The Gospel


By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. III:3

Those of mankind who are predestined unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving Him thereunto.
The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, III:5

Jonathan Edwards

The enjoyment of [God] is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husband, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Top 20 Devotional Books

Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Leather Gift Edition by Bennett, Arthur G.

Morning by Morning and Evening by Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on the ESV Bible (SET)

Holiness Day by Day: Transformational Thoughts for Your Spiritual Journey (Hardcover) by Bridges, Jerry

Knowing God Devotional Journal: 365 Daily Readings (Paperback) by Packer, J. I.

Daily Light on the Daily Path: Devotional Book for Every Morning and Evening by Crossway Books

Golden Treasury of Puritan Devotion: Selections from the Writings of 13 Puritan by Di Gangi, Mariano

Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (Hardcover) by Luther, Martin

Search the Scriptures: A Three Year Daily Devotional Guide to the Whole Bible

Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers (Hardcover) by Hudson, Christopher D.

Teach Us to Pray: 365 Prayers from the Bible (Paperback) by Beals, Timothy J.

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (Hardcover) by Keller, Timothy

The Fruitful Life: The Overflow of God’s Love Through You (Paperback) by Bridges, Jerry

In Christ Alone: Reflections on the Heart of the Gospel (Hardcover) by Sinclair Ferguson.

The Loveliness of Christ (Soft Gift Edition) by Rutherford, Samuel (foreword by Sinclair Ferguson)

The Hope of Glory: 100 Daily Meditations on Colossians (Paperback) by Storms, C. Samuel

Lord and His Prayer by Wright, N. T.

Taste and See : Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life by Piper, John

Practice of Godliness by Kuyper, Abraham

Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine by Tozer, A. W.

Confessions by Augustine

A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works (Hardcover)

Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer, Dietrich

Should Christians Say That Their Aim Is to Convert Others to Faith in Christ?

October 22, 2009

First of all, why am I asking this question? Three reasons:

Because in our delicate and dangerous setting of global religious pluralism, how we speak about our aims can get us kicked out of a country or worse.

Because we want to follow Paul’s pattern of honesty: "But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2).

Because we need biblical clarity about our role in converting others to Christ, lest we shrink back from the aim of conversion for mistaken reasons.

Let’s begin with a definition.

Christian conversion is the act or process of being changed (without coercion but through our own volition) into a person who believes and treasures Jesus Christ, his saving work, and his promises above everything else, including all that we were believing or treasuring before conversion.

Given that definition, my answer to the question is Yes, all Christians should aim to convert people to faith in Jesus Christ. This is one of our aims in all we say and do. We hope and pray that everything we say and do will have this effect. In other words, our aim is not to say things and do things that are ineffectual. We desire—we hope, we yearn, we pray—that what we say and do will have this effect: that people will treasure Christ above all. Not to want this is either unbelief or lovelessness.

But to say that Christian conversion is our aim does not yet define what our role is in bringing conversion about. That’s what needs clarifying from the Bible.

And here I only want to bring one clarification: The fact that God is the ultimate and decisive cause in conversion does not mean we are not causal agents in conversion. We are. And as God’s agents in conversion we aim at it—we choose what we do and say in the hope that it will be used by God to bring about conversion.

The fact that Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:65), does not mean we are not instruments in bringing people to Christ. “The Spirit and the Bride [the church] say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come’” (Revelation 22:17).

The Bible does not infer from God’s causing people to come that we should not say, “Come.” Our aim and effort is that they come. And God is decisive in whether they come. To say that we are not aiming that they come contradicts the command of Jesus (Luke 14:23), contradicts the human instrumentality of the gospel (Romans 10:13-15), and contradicts love.

Consider five other ways that the Bible talks about our role in the conversion of others.

1. Christian conversion involves spiritually blind people being able to see the glory of Christ. Though God opens the eyes of the spiritually blind (2 Corinthians 4:6), Jesus sends Paul to open their eyes.
I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins. (Acts 26:17-18)
For Paul to say that his aim is not to open their eyes would be disobedience to the mission Jesus gave him.

2. Christian conversion involves winning people from treasuring anything above Christ to full devotion to Christ. Though God is decisive in changing people’s affections (Jeremiah 24:7), Paul says his aim is to win people.
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. (1 Corinthians 9:22)
For Paul to say that his aim is not to win people to Christ would contradict his mission.

3. Christian conversion involves bringing people back from the path of sin and destruction. Though God is the one who decisively brings us back to himself (Jeremiah 31:18; Isaiah 57:18), the Bible speaks of us bringing people back from sin and death.
Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:20)
To say that we do not aim to bring people back from sin and death would put us out of step with this text and imply we don’t care about the death of unbelievers.

4. Christian conversion involves turning the heart toward the true God away from wrong ideas about God and wrong affections for what is not God. Though God is decisive in turning the human heart to himself (2 Thessalonians 3:5), John the Baptist was commissioned to turn the hearts of Israel to God.
He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.” (Luke 1:16-17)
For John the Baptist to say that he does not aim to turn the hearts of the people to God would make him disobedient to his calling.

5. Christian conversion involves being born again. Though the Spirit of God is the sovereign cause of the new birth, blowing where he wills (John 3:8), nevertheless, Peter explains that this happens through the preaching of the gospel by human beings.
You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. . . . And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:23-25)
For the preacher of the gospel to say that he is not aiming at the new birth in his preaching would put him out of step with the Spirit and contradict the design of God in how people are born again.

Therefore, I conclude that it is unbiblical to say that we are not aiming at conversion because God is the decisive, ultimate cause of conversion. He is. But we are his agents, and he calls us to join him in this goal. Not to aim at it is to put ourselves out of step with his command and his Spirit.

For the cause of God and truth,
Pastor John

Why We Love the Doctrines of Grace

Pastor John is a great blessing in my life. He continues to influence and challenge me in my walk with Christ with fear and trembling and the sweetness of knowing my savior and continue to fight for the joy that was given to me through the cross. My theology is shaped through his faithfulness in teaching God's Word everyday. I want to thank the Holy Spirit for giving him the passion and desire to glorify God the Father and God the Son.He is a chosen vessel for God's mercy.

October 23, 2009
By: John Piper

Unconditional election delivers the harshest and the sweetest judgments to my soul.

That it is unconditional destroys all self-exaltation; and that it is election makes me his treasured possession.

This is one of the beauties of the biblical doctrines of grace: their worst devastations prepare us for their greatest delights.

What prigs we would become at the words, “The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6), if this election were in any way dependent on our will. But to protect us from pride, the Lord teaches us that we are unconditionally chosen (7:7-9). “He made a wretch his treasure,” as we so gladly sing.

Only the devastating freeness and unconditionality of electing grace lets us take and taste such gifts for our very own without the exaltation of self.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Five Points of Calvinism and Arminianism

"Chosen by God" class has generated many questions in our mind especially for those who are encountering this view for the first time. I pray that God be glorified in our debates and discussions during class. Whether we are on the Arminian view or the Calvin view, it is our responsibility as Christians to pray and study both views and let the Holy Spirit do the work in our hearts. As for me, I humbly and gracefully stand on the Calvinistic view. I know many brothers and sisters in Christ that I love dearly hold the Arminian view. This does not mean we are divided christians but we are always joined together in Christ!

Arminianism vs Calvinism

The following is a comparison of the five points of Calvinism and the five points of Arminianism arising out of the Dutch Remonstrance controversy. The "Five Points" of Calvinism can be easily remembered by the acronym TULIP. Admittedly, this discussion favors the Calvinist side. This material originally appeared in "Romans: An Interpretative Outline (pp. 144-147), by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas. Quoted from Loraine Boettner's "The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination." Permission to reproduce granted in the book.)
1. Free Will or Human Ability (Arminianism)
Although human nature was seriously affected by the fall, man has not been left in a state of total spiritual helplessness. God graciously enables every sinner to repent and believe, but He does not interfere with man's freedom. Each sinner possesses a free will, and his eternal destiny depends on how he uses it. Man's freedom consists of his ability to choose good over evil in spiritual matters; his will is not enslaved to his sinful nature. The sinner has the power to either cooperate with God's Spirit and be regenerated or resist God's grace and perish. The lost sinner needs the Spirit's assistance, but he does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit before he can believe, for faith is man's act and precedes the new birth. Faith is the sinner's gift to God; it is man's contribution to salvation.
1. Total Inability or Total Depravity (Calvinism)
Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature, therefore, he will not--indeed he cannot--choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit's assistance to bring a sinner to Christ--it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God's gift of salvation--it is God's gift to the sinner, not the sinner's gift to God.

