[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Glory by Force / Forced Glorification

by Antonio da Rosa

Calvinist's believe that God will be glorified by creating people just to damn them, and this for His glory. These quotes from John Calvin himself should suffice:

“... he arranges all things by his sovereign counsel in such a way that individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction...God ... arranges and disposes of them at his pleasure... all events take place by his sovereign appointment” (Institutes III, xxiii, 6)

“Paul teaches us that the ruin of the wicked is not only foreseen by the Lord, but also ordained by his counsel and his will... not only the destruction of the wicked is foreknown, but that the wicked themselves have been created for this very end -- that they may perish” (Commentaries Romans 9:18)

Can we find satisfactory purposefulness in sending those to hell whom cannot hear, nor respond, nor believe the gospel; those for whom the Son of God didn't even die for? What great good and honorable purpose could necessitate such cruelty? God needs to exact such retribution in order to display His glory? Must God resort unto coercion, force, and imposition to receive glory? What kind of tyrannical God would this be? This sounds like something Saddam Hussein would do!

God needs no such thing, and to suggest that He does these things is to propose that God is darkness and evil. The only kind of glory that comes from these types of practices is infamy. Does God require such a reputation? Is He so insecure that He needs to call out a people for Himself by force, sovereign imposition, and irresistable coercion? Is He so unstable that He must damn people from the womb to receive His glory?

What is the purpose for this manner of “glory”? How will His actively damning millions bring Him legitemate and honorable glory? Who will ascribe to Him the glory for such procedures? What holy reason could be advanced for such unheard of heartlessness?

When I tried to explain to my son what glorifying God meant I told Him this:

Let's say you had something of value, Jacob. Something that you worked on very hard. Lets say an art project. And you really wanted to bring attention to it. This art project was worthy of attention, it was a masterpiece, that you had worked diligently on, and with all your might. To bring glory to it you would:

place signs showing where the art was
personally direct people to it
and illuminate it with the clearest, brightest, and whitest light.

The glory would come as those who heeded the promptings came to ascribe to the art those things that are true of it to begin with.

How can God be said to be REALLY glorified if the glory comes from those who are MADE to glorify Him, whether they were sovereignly imposed to choose Him and coerced to worship Him or created to reject Him?

Antonio da Rosa
Lakeside, CA

Monday, February 27, 2006

What is Your Default Position?

by H K Flynn
(This is from my blog’s archives. I touched it up slightly so maybe I should call it the ‘revised version’. Sort of has a ring to it.)

Question: Are the following four passages teaching on the same topic?

Yet another said, "I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:61-63)

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, . . . So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14: 25-27)

So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (Jn 5:19-24)

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (Jn 6:38-40)

Free Grace bloggers are sometimes accused of reading our theology into the text.

Purists genuinely see us as watering down the call to discipleship (see the first two passages above) instead of letting those passages 'speak for themselves'. They seem genuinely stunned by our argument that the call to discipleship can be distinguished from the offer of eternal life and that the warning passages never warn believers of Hell. They somehow know these are the wrong assumptions to make, and that it is dangerous to advocate them.To put it another way, the two camps embrace highly conflicting 'default positions' concerning two major NT topics: Eternal life & Discipleship

I suspect the treatment of the warning passages of the NT are one of the best barometers of how these two themes are being treated by the interpreter.

In other words, if the stern warnings of the NT are percieved as warning of the dire consequences in the life of the believer of unrepented from sin and rebellion, than the topics of receiving eternal life and following Christ in discipleship are distinguished.

But if the warnings regard the possibility of hell (specifically that the listener's faith may not be the kind that saves from hell) than the default position is to meld receiving eternal life with following the Lord in discipleship and the interpreter is not distinguishing them as separate topics.

What is the justification the two camps give for their separate default positions?I would argue that the Free Grace theological position gives better biblical reasons for their default position. They actually explain why when relating receiving eternal life with following Christ, they see two distinct but correlated topics.

In my mind there are two reasons that are supremely important for making this foundational distinction.

