Category Archives: Calvinism

The Assuring Hand of God

Recently I had a discussion with a young man who professed Christ as Savior and through this discussion that lasted nearly 2 hours, one recurring question kept coming up.  One that is popular in Roman Catholic theology and I think might be fairly common within modern evangelical churches, specifically those that hold to a more Arminian theology (named after Jacob Arminius).  That question is one of eternal security.  This young man had been wrestling with the thought that he needed to do certain things or act a certain way lest he be in danger of “losing his salvation.”  His question left him floundering squarely in the cross-hairs of works-righteousness, a need to do more and more or to somehow stop sinning such that he may be kept in the faith.   

Similarly, I also recently saw a video of a recent seminary graduate who is known as an “open theist” and Arminian, street preaching in which he declared boldly that one could lose their salvation.  An interesting point he made was that the historical church position was in line with his belief that one could lose salvation and that it was only through the Reformers that the “preservation of the saints” came about.  There is a partial truth to this, albeit from a more Catholic perspective.  He likewise stated that there was biblical evidence that Judas was a Christian, lost his salvation, repented, and got it back (this will be addressed in a separate post).  Both of these young men brought me to a point of realization of the torment the soul must undertake in its question of eternal security.  To come to a conclusion on what many of the reformed view may see as an obvious answer, we must look at biblical evidences for the believer’s eternal security.  Also, we must define the difference between the common phrase “once saved always saved” and the reformed definition of perseverance or perhaps more accurately “preservation of the saints” (i.e. the “P” from the TULIP acrostic).

The obvious answer to this dilemma is to approach this from a sovereign grace perspective and argue that those whom God sovereignly chooses He sovereignly keeps by His own hand.  Remember, we previously identified those who state salvation can be lost as holding a traditionally Arminian view (a common view in today’s Church), one in which is at odds with the reformed view of sovereign grace.  But is there biblical evidence to support this claim?  Can we find proof texts that state that it is God who keeps His own and that none will be lost?  And do these passages provide comfort to those who do not hold to the doctrines of sovereign grace?

Our first passage comes from John 6 in which Jesus has just fed the 5000.  The following day in addressing the crowd, 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:35-40

The words of our Lord here are rich and deep and I pray that you go back and reread this passage again.  Note what Jesus is saying here beginning in verse 37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me.”  Here we have a soteriological, or salvation, statement from Jesus.  All that the Father gives to Jesus will subsequently come to Him.  What does that mean?  Who are the “all” and why is the Father giving them to the Son?  As is important in understanding the Bible, it is critical to let Scripture interpret itself.  To do so, let’s look at Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17 in which He again makes reference to a particular group that was given to Him by God the Father.  “I have manifested Your name to the people whom You gave Me out of the world.  Yours they were, and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.” John 17:6 In this passage we have a group of people, namely the world, and then we have a second group that has been given to Jesus out of the world, in other words a subset of the world.  Matthew Henry helps us with this idea, “Take the world for a heap of unwinnowed corn in the floor, and God loves it, Christ prays for it, and dies for it, for a blessing is in it; but, the Lord perfectly knowing those that are His, He eyes particularly those that were given Him out of the world, extracts them; and then take the world for the remaining heap of rejected, worthless chaff, and Christ neither prays for it, nor dies for it, but abandons it, and the wind drives it away.  These are called the world, because they are governed by the spirit of this world and have their portion in it.”  This “subset” from the world which God the Father gives His son, are the elect, Christ’s bride, His sheep. 

If we return to our passage from John 6 we see the second half of verse 37 reads, “and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”   Here we begin to see the assurance in salvation from Jesus. “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”  All the elect that God the Father gives to Jesus will come to Him and Jesus will in turn never cast them out.  He goes on to say in John 6:39 “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”   Not only has Jesus said He will never cast those out, but here He affirms that it is the will of God the Father that He should lose none of those given to Him, but instead shall “raise” them up on the last day, namely to be with Him forever in heaven.  To suggest that it is possible for a person to “lose their salvation” is to propose that the will of God the Father, as outlined by Jesus in this passage, could be frustrated and that is simply impossible.  Jesus reiterates His assuring statement just a few verses later, but this time He adds a qualification of those who can come, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  And I will raise Him up on the last day.”  John 6:44 All those who come to Jesus are drawn by the Father and Jesus has assured, yet again, that He will lose none of them.  The children of God should have confidence in the work of God, namely that of those He draws and gives to the Son, not one will ever be lost.

