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John Wesley brought with him the rise of evangelical Arminianism and he helped found the Methodist Church (though Wesley never left the Anglican Church). Wesley was a scholar but even more he was passionate to preach the gospel. He would preach anywhere and everywhere. Wesley was encouraged by his Calvinist friend George Whitefield to preach in the open air and so he did on April 2, 1739 for the first time. Wesley described it this way:
Monday, 2.—At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a ground adjoining to the city, to about three thousand people. The Scripture on which I spoke was this (is it possible anyone should be ignorant that it is fulfilled in every true minister of Christ?): “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord”
Wesley called it “vile” because he had been raised and trained to preach only in the church buildings and not in the open air. From here on, Wesley would write in his journal about preaching to thousands upon thousands of people in the open air. This led to the founding of the Methodist Church as Wesley and his companions were often kicked out of churches and even physically assaulted by the crowds for their preaching.
One Methodist historian describes the early Methodists like this:
During its early years in England and in America, Methodism was a despised sect.
Methodists were enthusiasts (too excitable); their camp meetings were out of control; their preachers were uneducated. They sang “ditties” instead of stately hymns. They offended people by talking to them about their souls. They opposed “worldliness,” which included Sabbath breaking, dancing, card playing, gambling, alcohol, and fancy dress.
For the first 75 years of their presence in America, Methodists would never have won any popularity polls. But Methodism grew. From 1784 to 1850, a period known generally as the Second Great Awakening, Methodism grew from 3 percent of America’s religious population, to 33 percent. It was in part because Methodism during this period thought it better to be despised for the gospel than to be respectable in the world.
Notice that the early Methodists loved the gospel and loved souls and desired to preach the truth of the gospel above being popular with the world. This led to their growth. They were “other” minded people, focused on eternity (2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Philippians 3:17-20). They did not care about being friends with this world (James 4:4) and they lived and died with a focus on the glory of God (Philippians 1:20-21). Amazing, faithful people!
But along with a zeal for the gospel, they had great men of God who were both solid theologians and solid evangelists at the same time. Consider men such as Adam Clarke or Richard Watson or John Fletcher. All three men were men of God who were known for their zeal, for their prayer lives, for their personal holiness but they also loved the Word of God and expounded the Word of God. All three men were to be found teaching the early Methodists sound doctrine in their Bible classes but they were turn around and open air preach or lead their students back to their studies to pray. They could on the one hand study the Greek New Testament and on the other they could spend all night in prayer. John Wesley himself was a student of the Word. He would often ride his horse and read a book as he traveled. I own his Works and they are full of Greek, French, and Latin references. Yet Wesley would rise up at 4 AM each day to pray and read his Bible. He loved knowledge but he feared God as well.
Where is that today? Where are the theologians who are known not just for their knowledge of the Word of God (such as Adam Clarke) but also their preaching, their zeal, their open air preaching, their hunger for souls. Oh God give us men such as Paul the Apostle who could expound on the riches of justification in Romans 5 and pray to the Lord with much passion in Romans 10:1-2 for his own race to be saved! We need both the scholar and the evangelist. We need men of God who both love the Word, study theology, etc. but also love souls, love to pray, love to worship, and love to apply theology. We often are educated beyond our level of obedience (James 2:14-26) and I fear that we have much knowledge about God but we know little of this God in a real and personal way (John 17:3; Philippians 3:8-11). I want to know much about God but oh to have a zeal for Him where I take His Word and go out into the highways as Wesley did proclaiming the truth of His Word (Acts 5:20).
Esteemed Arminian theologian Richard Watson offers five points regarding the extent of the atonement and the use of the word “world” and the Calvinist argument that the word means “the elect out of the world.” Watson gives the following points:
It is equally impracticable to restrict the phrases, the world, the whole world, and to paraphrase them the world of the elect: and yet there is no other alternative; for either the whole world means those elected out of it; or else Christ died in an equal sense for every man. God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, &c. Here, if the world mean not the elect only, but every man, then every man was so loved by God, that he gave his own Son for his redemption. To say that the world, in a few places, means the Roman empire, and in others Judea, is nothing to the purpose, unless it were meant to affirm, that the elect were the people of Judea, or those of the Roman empire only. It proves, it is true, a hyperbolical use of the term in both instances; but this cannot be urged in the case before us: for,
1. The elect are never called the world in Scripture; but are distinguished from it. I have chosen you out of the world; therefore the world hateth you.