2. Conditional Election (Arminianism)
God's choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world was based upon His foreseeing that they would respond to His call. He selected only those whom He knew would of themselves freely believe the gospel. Election therefore was determined by or conditioned upon what man would do. The faith which God foresaw and upon which He based His choice was not given to the sinner by God (it was not created by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit) but resulted solely from man's will. It was left entirely up to man as to who would believe and therefore as to who would be elected unto salvation. God chose those whom He knew would, of their own free will, choose Christ. Thus the sinner's choice of Christ, not God's choice of the sinner, is the ultimate cause of salvation.
2. Unconditional Election (Calvinism)
God's choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will. His choice of particular sinners was not based on any foreseen response or obedience on their part, such as faith, repentance, etc. On the contrary, God gives faith and repentance to each individual whom He selected. These acts are the result, not the cause of God's choice. Election therefore was not determined by or conditioned upon any virtuous quality or act foreseen in man. Those whom God sovereignly elected He brings through the power of the Spirit to a willing acceptance of Christ. Thus God's choice of the sinner, not the sinner's choice of Christ, is the ultimate cause of salvation.

3. Universal Redemption or General Atonement (Arminianism)
Christ's redeeming work made it possible for everyone to be saved but did not actually secure the salvation of anyone. Although Christ died for all men and for every man, only those who believe on Him are saved. His death enabled God to pardon sinners on the condition that they believe, but it did not actually put away anyone's sins. Christ's redemption becomes effective only if man chooses to accept it.
3. Limited Atonement or Particular Redemption (Calvinism)
Christ's redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them. His death was a substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ's redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith which unites them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, therefore guaranteeing their salvation.

4. The Holy Spirit Can be Effectually Resisted (Arminianism)
The Spirit calls inwardly all those who are called outwardly by the gospel invitation; He does all that He can to bring every sinner to salvation. But inasmuch as man is free, he can successfully resist the Spirit's call. The Spirit cannot regenerate the sinner until he believes; faith (which is man's contribution) precedes and makes possible the new birth. Thus, man's free will limits the Spirit in the application of Christ's saving work. The Holy Spirit can only draw to Christ those who allow Him to have His way with them. Until the sinner responds, the Spirit cannot give life. God's grace, therefore, is not invincible; it can be, and often is, resisted and thwarted by man.
4. Irresistible Grace or The Efficacious Call of the Spirit (Calvinism)
In addition to the outward general call to salvation which is made to everyone who hears the gospel, the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The external call (which is made to all without distinction) can be, and often is, rejected; whereas the internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion. By means of this special call the Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ. He is not limited in His work of applying salvation by man's will, nor is He dependent upon man's cooperation for success. The Spirit graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ. God's grace, therefore, is invincible; it never fails to result in the salvation of those to whom it is extended.

5. Falling from Grace (Arminianism)
Those who believe and are truly saved can lose their salvation by failing to keep up their faith, etc. All Arminians have not been agreed on this point; some have held that believers are eternally secure in Christ--that once a sinner is regenerated, he can never be lost.
5. Perseverance of the Saints (Calvinism)
All who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end.

by the Synod of Dort

This was the system of thought contained in the "Remonstrance" (though the "five points" were not originally arranged in this order). It was submitted by the Arminians to the Church of Holland in 1610 for adoption but was rejected by the Synod of Dort in 1619 on the ground that it was unscriptural.

by the Synod of Dort

This system of theology was reaffirmed by the Synod of Dort in 1619 as the doctrine of salvation contained in the Holy Scriptures. The system was at that time formulated into "five points" (in answer to the five points submitted by the Arminians) and has ever since been known as the "five points of Calvinism."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What is predestination? Is predestination Biblical?

Romans 8:29-30 tells us, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Ephesians 1:5 and 11 declare, “He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will…In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” Many people have a strong hostility to the doctrine of predestination. However, predestination is a biblical doctrine. The key is understanding what predestination means, biblically.

The words translated “predestined” in the Scriptures referenced above are from the Greek word proorizo, which carries the meaning of “determine beforehand,” “ordain,” “to decide upon ahead of time.” So, predestination is God determining certain things to occur ahead of time. What did God determine ahead of time? According to Romans 8:29-30, God predetermined that certain individuals would be conformed to the likeness of His Son, be called, justified, and glorified. Essentially, God predetermines that certain individuals will be saved. Numerous scriptures refer to believers in Christ being chosen (Matthew 24:22, 31; Mark 13:20, 27; Romans 8:33, 9:11, 11:5-7, 28; Ephesians 1:11; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 1 Timothy 5:21; 2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1-2, 2:9; 2 Peter 1:10). Predestination is the biblical doctrine that God in His sovereignty chooses certain individuals to be saved.

The most common objection to the doctrine of predestination is that it is unfair. Why would God choose certain individuals and not others? The important thing to remember is that no one deserves to be saved. We have all sinned (Romans 3:23), and are all worthy of eternal punishment (Romans 6:23). As a result, God would be perfectly just in allowing all of us to spend eternity in hell. However, God chooses to save some of us. He is not being unfair to those who are not chosen, because they are receiving what they deserve. God’s choosing to be gracious to some is not unfair to the others. No one deserves anything from God; therefore, no one can object if he does not receive anything from God. An illustration would be a man randomly handing out money to five people in a crowd of twenty. Would the fifteen people who did not receive money be upset? Probably so. Do they have a right to be upset? No, they do not. Why? Because the man did not owe anyone money. He simply decided to be gracious to some.

If God is choosing who is saved, doesn’t that undermine our free will to chose and believe in Christ? The Bible says that we have the choice—all who believe in Jesus Christ will be saved (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10). The Bible never describes God rejecting anyone who believes in Him or turning away anyone who is seeking Him (Deuteronomy 4:29). Somehow, in the mystery of God, predestination works hand-in-hand with a person being drawn by God (John 6:44) and believing unto salvation (Romans 1:16). God predestines who will be saved, and we must choose Christ in order to be saved. Both facts are equally true. Romans 11:33 proclaims, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”

Recommended Resource: Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer.

Is God sovereign or do we have a free will?


When we talk about free will, we are usually concerned with the matter of salvation. Few are interested in whether we have the free will to choose salad or steak for our dinner tonight. Rather, we are troubled over who exactly is in control of our eternal destiny.

Any discussion of man’s free will must begin with an understanding of his nature because man’s will is bound by that nature. A prisoner has the freedom to pace up and down in his cell, but he is constrained by the walls of that cell and can go no further, no matter how much his will might desire it. So it is with man. Because of sin, man is imprisoned within a cell of corruption and wickedness which permeates to the very core of our being. Every part of man is in bondage to sin – our bodies, our minds, and our wills. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us the state of man’s heart: it is “deceitful and desperately wicked.” In our natural, unregenerate state, we are carnally minded, not spiritually minded. “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can it be” (Romans 8:6-7). These verses tell us that before we are saved, we are at enmity (war) with God, we do not submit to God and His law, neither can we. The Bible is clear that, in his natural state, man is incapable of choosing that which is good and holy. In other words, he does not have the “free will” to choose God because his will is not free. It is constrained by his nature, just as the prisoner is constrained by his cell.

How then can anyone be saved? Ephesians 2:1 describes the process. We who are “dead in our trespasses and sins” have been “made alive” through Christ. A dead man cannot make himself alive because he lacks the necessary power to do so. Lazarus lay in his tomb four days unable to do a thing to resurrect himself. Christ came along and commanded him to come to life (John 11). So it is with us. We are spiritually dead, unable to rise. But “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He calls us out of our spiritual graves and gives us a completely new nature, one undefiled by sin as the old nature was (2 Corinthians 5:17). God saw the desperate and helpless state of our souls, and in His great love and mercy, He sovereignly chose to send His Son to the cross to redeem us. By His grace we are saved through the gift of faith which He gives us so that we can believe in Jesus. His grace is a free gift, our faith is a free gift, and our salvation is a free gift given to those whom God has chosen “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). Why did He chose to do it this way? Because it was “according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:5-6). It’s important to understand that the plan of salvation is designed to glorify God, not man. Our response is to praise Him for the “glory of His grace.” If we chose our own salvation, who would get the glory? We would, and God has made it clear that He will not give the glory due to Him to anyone else (Isaiah 48:11).

