[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)

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sincere Question

by Rose~

Here is a sincere question for Calvinists of the "Doctrines of Grace" persuasion. I really do want your answer to this because I am thoroughly confused:

What difference does it make?

If God has ordained before time all who would be saved and chosen them based on no other reason then His electing choice --- regardless of foreseen faith --- regardless of faith in the proper Gospel --- or any other thing ....

Why do Calvinists lament over gospels of "Cheap Grace" --- "Easy-Believism" --and-- "Mere Intellectual Assent"? I see many Calvinists decrying the fact, (and I do believe they are sincere about it), that there are so many people who are "fooled" into thinking that they are saved. I don't understand why it matters. If such a one is elect, He will be saved, if he isn't he won't. Why does it matter who is fooling himself and believing an alleged false gospel? Won't God sort it all out in the end and lose none of His sheep? Will a false gospel limit the number? What difference does it make?

If you're not a Calvinist, you can post a theory.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

H.A. Ironside on Romans 5:10

by H.A. Ironside

"For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." How blind are they who read into this verse a reference to the earthly life of our blessed Lord. That life- pure and holy as it was- could never have saved one poor sinner. It was by His death He made atonement for our sins. Even the love of God demonsrated so fully in the ways of Jesus only drew out the envenomed hate of the human heart. It is His death that destroys the enmity- when I realise He died for me I am reconciled to God. The hatred was all on my side- there was no need for God to be reconciled to me- but I needed reconciliation, and I have found it in Jesus' death. Now since it is already an accomplished fact I may know for a certainty I will be saved by His life. He said "Because I live, ye shall live also." (John 14:19). It is, of course, His resurrection life that is in view in Romans 5:10. "Wherefore he is able to save them (evermore) that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25). A living Christ at God's right hand is my pledge of eternal redemption. He lives to plead our cause, to deliver through all the trials of the way, and to bring us safely home to the Father's house at last.

Romans, p.62

Sunday, April 23, 2006

1 John 2:20-21 and Puristic Theology

by HK Flynn

I think often when Lordship Salvation is being promoted 1 John is mined for what seem to function as Purist proof texts. IMO, From the Head of the Moor has recently employed 4:2 in that type of use. To be fair, Jonathan does believe that 1 John teaches certain “tests of life” and apparently thinks 4:2 is a strong verse to demonstrate that theme. I don't and see much of 1 John as working against this "tests of life" idea.

Zane Hodges thinks the purpose of 1 John was to warn against false teachings (of pre-Gnostic heresies)--ideas that he didn’t want to be given a hearing in his churches. He thinks that John teaches that false doctrine is a direct threat to fellowship with God (1:3). So for that purpose, he gives tests of fellowship (If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth 1:6) and gives instructions on how to abide in fellowship with God so that his listeners can be bold at the Judgment Seat of Christ. (And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming 2:28; Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world 4:17)

Hodges suggests that the letter’s primary recipients were the inner circle of leaders, and that it was meant to be read to the entire congregation(s) as well. He believes John may have been intending to strengthen the hand of the leaders (who he believed had a fully sufficient knowledge of Christian doctrine [2:20] and had overcome Satan’s tactics [2:13]), by bolstering the confidence that the church had in those leaders so that the false teachers would be shut out and fail to gain a hearing in the churches. That would make sense of verses like this:

But you [the leaders?] have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 2:20


I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 2:21

These seem like unusually optimistic ideas to convey to an entire church. I would be curious to know how Purists like Jonathan and Centuri0n fit verses 20 and 21 into the idea that the purpose of 1 John is to advocate the tests of life.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The "Gift" that Requires Work

by Rose~

(Since Matthew got us thinking about analogies, I thought maybe this one would be fun to kick around. How does this relate to the "gift" of salvation by grace through faith?)

A woman recieved a birthday gift from her mother one year. The mother handed her daughter an envelope. On the outside of the envelope it said "The Gift of Physical Fitness - for you!"

In scepticism, (understandably) the daughter opened the envelope to find a certificate for a life-long Deluxe Membership to a very exclusive health spa.