2. The common division of mankind, in the New Testament, is only into two parts; the disciples of Christ, and the world. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own. Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.
3. When the redemption of Christ is spoken of, it often includes both those who had been chosen out of the world, and those who remained still of the world. And you hath he reconciled, say the apostles to those that had already believed; and as to the rest, God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed to us the word of reconciliation, plainly that they might beseech this world to be reconciled to God: so that both believers and unbelievers were interested in the reconciling ministry, and the work of Christ. And he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only; but also for the sins of the whole world: words cannot make the case plainer than these, since this same writer, in the same epistle, makes it evident bow he uses the term world, when he affirms that the world lieth in wickedness, in contradistinction to those who knew that they were of GOD.
4. In the general commission before quoted, the expression world is connected with universal terms which carry it forth into its utmost latitude of meaning. Go ye into ALL the world, and preach the Gospel (the good news) to every creature; and this too in order to his believing it, that he may be saved; he that believeth shall be saved; and he that believeth not (this good news preached to him that he might be saved) shall be damned.
5. All this is confirmed from the gross absurdity of this restricted interpretation when applied to several of the foregoing passages. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoso. ever believeth in him should not perish. Now, if the world here means the elect world, or the elect not yet called out of it, then it is affirmed, that whosoever, of this elect body, believeth shall not perish; which plainly implies, that some of the elect might not believe, and therefore perish, contrary to their doctrine. This absurd consequence is still clearer from the verses which immediately follow. John iii, 17, 18, For God sent not his Son into the world, to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already. Now here we must take the term world, either extensively for all mankind or limitedly for the elect. If the former, then all men through him may be saved, but only through faith: he therefore, of this world that believeth may be saved; but he of this world that believeth not is condemned already. The sense is here plain and consistent; but if, on the other hand, we take the world to mean the elect only, then he of this elect world that believeth may be saved, and he of the elect world that believeth not is condemned; so that the restricted interpretation necessarily supposes, that elect persons may remain in unbelief, and be lost. The same absurdity will follow from a like interpretation of the general commission. Either all the world and every creature, mean every man, or the elect only. If the former, it follows, that he of this world, any individual among those included in the phrase, every creature, who believes, shall be saved, or, not believing, shall be damned: if the latter, then he of the elect, any individual of the elect, who believes, shall be saved, and any individual of the elect who believes not, shall be damned. Similar absurdities might be brought out from other passages; but if these are candidly weighed, it will abundantly appear, that texts so plain and explicit cannot be turned into such Consequences by any true method of interpretation, and that they must, therefore, be taken in their obvious sense, which unequivocally expresses the universality of the atonement.
We all face temptation. None of us can escape it. The Bible says in James 1:14 (NKJV), “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” Our own flesh loves sin and seeks to fulfill its desires which includes any and everything.
The child of God has the blessing of the precious Holy Spirit abiding within us. He enables us to be holy. He helps us to overcome sin. I am convinced that if a Christian sins, we do so because we want to sin. We have the power to say no to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13; Titus 2:12). I find noting in the New Testament to suggest that we need to sin or that we must sin. No doubt those who live in the flesh are not that way (Romans 8:7-8). Unbelievers walk in the flesh and they sin almost all the time without thought about it (Ephesians 4:17-19) but this is not the case for the disciple of Christ (Ephesians 4:20-32). We are to imitate Christ (Ephesians 5:1) and this can only come through faithful dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
I was blessed today reading from Hebrews 2:17-18 which reads like this in the New King James Version:
Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
I love how that reads. Notice that Jesus had to become flesh (John 1:14) in order for Him to be able to intercede before the Father on our behalf. Because He was tempted in every way yet without sin, He is able to help us who are tempted by sin (Hebrews 4:15). He stands before God the Father and He cries out for us. He prays that we would be overcomers. He prays that we would overcome sin. He prays that we would resist the devil (Hebrews 2:14). He gives us aid when being tempted. Yet often I confess that it is much easier to sin than to look to Jesus for aid. It is very much easier for me to just give in to my flesh or the sinful desire than to fight my flesh in the power of the Spirit. But this ought not to be. Jesus provides us aid as we look to Him and He lives to pray for us (Hebrews 7:25).