One is that John himself isolates his Gospel in his purpose statement. When he tells us that his readership is unbelieving, and that his purpose is to so instruct them that they would become regenerate, John is affirming that his Gospel is unique introductory information to NT thought. The Gospel of John can and should be taken as an important entry ramp of the NT. John's Gospel has the whole counsel of God on the narrow but crucial topic of how to receive eternal life.

But he also correlates that main theme of his with the theme of following Christ in committed discipleship. This point is crucial to the argument in favor of distinguishing the theme of how to receive eternal life from the theme of discipleship. It is crucial to recognize that in the upper room, Jesus never 'assures' his disciples of their commitment, but encourages them to question it. The second supporting reason is that the theme of discipleship is irreparably watered down by confusing it with a free gift. This is obvious. No mater how much the call to discipleship is inflated; it is logically deflated by mixing it conceptually with the free gift of eternal life.

This is similar to how the warning passages themselves are strengthened in the Free Grace framework. In Free Grace thought the warning passages are flat-footed warnings to believers that God is still is in the business of judging sin, as he did to the Corinthians who abused the Lord's Supper.

The F/G willingness to hear each theme separately is actually the very best way to allow each NT theme to speak for itself, and to truly hear the whole counsel of God.Unfortunately, if the Purist side has given similarly explicit reasons for their default position being what it is I've missed it. They seem to simply believe it is obvious that the two different types of language used are simply two contrasting ways of describing the same thing, with the obvious differences chalked up to, and embraced as, paradox. But the big question in my mind is ‘Why?’ Why do they accept paradox as a legitimate default position? Instead of being shocked at our default position, they should give reasons for their own.

Or just simply, as Hodges and Wilkin do, let the passages speak for themselves.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Calvinism and Children of Elect Parents

by Antonio da Rosa
Traditionalism as taught by John Calvin, himself:

“Those therefore whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them...” (Institutes, III, xxiii, 1)

“...the divine will... is itself, and justly ought to be, the cause of all that exists ... God, whose pleasure it is to inflict punishment ... no other cause can be adduced... than the secret counsel of God...” (Institutes III, xxiii, 4)

“If we cannot assign any reason for his bestowing mercy on his people, but just that it so pleases him, neither can we have any reason for his reprobating others but his will. When God is said to visit in mercy or harden whom he will, men are reminded that they are not to seek for any cause beyond his will.” (Institutes, III, xxii, 11)

“I... ask how it is that the fall of Adam involves so many nations with their infant children in eternal death without remedy unless it so seemed meet with God [sic]? ... The decree, I admit, is dreadful; and yet it is impossible to deny that God foreknew what the end of man was to be before he made him, and foreknew, because he had so ordained by his decree... God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his posterity; but also at his own pleasure arranged it.” (Institutes, III, xxiii, 7)

“Paul teaches us that the ruin of the wicked is not only foreseen by the Lord, but also ordained by his counsel and his will... not only the destruction of the wicked is foreknown, but that the wicked themselves have been created for this very end -- that they may perish” (Commentaries Romans 9:18)

“... he arranges all things by his sovereign counsel in such a way that individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction...God ... arranges and disposes of them at his pleasure... all events take place by his sovereign appointment” (Institutes III, xxiii, 6)

“...each has been created for one or other of these ends, [therefore] we say that he has been predestined to life or to death” (Institutes III, xxi, 5)


Note how Calvin says this:
“I... ask how it is that the fall of Adam involves so many nations with their infant children in eternal death without remedy unless it so seemed meet with God [sic]? ... The decree, I admit, is dreadful”

Just imagine that if you are a mom or a dad and your child or children were not of the elect. They will suffer eternal death, for this state is without remedy, all because it “so seemed meet with God”. God made the sovereign and free choice, apart from any consideration of them whatsoever, to damn the non-elect (reprobate) and this because it pleases Him and will bring Him glory, says the Calvinist. Your unelect children would spend eternity in hell, not for their sin, not for their depravity, not because of the fall of Adam, but because

“God at his own pleasure arranged it”
“God, whose pleasure it is to inflict punishment”
“God is pleased to exclude them”
because they “have been created for this very end -- that they may perish”

And don't go looking for any reason in and of your unelect children why they will perish, because:

“When God is said to visit in mercy or harden whom he will, men are reminded that they are not to seek for any cause beyond his will”

