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Dr. Roger Olson, in his book Against Calvinism, states the following:
The sole reason non-Calvinist evangelical Christians object to monergism is because it makes God the ultimate, even if indirect, cause of the reprobates’ unbelief and damnation. It does serious harm to God’s reputation.
Great point. If God is the only one involved in saving a sinner then the non-elect go to hell not because of their own sins but because of the unwillingness on God’s part to save them. This does not reveal the love of God very well (John 3:16) who gave His Son to die for all (1 John 2:2) when in fact He died to secure the salvation of very few.
I greatly enjoy Dr. Vic Reasoner. His commentaries on Romans and Revelation are invaluable to the Arminian. Dr. Reasoner is the president of the Southern Methodist College in Orangeburg, SC and he also is the editor of The Fundamental Wesleyan Society. His church, Leesville Methodist Church located in Laurens, SC, has his sermons online and I encourage you to listen to them. I spent just this morning listening to him teach on Romans 9 and the doctrine of election.
I was studying from Adam Clarke’s commentary and read these words concerning John 6:44-46:
Verse 44. Except the Father draw him
But how is a man drawn? St. Augustin answers from the poet, Trahit sua quemque voluptas; a man is attracted by that which he delights in. Show green herbage to a sheep, he is drawn by it: show nuts to a child, and he is drawn by them. They run wherever the person runs who shows these things: they run after him, but they are not forced to follow; they run, through the desire they feel to get the things they delight in. So God draws man: he shows him his wants – he shows the Saviour whom he has provided for him: the man feels himself a lost sinner; and, through the desire which he finds to escape hell, and get to heaven, he comes unto Christ, that he may be justified by his blood. Unless God thus draw, no man will ever come to Christ; because none could, without this drawing, ever feel the need of a Saviour. See August. Tract. 26, in Joan. and Calmet.
Drawing, or alluring, not dragging is here to be understood. “He,” say the rabbins, “who desires to cleave to the holy and blessed God, God lays hold of him, and will not cast him off.” Synops. Sohar. p. 87. The best Greek writers use the verb in the same sense of alluring, inciting,
Verse 45. It is written in the prophets
Isaiah 54:13; ; Jeremiah 31:34.
They shall be all taught of God.
This explains the preceding verse. God teaches a man to know himself, that, finding his need of salvation, he may flee to lay hold on the hope which his heavenly Father has set before him in the Gospel. God draws men by his love, and by showing them what his love has done for them. Fear repels, but love attracts. He who is ever preaching the terrors of the law, and representing God as a vindictive judge, will never bring sinners to him. They are afraid of this terrible God: but they love him, who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.
Verse 46. Not that any man hath seen the Father
He does not teach men by appearing personally before them, or by any other outward voice than that of his word and messengers; but he teaches by his Spirit. This teaching from God implies: 1. That they shall have proper instruction. 2. That they shall comprehend it; for, when God teaches, there is no delay in learning. And, 3. That this teaching should be by the influence of the Holy Ghost upon their minds.
John 17 is often used by those who teach that Christ died only for the elect. They point to this passage as proof that Jesus would not pray for the world (v. 9). That He prayed only for those whom He had chosen. They point out in this prayer that Jesus prayed for their security (v. 12).
How should Arminians approach this passage? Frankly, this is not a difficult passage if one reads it in context. The question of whom had the Father given to Him is found in verse 6. It is clear that these are His Apostles that He had chosen (John 15:16). Jesus had personally chosen them after much prayer (Luke 6:12-13). This was not a choice then unto salvation but to service. No doubt they would experience the new birth (John 20:22; Acts 2:1-4) but Judas shows that they could still rebel. The Apostles had come to believe in Him (v.8) but this was not the case at first nor always in His earthly ministry (see John 2:22; 6:66-72).
What do we make then about verse 9? It is clear that in context Jesus is praying not for the elect (as I have heard) but His own chosen Apostles. In fact, verses 6-19 is all about the Apostles and their relationship to the world and to Jesus Himself. This is not about “the elect” of the future but those whom Jesus had already chosen to be with Him.
The Church does not appear until verse 20. Verses 20-23 are Jesus’ only prayer for the future elect. He prays for our unity. That is all. No mention of Him praying for our justification before God. Our imputation of righteousness or His intercession for our eternal security. His prayer is for the body to be unified. Sadly, even here we find that the Church has often not heeded the prayer of Jesus and sought to be unified. No doubt God knows His people (2 Timothy 2:19) and He sees His Church as one body (Ephesians 4:4-6). We are baptized only into one Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13) and there is only one Jesus who saves (John 14:6).
In conclusion, I see nothing in the prayer of Jesus here in John 17 to validate that Jesus was going to the cross only for the elect. Adam Clarke interestingly held that the word “world” here in John 17 (kosmos) was the Jewish world only. Clarke wrote thus about verse 9, “But He does not pray for the world, the rebellious Jews, because the cup of their iniquity was full, and their judgment slumbered not.” Clarke held, like myself, that He does not begin to pray for the Church until verse 20.