The question naturally arises, how do we know who has been saved “from the foundation of the world”? We don’t. That is why we take the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth, telling all to repent and receive God’s gift of grace. Second Corinthians 5:20 tells us we are to be pleading with others to be reconciled to God before it is too late. We cannot know who God will choose to release from their prison cells of sin. We leave that choice to Him and present the Gospel to all. The ones who come to Jesus He “will in no way cast out” (John 6:37).

Monday, October 19, 2009

THE BAPTIST CONFESSION OF FAITH 1689 -- Chapter 3, 9 and 10

Chapter 3: Of God's Decree

1._____ God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.
( Isaiah 46:10; Ephesians 1:11; Hebrews 6:17; Romans 9:15, 18; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5; Acts 4:27, 28; John 19:11; Numbers 23:19; Ephesians 1:3-5 )

2._____ Although God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.
( Acts 15:18; Romans 9:11, 13, 16, 18 )

3._____ By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice.
( 1 Timothy 5:21; Matthew 25:34; Ephesians 1:5, 6; Romans 9:22, 23; Jude 4 )

4.______These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.
( 2 Timothy 2:19; John 13:18 )

5._____ Those of mankind that are predestinated to life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving him thereunto.
( Ephesians 1:4, 9, 11; Romans 8:30; 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Romans 9:13, 16; Ephesians 2:5, 12 )

6._____ As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so he hath, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto; wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation; neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.
( 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:9, 10; Romans 8:30; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:5; John 10:26; John 17:9; John 6:64 )

7._____ The doctrine of the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election; so shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel.
( 1 Thessalonians 1:4, 5; 2 Peter 1:10; Ephesians 1:6; Romans 11:33; Romans 11:5, 6, 20; Luke 10:20 )

Chapter 9: Of Free Will

1._____ God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forced, nor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil.
( Matthew 17:12; James 1:14; Deuteronomy 30:19 )

2._____ Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom and power to will and to do that which was good and well-pleasing to God, but yet was unstable, so that he might fall from it.
( Ecclesiastes 7:29; Genesis 3:6 )

3._____ Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.
( Romans 5:6; Romans 8:7; Ephesians 2:1, 5; Titus 3:3-5; John 6:44 )

4._____ When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, and by his grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so as that by reason of his remaining corruptions, he doth not perfectly, nor only will, that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.
( Colossians 1:13; John 8:36; Philippians 2:13; Romans 7:15, 18, 19, 21, 23 )

5._____ This will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone in the state of glory only.
( Ephesians 4:13 )

Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling

1._____ Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.
( Romans 8:30; Romans 11:7; Ephesians 1:10, 11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14; Ephesians 2:1-6; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 1:17, 18; Ezekiel 36:26; Deuteronomy 30:6; Ezekiel 36:27; Ephesians 1:19; Psalm 110:3; Song of Solomon 1:4 )

2._____ This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature, being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit; he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead.
( 2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:5; John 5:25; Ephesians 1:19, 20 )

3._____ Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit; who worketh when, and where, and how he pleases; so also are all elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.
( John 3:3, 5, 6; John 3:8 )

4._____ Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet not being effectually drawn by the Father, they neither will nor can truly come to Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men that receive not the Christian religion be saved; be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the law of that religion they do profess.
( Matthew 22:14; Matthew 13:20, 21; Hebrews 6:4, 5; John 6:44, 45, 65; 1 John 2:24, 25; Acts 4:12; John 4:22; John 17:3 )

Webservant, Original page July, A.D. 1995. Revised June, A.D. 1996. Scripture hypertext script by Mirror page loaded to December, A.D. 1996.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Southern Baptists and the Doctrine of Election -- Robert B Selph

Unconditional Election: A Southern Baptist Heritage?
Today many Southern Baptists, along with most evangelicals, comsider the doctrine of Election to be nonessential, detrimentals to evangelism, a threat to missionary zeal, a contradiction to the love and fairness of God, and divisive to the churches. This attitude is so diffrent from the Baptists used to embrace -- RS

"Milk-sop, clap-trap evangelism" was a statement made by J.B. Gambrell, President of the SBC 1917-1920. He also wrote these words:

'We may invigorate our faith and renew our courage by reflecting that the divine power has always attended the preaching of doctrine when done in the true spirit of preaching. Great revivals have accompanied the heroic preaching of the doctrines of grace - predestination, election, and that whole lofty mountain range of doctrines upon which Jehovah sits enthroned, sovereign in grace, as in all things else. God honors the preaching that honors Him. There is entirely too much milk-sop preaching nowadays-trying to cajole sinners to enter upon a truce with their Maker - "Quit sinning and join the church." The situation does not call for a truce, but for a surrender. Let us bring on the heavy artillery of heaven and thunder away at the stuck-up age as Whitfield, Edwards, Spurgeon, and Paul did and there will be many slain of the Lord raised up to walk in the newness of life."

Systematic Theology by REV. JAMES PETIGRU BOYCE, D. D., LL. D.,
Joseph-Emerson-Brown Professor of Systematic Theology in The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
First published in 1887



THE words Elect, Election, Foreordination, Chosen, Foreknow, and Foreknowledge occur so frequently in Scripture, that it is allowed by all that the Scriptures teach a doctrine of Election of some kind. The chief controversy is as to what that doctrine is.

Several theories have been presented as descriptive of the instructions of the Scriptures.

I. First there is the theory set forth by the celebrated John Locke in his Commentary and Paraphrase of the Epistles of Paul. It has been called the theory of Nationalism. According to this, Election consists "in the choice of certain whole nations into the pale of the visible Church Catholic, which choice, however, relates purely to their privileged condition in this world extending not to their collective eternal state in another world." The cause of this election is: "That same absolute good pleasure of God, which, through the exercise of his sovereign power, led him to choose the posterity of Jacob, rather than that of Esau, that, upon earth, they should become his peculiar people and be made the depositaries and preservers of the true religion." ["Faber's Primitive Election," p. 22.]

The objections to this theory are evident, and may be briefly stated.

I. That the election spoken of in the New Testament is all election of persons within a nation, and not of the nation itself. A distinction is made between the Jewish nation, and the remnant of them according to the election of grace. Rom. 11:5. It is also said in verse 7: "That which Israel seeketh for that he obtained not; but the election obtained it, and the rest were hardened."

Mr. Locke attempts to remove this difficulty by supposing that the Israel here spoken of is the whole nation before the loss of the ten tribes, and that the remnant is all of the rest that remained Jews at the time Paul wrote. But, that the present nation was the Israel referred to Paul himself shows by applying to it, in Romans 10:21, the title of Israel. "But as to Israel," he saith, "All the day long did I spread out my hands unto a disobedient and gain-saying people." The Israel to whom Isaiah, who is here referred to, went, was Judah; his prophecies were but seldom made to the Ten Tribes.

2. A distinction is also made between persons in the same nation; the elect being separated from others, as in Matt. 24:22-24, where fearful calamities are foretold, and it is said, that prophets shall arise, etc., and that if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect.

The parallel passage is in Mark 13: 20-22.

3. Against this theory may also be quoted such passages as show that the called, and the elect are not identical, as:

Matt. 22:14. "Many are called, but few chosen."

II. A modification of this theory has been made or rather another one has been suggested so similar that the idea has evidently been caught from that of Locke. It is given by George Stanley Faber in his work on "The Primitive Doctrine of Election." It may be called the theory of Church Election, or of External Church privileges. Mr. Faber states it as follows: "The idea is that of an Election of individuals into the pale of the visible church, with God's moral purpose that through faith and holiness they should attain everlasting life; but yet with a moral possibility of their abusing their privileges even to their own final destruction."

1. It is argued in favor of this, that "we never find one particular set of Christians addressed as being especially elect to the exclusion of all other Christians, who, together with the unconverted world at large, are thence exhibited as reprobates. But we constantly find that all the members of the local church addressed are collectively saluted as being in God's purpose and design elected through holiness to glory."