"Mom, I think you have misrepresented your gift." said the daughter. "You really aren't giving me the gift of physical fitness at all. You are giving me the opportunity to go to a health spa and spend hours of my life (that I don't have) panting and sweating so I can (maybe) come close to reaching that ever-changing, ambiguous definition of what a physically fit person is. Without my time, commitment and effort, your gift is not worth the paper it is printed on."

"Yes, honey, that is how physical fitness is, you must do it yourself. No one can do it for you. This gift cost me my entire savings, but it will cost you your time, energy, and your suurender to a whole new way of life ... but ... the rewards will be great!"

"Thanks, mom, but haven't you noticed? ... I have no time to go to a health spa because I'm working three jobs to pay off an enormous credit card debt. Why didn't you just take the money and pay off my credit cards instead? Now, that would have been a great gift ... "

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Analogy with Blondin

by Matthew

Preachers often attempt to separate belief and trust by telling a story about Blondin, the famous tightrope walker who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope. As with most preachers' tales, there are several variations (does anybody else find this irritating?). If anybody knows which is correct, feel free to tell us.

According to one version, Blondin crosses the falls on a tightrope and then goes along with a wheelbarrow. A man suggests that he carries someone in the wheelbarrow, but declines to volunteer. The other version I have heard holds that Blondin asks the crowd whether he could cross the falls with a man on his back. The crowd cheer that he could, but nobody volunteers.

The point of this story, according to those who tell it, is that those people believed that he could do it, but they were not willing to trust him. Thus, they had only an intellectual faith in Blondin's ability to get them across.

There are three problems with this analogy.

The first problem is that it is not certain that those people really did have even an intellectual faith that Blondin could get them safely across. Merely because they professed to have confidence in him, did not mean that they did. They had just been overawed by his feats and were in the excitement of the crowd. Perhaps they declined because their reasoning caught up with them. After all, they had not seen Blondin carry a person across, either on his back or in the wheelbarrow. They had only seen him cross on his own. Could they be certain that he had the strength or the balance to carry a person across?

Secondly, they might indeed have trusted Blondin to get them across. However, other factors might have deterred them. An irrational fear of heights, fear of being sick or the indignity of being carried.

Thirdly, the analogy does not fit with faith in Christ for eternal life. Blondin was not merely asking those people to believe in him, he was asking them to carry out an action. In contrast, when we believe on Christ for salvation, we are justified through our confidence in what Christ has done for us. The faith is in Christ's work. We are not saved by doing anything:

Romans 4
'2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

3 For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,'

Monday, April 10, 2006

Does Ephesians 2:8-9 say that faith is a gift?

by Rose~

For 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. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Bible Knowledge Commentary
Ephesians: Harold W. Hoehner, AB, THM, THD, PHD, (Director of Doctor of Theology Studies, chairman and professor of NT literature and exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary)
offered this exegesis:

These verses explain "the incomparable riches of His grace" (v. 7), expanding the parenthetical statement in verse 5, It is by grace you have been saved, and adding that the means of this salvation is, through faith. Hence, the basis is grace and the means is faith alone. (cf. Rom. 3:22, 25; Galatians 2:16; 1 Peter 1:5). Faith is not a "work." It does not merit salvation; it is only the means by which one accepts God's free salvation.

Paul elaborated, And this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Much debate has centered around the demonstrative pronoun "this" (touto). Though some think it refers back to grace and others to faith, neither of these suggestions is really valid because the demonstrative pronoun is nueter, whereas "grace" and "faith" are feminine. Also, to refer back to either of these words specifically seems to be redundant. Rather, the nueter touto, as is common, refers to the preceding phrase or clause. (In Ephesians 1:15 and 3:1, touto, "this", refers back to the preceding section.) Thus it refers back to the concept of salvation (2: 4-8a), whose basis is grace and means is faith. This salvation does not have its source in man (it is "not from yourselves"), but rather, its source is God's grace for "it is the gift of God."