No matter what our struggle, I am convinced that Jesus came to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21). He didn’t come to save us in our sins but from our sins. He came to set us free (John 8:36; Galatians 5:1). He came that we might have life (John 10:10) and not be bound by sins. He gives us aid to help us overcome sin. We cannot overcome sin in our own power but only in the power and grace of Jesus Christ. But in Christ, we can be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). We can be free from sin.
To say the book of Revelation intimidates many readers of Christian Scripture is probably an understatement. The difficulty of understanding its ancient Jewish apocalyptic symbolism and imagery is only compounded by the complexity of its structure. Beyond the challenges of the text itself, there are almost as many different interpretations of John’s Apocalypse as there are interpreters. We want to understand this important book of scripture, but it’s difficult to sort through which guides and commentaries are more helpful and which are less. How are we to overcome all these roadblocks to reading Revelation? Where do we begin if we are interested in leading a Bible study or preaching a series of sermons on this dense book? Well, there is…
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The following are wise words from Adam Clarke on the utter sinfulness of mankind:
That a sinner is abominable in the sight of God and of all good men; that he is unfit for the society of the righteous; and that he cannot, as such, be admitted into the kingdom of God, needs no proof. It is owing to the universality of the evil that sinners are not expelled from society as the most dangerous of all monsters, and obliged to live without having any commerce with their fellow creatures. Ten lepers could associate together, because partaking of the same infection; and civil society is generally maintained, because composed of a leprous community.
All are born with a sinful nature; and the seeds of this evil soon vegetate, and bring, forth corresponding fruits. There has never been one instance of an immaculate human soul since the fall of Adam. Every man sins, and sins too after the similitude of Adam’s transgression. Adam endeavored to be independent of God; all his offspring act in the same way: hence prayer is little used, because prayer is the language of dependence; and this is inconsistent with every motion of original sin. When these degenerate children of degenerate parents are detected in their sins, they act just as their parents did; each excuses himself, and lays the blame on another. “What hast thou done?” “The woman whom thou gavest me, — SHE gave me, and I did eat.” “What hast THOU done?” “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” Thus, it is extremely difficult to find a person who ingenuously acknowledges his own transgression.
Sin is represented as a king, ruler, or tyrant, who has the desires of the mind and the members of the body under his control; so that by influencing the passions he governs the body. Do not let sin reign, do not let him work; that is, let him have no place, no being in your souls; because wherever he is he governs, less or more: and indeed sin is not sin without this. How is sin known? By evil influences in the mind, and evil acts in the life. But do not these influences and these acts prove his dominion? Certainly, the very existence of an evil thought to which passion or appetite attaches itself, is a proof that there sin has dominion; for without dominion such passions could not be excited. Wherever sin is felt, there sin has dominion; for sin is sin only as it works in action or passion against God. Sin cannot be a quiescent thing: if it do not work, it does not exist.
After all the proofs of man’s natural excellence, we have ten thousand others of his internal moral depravity, and alienation from the divine life. The general tenor of his moral conduct is an infraction of the laws of his Creator. While lord of the lower world, he is a slave to the vilest and most degrading passions; he loves not his Maker; and is hostile and oppressive to his fellows. In a word, he is as fearfully and wonderfully vile, as he was “fearfully and wonderfully made;” and all this shows most forcibly that he stands guilty before God, and is in danger of perishing everlastingly.
Men may amuse themselves by arguing against the doctrine of original sin, or the total depravity of the soul of man; but while there is religious persecution in the world, there is the most absolute disproof of all their arguments. Nothing but a heart wholly alienated from God could ever devise the persecution or maltreatment of a man, for no other cause than that he has given himself up to glorify God with his body and spirit, which are his.
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…
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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