I have heard it said that the greatest temptation facing the modern pastorate is the allure to study methods instead of theology. Methodology is what churches unite around now these days. It is not unheard of for liberals to associate with conservatives so long as the methods are the same. It is not unheard of for Pentecostals to go to Baptist churches to study their methods and to learn from them how they do church. And why is this? First, the evangelical church is losing its foothold in the United States. People are walking out the door. Some are going to more liturgical churches because at least in a liturgical church you don’t have to worry about the style of music or hear some hip preacher. It is very consistent and they have been singing the same songs for hundreds of years. There is comfort in that. Secondly, the allure of money. Mega-churches and the seeker churches make lots and lots of money. They are cash machines. This allures to the average preacher who is barely making it. He wants to provide for his family and to see the church grow but rather than being faithful to the Lord and not to money, the preacher begins to study the seeker models or the local mega church and he begins to follow the methods of that church instead of being faithful to just preach the Word. Money wins. And lastly, power. I think many preachers are hungry for power. Who doesn’t want the crowd to notice them? Who doesn’t want people in a local restaurant to notice them when they walk in with their party? Men desire power and it rubs our egos.
Yet this is all foreign to the New Testament. The example of Jesus in leadership is one of a servant (Mark 10:45) and He exhorted His own Apostle to not be like the leaders of this world (Matthew 20:20-28). Leadership in the New Testament Church was to be one based not on a position or power but upon being a servant and one that others could follow by their examples (Hebrews 13:7; 1 Peter 5:1-4). Typically, New Testament leaders were described with verbs rather than nouns. They were doing the ministry and not being the minister. Further, the idea that one person is to be the “head” of the Church is foreign. Jesus alone is the King of the Church (1 Timothy 6:15-16). Jesus alone is the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18). Jesus alone is building His Church (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:47). Jesus alone is the Shepherd of the Church (John 10:11; Hebrews 13:20). Not once in the New Testament do we find “Pastor Jim” but instead the Lord Jesus is the One that is exalted and He alone is the One that we are to worship and adore. Not a man. Not a group of men. Just Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:4-9). The Holy Spirit raises up leaders in the local church (Titus 1:5) but He doesn’t exalt one person. He only exalts Jesus (John 16:14).
House churches then are not caught up in seeking to build “bigger buildings” or “more hip services.” House churches are only interested in fulfilling 1 Corinthians 11:33). Certainly Ephesians 4:11-16 is part of the house church but the emphasis is not upon a pastor or a teacher. The emphasis is first and foremost on Jesus and His kingdom. Secondly, the focus is on edification of the saints (Hebrews 10:24-25). The saints of God go out into the world with the gospel (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8) as Christ’s ambassadors to a lost world (2 Corinthians 5:20). House churches are not interested in programs or in people attending our meetings to hear the gospel. We want to equip the saints to go out and reach the lost and not bring the lost to a professional teacher to hear a sermon. House churches need not worry about seeker churches or about how to make money because have no paid staff, no clergy-laity system to fund. The money we sometimes ask for goes to church planters (apostles if you will), to help the poor (Galatians 2:10), and to help hurting disciples (Acts 4:32-35; 11:27-30). We require no “tithes and offerings” because we are not interested in funding a job. We are only interested in funding what God asks us to fund and we don’t do this weekly. 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 is not asking people to tithe but to give to hurting disciples in Jerusalem.
House churches are a relief to many. They are not interested in your money. They are not interested in you dressing up. They are not interested in allowing one person to use their spiritual gift over others (1 Corinthians 12:7). They are only interested in living out the gospel and preaching the gospel to the lost in the world. We come together not to hear a sermon but to celebrate the Lord’s Supper knowing that Jesus is our Passover Lamb and He died to save us from sin and to equip us by His Spirit to overcome sin, to love the saints of God, and to witness to the world about this great salvation.
I was inspired by Ed Stetzer’s post on why he doesn’t respond to Twitter comments. I agree with him and I would add those to my own blog as well. Here are my own reasons why I don’t always respond to comments on my own blog and these would apply to Twitter too.
1. I’m Not A Debater.
Contrary to what you might think from reading my blog, I don’t enjoy theological debates. I enjoy conversations. I enjoy talking to those who disagree with me but I much prefer in person than online. Online debates are often tedious and require much time spent at a computer. I would rather be spending time with my family, praying, working, or reading a good book than debating online. Further, I have never debated publicly in my life. I have tried to once. I try to arrange a debate with a local “Word-Faith” teacher in a city I was living but he would not debate me. That was the only time I tried to arrange a public debate.