Verse 9 reinforces this by showing that the means is not by works since its basis is grace (Rom. 3:20, 28; 4:1-5; 11:6; Gal. 2:16; 2Tim 1:9; Titus 3:5), and its means is faith (Rom 4:5). Therefore, since no person can bring salvation to himself by his own efforts, no one can boast (cf. Rom. 3:27; 1Cor. 1:29). Their boasting can only be in the Lord (1Cor. 1:31).

I was looking into this verse today to see once and for all if it truly says that faith is a gift.(although I know there are other verses that are used by the Calvinist to say that faith is bestowed on a person who is totally depraved, uninterested in the Lord, and God regenerates him, puts faith in his heart, and then he believes the gospel after having already been regenerated.) ... but I just wanted to see if it was in this verse.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Wrath is the Thing with Feathers

from HK FLynn's archives

At the point of regeneration each believer is given all the divine resources needed to successfully live the Christian life. The miracle of new birth and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are two of the most fundamental of those supremely needed divine resources.

But as human beings we make lazy and stupid choices; we frequently don't love the brethren; we frequently don't love the Lord. How do these two realities connect? Many Christians either would say (a) that people lose their salvation, or, (b) that success in Christian living seperates the wheat from the chaff, in other words that true believers will persevere in holiness.

These distortions are what make wrath so important. For me, wrath equals hope for Christian doctrine. And doctrine is as important as life itself, because our doctrine is how we frame every practical issue in our lives.

God's angry discipline on his people is (ironically) the great reassurance that believers need. It is the hard teaching that smooths away the anxiety from centuries old theological error and confusion teaching that God's ultimate accountablity over us is our lack of complete certainty of final salvation and belonging in His family. Instead, it is God's temporal wrath against His true children that is one of the crucial motivators of righteous behaviour.

Wrath reveals God as the supreme Parent, who gives his children complete and utter security of his Fatherfhood, but also shepherds his children with perfect wisdom. As Hodges says, God doesn't let his children run wild. He holds us securely; and his discipline and wrath hold us accountable.

I suspect there is both legitimate distinction and legitimate overlap between the words 'wrath' and 'discipline'. Wrath conveys an anger that discipline doesn't seem to. But certainly to fully distinguish them, so that discipline is neatly expressed to believers and wrath only to unbelievers, is faulty. And that false seperation has caused true libertinism both in Purist circles and in Dispensational circles. Both camps seem to see the warnings of wrath to be too intense to be visited on His covenant people!

For me, the tiny grain of truth in Arminianism, and Catholicism for that manner, is that God has a fearful, threatening message for his bona fide, regenerate people. The writer of Hebrews clearly teaches that true believers are both chastened & scourged by the Lord:

'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He
scourges every son whom he receives.' It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
(Heb 12:5-8 )

The writer assumes a terrible range to God's angry action, since scourging during Roman times implied, at least, severe intensity. Enter the research of Rene Lopez.

Saved out of crime, gangs and terrible addictions, Lopez is writing scholarly articles and Christian books that challenge our thinking about how God holds us accountable. He recalls a familiar pattern about our questionable Christian group-think concerning what wrath means:

"An informal experiment conducted by this writer while teaching at Trinity International University found that nine out of ten Christians automatically consented to a definition of 'God’s wrath' to usually mean 'eternal-judgment'."

While Free Grace thought has always stressed accountability because of the fearfulness of the Judgment Seat of Christ and the potential of divine temporal chastisement that may lead to death, Lopez has focused on the importance of our understanding what the Bible means when it speaks specifically of wrath. Lopez argues convincingly in his journal article Do Believers Experience the Wrath of God? (pdf) that (1) wrath is not always eternal Hell, as is oddly assumed by many, but in fact the contexts tends to support temporality; (2) God's wrath is expressed to those whom he loves; and (3) toward those whom are in a covenant relationship with him. Lopez writes that wrath is God's action against sin:

"Since His wrath always manifests because of sin, whether or not covenant
relationship is involved, it carries with it a temporal element."

Here are several of his supporting texts:

Psalm 60:3
You have shown your people desperate times; you have given us wine that makes us stagger.