I surely feel sorry for Calvinists with children:

On one hand, how horrible the thought that their children could have been reprobated, consigned to hell before the world began; that there is nothing that they can do about it. The preaching of the gospel, praying etc, all to no avail, because God has been pleased to damn these unelect children apart from anything that they have done or will do. This would cause me grief beyond measure: to think that God could have reprobated my children. That we will spend out eternities separate. Also to know there is nothing that I can do about it. My gospel pleads will fall on their God-hardened ears. My prayers lift up to God without any use. Jesus didn't even die for these, our unelect children! The horrible pain and agony of soul that a Calvinist must feel for his children who may or may not be elect.

But on the other hand, they should be exeedingly joyous and glory in the fact that their unelect children will spend eternity in hell, for this will bring glory to God. God will be glorified for eternity for damning them, apart from anything that they have done or could do, because it was His sovereign and free choice to do so, apart from "any consideration of man whatsoever". This choice brings pleasure to God, in whose pleasure it will be to punish our unelect children, who at His pleasure arranged the damnation of our unelect children, who will be glorified by their destruction, because they have been created for this very end : that they may perish. So praise God and hallelujah for God's glory in damning countless, untold billions of people's children, who are damned without remedy, where we are to seek for no cause beyond His will and pleasure.

I do not envy being a Calvinist, having children myself. For it is nowhere guaranteed that children of an elect parent will necessarily be elect themselves. With my view, I understand that my children can be prayed for and influenced by my relationship to them, and my faith displayed to them as I teach them. God wills that all men be saved and that includes my children. My preaching of Jesus and the gospel has a REAL life or death purpose to my children. They have the ability to believe unto salvation!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Prologue of James

by H K Flynn
I never saw Timon of Athens performed, nor have I read this little-known play of Shakespeare, but its title has stuck in my mind because I read something about it that sort of clicked with me.

Timon of Athens is very much considered a lesser Shakespearian work. If what I read was accurate, what folks consider to be the main problem with it is simply that it lacks of one simple dramatic element. Timon lacks foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing is where the writer gives subtle nods, in dialogue and action, to what will emerge later in the work of literature, especially at its climax. Apparently, in Timon, the changes the character takes, and he goes through a radical transformation, feel hollow and unsupported simply because Shakespeare hadn’t gone back and added early hints that would have given the closure and balance found in his greatest plays.

In music, the orchestration that introduces the musical themes of the entire work is called an overture or prelude. In non-fiction, the way themes are introduced is in an introduction, which is often called a prologue.

Hodges calls the section in the Epistle of James where his themes are introduced, the prologue. The prologue of James doesn’t make the mistake evident in Timon. He does carefully introduce his themes.

Right at the end of his prologue (more accurately right after the prologue has ended) comes the key verse of the Epistle of James. It’s the verse that sets the entire direction of the main unit of James. So between the salutation/greeting and that key verse, James gives his readers a neat and carefully laid out introduction to everything important he will say in his epistle.

So here the church is, after Pentecost and after three striking deaths: that of Ananias, Sapphiras and Steven. Just what are the VIP issues James wants to convey?


The need to embrace trials as the key to
complete, post-Pentecost Christian maturity

Attitude check on the part of the rich

Attitude check about the seriousness of sin

Need for unswerving faith in
the transformative power of God’s Word

Need for unswerving faith in
the miraculous perfection of the gift of new birth

These are the issues James previews in his prologue so that his epistle has closure, balance and a greater sense of weightiness. Here is the text of James' prologue in the NKJV:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

[I tip toward Hodges' observation that everyone hearing this would have 'caught' James's meaning. That in the months and years after James had seen His risen Savior face to face, they would have known James was admitting to his own state of confusion during the period in which he had opposed the Lord’s earthly ministry.]

For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.

For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes.