In reply it may be remarked:

(1.) That this argument proceeds upon the erroneous supposition that there were persons called Christians in Apostolic times who did not actually profess to be converted persons, and therefore were not properly to be regarded as such.

Every argument in favor of a converted church membership is an argument against this supposition, and, therefore, against this theory.

(2.) Or it proceeds upon a second erroneous supposition, namely, that the Apostles undertook to pronounce infallibly upon the spiritual condition of those to whom they wrote. On the contrary, proceeding upon the rule, "By their fruits ye shall know them," they, in the judgement of charity, spoke of those to whom they wrote as though they were actually Christians, because professedly such, and maintaining outwardly the life of such. Thus they are called "holy," in like manner as they are called "elect," and are said to be "holy and without blemish before him in love," (Eph. 1:4;) and to have redemption, and the forgiveness of trespasses, v. 7; and to have obtained an inheritance, of which the sealing of the Spirit was an earnest.

2. In favor of this view, it is asserted that the Apostle teaches us in Rom. 9:6-26, that the terms election and elect are used in the same sense in which they are used in the Old Testament.

To this it may be replied:

(1.) That if true it favors the theory of Nationalism rather than this.

(2.) That the Apostle himself distinguishes between the extent of the election, which had before existed, and that which was now manifested. "They are not all Israel who are of Israel." "Neither because they are Abraham's seed are they all children," (Rom. 9:7); thus indicating that the limitation had been formerly made according to the national extent, but that now a segregation is made from this. The two elections, therefore, differ in extent.

(3.) But the difference is also in kind. This is what affects this theory most closely. Even under the old election, not all the children, but simply the one of the promise is the one in whom the election exists. Under the new, the same thing is true, the election is not of all to whom the external privileges connected with it belong, but of those only who are partakers of the promise. In this respect they are similar, and so Paul indicates: "The children of the promise are reckoned for a seed." Rom. 9:8. But formerly the promise was of Isaac, wherefore it was said, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." Rom. 9:7. And that promise was of the land of Canaan, which was granted actually to all of his descendants as a class. So also now, the children of the promise are the elect; but they are not all to whom the external privileges of hearing the gospel, or even of entering the church of Christ, are given, for unto these as a class this promise is not fulfilled; but, simply, to those who truly embrace the gospel, and by faith in Jesus are vitally united to him. It is to this class only that the election refers. There is, therefore, a difference in kind indicated by the Apostle.

3. It is said that the addresses to the churches contained in the letters of the Apostles, indicate the election of the whole churches, and that, consequently, election must be merely to external church privileges. Dr. Faber does not cite the passages at length, because he thinks that any attentive reader, by attending to them, will readily perceive their palpably universalizing tendency. But he adduces as proof the beginnings of Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians and 1 Peter.

(1.) Of these, singular to say, none speak of election in the addresses to the churches, except Ephesians, the two Thessalonians and 1 Peter. But the others all speak of the saints and of a calling to sanctification. The truth is, that, as they professed to be God's children, the Apostle, in the judgement of charity, speaks of them as such, and this is shown by the language of all the salutations as well as of the epistles at large.

(2.) The language in Ephesians is used as inclusive, not only of those to whom he wrote, but of himself also. It evidently is intended to refer to him and them, as having like hopes, and being partakers of like promises. That, at least, it is not intended to refer to the mere privilege of church membership, is evident from the fact that the apostle speaks of these persons as "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise," Ch. 1:13. They are spoken of as having been "quickened," (Ch. 2:1), as having been "dead through your trespasses and sins," (Ch. 2:1), and as having been the "children of wrath even as the rest," Ch. 2:3. Such language scarcely comports with an address to those whom the Apostle had not reason to believe to be converted persons.

The epistles to the Thessalonians, to which Faber also refers, are even more distinctly against him. For, here, we have not simply to infer what were the feelings which led to the expressions used by the Apostle; but he himself tells us of the fact that he knew their election, and assigns the reasons of his belief. These are not because they enjoyed the outward privileges of the church; but because of their work of faith and labors of love, and patience of hope, and because the gospel came not to them in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.

As to the first Epistle of Peter it may be said.

(a) That the elect spoken of are "sojourners of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia." This at least creates the presumption that they had no especial opportunities of church privileges. This, however, is doubtful.

(b) They are, however, spoken of in chapter 1, verses 3, 4 and 5, as begotten . . . "unto a living hope, . . . unto an inheritance . . . reserved in heaven for you, who, by the power of God, are guarded through faith unto a salvation." Again, they are spoken of, verses 7 and 8, as loving Christ, as believing in him and rejoicing with joy unspeakable.

4. Yet, again, three passages are adduced in which a whole church as such is styled elect, and it is argued thence that this is the Scriptural meaning of election. These passages are, 1 Pet. 5:13, "She that is in Babylon elect together with you saluteth you." 2 John, 1st verse, "The elder unto the elect lady and her children," and verse 13, "The children of thine elect sister salute thee."

(1.) Of these passages it may be said that the application of any of them to a church is doubtful. This is evident from any English version of all but the first, and the literal rendering of that is, "The, from or in Babylon, that is elected with you, saluteth you." It would be bad to form a theory upon such doubtful passages.

(2.) Admitting these, however, to have the meaning asserted, and that an elect church would be spoken of as such only with reference to the privileges thus conferred upon its members; it does not follow that this is the only sense which election can have. It must be shown not only that there is such an election, but that nothing else is spoken of under that name before this theory can be established as the only election taught. The truth is, that the general nature of the terms, elect, choose, etc., makes it practicable to have several kinds of election, and the nature of the election has to be decided by those declarations of its character and purpose which accompany it.

(3.) Under any view of Election, save that of Nationalism, it would be perfectly appropriate to apply the word elect to the body as such which is supposed to be composed only of elect members. Thus we often speak of Congress, or of a State Legislature as the assembled wisdom of the State or Country, because such is hypothetically its character; it being supposed to be composed of men who represent by their wisdom that of their constituents. So the church may be spoken of as elect, because composed of those supposed from the best sources of knowledge to be the elect of God.

5. The fifth argument is from the parables of the labourers in the vineyard, Matt. 20:1-16, and the marriage of the King's son, Matt. 22:2-14.

"These," says Faber, "contain the passages where the term Elect or Chosen first occurs and in these parables the Chosen or the Elect are all those who so far obey the call of the gospel as to enter the pale of the visible Christian Church." And in order to show that they are not secure there from destruction, the case of the man without the wedding garment is mentioned.

It may be replied, as to the first of these parables, that Faber does not point out any indication of such loss of any persons in the churches, as is implied in this parable. The parable is merely instructive as to the fact of God's sovereignty, and as to his bestowment of blessings on whom he will. The phrase is added, "many be called but few chosen," which is the key to the parable, and yet in no wise bears upon the subject under discussion, save to show that there are two classes, the called and the elect, and that the first comprises many, the latter few; facts which oppose the theory of the author, who claims that the elect are not the few that are saved, but are the same as the many who are called to the external privileges of God's truth.

The second parable is even more distinctly against him. In it there are three classes: the first, those who are called, and pay no attention to the invitation to the feast; the second, those who enter to partake of it, who may be regarded as the ones gathered here on earth into earthly churches; the third, the class marked by the separation from among them of the one who had not on a wedding garment, which represents the self-deceived in Christ's earthly churches. Immediately after the order for his destruction is given by the king, it is added, "For many are called, but few chosen." Does not the word chosen here evidently point out those who are the saved, as distinguished from those who are outwardly privileged, either as the outwardly called who refuse, or the called who enter the church and enjoy its privileges? If so, the author's view of Election is false.

These are the only arguments, that can properly be so called that are advanced in favor of this theory, and the above statements fully show that the Scriptures nowhere teach the doctrine of Election as thus set forth. The theory has been examined more at length than its own merits deserve, partly, because it is not so generally known, but more especially, because it has the sanction of a man of known ability and scholarship though of admitted fanciful and unsound judgement.

III. Finding now that election is in no respect one to external privileges, we pass to the third theory which has been suggested; that of perseverance in foreseen faith, set forth by Arminians of all classes.

In connection with this idea of election is also taught a universal atonement, offered upon condition of faith to all persons, to each of whom is given sufficient grace to accept or reject it. Upon this acceptance or rejection, salvation depends.