Hosea 14:4
I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.

Hab 3:2
LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.

Taking what Lopez shows is explicit about wrath in the OT, that it is not always but is usually on God's covenant people, including on Moses, he then shows how that OT wrath-pattern holds up in the NT. This of course helps to shine much light on Romans, light that affirms justification by faith alone.

Romans 1:18
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.

Lopez writes: 'This verse clearly teaches that God's wrath is presently being revealed. Almost universally, all admit the present reality of God's wrath in 1:18'. It also states the object of wrath: "all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth". The object of wrath, ungodliness, is a suppression of truth. Question: Isn't sin always a suppression of the truth, whether Christians or non-Christians are doing the sinning?

Lopez's premise sheds light on the two different verb tenses found in Romans 5:9.

Romans 5:9
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall
we be saved by him from the wrath of God

Lopez argues 5:9 is misunderstood as teaching having allready been justified, much more shall we be saved from Hell, but instead, having been justified, much more shall we be saved from temporal wrath due to sin.

His premise is provacative, that our typical knee-jerk response to the word 'wrath' is getting in the way of our seeing the intensity with which God wants us as believers to honor Him and His holiness. Lopez's commentary on Romans is exactly what its title indicates, Romans Unlocked. This bracing view of Romans is badly needed.

Lopez (though a bit too Calvinistic for Antonio's tastes!) is doing important work in Free Grace scholarship and has an excellent new website called, Scripture Unlocked, that is being loaded with excellent material that supports his research and scholarly arguments. (In his list of articles I noticed “Is Faith a Necessary Gift to Receive Salvation?” which sounded like interesting reading.)

Note: The title of my post comes from the wonderful Emily Dickenson poem, #254, that famously compares 'hope' to a song bird. Her first stanza reads:

'Hope' is the thing with feathers--

That perches in the soul-- And sings

the tune without the words--

And never stops --at all--

Friday, April 07, 2006

A Study in Contrasts

by Antonio da Rosa

Hi, ya'll

thanks for your kindness and good wishes.

I have been perusing some of the anti-FG stuff out there. Not much of it is worth even addressing. The superficiality of both the attacks and their so-called exposition speaks volumes.

Jonathan Moorheads blog seems to only get traffic when he stirs up the FG pot with his sophomoric paragraph long posts. They have no content and fail to distinguish himself as a doctoral student at DTS; and his involvement in the threads that they produce add nothing to an honest debate, but are merely formulated to be provocative. He is always insisting that someone else do his homework.

The others who wish to be more in-depth contend against that which they do not understand, nor have taken the time to study. Don't read their material with an open flame -- unless you want a mushroom cloud in the place of your video monitor; the straw men in these blogs are piled higher than the toys in my children's room.

Free Grace theology is a very real threat to the fratenal order of Traditionalism. Truth exposes their skin-deep theology for what it is. They are fighting tooth and nail defending their turf; often times it is humorous, other times it is scandalous.

We are the heralders of grace, they are the imposers of self-rightousness.

"Sola Fide" accurately describes our position, while they proclaim that faith apart from works does not save.

We represent Christ's gift of eternal life as Absolutely Free! while they traffic in the sophistry of contradiction which offers a gift that will cost a man everything.

Our message says "come as you are, you have nothing to offer"; their version advertises "submit all that you have and give all you got or you can't be saved".

We invite "whosover desires"; they stroke their pride with "whoever was chosen".

Our right given by the authority of the objective Word of God is to complete and certain assurance of salvation; their race is to persue perseverance, in order for final salvation, without it (certain assurance).

The eyes of our souls are fixed on Jesus as our certain hope; while their sights are filled with the inspection of "fruits".

To us, Christ is God's love to the world; To them, Christ's death is meaningless to most.

Our passions lie in evangelism of the lost; they seem rather content to proseltyze the saved.

The bottom line:

Free Grace Theology teaches that Christ offers eternal life by faith alone in Him for it.

Traditionalism teaches multiple conditions: submitting, repenting, cost of the whole life, perseverance until the end, etc.