So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
(v. 2-18)

The final thing to notice regarding what I call issue #5, is that James is not a book that explicitly explains the Spirit-filled life as such. Instead, it is a book that acknowledges that post-Pentecost maturity only can emerge out of the miracle of new birth. That’s why right before the key verse he beautifully contrasts the birth of sin (and the full maturity of death that follows when sin is not turned from), with the awesome miracle of new birth:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.


by Rose~
I have been reading some conversations taking place between Jonathan Moorhead, Todd and H.K. Flynn at Jonathan’s blog. The subject of faith and boasting came up. It seems from the Calvinist point of view, if one says that everyone can believe or have faith in the gospel message, but some do not, then those who do, can boast. Did that make any sense? In other words, the “doctrines of grace” (Calvinism) teach that no one can believe in the gospel unless God regenerates the heart first, then they see the truth, believe and receive, and are saved. This all happens because God chose them before the foundation of the world. The only way we believe and receive is if we are chosen. Therefore we cannot boast that we have faith, because we only have faith because we are chosen. If we don’t believe in this theology, then we set ourselves up for boasting because we were wise enough or insightful enough to believe the message, and therefore we must be better than the unsaved person ... so says the Calvinist.

I decided to do a search on the word boast. I found a lot!

… he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. (Romans 3:26-28)

Paul is, as usual, contrasting faith and law or works. If we are saved by faith, what have we to be proud of? We cannot say we have worked our way to heaven. We can only cast ourselves on God’s mercy when we have faith that He will save, that He can save. Does Paul think that we can boast of our “faith” in Christ as being some special insight we have in and of ourselves? I think not.

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-3)

Paul again sites “believing God” as being nothing to boast about.

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1: 20-31)

In that passage, Paul says we should and can boast – in the Lord! He chose the weak, lowly and despised so that there is no boasting. The gospel message is for the weak. It is not for him who thinks himself to be alright and righteous. The preaching of the gospel does not appeal to our pride ... quite the opposite. We can only boast of all that God has done by reconciling us to Himself through Christ, not by any work that we have done to gain favor. I don’t see the passage saying that if we believe the gospel, we have something to boast about. It says quite the opposite.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 1For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

This is probably the verse that the Calvinist would point to most of all to make his assertion that we could boast of our faith if the faith is not a gift given only to the chosen. I have read where they say that the verse speaks of faith as the gift. Taking the verse apart, I don’t see how that can be. What do you think? It seems to me that salvation by grace is the gift spoken of. We see two phrases, “it is the gift of God” and “not by works” – these two phrases are both describing the same thing. If so, can we say that “not by works” could describe faith? Nowhere is the concept of gaining faith by work found in the NT. However, the concept of gaining salvation by work is a concept refuted everywhere in the NT, as it is here. Salvation by grace is the “gift of God” and “not by works.” Read the verse again.

I close with a slightly revised comment that I left on Jonathan’s blog:

I don't get this constant reference to boasting. If I believed in Calvinism, couldn't I boast because obviously God loved me more than those who won't be saved? Couldn't I say that it was ME ME ME ME that God chose?

We can twist it around so the other side is presenting cause for boasting from their theology, but it isn't helpful toward defining the message that we can present to a lost and dying world. I believe the message that I can tell anyone is this: "You are a sinner. Jesus Christ loves you and He died for your sin ... yes, He died for YOU! Believe this gospel and receive Christ and you will be reconciled to God and have eternal life."

This is available to “the whole world.”

Boasting isn't the issue; it is the message ... that is what is at stake with all of this debate and the only reason I take part in it. Bless you all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Lordship Salvation + Assurance = Easy Believism

by Matthew
Antonio has done an excellent job in his blog of demonstaring how Calvinistic theology destroys assurance. Indeed many Calvinists no doubt do lack assurance that they are truly saved.

However, there are many who believe in Lordship salvation (holding that personal holiness and perserverance are essential elements of salvation) to varying degrees who have a strong sense of assurance. They may pay lip service to the idea that there is a false faith, but they would never question the reality of their own faith in Christ. In their theological reasonings they may make faith complicated and attack 'mere mental assent', but practically they know when they believe something and when they do not. They know very well that they are eternally secure in Christ, even though they believe that this must inevitably result in perserverance in the faith.

Until last year I favoured a Reformed approach to Sanctification and held to Calvinistic Perserverance. However, I had a strong assurance of my salvation. I knew my faith was real. I knew for certain that Christ had died for my sins and was raised for my justification. This was rightly my confidence.