This theory of election, therefore, asserts that:

(1.) The salvation of individuals is the result of their own choice and perseverance.

(2.) The election made by God is simply an election of a class.

(3.) So far as the election of individuals took place in eternity, it was only as God foresaw what would be the result of the election of a class.

(4.) That it is an election made upon condition that they would accept the offer of the gospel.

IV. As this theory is just the opposite in every respect of the Calvinistic theory of personal, unconditional, and eternal Election, it is better to put the two in direct contrast, and to proceed to the proof that the Scriptures teach the latter, and not the former.

The latter theory is that God (who and not man is the one who chooses or elects), of his own purpose (in accordance with his will, and not from any obligation to man, nor because of any will of man), has from Eternity (the period of God's action, not in time in which man acts), determined to save (not has actually saved, but simply determined so to do), [and to save (not to confer gospel or church privileges upon),] a definite number of mankind (not the whole race, nor indefinitely merely some of them, nor indefinitely a certain proportionate part; but a definite number), as individuals (not the whole or a part of the race, nor of a nation, nor of a church, nor of a class, as of believers or the pious; but individuals), not for or because of any merit or work of theirs, nor of any value to him of them (not for their good works, nor their holiness, nor excellence, nor their faith, nor their spiritual sanctification, although the choice is to a salvation attained through faith and sanctification; nor their value to him, though their salvation tends greatly to the manifested glory of his grace); but of his own good pleasure (simply because he was pleased so to choose).

This theory, therefore, teaches that election is:

(1.) An act of God, and not the result of the choice of the elect.

(2.) That this choice is one of individuals, and not of classes.

(3.) That it was made without respect to the action of the persons elected.

(4.) By the good pleasure of God.

(5.) According to an eternal purpose.

(6.) That it is an election to salvation and not to outward privileges.

To the Scriptures alone must we look for the truth upon this subject.

Upon opening them we find that the words Election and Elect are used in various senses.

1. They signify a choice to office whether by man or God.

Luke 6:13. Christ's choice of the twelve Apostles.
Acts 1:21-26. The selection of an Apostle in the place of Judas.
Acts 9:15. Saul is called a chosen vessel.
1 Pet. 2:6-8. Christ is spoken of as the corner-stone, elect, precious that is laid in Zion.

2. The choice of Israel to their peculiar national privilege of being the chosen or separated people of God; as in Acts 13:17. "The God of this people Israel chose our fathers."

3. It is once used for a choice made of' salvation by an individual.
Luke 10:42. "Mary hath chosen the good part which shall not be taken away from her."

4. In a large majority of cases it has reference to the choice to salvation, either in the purpose or act of choice by God.

It is to the doctrine taught in this last class of passages that our inquiries are to be turned.

(1.) Election is an act of God, and not the result of the choice of the Elect.

This is not now an inquiry into the reason of Election; but simply into the agent. Does God choose the elect, whether by his own purpose, or because he foresees that they will believe, or for any other reason? Is election an act of God?

The fact on this point would appear more clearly if we were to exchange the common word choice or chosen with the equivalent word elect.

The following passages are sufficient, though the examples are far more numerous.
John 13:18. "I know whom I have chosen."
John 15:16. "Ye did not choose me, but I chose you" (not to their offices as apostle, but), "that ye should go and hear fruit."
Rom. 8:33. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's chosen ones?"
Rom. 9:15. "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy."
Eph. 1:4. "Even as he chose us in him."
Eph. 1:11. "Having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will."
2 Thess. 2:13. "God chose you from the beginning unto salvation."

2. This choice is one of individuals and not of classes.

This position needs to be explained. It is not denied that the Elect are to be true believers, and that true believers are the Elect. The character of the Elect does not, therefore, enter into this question. The issue is simply, does God choose all who shall believe, and are they, as such, his elect? or, does he choose his elect, and will they, as such, believe? Is belief the result of God's election, or is God's election the result of man's faith?

Acts 13:48. "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed." This is a historical statement made subsequent to the event, not by man's knowledge but by inspiration.

Eph. 1:4, 5. "Even as he chose us in him, . . . having foreordained us unto adoption as sons."

2 Thess. 2:13. "But we are bound to give thanks to God alway for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." Here the choice is made to salvation, and the means to salvation, sanctification and faith, are indicated; no prerequisite or means being stated as to Election. It is not as believers that they are elected; but as elected, that they are saved.

Rom. 8:29. "Whom he foreknew he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son." The foreknowledge here is of persons, not of personal acts, not of those whose faith he foreknew, nor, as would be essential to their theory, is it of the class of believers as such. The Arminian theory would require the substitution of the words "as believers" or "you as believers" instead of those which are used.

It is not, therefore, to the class of believers, but to individuals that election refers. But, it may be asked, does it not refer to them in that character? Did not God choose those whose faith he for-saw?

(3.) The third point then to be proved is, that it was not because of any act or merit of theirs, but irrespective of anything but his own good pleasure, that this Election was made.

This is merely a negative form of the same fact stated by the next point affirmatively. It is better, therefore, to unite this with the succeeding one, which is,

(4.) That the election is made through the mere good pleasure of God.

Some of the passages simply affirm a choice by God's Sovereign will; others, while asserting this, also deny merit in those elected; and still others represent the fact of sovereignty by asserting a choice of such persons as would not ordinarily be chosen. The following are some of the passages which prove these points.

(a.) Such as simply assert sovereign will. Such are Matt. 24:40-41 and Luke 17:33-36. These declare the sovereign choice of God by showing such choice exercised as to persons in the same situation, so that the one shall be taken and the other left; "two men on one bed;" "two women grinding at the mill;" "two men shall be in the field;" one of each shall be taken and the other left.

John 3:3-8. Regeneration is here spoken of as essential to entrance into the kingdom of God. This precedes any act on which election is said by any to depend. Yet the sovereignty of God in this is declared in verse 8. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knoweth not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit."

John 6:37, 39, 44, 64, 65. "All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me. . . . This is the will of him that sent me, that of all that which be hath given me I should lose nothing. . . . No man can come to me except the Father which sent me draw him. . . . Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who it was that should betray him. And he said, for this cause have I said unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it be given unto him of the Father."

John 15:16. "Ye did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that ye should go and bear fruit."

The object to be attained cannot be the cause.
John 17:2. "As thou gavest him authority over all flesh, that whatsoever thou hast given him to them he should give eternal life." See also verses 6-12.
Acts 22:14. Ananias says to Paul, "The God of our fathers hath appointed thee to know his will."
Eph. 1:5. In the fourth verse having referred to God's choice of us before the foundation of the world, he says in this fifth, "Having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace." In verse 11 we are said to be predestinated to our inheritance "according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will."
James 1:18. "Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth."

(b.) Such as deny merit in the persons elected as well as assert the sovereign choice of God.

Ezek. 36:32. In this passage, after describing the blessings connected with the new dispensation, and the gift of the Spirit and the new heart which he would give them--gifts which the Calvinistic theory regards as the result of election; but which the Arminian maintains to be its cause, God adds, "Not for your sakes do I this, saith the LORD GOD, be it known unto you; be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel."

John 1:11-18. "He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. But, as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

In Rom. 9:11-16. Election is illustrated by the case of the twins; "the children being not yet born, neither having done anything, good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth. . . . So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy."

Rom. 11:5-6. "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. But if it is by grace, it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace."

(c.) Such as so describe the persons chosen as to imply this.

Matt. 11:25, 26. "At that season Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding and didst reveal them unto babes; yea Father, for so it was well pleasing in thy sight."

Luke 4:25-27. Christ illustrates this sovereignty of God by mentioning that many widows had been in Israel, yet had only a heathen widow been blessed; and again many lepers, and yet only a heathen leper cured. "Of a truth I say unto you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah . . . and unto none of them was Elijah sent, but only to Sarephath in the land of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian."

Acts 26:12-23. Paul's description of his personal condition at his conversion shows that God chose him not for his merits but from his own good pleasure.

1 Cor. 1:26-30. "For behold your calling, brethren, how that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; but God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea, and the things that are not, that he might bring to nought the things that are, that no flesh should glory before God. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, etc."