Which one sounds like a gift to you?
Which one sounds like a highly stipulated contract?

Cheap Grace? No. Expensive to Christ, FREE to us.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Why Sacrifice for God if You Can't be Sure that Christ Sacrificed for You?

by Antonio da Rosa

With due respect to H.K. Flynn, who posted today, I have decided to spend a few moments on the computer and resurrect an archive from my blog. This is the post that shot across the blogosphere with no apology and which put Free Grace theology into the spotlight. There is a new post on my blog today as well. You must all excuse me as I haven't had much inspiration in the theological realm, as I have been pursuing a growing intimate relationship with my wife (our 8 year wedding anniversary was yesterday), been teaching hermeneutics at a Bible college, taking care of my children at night so my wife can work, and working various and odd hours myself, usually waking at 3 am; not to mention my ever increasing practical devotion to the Savior who sacrificed everything because I was destitute to provide anything on my own behalf.

My pastor is a famous pastor. He is on the radio everywhere. He teeters though. Often he gives a very clear gospel message, straight to the heart. Other times he is wishy washy and borders on soft-Lordship salvation. This week he used the parable of the sower and claimed that only the last soil was truly regenerate. He stated that if we didn't have some arbitrary amount of fruit in our lives that we must question if we "committed" enough to Jesus. My wife shared my feelings as she told me she looked around at the audience and wondered if anyone was doubting their very salvation because their was not sufficient works in their lives to render such a verdict.

Anger and frustration enveloped my soul. What will be the near future for those who truly believed in Christ yet do not have the subjective amount of fruit that was taught to them necessary in order to deem oneself truly saved? How will Satan rob them of their joy and suppress them from greater works and devotion to the Savior supposing that the wordly performance based system pervading every facet of our mundane existence is divinely inspired and instituted in eternal affairs after all? What of those who have teetered on the fence, having not been convinced of the eternal benefit and salvation in Christ that comes by faith in His name? How can they be spared from the taint of works-conditioned assurance of eternal well-being?

Let us look with new eyes to the serious repercussions of Lordship Salvation advocates who make works a bold and heralded condition of final salvation (not to mention present assurance); let us examine the hopeless plight of their searching for true assurance of God's eternal acceptance; let us remind ourselves of God's free and unconditional acceptance that requires no strings, no caveats, no provisos that can render the relationship which He freely offers as deviod and bunk... Let us glory in the Savior who, while we were yet powerless, died for us, ungodly, and reprobate...

Now on with the archive:

Why would anyone want to do works in the name of the blessed Lord Jesus Christ who does not have certain, absolute convinced assurance of eternal life, his right-standing before God, and his salvation? (Pause for you to actually consider this and give a good answer)…

The Calvinist cannot know for certain that he is saved! Why?

1) Due to the fact of their Perseverance theology. Only true believers will persevere in faith and obedient works until the end; so unless he is on his death bed (and not even then will it be certain because of their sins), he cannot have any certain assurance that he is saved.

2) Calvinism grounds its own brand of uncertain assurance of salvation on 3 things, 2 of which are completely subjective. One is the inner witness of the Spirit. But I ask, how exactly are we to know that it is the Spirit, and not an agent of Satan, who transformed himself into a minister of light; or the mind playing tricks on us; or some bout of emotionalism; or even the pastrami sandwich eaten for lunch? The second subjective ground is the introspection of self: the looking to one’s works and present sanctification. My experience is that there are one of two results when looking at one’s self as a base for assurance: a) self-righteousness and b) despair caused by musing on one’s sins.

So why would a Calvinist work for God if he is not certain he is saved? Why else other than that they believe that they must persevere in faith and good works until the end of life to actually gain "final salvation"!? That this is works-salvation is evident, but this has been discussed in other posts of mine. Here we are talking about assurance, and I am going to keep it on track.