In John 10:27-30 we read Jesus saying, 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”  Jesus emphatically states here that no one will snatch His sheep, i.e. the elect, from either His hand or the Father’s hand.  There’s no fumbling of the elect in their transition from the Father to the Son, it’s guaranteed.  We can read of this again in our parallel passage from John 17, “While I was with them, I kept them in Your name, which you have given me.  I have guarded them and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” John 17:12

The Apostle Paul supports this same assurance in the powerful passage from Ephesians 1:3-14

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

This passage gives us the full picture of God’s sovereignty in salvation.  In verse 4 we read of God the Father choosing the elect, “in Him” meaning in Christ, predestining us for adoption as sons “through Christ” in verse 5, a second reference to redeeming work of Christ and the “giving” of the elect from the Father that we just read about in John 6, John 10, and John 17.  If we pause our lesson and ask why did God choose anyone?  In verses 5-6 we read “according to the purpose of his will” and “to the praise of his glorious grace” while in verse 12 we read “to the praise of his glory”.  It is for God’s good purpose to make His glory known that He has chosen the elect (see also Romans 9).  While often times passages such as these cause heartburn among those in the Church and a dividing line between those who hold to the reformed view vs. the Arminian view, it’s important to look where this passage from Ephesians concludes, you “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”   Sealed with the Holy Spirit and it is He who is the guarantee of our inheritance.  How are believers kept in the palm of God’s hand?  By the power of the Holy Spirit in the loving hand of God and as Paul says in Romans 8:33-39 nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, kept by the Spirit.  Sovereignly chosen, sovereignly kept.  That is the assurance of salvation.

Lord willing, later this week we will look at the significant difference between “once saved always saved” and the preservation of the saints.

Sola Gratia!

Predestination and the Free Offer

I read this on the Pyromaniacs blog and since I often include posts from Charles Spurgeon, I thought I would include this one.  It’s an excerpt from a sermon entitled “High Doctrine and Broad Doctrine” available HERE with most all of Spurgeon’s sermons/works.  I don’t know if I’ve ever read/heard a better explanation of the sovereign grace of God and the necessity of man to except the free offer.  If you struggle with reconciling these two views, then read below to better understand their relationship and how they are complementary. Sola Gratia!

 

By Charles H. Spurgeon 

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”—John 6:37.

These two sentences have been looked upon as representing two sides of Christian doctrine. They enable us to see it from two stand-points—the Godward and the manward.

The first sentence contains what some call high doctrine. If by “high” they mean “glorious towards God,” I fully agree with them; for it is a grand, God-honoring truth which our Lord Jesus declares in these words,—”All that the Father giveth, me shall come to me.” Some have styled this side of truth Calvinistic, but while it is true that Calvin taught it, so also did Augustine, and Paul, and our Lord himself, whose words these are. However, I will not quarrel with those who see in this sentence a statement of the great truth of predestinating grace.

The second sentence sets forth blessed, encouraging, evangelical doctrine, and is in effect a promise and an invitation,—”Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” This is a statement without limitation of any kind: it has been thought to leave the free grace of God open to the free will of man, so that whosoever pleases may come and may be sure that he still not be refused.

We have no permission to pare down either sentence, nor is there the slightest need to do so. The first sentence appears to me to say that God has chosen a people, and has given these people to Christ, and these people must and shall come to Christ, and so shall be saved. The second truth declares that every man who comes to Christ shall be saved, since he shall not be cast out, and that implies that he shall be received and accepted.

These are two great truths; let us carry them both with us, and they will balance each other. I was once asked to reconcile these two statements, and I answered, “No, I never reconcile friends.” These two passages never fell out: they are perfectly agreed. It is folly to imagine a difference, and then set about removing it. It is like making a man of straw, and then going out to fight with it.

The grand declaration of the purpose of God that he will save his own is quite consistent with the widest declaration that whosoever will come to Christ shall be saved. The pity is that it ever should be thought to be a difficulty to hold both truths; or that, supposing there is a difficulty, we should have thought it our duty to remove it. Believe me, my dear hearers, the business of removing religious difficulties is the least remunerative labor under heaven.

The truest way is to accept the difficulty wherever you find it in God’s word, and to exercise your faith upon it. It is unreasonable to suppose that faith is to be exempted from trials: all the other graces are exercised, and why should not faith be put to the test? I often feel a joy within my spirit in having to believe what I cannot understand; and sometimes when I have to say to myself, “How can it be?” I find a joy in replying that it is so written, and therefore it must be so.