2. I Don’t Respond to Trolls.
I know there are both Arminians and Calvinists who spend time trolling Twitter or blogs looking to debate someone. I don’t get lured into those debates. Often I delete their comments and so you’ll never see them much on my blog. I am not into mean-spirited debates. I am not into calling people names. I prefer to leave the judgement of someone’s salvation to God and not upon whether they hold to my views on Arminianism (2 Timothy 2:19). Frankly, the Bible says that we are not to argue over words. Notice the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 6:3-5:
3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
3. I Don’t Believe Arminianism is the Gospel.
Unlike some Arminians or some Calvinists I know, I don’t hold that Arminianism is the pure gospel. I agree with Arminius on most issues. I believe he is a solid theologian, a man of God but Arminius has never saved one sinner. Only Jesus saves (Acts 4:12). Arminius, I believe, was correct to point out the flaws of Calvinism but he was not perfect and he never shed his blood for the forgiveness of my sins. If a Calvinist loves Jesus, they are saved (John 3:1-7). Jesus doesn’t save theological positions. He saves sinners who repent (Acts 17:30-31). Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and not to redeem theological positions. This means that I am not going to get into a debate over non-essentials. We can disagree over the extent of the atonement but if we have not been saved by the atonement, what is the point?
I don’t have time to debate online. I am a full-time driver. A full-time father. A full-time husband. Not to mention my own time with the Lord and my own love of reading both my Bible and my books. Debates are time consuming and I don’t have time to go back and forth online debating. Plus it does nothing for me spiritually.
5. Frankly, I Would Much Rather Us Pray than Debate.
A man of God is not created by reading Arminius or Calvin. They are not closer to God because they know Greek. We are only closer to God when we seek Him (James 4:8). Prayer takes us into the presence of God (Hebrews 4:14-16). Prayer teaches us to trust God and not give up (Luke 18:1). Prayer is what the disciples of Jesus most wanted to learn from Him (Luke 11:1). Is that true of you? Of me? Do you or I know more of our theologians than of Jesus and intimacy with Him? To sit around and debate election does not add to the kingdom of God like prayer or evangelism. It may be fun at times but seriously, I would rather us get on our knees and cry out to Jesus than to debate.
Dr. Al Mohler’s piece on Newsweek magazine once again seeking to attack the Bible and biblical Christianity with, yet once again, Bart Ehrman leading that charge. His piece points out the flaws in Ehrman’s thinking. I suppose I have never seen a “former” Christian such as Ehrman so bent on attacking Christianity. His desire is simple: to destroy the faith he once held. I thank God that there are godly men such as Dr. Mohler who are more than willing to take on this fight.
You can read Dr. Mohler’s piece.
I’m preaching a series of four sermons on Luke 1-2 this Advent that focus on four promises that are kept in the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. This past Sunday’s sermon was on “The Promise of a King”.
And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:31-33).
The Old Testament is full of promises that God would one day send a special king. From the blessing of Jacob in Genesis 49 that, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his…
Click on the title of this post to keep reading.
Many would be surprised to learn that the motif behind Arminianism is not free will. Free will plays a part in the debate but as Dr. Roger Olson states in his book, Against Calvinism, the main focus of the Arminian is upon the character of God. We believe that the character of God is such that He has shown that He is a loving, merciful God who delights in saving sinners by His grace and for His glory. He has demonstrated His character and His grace in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-20; 2:9). Jesus said in John 14:9 to Philip that if they had seen Him, they had seen the Father. Jesus did not say He was the Father but only that if they had seen Him, they had seen His Father in the sense that He was equal with God the Father (John 10:30) and He demonstrated what the Father was like.
In this sense, we Arminians hold that free will is merely a demonstration of true love. Because God wants a true loving relationship with His creatures, He created us with the ability to choose to love Him or reject Him. God gave humanity the gift of free will. Unlike the birds of the air who perfectly obey God or the flowers in the field who perfectly obey God, mankind was created with the gift of reason, with intellect, with the ability to create, with the ability to love or even to hate. No doubt the will of man was damaged in the Fall (Genesis 3:22), the free will of mankind remains intact but severely damaged. Arminius stated this about the free will,
In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace. For Christ has said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” St. Augustine, after having diligently meditated upon each word in this passage, speaks thus: “Christ does not say, without me ye can do but Little; neither does He say, without me ye can do any Arduous Thing, nor without me ye can do it with difficulty. But he says, without me ye can do Nothing! Nor does he say, without me ye cannot complete any thing; but without me ye can do Nothing.” That this may be made more manifestly to appear, we will separately consider the mind, the affections or will, and the capability, as contra-distinguished from them, as well as the life itself of an unregenerate man.