Following are a few of the quotes of Reformed writers that show the utter failure to obtain certainty that one is saved in Calvinistic theology:

Kenneth Gentry writes, "Assurance is subjective ... Dabney rightfully notes that [absolute assurance] requires a revelation beyond the Scripture because the Bible does not specifically speak to the individual in question. Nowhere in the Bible do we learn ... that Ken Gentry is among the elect" (September 1993 issue of Dispensationalism in Transition).

“'What must I do to be saved?' is an altogether different question from, 'How do I know I've done that?' You can answer the first confidently. Only the Spirit may answer the last with certainty.” (Walter Chantry, Today's Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? pgs 75-76)

R.C. Sproul muses in an article he wrote on assurance, “Suppose I am mistaken about my salvation and am really going to hell? How can I know that I am a real Christian?” He relates, “I began to take stock of my life, and I looked at my performance. My sins came pouring into my mind, and the more I looked at myself, the worse I felt.” After falling on his knees, praying, and searching the scriptures for some assurance, he finally concluded “that being uncomfortable with Jesus was better than any other option!” (R. C. Sproul TableTalk (Nov 6, 1989): p. 20).

“You may be a spiritual defector who hasn’t defected yet." (John MacArthur on His radio program, transcribed by a friend).

“The only evidence of election is effectual calling, that is, the production of holiness. And the only evidence of the genuineness of this call and the certainty of our perseverance, is a patient continuance in well doing” (Charles Hodge, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 212).

“The perseverance of the saints reminds us very forcefully that only those who persevere to the end are truly saints” (John Murray, quoted by Dillow, Reign of the Servant Kings, pg 259)

These quotes betray the utter bankruptcy of the Reformed theology to:

1) Relate to its adherents a certainty that they have been accepted by God, justified, and given eternal life. Doubts necessarily must abound. Some authors even claim that doubts can be good so that they will motivate us to good works and perseverance (apparently by fear of hell).

2) Provide one of the greatest motivators for godly living: certainty of salvation! What are we left with here? Reformed people’s motivation is to work hard enough in order to gain some shadow of assurance, and thus make some conjecture that they may be saved. Instead of working out of gratitude that God has certainly saved them, they must work for God and persevere until the end for final salvation to be theirs!

How can you work for God if you are not certain that your name is written in the Book of life? Is that not like investing in a company that may not be yours; tricking out a car that may be repossessed at any time; devoting to a woman who hasn’t affirmed that she is your wife?

Free Grace theology teaches that assurance is of the essence of saving faith. Calvinists and Lutherans who take their name from the great reformers may not be aware that both Luther and Calvin believed that assurance was of the essence of faith, not by looking to works!

It is generally observed by Reformed authors that both Calvin and Luther grounded assurance on the objective word of God, in that certain and absolute assurance was of the very essence of saving faith:

Joel R. Beeke (TMS) admits, "Whereas the early Reformers held that assurance is part and parcel with faith, post-Reformation divines felt free to distinguish assurance from faith as witnessed by chap. 18 of the Westminster Confession." (Beeke, "Does Assurance Belong to the Essence of Faith? Calvin and the Calvinists," The Master’s Seminary Journal (Spring 1994) pg 45)

He also makes this further admission: "The bulk of current scholarship, however, no longer views the post-Reformation struggle to develop a detailed doctrine of assurance as a faithful outworking of early Reformation principles." (Ibid 46)

D.A. Carson, writing on assurance, states that the Reformation, with “its virulent [sic] emphasis on sola fide led Luther to see assurance as an element of saving faith. If one truly trusts Christ for the forgiveness of sins and full justification, so far also one is assured of his forgiveness. Carson continues, “The same connection can be found in Calvin” (Westminster Theological Journal 54, Reflections on Christian Assurance, 1992 pg 3).

Robert L. Dabney concluded that the “doctrine concerning faith which the first Reformers … Luther and Calvin… adopt[ed] from their opposition to the… teachings of Rome… asserted that the assurance of hope is of the essence of saving faith. Thus says Calvin in his commentary on Romans: ‘My faith is a divine and spiritual belief that God has pardoned and accepted me’” (Discussions by Robert L. Dabney, D.D., L.L.D., pg 173; taken from: Volume I: Theological and Evangelical, edited by C. R. Vaughan, published by the Presbyterian Committee of Publication, Richmond, VA., 1890.).