In spite of all reasoning stands the utterance of God. Our Father speaks, and doubts are silenced: his Spirit writes, and we believe. I feel great pleasure in gliding down the river of revelation, upon a voyage of discovery, and hour by hour obtaining fresh knowledge of divine truth; but where I come to an end of progress, and see my way blocked up by a sublimely awful difficulty, I find equal pleasure in casting anchor under the lee of the obstacle, and waiting till the pilot tells me what next to do.

When we cannot go through a truth, we may be led over it, or round it, and what matters? Our highest benefit comes not of answering riddles, but of obeying commands by the power of love. Suppose we can see no further into the subject—what then? Shall we trouble about that? Must there not be an end of human knowledge somewhere? May we not be perfectly satisfied for God to appoint the boundary of understanding? Let us not therefore run our heads against difficulties of our own invention, and certainly not against those which God has seen fit to leave for us.

Take, then, these two truths, and know that they are equally precious portions of one harmonious whole. Let us not quibble over them, or indulge a foolish favouritism for one and a prejudice against the other; but let us receive both with a candid, large-hearted love of truth, such as children of God should exhibit. We are not called upon to explain, but to accept. Let us believe if we cannot reconcile.

Here are two jewels, let us wear them both. As surely as this Book is true, God has a people whom he has chosen, and whom Christ has redeemed from among men; and these must and shall by sovereign grace be brought in due time to repentance and faith, for not one of them shall ever perish. But yet is it equally true, that whosoever among the sons of men shall come and put his trust in Christ shall receive eternal life. “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

“None are excluded hence but those
Who do themselves exclude.
Welcome the learned and polite,
The ignorant and rude.”

The two truths of my text are by no means inconsistent the one with the other: they are perfectly agreed. Happy is the man who can believe them both, whether he sees their agreement or does not see it.

I was cruising one day in the western Highlands. It had been a splendid day, and the glorious scenery had made our journey like an excursion to Fairy Land; but it came to an end, for darkness and night asserted their primeval sovereignty. Right ahead was a vast headland of the isle of Arran. How it frowned against the evening sky! The mighty rock seemed to overhang the sea. Just at its base was a little bay, and into this we steamed, and there we lay at anchorage all night, safe from every wind that might happen to be seeking out its prey. In that calm loch we seemed to lie in the mountain’s lap while its broad shoulders screened us from the wind.

Now, the first part of my text, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me,” rises like a huge headland high into the heavens. Who shall scale its height? Upon some it seems to frown darkly. But here at the bottom lies the placid, glassy lake of infinite love and mercy: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Steam into it, and be safe under the shadow of the great rock. You will be the better for the mountain-truth as your barque snugly reposes within the glittering waters at its foot; while you may thank God that the text is not all mountain to repel you, you will be grateful that there is enough of it to secure you.

Perseverance in the Faith

By Charles H. Spurgeon

“strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”  Acts 14:22 ESV

Perseverance is the badge of true saints.  The Christian life is not a beginning only in the ways of God, but also a continuance in the same as long as life lasts.  It is with a Christian as it was with the great Napoleon: he said, Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me.  So under God, dear brother in the Lord, conquest has made you what you are, and conquest must sustain you.  Your motto must be, Excelsior.  He only is a true conqueror, and shall be crowned at the last, who continueth till war’s trumpet is blown no more.  Perseverance is, therefore, the target of all our spiritual enemies. 

The world does not object to your being a Christian for a time, if she can but tempt you to cease your pilgrimage, and settle down to buy and sell with her in Vanity Fair.  The flesh will seek to ensnare you, and to prevent your pressing on to glory.  It is weary work being a pilgrim; come, give it up.  Am I always to be mortified?  Am I never to be indulged?  Give me at least a furlough from this constant warfare. 

Satan will make many a fierce attack on your perseverance; it will be the mark for all his arrows.  He will strive to hinder you in service: he will insinuate that you are doing no good; and that you want rest.  He will endeavor to make you weary of suffering, he will whisper, Curse God, and die.  Or he will attack your steadfastness: What is the good of being so zealous?  Be quiet like the rest; sleep as do others, and let your lamp go out as the other virgins do.  Or he will assail your doctrinal sentiments: Why do you hold to these denominational creeds?  Sensible men are getting more liberal; they are removing the old landmarks: fall in with the times. 

Wear your shield, Christian, therefore, close upon your armor, and cry mightily unto God, that by his Spirit you may endure to the end.