Arminius states further about how the free will now operates apart from grace saying,
Exactly correspondent to this darkness of the mind, and perverseness of the heart, is the utter weakness of all the powers to perform that which is truly good, and to omit the perpetration of that which is evil, in a due mode and from a due end and cause. The subjoined sayings of Christ serve to describe this impotence. “A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” (Matt. vii, 18.) “How can ye, being evil, speak good things?” (xii, 34.) The following relates to the good which is properly prescribed in the gospel: “No man can come to me, except the Father draw him.” (John vi, 44.) As do likewise the following words of the Apostle: “The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be;” (Rom. viii, 7;) therefore, that man over whom it has dominion, cannot perform what the law commands. The same Apostle says, “When we were in the flesh, the motions of sins wrought in us,” or flourished energetically. (vii, 5.) To the same purpose are all those passages in which the man existing in this state is said to be under the power of sin and Satan, reduced to the condition of a slave, and “taken captive by the Devil.” (Rom. vi, 20; 2 Tim. ii, 26.)
Arminius leaves no doubt that the free will of mankind has been subjected to sin and thus the will of man is perverse and wicked. Mankind, in this state, cannot just choose by themselves to come to God. We need the work of grace to be saved. John Wesley rightly saw this as prevenient grace. Adam Clarke wrote this about the work of the Spirit in bringing sinners to salvation:
So deep is the stain, so radicated the habits of sinning, so strong the propensity to do what is evil; that nothing less than the power by which the soul was created, can conquer these habits, eradicate these vices, and cause such a leper to change his spots, and such an Ethiopian his hue. The whole change which the soul undergoes in its conversion, is the effect of a divine energy within. This the gospel promises, when it promises to send forth the Holy Spirit. This mighty Spirit is given to enlighten, convince, strengthen, quicken, and save; and the change which is effected in the sinner’s soul, in his habits, and in his life, is such as no natural cause can produce; such as no art of man can effect; and such as no religious institutions, connected with the most serious and pointed moral advices, can ever bring about. It is wholly God’s work; and he performs it neither by might nor power, but by his own Spirit.
Mankind is lost in their sins and are in rebellion against God. Clarke wrote this as well about this state of sin:
The original mode of transgression is still continued, and the original sin in consequence. Here are the proofs:
1. Every human being is endeavoring to obtain knowledge by unlawful means, even while the lawful means and every available help are at hand. 2. They are endeavoring to be independent, and to live without God in the world; hence prayer, the language of dependence on God’s providence and grace, is neglected, I might say detested, by the great majority of men. Had I no other proof than this that man is a fallen creature, my soul would bow to this evidence. 3. Being destitute of the true knowledge of God, they seek privacy for their crimes, not considering that the eye of God is upon them, being only solicitous to hide them from the eye of man. The simple, plain, easy condition on which depended his immortality, man broke; and thus forfeited his life to the blessing with which he was naturally endowed; and thus corruption and decay, and a disorderly course of nature, were superinduced. The air that he breathed became unfriendly to the continual support of life; the seeds of dissolution were engendered in his constitution; and out of these various diseases sprang, which, by their repeated attacks, sapped the foundation of life, till at last the fruit of his dissolution verified the judgment of his Creator; for, after living a dying life, it was at last terminated by death.
We are at war with God. We hate and despise the true and living God. We have created idols, false gods, false religions, etc. all to appease our sinful conscience and to avoid the true God of the Bible. We would rather serve false gods or even no gods then to submit to Yahweh. What a wicked state we find ourselves in! Our only hope is the grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Arminius wrote this about the gracious work of God upon our free will:
But far different from this is the consideration of the free will of man, as constituted in the third state of Renewed Righteousness. For when a new light and knowledge of God and Christ, and of the Divine will, have been kindled in his mind; and when new affections, inclinations and motions agreeing with the law of God, have been excited in his heart, and new powers have been produced in him; it comes to pass, that, being liberated from the kingdom of darkness, and being now made “light in the Lord,” (Ephesians. v, 8,) he understands the true and saving good; that, after the hardness of his stony heart has been changed into the softness of flesh, and the law of God according to the covenant of grace has been inscribed on it, (Jer. 31, 32-35,) he loves and embraces that which is good, just, and holy; and that, being made capable in Christ, co-operating now with God, he prosecutes the good which he knows and loves, and he begins himself to perform it in deed. But this, whatever it may be of knowledge, holiness and power, is all begotten within him by the Holy Spirit; who is, on this account, called “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and might, of knowledge and the fear of Jehovah,” (Isa. xi, 2,) “the Spirit of grace,” (Zech. xii, 10,) “of faith,” (2 Cor. iv, 13,) “the Spirit of adoption” into sons, (Rom. viii, 16,) and “the Spirit of holiness;” and to whom the acts of illumination, regeneration, renovation, and confirmation, are attributed in the Scriptures.