Hodge states that the Reformers “identif[ied] assurance with faith, making it essential to salvation,” teaching “that the special object of justifying faith is the favour of God toward us for Christ's sake: therefore to believe is to be assured of our own personal salvation. Thus Luther, Melancthon, and Calvin taught. This is the doctrine taught in the Augsburg Confession and Heidelberg Catechism” (A Commentary on: The Westminster Confession of Faith, A. A. Hodge, Online Edition, Chapter 18, Section II, 2).

Institutes III.ii.16, John Calvin writes (quoting from the 1960 Westminster Press edition, edited by John T. McNeill, and translated by Ford Lewis Battles):

“Here, indeed, is the chief hinge on which faith turns: that we do not regard the promises of mercy that God offers as true only outside ourselves, but not at all in us; rather that we make them ours by inwardly embracing them. Hence, at last is born that confidence which Paul elsewhere calls "peace" unless someone may prefer to derive peace from it. Now it is an assurance that renders the conscience calm and peaceful before God’s judgment.”

Shortly after these words comes this famous statement:

“Briefly, he alone is truly a believer who, convinced by a firm conviction that God is a kindly and well-disposed Father toward him, promises himself all things on the basis of his generosity; who relying upon the promises of divine benevolence toward him, lays hold on an undoubted expectation of salvation.

Earlier (Institutes II.ii.7) Calvin proclaims:

"Now we shall have a complete definition of faith, if we say, that it is a steady and certain knowledge of the Divine benevolence towards us, which [is] founded on the truth of the gratuitous promise in Christ" (Institutes, II, ii, 7)

The aforementioned Reformed author’s admissions are significant in that they frankly declare that the prevalent view in contemporary scholarship is that post-Reformation theologians departed significantly from John Calvin’s own view of assurance. Needless to say, it would be awkward for protagonists in the Lordship Salvation debate to admit that they are defending a view of assurance significantly at variance with that of Calvin himself!

The objective word of God, specifically the promise of Christ to give, as a present and immediate possession, the free gift of eternal life by simple faith in Him alone, apart from works, is the only ground for assurance. While Luther and Calvin state that one should keep their eyes on Jesus alone for assurance, the post-Reformation writers significantly ground their assurance on self; on the works that are produced by them and their degree of sanctification.

Can I ask you a personal question? Would you want your children doubting that you are their father? What kind of psychological problems would result from such a cruel practice?

And imagine this. Your son is in a time of rebellion, even after you have given him all the tools he would need to act right. Imagine you saying to your son, “You have every reason to doubt that I am your father and you are my son because of your rebellion!”

I contend greatly that God, the perfect Father wants everyone to certainly know, not just at the moment of faith in Christ, but throughout their entire Christian pilgrimage here that He is indeed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, their Father, and that they are completely accepted by Him on the basis of Christ’s works.

Do you know that you are certainly saved, that for sure your name is written in the book of Life? that you are accepted by God, and that He is your Father?

If you don’t, you can! Simply look to the passages of Scripture that promise eternal life as a present possession to the one who merely believes in Christ for it.

For instance, John 6:47

“Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life”

Do you believe in Christ here in His solemn assertion? If you do, you must be convinced that you have eternal life, for the guarantee is disclosed in the promise.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11:25-26)

Notice the guarantee here! Jesus is the Guarantor of eternal life to the simple believer in Him for it! If you believe that Jesus guarantees you eternal life by your simple faith in Him, not only do you possess eternal life, you necessarily have absolute assurance that you are saved!

How can a person say that they believe Jesus here and not understand that they have eternal life? It is impossible, for, as I have said, the explicit guarantee of eternal life is the promise to the believer in Christ. So therefore, to believe this statement of Christ is to believe that you have eternal life. Only if you doubt the veracity of Christ’s statement will you not have absolute assurance of salvation.

