritorious offering to Him. There is nothing of us that He looks at to count us righteous. Nothing.

And we receive our justification, sanctification, and glorification by grace alone through faith alone. Look here at the classic standard of confessional Reformed theology.

Heidelberg Catechism Question 21

Here it is, captured in its essence (with Scriptures):

What is true faith?

A. True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, (a)

but also an assured confidence, (b)

which the Holy Ghost (c)

works by the gospel in my heart; (d)

that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, (e)

are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. (f)

(a) James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

(b) 2 Cor.4:13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;

Eph.2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. Eph.2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Eph.2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Eph.3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

Gal.2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Heb.11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb.11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. Heb.11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. Heb.11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: Heb.11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Heb.4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

James 1:6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

Matt.16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Philip.1:19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

Rom.4:17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

Rom.4:21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

Rom.5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Rom.1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Rom.10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Rom.10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Rom.4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, Rom.4:18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. Rom.4:19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: Rom.4:20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

Rom.3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Rom.3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

(c) Gal.5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Matt.16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

2 Cor.4:13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

Eph.2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Philip.1:19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

Acts 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

(d) Rom.1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Rom.10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

1 Cor.1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

Acts 10:44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

Acts 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

(e) Rom.1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Gal.3:11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

Heb.10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Heb.10:38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

Gal.2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

(f) Eph.2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Rom.3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Rom.5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Luke 1:77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Luke 1:78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us…

God’s Sovereign Grace Just Rocks

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.

Monergism

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,

-Adam

“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.”
C.H. Spurgeon

” …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.”
Jonathan Edwards

“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.”
D.A. Carson

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