The work of the Lord is that He sent forth His Son to die for our sins (Galatians 4:1-6) and the gospel of His grace goes forth by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). This gospel brings the truth of God to the lost (Matthew 28:19) and this gospel sets sinners free by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). This gospel gives light to all mankind (John 1:9) and this gospel enables us, by the free will assisted by the Spirit, to believe the gospel and be saved (John 1:12-13; Acts 16:30-34). Because we are dead in our sins, we need the regenerating work of the Spirit to be saved (John 3:1-7; Ephesians 2:1-3; Titus 3:5-7). The Spirit not only illuminates our minds to hear the gospel but He regenerates us when we repent of our sins and turn in saving faith to the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:37-38). Arminius stated,
The matter or subject of vocation is mankind constituted in the animal life; men worldly, natural, animal, carnal, sinful, alienated from the life of God, and dead in sins; and therefore Unworthy to be called, and Unfit to answer to the call, unless by the gracious estimation of God they be accounted worthy, and by his powerful operation they be rendered Fit to comply with the vocation. (Matt. ix, 13; Tit. ii, 12; Ephes. ii, 11, 12; iv, 17, 18; v, 14; John v, 25; vi, 44; Matt. x, 11-13; Acts xvi, 14.)
The free will of mankind must then have the divine aid of the Spirit in order for us to be saved because of the nature of our sinful depravity before God.
In Unam Sanctum, the Pope declared himself to be over the secular government and history is replete with examples of Pope’s trying to control governments.1 By contrast, the Baptist Faith and Message sates: “Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work.”
Which is more in line with the American Way and the 1st
Amendment which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
We are informed by the texts of the gospels that in this Church and in its power are two swords; namely, the spiritual and the temporal. For when the Apostles say: ‘Behold, here are two swords’ [Lk 22:38] that is to say, in the Church, since the Apostles were speaking, the Lord did not reply that there were too many, but sufficient. Certainly the one who denies that the temporal sword is in the power of Peter has not listened well to the word of the Lord commanding: ‘Put up thy sword into thy scabbard’ [Mt 26:52]. Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered for the Church but the latter by the Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.
However, one sword ought to be subordinated to the other and temporal authority, subjected to spiritual power. For since the Apostle said: ‘There is no power except from God and the things that are, are ordained of God’ [Rom 13:1-2], but they would not be ordained if one sword were not subordinated to the other and if the inferior one, as it were, were not led upwards by the other.
For, according to the Blessed Dionysius, it is a law of the divinity that the lowest things reach the highest place by intermediaries. Then, according to the order of the universe, all things are not led back to order equally and immediately, but the lowest by the intermediary, and the inferior by the superior. Hence we must recognize the more clearly that spiritual power surpasses in dignity and in nobility any temporal power whatever, as spiritual things surpass the temporal. This we see very clearly also by the payment, benediction, and consecration of the tithes, but the acceptance of power itself and by the government even of things. For with truth as our witness, it belongs to spiritual power to establish the terrestrial power and to pass judgement if it has not been good. Thus is accomplished the prophecy of Jeremias concerning the Church and the ecclesiastical power: ‘Behold to-day I have placed you over nations, and over kingdoms’ and the rest. Therefore, if the terrestrial power err, it will be judged by the spiritual power; but if a minor spiritual power err, it will be judged by a superior spiritual power; but if the highest power of all err, it can be judged only by God, and not by man, according to the testimony of the Apostle: ‘The spiritual man judgeth of all things and he himself is judged by no man’ [1 Cor 2:15]. This authority, however, (though it has been given to man and is exercised by man), is not human but rather divine, granted to Peter by a divine word and reaffirmed to him (Peter) and his successors by the One Whom Peter confessed, the Lord saying to Peter himself, ‘Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven’ etc., [Mt 16:19]. Therefore whoever resists this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordinance of God [Rom 13:2], unless he invent like Manicheus two beginnings, which is false and judged by us heretical, since according to the testimony of Moses, it is not in the beginnings but in the beginning that God created heaven and earth [Gen 1:1]. Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff. (link
All of salvation is a gift of God. This is the position of many Calvinists. No Arminian would disagree. We firmly believe that salvation is the gracious work of Christ and that salvation is fully accomplished by God and for His glory. The only “work” for the sinner is to believe the gospel (John 6:29) which Paul clearly shows in Romans 4:4-5 is not a work. Here Paul the Apostle contrasts faith with works and shows that faith is the opposite of work. To work for one’s salvation would nullify grace (Romans 11:6). Faith is the full acceptance of the gracious work of God that He has given to us in Christ Jesus who finished the work of saving sinners through His sacrificial death on the cross (John 19:30).
However, why will people then be condemned at the judgment seat of Christ? Will it be because they were not sovereignly chosen by God to be saved? Will it be because they refused the gospel? Will it be for the sins? The answers to those questions are vital to our understanding of God, His nature, the purpose of the atonement, evangelism, discipleship, etc. So let us work through these questions.