Gal. 1:15, 16. Paul says, "When it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me even from my mother's womb, and called me through his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach, etc."

Ephesians 2:1-13. The description of the condition of those who were dead in trespasses and sins, and in that state were quickened, proves that the quickening and salvation was due to no merit of their own.

The texts thus exhibited under these three classes prove conclusively that not on account of their own merits, but because of the good pleasure of God, does he choose men. They have been presented at some length, because this is after all the point upon which all that is important in this controversy turns. For, although other matters are equally essential to the doctrine, the whole opposition arises from an unwillingness on the part of man to recognize the sovereignty of God, and to ascribe salvation entirely to grace. This proof, however, has been by no means exhausted, the attempt having been to select some only of the numerous passages, and mainly such as from their conciseness allow of presentation in full. Let the Scriptures be read with reference to this doctrine and every passage marked which indicates God's dealing with men as an absolute sovereign, and also every declaration which ascribes Election or the fruits of it to his choice and not to the will or acts of men, and every illustration afforded that this is God's usual method, and it will appear that scarcely any book of Scripture will fail to furnish testimony to the fact that in the acts of grace, no less than those of providence, God "doeth according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth." Dan. 4:3-5.

(5.) Another important fact to be shown is the eternity of Election in opposition to the idea that it was in time. The proof on this point is two-fold. There are (a) those passages which show that the Election took place before existence in this world or before the world began, and (b) those which actually declare that it was eternal. Between the two classes of passages there is really, however, very little difference, as, from the nature of the case, what took place before time must have been in Eternity, and besides, the object of proof of an eternal Election is simply to show that it was not dependent on human action, but simply on the will of God.

(a) Those which show that the election took place before man's existence, or before the world began.

Jer. 1:5. "Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee."

Matt. 25:34. "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."

Eph. 1:4. "Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world."

2 Thess. 2:13. "But we are bound to give thanks to God alway for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth."

2 Tim. 1:9. "Who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal."

Compare also the language used as to the names written in the Lamb's book of life.

Rev. 13:8. "And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him (that is the beast), every one whose name hath not been written in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain from the foundation of the world."

Rev. 17:8. "And they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, they whose name hath not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast how that he was, and is not, and shall come."

Referring to the adherents of the Lamb as persons "with him," it is said in verse 14, "They . . . that are with him called and chosen and faithful."

Rev. 21:27. "And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing unclean, or he that maketh an abomination and a lie: but only they which are written in the Lamb's book of life."

(b) The passages which distinctly declare that this, which may be thus inferred to have been an eternal Election, is really such.

1 Cor. 2:7. "Even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory."

Eph. 3:11. "According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."

6. It remains to be proved that this Election is one to salvation, and not to mere external privileges.

Jeremiah 31:31-34:
Verse 31. Tells of a day when a new covenant shall be made.
Verse 32. Says that this shall not be like that made with their fathers (not one of external privileges).
Verse 33. But of this sort, "I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their hearts will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
Verse 34. "And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more."

Speaking again of the restoration of Israel, the same prophet adds a like passage in Chap. 32:37-40. A similar passage is to be found in Ezekiel 36:24-27.

John 10:16. "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and they shall become one flock, one shepherd."

John 10:26. "Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep."
Verse 27. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."

Rom. 8:28-30. "We know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose." Paul now proceeds to tell who these are. "For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren: and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." This passage shows that foreknowledge, foreordination to holiness, calling, justification, and a state of glory are inseparably connected, and hence that the election, from which they proceed, is to salvation.

Eph. 1:4-9. This passage speaks of our being chosen before the foundation of the world, "that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved: in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him."

2 Thess. 2:13. After referring to others who were to have the same outward privileges, but upon whom God would send strong delusion, the Apostle says in this verse, "For we are bound to give thanks to God alway for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation," &c.

1 Peter 6:10. "The God of all grace who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ," &c. Here the Apostle is speaking of that effectual calling, which is the result of Election, and tells us that it is a call unto eternal glory.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The 6 Step Gospel Presentation

1. God is Creator-- The account of Creation (Genesis 1:1, Revelation 4:11  “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power,for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”) . God the Creator (Isaiah 40:28  "Have you not known? Have you not heard?The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable., God the Father" (Matthew 6:9-14 "The Lord's Prayer), God the Judge (Psalm 7:11, Psalm 50:6. Ezekiel 24:14) 
2. God's Expectation -- And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31).
3. Our Condition / Sin -- (Romans 3:23) Description of our Falleness (Romans 3:10-18) and the Consequences of our sin (Romans 6:23)
4. Jesus Christ -- Who is He? (John 1:1, Philippians 2:6, 1 John 4:10)
5. Repent and Believe  -- (John 14:6, John 3:16, John 3:36, Romans 10:9, Romans 10:13 ) Here is a simple prayer you can pray to God. Saying this prayer is a way to declare to God that you are relying on Jesus Christ for your salvation. The words themselves will not save you. Only faith in Jesus Christ can provide salvation! "God, I know that I have sinned against you and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. With your help, I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness - the gift of eternal life! Amen!"
6. Peace and Complete Surrender to God --  Now what? (Galatians 2:20)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Synod of Dordt (1618)

The Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), held in order to settle controversy in the Dutch churches initiated by the rise of Arminianism, met in the city of Dordrecht as a national assembly of the Dutch Reformed Church, to which were also invited voting representatives from the Reformed churches in eight foreign countries.

The convocation and proceedings of the Synod of Dordt (1618- 1619) may be considered "among the most interesting events of the seventeenth century. The Westminster Assembly was indeed more immediately interesting to British and American Presbyterians, yet the Synod of Dordt had a species of importance peculiar to itself and altogether pre-eminent. It was not merely a meeting of select divines of a single nation, but a convention of the Calvinistic world, to bear testimony against a rising and obtrusive error; to settle a question in which all the Reformed churches of Europe had an immediate and deep interest. The question was whether the opinions of Arminius, which were then agitating so many minds, could be reconciled with the confession of the Belgic churches." (Thomas Scott, The Articles of the Synod of Dort, Sprinkle Publications, 1993 reprint, p. 5.)

This synod convened on November 13, 1618 consisting of 39 pastors and 18 ruling Elders from the Belgic churches, 5 professors from the universities of Holland, 19 delegates from the Reformed churches in Germany and Switzerland, and 5 professors and bishops from Great Britain. France was also invited but did not attend. The Synod was thus constituted of 86 voting members in all. There were 154 formal sessions and many side conferences held during the six months that the Synod met to consider these matters. The last session of the Synod was held on May 9, 1619.

The Synod gave a very close examination to the ‘five points’ which had been advanced by the Remonstrants, and compared the teaching in them with the testimony of Scripture. Failing to reconcile that teaching with the Word of God, . . . they unanimously rejected them. They felt however, that a mere rejection was not sufficient. It remained for them to set forth the true Calvinistic teaching in relationship to those matters which had been called into question. This they proceeded to do, embodying the Calvinistic position in five chapters which have ever since been known as the five points of Calvinism." (Steel and Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism, P&R Publishing, 1963, p. 14, quoting Ben A. Warburton, Calvinism, p. 61.)

"The controversy was purely theological in its nature, but owing to the intimate connection of Church and State it became inevitably entangled in political issues, and shook the whole country. The Reformed Churches in France, Switzerland, Germany, England, and Scotland took a deep interest in it, and sided, upon the whole, with the Calvinistic party; while the Lutheran Church sympathized to some extent with the Arminian." (Schaff, Creeds, Vol. I, 510)

"Orthodox Calvinism achieved a complete triumph. The Five Articles of Remonstrance were unanimously rejected, and five Calvinistic canons adopted, together with the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism. A thorough and most excellent revision of the Dutch Bible from the Hebrew and Greek was also ordered, besides other decisions which lie beyond our purpose.

"The victory of orthodoxy was obscured by the succeeding deposition of about two hundred Arminian clergymen, and by the preceding though independent arrest of the political leaders of the Remonstrants, at the instigation of Maurice. Grotius was condemned by the States-General to perpetual imprisonment, but escaped through the ingenuity of his wife (1621). Van Olden Barneveldt was unjustly condemned to death for alleged high-treason, and beheaded at the Hague (May 14, 1619). His sons took revenge in a fruitless attempt against the life of Prince Maurice." (Schaff, Creeds, Vol. I, 514)

"The banishment of the Arminians was of short duration. After the death of Prince Maurice of Nassau (1625), and under the reign of his milder brother and successor, Frederick Henry, they were allowed to return and to establish churches and schools in every town of Holland, which became more and more a land of religious toleration and liberty.