This of course was a problem in terms of dealing with Biblical warnings and exhortations.

James 2:17
"Even so faith , if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."

While I was vaguely aware that there was an alternative interpretation, I assumed that this meant that genuine faith must have works.

Now, I never liked the book of James very much. I felt it was tougth teaching. However, I did not let it bother me. I was absolutely confident that my faith was real. Therefore, logically I must be doing works. As my faith was real, I must obviously be doing sufficent works to demonstrate the reality of my salvation. They might not always be good enougth to satisfy my conscience, but they obvioulsy must be real because God was at work in my life sanctifying me.

I read devotional books by Calvinist writers, in particular 'Holiness' by J.C. Ryle. In this collection of papers, Ryle warned Christians to look at their behavior and to question their salvation. It was challenging stuff, but it did not worry too much. I had absolute confidence that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for my sin and that I had life in Him. Therefore, I was saved, regardless of the fact that J.C. Ryle's papers made me uncomfortable.

The fact was that so long as I had assurance of being a justified sinner, my Lordship salvation theology actually lead me into the same 'Easy Believism' that Free Grace advocates are accused of.

What challenged my thinking was Ananias and Saphirah. I had always accepted the possiblity that Ananias and Saphirah might have been saved, but I had never given it much thought. However, when I began studying J.N. Darby and other Brethren writers, I was surprised to find that they connected the deaths of this couple to the 'Sin unto death' in 1 John 5:16. I had been troubled before by Arminians using this verse to prove the possiblity of Christians being lost forever. However, the idea that this was physical death made so much more sense.

The idea that Biblical warnings might be to believers instead of false professors completely turned my theology upside down. The doctrine of God's chastening now seemed so much more real. If failure to walk in faithfulness had dreadful consequences, then the denial of Perserverance didd not necessarilly lead to 'Easy Believism' as I had thought. I was now able to see that Lordship salvation either leads one to question his assurance of salvation or else to genuine 'Easy Believism'.

Monday, February 20, 2006


by Nate
What’s the reason I do what I do? God’s grace!

I want to give up my life for His sake and the gospel’s sake! Not because He forces me to, not because I’m scared of hell, but because when I think about the grace I’ve been shown, when I study the Scriptures and come face to face with the realities that are true of me only because of His work in me, I want to live out my union with Him through His Spirit!

The fact that we are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24) gets me excited! The truth from Ephesians 2:8-9 that: “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” This makes me want to “get my praise on!”

The truth that God has done all the work, that He shed His blood for me, that He gives so freely, is absolutely amazing! To sit back and meditate on the grace brought to us by Jesus Christ is breath taking; to ponder the promises of Scripture is exhilarating!!

I want these truths, these promises, and this grace to motivate me to live a life of response. To respond to God by surrendering all of me to the One who gave His life for me!

One reason I decided to join up with these other believers on this joint-blog is that they truly are unashamed of grace. We all have a passion for proclaiming God’s wonderful grace brought to us by Jesus Christ!!!





by Rose
God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense

About a decade ago, I had the priviledge of being present while a preacher named Dr. Paul Tassell delivered a sermon on GRACE. He skillfully made an acrostic from the word. (Oh, how I love acrostics.) I don’t remember everything about the sermon, for it was a long time ago, but acrostics have a way of sticking in my mind and I thought it might be appropriate to bring it up on the new blog with the word in its title.

God’s Riches
We are talking about our creator, our heavenly father. All things are under his sovereign hand. Nothing happens that is outside the scope of His perfect plan. He holds it all together and is the ruler of all. He “is a righteous judge …” (Psalm 7:11) Yet, He says Himself, “I am merciful …” (Jeremiah 3:11) This is God; He is the "be-all" and "end-all" of the entire universe! That’s who we’re talking about.