First, why are people condemned? The obvious answer is sin. It was the warning of Genesis 2:17 that brought death to the human race in our forefather Adam (Romans 5:12). Adam was created with a sinful nature, without being depraved, yet he sinned against God. He violated God’s holy law. This brought condemnation to all and now all of Adam’s posterity is born with a sinful desire. Arminius rightly saw this as total depravity. Arminius wrote:
The whole of this sin, however, is not peculiar to our first parents, but is common to the entire race and to all their posterity, who, at the time when this sin was committed, were in their loins, and who have since descended from them by the natural mode of propagation, according to the primitive benediction. For in Adam “all have sinned.” (Rom. v, 12.) Wherefore, whatever punishment was brought down upon our first parents, has likewise pervaded and yet pursues all their posterity. So that all men “are by nature the children of wrath,” (Ephes. ii, 3,) obnoxious to condemnation, and to temporal as well as to eternal death; they are also devoid of that original righteousness and holiness. (Rom. v, 12, 18, 19.) With these evils they would remain oppressed forever, unless they were liberated by Christ Jesus; to whom be glory forever.
So people are condemned because of sin. This is obvious. Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). Sin brings death (Romans 6:23) and sin only breeds more sin (Galatians 6:7-8). James 1:14-15 (NKJV) tells us where sin comes from:
But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Jesus said that whoever sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34). Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.” Romans 3:10-18 perfectly describes our condition before a holy God:
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
“Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
We sin because we are both sinful and we are sinful because we sin. Condemnation comes because of sin. The fact of Genesis 2:17 did not change. Those who sin deserve death and the wages of sin is death. People are condemned because of sin. Paul writes in Galatians 5:19-21 about the works of the flesh and how such acts will keep us from the kingdom:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Notice that it is sin that will keep a person from the kingdom. There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that the sovereignty of God will keep us from heaven or that God has decreed such. The fact is that people are condemned because of sin.
The only remedy for sin is the precious blood of Jesus. Hebrews 9:22 says, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Why? Because God demands that the one who sins shall die (Genesis 2:17) and He requires blood to atone for sins (Leviticus 17:11). Only the blood of Jesus can cleanse us from sin (Hebrews 9:28; 1 John 1:7). The blood of Jesus was absolutely perfect and holy blood that had never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21). The blood of Jesus is our only hope for salvation (Matthew 26:28; 1 Timothy 2:5-6). The soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4). Someone must die when someone sins. Whether it be the Lamb of God, our substitute, our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7) or our own blood, someone must die. The problem is that our blood is tainted with sin. Jesus’ blood was not. He stood condemned in our place, for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6). He died on the cross for our transgressions. And not just ours but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). What a great sacrifice was the cross! How unlimited is His atonement!
People then will stand before God at the final judgment and will be cast aside not because of election or reprobation but because of their own sins and their rejection of the truth. Romans 1:18-32 establishes universal condemnation. The necessity of the gospel and world evangelism are seen in the words of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8) and in the words of Paul in Romans 10:14-17. The way for people to be saved is through the gospel. We are under obligation to preach to all (2 Corinthians 5:18-6:3). We must declare that Jesus alone can forgive sins by His blood. And what brings condemnation is their own sins before a holy God and rejection of His truth (John 3:17-21). No person will stand at the judgment and say that it was God’s decree that sent them to hell but their own sins. They know that they are guilty before God (Romans 2:12-16). Arminius stated, “The opposite to justification is condemnation, and this by an immediate contrariety, so that between these two no medium can be imagined.” In other words, Arminius acknowledged that we are either justified through faith in Christ or we are condemned in our sins. There is only one way to justification before God and that is in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). He alone is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father but through Him (John 14:6; cf. Acts 4:12).
I believe, in closing, that the will of God is for all to be saved and He has demonstrated this in the giving of His Son (John 3:16). I believe He takes no delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32). People will be condemned not because of God’s failure to provide His Son for their sins but their rejection of His gospel. Through their own sins, their false worshiping and idolatry, they will stand before God and face condemnation. The only hope is Jesus. We must preach the gospel to all. The gospel of Christ alone has the power to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:21; cf. Romans 1:16-17). Our salvation will come only in Christ and what He has accomplished with His death on the cross and His glorious resurrection (Romans 4:24-5:1). Arminius rightly said about men rejecting the gospel,
The accidental issue of vocation is, the rejection of the doctrine of grace, contempt of the divine counsel, and resistance manifested against the Holy Spirit, of which the proper and per se cause is, the wickedness and hardness of the human heart; and to this not unfrequently is added the just judgment of God, avenging the contempt shown to his word, from which arise blindness of mind, hardening of the heart, and a delivering up to a reprobate mind, and to the power of Satan.
But Arminius also noted that justification before God only comes through faith and with it comes blessings:
The object of justification is man, a sinner, acknowledging himself, with sorrow, to be such an one, and a believer, that is, believing in God who justifies the ungodly, and in Christ as having been delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification. As a sinner, man needs justification through grace, and, as a believer, he obtains justification through grace.