"The distinctive Arminian doctrines of sin and grace, free-will and predestination, have been extensively adopted in the Episcopal Church since the reign of Charles I., and in the last century by the Methodists of Great Britain and America, and thereby have attained a larger territory and influence than they ever had in the land of their birth. Methodism holds to the essential doctrines of the Reformation, but also to the five points of Arminianism, with some important evangelical modifications." (Schaff, Creeds, Vol. I, 516)

Friday, October 9, 2009

"Once saved always saved?"

Mark, here is the answer you are looking for, I hope this help. I believe that once God saved you, you will always be under his Grace until the day of glorification (Ephesians 1:13, ... were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit) The key question is, "Is the person truly saved?" What are the signs of a truly "saved" person possess? Saving grace produce good works. Saving grace produce the awareness of our own sin more than the sin of others. Saving Grace produce a heart that wants to please God. Saving grace produce a love and a passion for God's Word. . A saved person will perservere to the end.Read " Perseverance of the Saints " These are just some examples of a genuine faith in Christ. I hope the following will clear things up for you.

Once a person is saved are they always saved? When people come to know Christ as their Savior, they are brought into a relationship with God that guarantees their salvation as eternally secure. Numerous passages of Scripture declare this fact. (a) Romans 8:30 declares, "And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified." This verse tells us that from the moment God chooses us, it is as if we are glorified in His presence in heaven. There is nothing that can prevent a believer from one day being glorified because God has already purposed it in heaven. Once a person is justified, his salvation is guaranteed - he is as secure as if he is already glorified in heaven.

(b) Paul asks two crucial questions in Romans 8:33-34 "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." Who will bring a charge against God's elect? No one will, because Christ is our advocate. Who will condemn us? No one will, because Christ, the One who died for us, is the one who condemns. We have both the advocate and judge as our Savior.

(c) Believers are born again (regenerated) when they believe (John 3:3; Titus 3:5). For a Christian to lose his salvation, he would have to be un-regenerated. The Bible gives no evidence that the new birth can be taken away. (d) The Holy Spirit indwells all believers (John 14:17; Romans 8:9) and baptizes all believers into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). For a believer to become unsaved, he would have to be "un-indwelt" and detached from the Body of Christ.

(e) John 3:15 states that whoever believes in Jesus Christ will "have eternal life." If you believe in Christ today and have eternal life, but lose it tomorrow, then it was never "eternal" at all. Hence if you lose your salvation, the promises of eternal life in the Bible would be in error. (f) For the most conclusive argument, I think Scripture says it best itself, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39). Remember the same God who saved you is the same God who will keep you. Once we are saved we are always saved. Our salvation is most definitely eternally secure!

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Predestination is a Christian doctrine according to which a person's ultimate destiny, whether it be salvation or damnation, is determined by God alone prior to, and apart from, any worth or merit on the person's part. In some cases, it is claimed that God only determines those to be saved; in others, that he determines those to be saved and those to be condemned. The latter teaching is called double predestination.

Predestination has roots in the Old Testament concept of an elect people. Hints of the doctrine appear in the New Testament, especially in Rom. 8:28 - 30, 9:6 - 24. It does not appear in full form, however, until the 5th century in the writings of Saint Augustine. Opposing Pelagianism, which held that humans can merit salvation by good works performed by application of their own will, Augustine insisted that humans require the help of God's Grace to do good and that this grace is a free gift, given by God without regard to human merit. Thus God alone determines who will receive the grace that alone assures salvation. In this sense God predestines some to salvation. Augustine's teaching was generally upheld by the church, but the further idea that some are predestined to condemnation was explicitly rejected at the Council of Orange (529). The classical medieval formulation, based on Augustine, was given by Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica.

The doctrine of predestination again became important in the late medieval period and passed into the theology of the Protestant reformers, especially John Calvin. Calvin also insisted, against other forms of Christian theology, that grace is a gift and that a person cannot earn salvation. In the course of subsequent controversies, Calvin's doctrine of double predestination was strongly affirmed by the Synod of Dort (1619) in Holland and in the Westminster Confession (1647) in England. Until recently, it has remained a characteristic teaching of churches in the Calvinist tradition (Calvinism; Presbyterianism). In other branches of Christianity, however, it has received only limited support.

The 20th century theologian Karl Barth radically restated the doctrine of predestination. He argued that God's election and condemnation of humankind converge in the divine election and rejection of Jesus Christ. In Jesus' resurrection lies all humankind's salvation.

William S Babcock

K Barth, "Election and Command of God" in Church Dogmatics (1957); J Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God (1961); M J Farrely, Predestination, Grace and Free Will (1964); J G Gerstner, Predestination Primer (1981).

Advance Information
The doctrine of predestination as formulated in the history of the Christian church by such theologians as Augustine of Hippo and John Calvin has been a constant cause of discussion and controversy, for many Christians have been unwilling to accept it in any form. Pelagius in the early church and John Wesley in the eighteenth century provide two examples of those who had no use for such teaching. This division concerning the doctrine has continued down to the present.

The doctrine of predestination has both a wider and a narrower aspect. In its wider reference it refers to the fact that the Triune God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass (Eph. 1:11, 22; cf. Ps. 2). From all eternity God has sovereignly determined whatsoever shall happen in history. The narrower aspect or use of the term is that God from all eternity has chosen a body of people for himself, that they should be brought into eternal fellowship with him, while at the same time he has ordained that the rest of humanity should be allowed to go their own way, which is the way of sin, to ultimate eternal punishment. These are known as the doctrines of election and reprobation. While some may accept the idea of God choosing some to eternal life, they reject completely any idea of a decree of reprobation (Rom. 9:16 - 19).

In the Scriptures there is not one term in either the Hebrew or the Greek which encompasses the term "predestination." In the OT a number of words indicate the divine plan and purpose: esa (to counsel, Jer. 49:20; 50:45; Mic. 4:12); ya'as (to purpose, Isa. 14:24, 26 - 27; 19:12; 23:9); and bahar (to choose, Num. 16:5, 7; Deut. 4:37; 10:15; Isa. 41:8; Ezek. 20:5). In the NT there are even more words which have the meaning of predestine (proorizo, Rom. 8:29 - 30; Eph. 1:5, 11), elect (eklektos, Matt. 24:22ff.; Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12), and to choose (haireomai, 2 Thess. 2:13; eklego, I Cor. 1:27ff.; Eph. 1:4). But the doctrine does not depend upon the use of a few words, for as one studies the Bible as a whole this doctrine is seen to be central to much of the teaching of both testaments.

The foundation of the doctrine of predestination is the biblical doctrine of God. He is the Eternal One, above and beyond time and space, for there never was a time when he did not exist, so he is not subject to changes of time and place (Mal. 3:6; Rom. 1:20 - 21; Deut. 33:27; Isa. 57:15). Furthermore, God is sovereign over all things as the Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of the universe. He is Lord over all (Dan. 4:34 - 35; Isa. 45:1ff.; Rom. 9:17ff.; Eph. 1:11). God is also sovereignly righteous, so that all that he does is according to the perfection of his nature (Jer. 23:6; 33:16; Rom. 1:17; 10:3; 2 Pet. 1:1). In eternity he sovereignly established his own plan and purpose, which is far above anything that man can think of, conceive, or understand. Man, therefore, may know God's plan only as he reveals it (Jer. 23:18; Deut. 29:29; Ps. 33:11; Isa. 46:10; 55:7ff.; Heb. 6:17).

God has revealed his counsel to men, insofar as it was necessary for them to know it, through the prophets of the OT, through the apostolic writers of the NT, but preeminently through his Son Jesus Christ, to whom both prophets and apostles have borne witness. It was by divine revelation that the prophets could point forward to the coming of the Redeemer (Gen. 3:15; Deut. 18:15; Isa. 53; Mal. 4:2; Heb. 1:1ff.), and it was the apostles who could bear witness to him who had come and explain the meaning of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension (Acts 2:22ff.; John 20:3off.).