I was thinking about the next part yesterday and talking to my husband, John about it. What are God’s riches? We pondered this question together. This subject is so broad it could fill volumes, and it has! I will just offer a couple of snippets, glimpses of God’s riches:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ … " (Eph 1:3)

“… the riches of His goodness and forbearance …” (Rom 2:4)

“… the riches of … Christ in you, the hope of glory ..." (Col 1:27)

“… justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus …” (Rom 3:24)

“ … the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:39)

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phl 4:19)

“… Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption …” (1Cor 1:30)

“He has made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus …” (Eph 2:6)

“… abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness …” (Rom 5:17)

" ... given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature ..." (2 Pet 1:4)

The most awesome “riches” is having the privilege of knowing Him. We have access into His very presence. But wait! There’s more … We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. What does this mean? I have lately been contemplating the fact that we are “… partakers of the Divine Nature.” (2 Pet 1:4) It just doesn’t get any better than that!

At Christ’s Expense
Just thinking about who Christ is will bring you to your knees. He is very God, yet very man. His presence in Judea brought the fullness of the Godhead, bodily. He was sinless perfection. Forget the DaVinci code. This man was and is one-of-a-kind. He had no wicked desire, no jealousy, no flaw ... quite different from you and me, but one of us nontheless. How awesome. He was not just a partaker of the divine nature; he was the genuine article, through and through. This is the aspect of Grace that is so very humbling, when we grasp what God has done through His incarnate Self, Jesus Christ:

“God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh …” (Romans 8:3)

“ … Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16)

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21)

Grace is God bestowing his riches on us. He freely gives us all that goodness, justification, redemption, justification, love, wisdom, sanctification, knowledge of Him etc... So much is given to those who are in Christ Jesus. Most awesomely, we become a new creation that has the very nature of God within us. What did we do to deserve this? What work? We did nothing. Christ has done it all; He has purchased this for us.

We receive God's riches at Christ's expense. He paid the cost so that we could have these riches. Salvation is all of God in Christ! It is a gift; therefore, it is not of works. There is no work that can merit the righteousness of God. What could a person possibly do that could make them deserve to be a partaker of the Divine nature? This would almost be a funny question if it wasn't for the tragedy that so many people want to earn their way into Christ, into God's favor. There is nothing that we have to offer God in exchange for His perfection. By GRACE (God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense), He has lavished us with righteousness and eternal life. If we are born-again by GRACE through faith in Christ, we will never suffer the death and punishment that we actually do deserve. (Now there is something we have earned).

Throw it all away, whoever you are who is clinging to some righteousness of your own, and look to Him alone for salvation! You are not fit to enter His presence, no matter how many good works you do. (I don't really believe in lady preachers...) The only condition for eternal life is the righteousness that is gained through faith, apart from works, which no one can earn. It is the gift of God. There is no boasting, because you can do no work to deserve this gift that you receive. Most people don’t like the idea of something that they can’t boast about, even if it's just boasting to themselves. We need to pat ourselves on the back, just a little. We think it is ludicrous that righteousness could be received without some kind of work or effort on our part. Most people would be ashamed to admit that they were utterly helpless. But ... we who are believers (and I would imagine that most reading here are) are UNASHAMED, because the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, of which nothing else is! Praise Him! We have received GRACE: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

(Would this fall under the category of Dispensationalism, Free-Grace Theolgy or "Old School Non-Calvinism"? (I love that phrase!) You decide.)

Sunday, February 19, 2006


by H K Flynn
James is often discussed when the ‘no strings attached’ view of justification is being compared to the view that faith, by definition, results in works of obedience. For that reason, I thought I’d begin a series on Zane Hodge’s 5 part outline of James.

This post is on Part I: Salutation.

But unlike most salutations, this one has quite a bit of intrigue.

First Note: Hodges is convinced that James has been thoroughly misunderstood by historical Christianity. While some see this as a near impossibility, I flat out don't.

Note Also: Hodges considers James an unusually tightly organized epistle and this structure helps us to see how James can be much better understood if one simply keeps in mind the obvious. What James explicitly says his topic is, really is his topic. James is teaching Christian believers how to advance in the Christian life by, to use a modern expression, leveraging their trials. James teaches that trials are the key to full maturity.

James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.

Why scattered?

Since there is no reference in his Epistle to the beginning of the gentile mission, Hodges suggests that James was writing far earlier than the writing of any other NT epistle, as early as AD 34. For instance, in his epistle there is no reference to Philip, Peter, Barnabas and Paul, or any of their converts, and more crucially, there is no reference at all to Gentile/Jewish relations or tensions.