May we preach to all to come and be saved, to look to the Lord Jesus for salvation (John 3:14-15) and repent of their sins (Acts 17:30-31). All can be forgiven and accepted in the chosen Son of God (Ephesians 1:7).
I have heard many people use this phrase about Jesus saying that He was a “friend of sinners.” This is based on Matthew 11:19 (NASB) which reads, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!’”
This is suppose to teach us that Jesus then was a friend of sinners and so should we be. Sinners don’t need to hear repentance, holiness, God’s wrath against sin, etc. They need to hear about how good He is, how loving He is, and how accepting He is. Sinners don’t need to see our pointed fingers (as one popular song says) at them but to hear the good news of God’s love for them and that He has a wonderful plan for their life. They need to hear good news and not bad news.
The problem is that the text doesn’t teach what they want it to teach. I have even had people tell me that they evangelize people by being a “friend of sinners” just like Jesus and they justify drinking with their lost friends, watching ungodly movies with their sinful friends, or just hanging out with them but never communicating the gospel, never discussing the law of God. They are just “friends of sinners.” Like Jesus.
Let’s look at Matthew 11:19 and then let us look at other passages in the Gospels to see if Jesus was a “friend of sinners” who didn’t call people to repent of their sins or to be holy. First of all, Jesus is the One speaking here in Matthew 11:19. He says that this slanderous accusation was being said by this generation of Jews (v. 16). The point was that they were wrong in what they were saying about Him (vv.15-19). In verse 20 Jesus even says, “Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” His point: look at My actions. Look at My life. If I am truly sinful, look at my life. Look at my disciples. Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds. I am not sinning but I live to please the Father.
Further, if Jesus is truly a “friend of sinners” then we should find Him doing what others say we should do: loving sinners as they are, not calling people to repent, not calling out sins. But what do we find about Jesus? In the very next verses notice what Jesus does as we read in Matthew 11:20:
“Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.”
He began to do what? To denounce the cities? But I thought He was good, loving, and non-judgmental? Jesus even says in verse 24, “Nevertheless I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” What? How could this be from this loving, non-confrontational Man?
There is no doubt that Jesus saved His harshest words for the religious (see Matthew 23) but He did call people to repent. He said in Luke 13:1-5:
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Here Jesus is not speaking to the religious Jews. He is speaking to sinners. He is speaking to the common folks. And yet we don’t find the lowly, meek, non-judgmental Jesus here. We find the bold Jesus calling people to repent. He didn’t shy away from His words. His point is clear in the text above: you all must repent or you’ll perish too. That is tough words. That is not a Jesus sitting in a bar drinking a tall beer and watching the NFL and just being a “friend of sinners.” This is not the politically correct Jesus who loves all without qualifications.
In Matthew 12:30-37 we read:
He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Again tough words from such a loving, gentle, non-judgmental Man such as Jesus. Again, is He the “friend of sinners” here who does not call people to repent? He even says in this text that blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. What? I thought He would accept us no matter what?
Jesus even confronted His own chosen disciples in John 6:66-71. Here we read:
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.
Jesus asks His own disciples in verse 67 if they want to leave Him? That is tough. He demanded obedience to Himself as Lord. He had just finished teaching from John 6:22-59 about Himself being the bread of life and that whoever comes to Him must eat His flesh and drink His blood. He is demanding total submission to His entire being. He must be our total life (see Luke 14:25-35 as well).
Finally, Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:13-14 to His own disciples (see Matthew 5:1-2):
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
His point is that many are going down the road to hell. The narrow way is the way to life and that life is only found in Him (John 14:6). Jesus, the true friend of sinners, is a friend of sinners in the sense that He died on the cross for our sins and through faith in His blood we can be forgiven of our sins (Matthew 26:28). He alone is the way to God (1 Timothy 2:5-6). He alone is the only way that we can be forgiven before God (John 3:17-18). He alone is the way to righteousness and perfection that God requires for us to enter into His holy presence (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). His blood alone can cleanse us from sin and atone for us before God (Hebrews 9:22, 27-28; 10:10, 14). The way to heaven is not broad. It is not various religions. It is only in Christ Jesus that we can be saved. We must call people to repent (Acts 2:38; 17:30-31). We must preach the truth of God, that Jesus is the only way to salvation (Romans 6:23). There is no other way but through faith in His blood (Romans 5:1; 10:14-17).
Let us then not be ashamed to confront sinners. Jesus told people to turn from sin (John 5:14; 8:11). So should we (1 John 3:6-9). Jesus told people to believe in Him (John 4:13-14, 25-26; 9:35-39). So should we. Jesus spoke of repentance (Luke 13:1-5; 24:47). So should we. Jesus spoke of holiness (Matthew 5:48; 15:10-20). So should we (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16). Let us not hide the truths of God from a lost world that is blinded by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Let us take the gospel to all (Mark 16:15; John 20:21).