Therefore, human beings are limited in their understanding of God's purpose to what he has revealed to them, and the ultimate meanings, purposes, and plans must remain a mystery. Furthermore, because of God's infinitude, eternality, unchanging being, wisdom, power, justice, righteousness, and truth, man simply could not understand him, even should he reveal himself fully and completely to them. This means that God's relationship to time and space cannot be comprehended by spacial temporal beings, for they do not even know the meaning of eternity (cf. Isa. 26:12ff.; Dan. 4:24ff.; Acts 2:22ff.). This ultimate mystery of the being of God must be kept in mind when studying biblical doctrine.

At this point the question arises of the possibility of individual freedom and responsibility if God is absolutely sovereign. How can these things be? Yet the Scriptures repeatedly assert both. Joseph's remarks to his brothers and Peter's statement concerning Christ's crucifixion highlight this fact (Gen. 45:4ff.; Acts 2:23). Man, in carrying out God's plan, even unintentionally, does so responsibly and freely.

Those who refuse to accept the biblical teaching are faced with the necessity of providing some other explanation. Some Christians attempt to combine God's sovereignty with human independence, but have the difficulty of explaining both the statements in the Bible and also their belief in God's saving work in Jesus Christ. Non Christians have two choices. They can posit an ultimate chance, which destroys any possibility of human responsibility (for there is no one to whom to be responsible), of logical thought, and thus of scientific knowledge. The other alternative is that of a complete determinism which results in much the same outcome, for it is but solidified chance. Although the biblical point of view cannot be fully rationalized according to our temporal spacial laws, it is the only one which makes any responsibility or freedom possible.

To understand the biblical teaching concerning predestination, we must commence with the account of man's fall, which was part of God's eternal plan. At the same time, as Paul points out in Rom. 1:18ff., man's refusal to acknowledge God as sovereign and his willful blindness to God's commands brought upon him God's wrath and condemnation. Basically, therefore, all human beings are corrupt because they refuse to acknowledge that God is Lord and that they themselves are only creatures. Yet despite human disobedience and rebellion, God has not let his creatures go. On the one hand he has restrained their sinfulness by his grace, so that even the sinners of this world have accomplished much that is good and true. On the other hand, as soon as man sinned, God promised a redeemer who would crush the tempter and bring restoration (Gen. 3:15). Thus the purpose of redemption was woven inextricably into the fabric of human history from the beginning.

Because of the sinfulness of the creature, however, the creature would not freely seek peace or reconciliation with him who is the Creator. This is shown in the story of Cain, the song of Lamech, and in the sinfulness of antediluvian society (Gen. 2 - 5). Yet at the same time there was a faithful minority descending from Seth to Noah, who was called to survive the flood and carry on the line of those who were obedient and trusted in God's promise of redemption. One of this line was Abraham, whom God called out of Ur of the Chaldees, and through the descendants of his grandson Jacob established Israel as his people in the pre Christian world. All this was the result of divine grace which was summed up in Jehovah's covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen. 12ff.). Although up to this time little is said in Genesis about God's election and reprobation, when it came to the differentiation between Jacob and Esau it was made quite clear that even before their birth Jacob was chosen and Esau rejected, even though they were twins (Gen. 25:19ff; Mal. 1:3; Rom. 9:10ff.). Here we find the first clear statement of the doctrine of double predestination.

Throughout the OT the doctrine of election is set forth with increasing clarity. On the one hand it is stated that Israel was chosen, not because of anything it had to offer, but solely because of the grace of God and by his sovereign choice (Deut. 7:7ff.; Isa. 41:8 - 9; Ezek. 20:5). Furthermore, from both Israel and other nations God freely chose individuals who would do his will in history for the blessing of Israel (1 Sam. 16:1ff.; Isa. 45:1ff.; 1 Chr. 28:1ff.). On the other hand, not all Israel was of the elect, but only a faithful remnant whom God had chosen (Isa. 1:9; 10:21ff.; Jer. 23:3; 31:7). These Paul calls "a remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom. 11:5). Those not of the elect remnant were rejected because of their sin to suffer ultimate punishment.

Throughout the OT there is also a constant reference to One who would come to redeem God's people, not only Israel but his elect from every race and tribe. While there are foreshadowings of this universal election and redemption in the histories of such individuals as Ruth and Naaman, the prophets set forth the universality of God's electing grace very clearly (Isa. 11:10; 56; Mic. 5:8; Rom. 9:24, 30; 11:12 - 13; Acts 15). All those elected and predestined to become God's people, both Jew and Gentile, would indeed enter the covenant relationship. But they would do so only through the One who would be the elect Mediator (Isa. 42:1ff.; 53:1ff.; cf. Matt. 12:18).

In the NT the OT doctrines of election and predestination are expanded and clarified. There was no attempt to reject or alter them, but they are given a more clearly universal scope. Christ claimed that he was the mediator spoken of in the OT, and that to him the Father had given his elect people (Mark 1:15; Luke 4:21; John 5:39; 10:14ff.). Furthermore, he stated very clearly that he had come to lay down his life as redeemer for his people. This is the theme of both his sermon in John 10 and his prayer for his own in John 17. He promised that his people would all come to him and would persevere in their faith unto eternal life (John 6:39, 65; 10:28ff.). True, as the incarnate Son of God his righteousness was such that his life, death, and resurrection were sufficient in their merits for all men, but as he himself pointed out, his mediatorial work was directed to the salvation of his people only (John 17). In this he was fulfilling the teaching of the OT.

Such was also the position of the apostles. The book of Acts gives a number of examples of apostolic teaching on this matter. In his sermon at Pentecost, Peter gives a clear indication of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man (Acts 2:14ff.). The speech of Stephen in chapter 7, Peter's call to witness to Cornelius (10:24ff.), and various other passages present the same doctrines. In Peter's and John's letters and in the Apocalypse these themes of God's sovereignty, man's responsibility, and God's election and predestination of people reappear constantly.

The apostolic writer who gives the clearest exposition of the doctrine, however, is Paul. While he refers to the doctrine of predestination in passing in a number of places, he expounds the doctrine in detail in Rom. 8:29 - 11:36 and throws further light on it in Eph. 1. In these passages he stresses the hopeless condition of man in his sinfulness and the fact that because of man's disobedience and rebellion God not only turns from him but hardens him in his sinfulness (Rom. 9:14ff.). At the same time, however, he reaches out and draws to himself those whom he has chosen from all eternity, redeeming and justifying them in Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:11ff.; Eph. 1:4ff.). Yet in all of this is the mystery of God's sovereign action and man's responsibility (Rom. 9:19; 11:33). And in all things the glory of God's righteousness is made manifest (Rom. 9:16ff.).

These doctrines have continued to raise questions ever since the days of the apostles, but especially since the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, when they were formulated most precisely. Despite their biblical basis both Christians and non Christians have rejected them on various grounds. If all human beings are sinners and God is sovereign, then he must be the author of sin and is unjust in punishing anyone. Furthermore, what is the basis upon which God makes his choice? Is he not arbitrary; and if not, is he not then a respecter of persons? If these doctrines are true, do they not destroy any desire, even any necessity, for a human being to seek to live a moral life, to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God? All these questions are put forward, and many of those who do so feel that they have now answered and condemned the doctrines effectively. They forget, however, that these questions were all raised in the time of Christ and the apostles (John 10:19ff.; Rom. 9:19ff.).

That these doctrines are set forth in both testaments would seem to be clear, along with great stress upon God's sovereign righteousness and holiness. But no further explanation is offered, and beyond what the Scriptures have to say finite man cannot go and, if he accepts the authority of the Bible as God's Word, will not wish to go. All one can say is what Job said when rebuked by God (Job. 42:1 - 6) or what Paul said when closing his exposition of these doctrines (Rom. 11:33 - 36). God's wisdom and grace are beyond every creature's comprehension or understanding. One can but bow in worship and praise. Those who do so have within them a sense of comfort and strength which is not their own, but which is a gift of God to enable them to face the world with confidence and enable them to mind.

W S Reid
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

L Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination; J Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 3:21 - 24 and The Eternal Predestination of God; C Hodge, Systematic Theology; J Murray, Calvin on Scripture and Divine Sovereignty; B B Warfield, Biblical Doctrines.