This is even more telling when it is remembered that it was written not to one but to more than one congregation, as seems to be implied by the salutation. The omission of his advice on Gentile/Jewish tensions seems glaring.

If this early dating is true, James would have been writing in the shadow of three events, Pentecost, and the deaths of Ananius/Sapphira and of Stephen. This means an early time frame emphasizes the plausibility of the idea that his burden was salvation from sin induced death, as well as salvation into the perfect and complete maturity we see in the miracle-working apostles after Pentecost.

(See Antonio’s discussion for biblical support for James teaching salvation from death.)

This understanding would suggest that after James was converted, like Paul, at the appearance of His risen Savior, he may have joined the leadership of the Jerusalem in some sort of role. Acts, because it is a defense of Paul, does not fill in these details.

In Acts 8:1, Luke does tell us that after the death of Steven, the entire Jerusalem church was scattered throughout the region, leaving only the Apostles remaining in Jerusalem.

We can juxtapose James’s greeting after Acts 8:1…

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

James, bondman of God and of [the] Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which [are] in the dispersion, greeting.

This is the Darby Translation. The NKJV reads similarly:

James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.

Hodges notes that the ‘scattered abroad’ is literally ‘in the dispersion’.

So we can begin to see that an early date is both likely and helpful in understanding why James is so emphatic about the need to allow trials to unlock the miraculous power of post-Pentecost Christianity.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Darkness Outside

by Antonio
ADDITION: For MORE on this subject, see my blog here:

The Judgment Seat of Christ : The Bema Seat of Christ

And see the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society:

A Call to the Wedding Celebration: An Exposition of Matthew 22:1-14
The 'Outer Darkness' in Matthew and its Relationship to Grace

Matt 22:1-14
And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding."' But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.' So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

"But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

"For many are called, but few are chosen."


1) Jesus is speaking in parabolic language; is telling a parable.

2) The guest without a wedding garment (from now on GWWG) is distinguished from those who “were not willing to come” in verses 11:3-8, who were destroyed by the army of the King.

3) GWWG, who was invited to the wedding feast, was both willing to come and obviously accepted the invitation.

4) GWWG in the kingdom, for he is found in the wedding feast, having responded affirmatively to the wedding invitation.

5) As far as my eschatology goes, there will be no unsaved people at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom. GWWG was willing to come, accepted the invitation, and in the parable, is found in the kingdom.

6) At the judgment of the Sheep and Goats, all unsaved people will have been weeded out (Matt 25:31-46). Here in the parable, “the king… sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (Matt 22:7-8), which is a picture of the judgment of the goats, the lost. GWWG is not in this group.

7) The interpretation that the wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ is untenable considering the above: GWWG is willing to come, accepted the invitation, is in the kingdom, is distinguished from those who were destroyed.

8) The GWWG did not prepare himself and come to the feast in the proper wedding garment. This wedding garment is not the righteousness of Christ but his own preparation of himself. The wedding garment corresponds to the Christian’s perseverance in faithfulness and works:

Rev 19:7-8
Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

The wedding garments here in Rev 19:8 “is the righteous acts of the saints.” This understanding fits the context much better in Matt 22.

9) The wedding feast in this parable corresponds to Jesus Christ’s intimate band of overcoming companions who will co-rule/co-reign with Him forever. To be in the wedding feast is to be identified with the fellowship of reigning servant kings with Christ, based upon their faithful endurance until the end of their Christian lives.

10) GWWG did not prepare himself for the wedding feast (for the intimate band and fellowship of co-rulers with Christ). He is not allowed into this fellowship but is thrown out into the “darkness outside” (to skotos to exoteron). This is parabolic language. In biblical times wedding feasts were held at night in well-lit banquet halls. This man is thrown outside of the banquet hall, into the darkness that resides outside the banquet hall. This corresponds to the fact that the Christian who doesn’t prepare himself for his future eternity in the kingdom will be outside of the intimate fellowship of Christ’s servant kings.