Some Roman Catholics argue that the first council of Nicea proves the Bishop of Rome was a universal bishop over all regions.
The ancient customs of Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis shall be maintained, according to which the bishop of Alexandria has authority over all these places since a similar custom exists with reference to the bishop of Rome. Similarly in Antioch and the other provinces the prerogatives of the churches are to be preserved. In general the following principle is evident: if anyone is made bishop without the consent of the metropolitan, this great synod determines that such a one shall not be a bishop. If however two or three by reason of personal rivalry dissent from the common vote of all, provided it is reasonable and in accordance with the church’s canon, the vote of the majority shall prevail. (link)
The statement is ambiguous if the bishop of Rome is over the surrounding provence of Rome or over everything. However, it’s important to note that Rufinus understood and translated the council as saying the bishop of Rome was over the Roman suburbs.
VI. The ancient custom in Alexandria and the city of Rome is to be maintained whereby [the bishop of the former] has charge of Egypt, while [the bishop of the latter] has charge of the suburbicarian churches. Rufinus (c340 to 410)
The title of my post caught your attention. I wanted it to. I want to address the need for us Arminians and Calvinists to love one another. We can debate. We can disagree. We can even agree to just walk away. But let it not be said of us that we don’t love one another. I love my wife. She is wonderful to me. Yet we don’t agree on every issue. We don’t always get along. But we do love one another. We are committed to each other no matter what may come. We have fought through tough times when it seemed Satan was after one of us yet by the grace of God, we are still married. Still in love with each other and she is my delight. But marriage takes fighting for! So do godly relationships!
Recently I was reading of a debate between a Calvinist brother and an Arminian brother. Both are evangelists. Both seem to have a zeal for reaching people with the gospel. Yet they disagree. Unfortunately, one brother has been attacking the other brother by claiming false statements about this brother and their interactions and he has been reported as saying that this brother worships a false god.
Now I have been accused of this myself. I use to have a Calvinist who would write me and tell me that I was worshiping a false god. He went so far as to say that I would burn in hell for holding to Arminianism and not Calvinism. I often responded with a “love you too brother” sort of reply. It drove him mad I am sure. He would send me link after link from Calvinist blogs attacking my Arminianism. He assumed he could lure me into a debate or that I would resort to saying that Calvinism is a false teaching. I am not sure what he was fishing for other than a good old fight. He came to the wrong Arminian. I suppose I have had my share of debates over the years of blogging and preaching but I have never resorted to saying that Calvinists worship a false god. I disagree with Calvinists. I am not a Calvinist. But I do not share the feelings of some that Calvinists worship a false god.
Jesus said in John 13:34-35:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John the Beloved wrote in 1 John 4:7-21:
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
That seems pretty clear that love is one of the key marks for being a disciple of Jesus. It is not holding to Christianity. It is not holding to Arminianism. It is not holding to any ism. It is about being in Christ and allowing His love to flow through us to others and to the world.
I have no hidden agenda here. I know that many Calvinists and Arminians read my blog and they don’t always agree with me. But who can deny that we should love one another? I have no problem praying (and even supporting) godly Calvinists who are hungry for Jesus, desperate for the glory of God to be manifested in His Church, and seeking to evangelize the lost. I have no problems with such folks whether they be Arminians or Calvinists. I long myself to see Jesus exalted in my life and not my Arminianism. If people know me by my theological label rather than my relationship with Jesus, God have mercy upon me. I would rather see souls saved and become strong disciples of Jesus than to fall in love with Arminius and I believe he would agree. Jesus alone is the way to God (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and He alone should be glorified.
Let us exalt Jesus Christ together my brothers and sisters! We have only one God and Him only shall we serve!
Your Blessedness has also been careful to declare that you do not now make use of proud titles, which have sprung from a root of vanity, in writing to certain persons, and you address me saying, As you have commanded. This word, command, I beg you to remove from my hearing, since I know who I am, and who you are. For in position you are my brethren, in character my fathers. I did not, then, command, but was desirous of indicating what seemed to be profitable. Yet I do not find that your Blessedness has been willing to remember perfectly this very thing that I brought to your recollection. For I said that neither to me nor to any one else ought you to write anything of the kind; and lo, in the preface of the epistle which you have addressed to myself who forbade it, you have thought fit to make use of a proud appellation, calling me Universal Pope. But I beg your most sweet Holiness to do this no more, since what is given to another beyond what reason demands is subtracted from yourself. For as for me, I do not seek to be prospered by words but by my conduct. Nor do I regard that as an honour whereby I know that my brethren lose their honour. For my honour is the honour of the universal Church: my honour is the solid vigour of my brethren. Then am I truly honoured when the honour due to all and each is not denied them. For if your Holiness calls me Universal Pope, you deny that you are yourself what you call me universally. But far be this from us. Away with words that inflate vanity and wound charity. (link)