11) GWWG is bound hand and foot: this again is parabolic language. This corresponds to the fact that Christians who are unprepared for the special privileges in the kingdom will be under severe restrictions. They will not be allowed to be active for their Lord in the experience of joint-heirship; he will be unable to serve in the Lord’s government.

12) That this will be the experience of those un-prepared Christians who face their Lord at the Bema of Christ, the Judgment Seat of Christ, it is reasonable to see that those who will have such restrictions put on them will be sorrowful, severely remorseful and regretting. They will “weep” and “gnash their teeth”. Such is the oriental expressions of severe sorrow. Such things as this went on in the culture of Jesus’ day when loved one’s died, in other words, when one experienced great loss. To be excluded from Christ’s intimate band of servant kings is to experience incalculable and eternal loss.

Matt 16:25-27
For whoever desires to save his life (psuche) will lose it, but whoever loses his life (psuche) for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul (life/psuche)? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul(life/psuche)? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.

The GWWG figured that saving his life in the present (living for himself) was compensation for losing his life (in the future kingdom). What a tragic and inestimable error! Christ is coming to reward each Christian according to his works, and this man is rewarded with great loss.

Mark puts it this way:

Mark 8:35-38
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."

Jesus Christ will be ashamed of those Christians who do not prepare themselves with the proper wedding garments; who do not live out life with the proper eternal perspective; who live for self and not for Christ.

1 John 2:28
And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.

13) “For many are called, but few are chosen”: All Christians are called to the intimate fellowship of Christ’s overcoming co-reigners/co-rulers; Christ’s co-heirs. Yet only those who have prepared themselves for the privilege and opportunity will be chosen.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Here We Are

by Matthew
Welcome to 'Unashamed of Grace'.

The members of this blog are absolutely convinced of the wonderful truth of God's gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. We know that we have eternal life, not through any merit of our own, but through Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection. Eternal life is a gift; it is not conditional upon any works of righteousness before or after conversion.

We believe that traditional Calvinism and traditional Reformed theology have failed to realize this. In particular the doctrine of Perserverance severely compromises the free nature of grace and damages any ground of assurance. We hold, on the contrary that justified sinners are eternally secure in Christ. This is not conditional upon perserverance, though perserverance is demanded of believers and failure to perservere has consequences both in this life and the next.

We do not delight in debate. We do not relish confronting fellow believers, but we have no choice but to contend for the apostolic doctrine of grace.

We all believe that Free Grace theology has been seriously misrepresented. Accusations of 'Easy Believism' abound. I have seen too many ugly comments along those lines. We would challenge both Calvinists and Arminians to take a good look at the Scriptures and question their positions. If we are in error, show us how. Do not just quote verses at us (we have all read the New Testament, let us not patronize each other), but show us why you think your interpretation is better.

Why a team blog? The members of this blog feel that traditional Calvinism is a little overrepresented in the blogsphere. We are concerned that many Christians are quite unaware that there are theologies other than Calvinism and Arminianism.

There may well be many Christians who have never considered the possiblity that James 2:14 talks about a genuine faith, rather than a false or spurious faith, as Reformed theology holds.

We believe that we can be more effective in sharing the message of the free offer of grace by working together, as well as by blogging as individuals.

The members of this blog are all broadly Dispensational in theology. This theological system will be reflected in our posts and has has had a constructive role in shaping our methodology. That is not to say, however, that the doctrines of Free Grace can only be shared by those committed to Dispensationalism.

I met this little group on-line and I can say that they are wonderful people who truly love their Lord. I have been helped enormously in my understanding of the Word by Antonio, Rose, HK Flynn and Nate.

We are not exactly uniform in our theology. There may be differences within the group over theology. I am a little more 'Arminian' in my view of election than some of us. I am also the only Post-Tribulationalist in the group. We are also varied in our knowledge of the Free Grace scene. I have never even read a book by Zane Hodges. I am only a recent convert to a consistent Free Grace position. Rose says she is willing to learn more about it, but has embraced the simple "no-strings-attached" qualities of the Free-Grace soteriology, as she understands it so far. Some of us, therefore, have as much desire to learn through participating in this blog as the desire to promote our views.

We welcome constructive comments from people of all theological persuasions. We are here to listen as well as to "talk."

Please visit us again.