Are you now experiencing any doubts about your salvation? Look to Christ and His promise in faith and you will be certain!

In closing, let us view a statement by Robert L. Dabney:

“There is a spurious as well as a genuine faith. Every man, when he thinks he believes, is conscious of exercising what he thinks is faith. Such is the correct statement of these facts of consciousness. Now suppose the faith, of which the man is conscious, turns out a spurious faith, must not his be a spurious consciousness? And he, being without the illumination of the Spirit, will be in the dark as to its hollowness.”
(Dabney, Ibid, pgs 180-181).

What a tragic position! The believer in Christ cannot know whether his belief is genuine or spurious! He must, therefore, search for a way to have faith in his faith--to believe that he has believed. But what if, after self-examination, he is wrong there, too?

Obviously, the kind of theology Dabney and Calvinism represents strips believers of their grounds of assurance and dangles them over an abyss of despair.

But, as you can see, we are not the first people to fight this battle over assurance. Calvin fought it, long ago, with Rome.


As a final note, a new contributer to the comments section of my blog, Jim wrote this:

"...if one cannot know for sure whether they are saved, I would say that it is not worth even attempting that kind of "christian" life...

I have no doubts that Christ has saved me, and this assurance is in no way contingent upon any continued action on my part.

What then is the difference between Armenianism and Calvinism if one cannot know for sure whether they are saved?"

To which I responded:

"D.A. Carson, a Reformed writer says this about Reformed and Arminian doctrines of subjective assurance:

'Thus at their worst, the two approahces meet in strange and sad ways'

Introspection is the critical basis for both theologies.

Their theologies both have the same result:

Calvinism: If you don't persevere in faithful obedience until death, this shows you were never saved.

Arminianism : If you don't persevere in faithful obedience until death, this shows you lost your salvation.

The results are the same: either faithfully work and obey until death or go to hell.

And in either case, you just can't know if you will end up in glory or not!

Wilkin Gilliard email Debate

by H K Flynn

I want to see if I understand the Purist position, both repentance and regeneration are gifts from God. And both those gifts have to be received before someone can believe, which is also a gift of God.

Or is it also that one must first be regenerate in order to even receive the gift of repentance?

It’s ok if you don’t have anything more to say on this repentance topic but reading through the email debate between Bob Wilkin and Kerry Gilliard I found some intriguing moments.
The debate premise was Resolved: Repentance isn't a Condition of Eternal Life, meaning Wilkin was arguing the affirmative and Gilliard the negative. Unfortunately for Gilliard, he made the mistake of saying in the middle of the debate:

Logically and scripturally, regeneration precedes faith and repentance.

While this sounds like a proper Purist reasoning it actually conceded the debate, by saying that regeneration precedes repentance when he was formally arguing that repentance is necessary for regeneration.

Below is Wilkin’s closing statement...

Gilliard said that there is no condition for regeneration and that the sole condition of justification is faith. Hence he conceded the debate.

By my fifth question, he saw the problem and was forced to change his own definition of regeneration!

In his answer to my first question he said, “This is what regeneration is – new life.” Then in his third answer he reiterated, “Regeneration/the new birth is not a human act…” By his own definition regeneration is “new life” and “the new birth.”

Yet in his fifth answer we read a new definition. “Regeneration (John 6:65). God divine ly enables man by giving him the principle of new life and changing his spiritual disposition from God-hating to God-seeking.”

Whereas before he defined regeneration as “new birth” and “the new life,” now it is the principle of new life. What is that? It is a creation by Gilliard in order to escape the dilemma in which he finds himself. Note too that his defense of this new definition is based on a verse, John 6:65, that doesn’t even mention regeneration.

Since repentance isn’t a condition of justification or regeneration, it isn’t a condition of eternal life.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Acts 2:38 - Part of the Sermon or Follow-Up?

by Matthew

This morning, I attended a preaching class run by the pastor of my church. He was talking aobut evangelistic preaching.

During the class, he pointed to Peter's sermon in Acts chapter 2 as a model for evangelsitic preaching. He identified verse 38 as part of the sermon. He saw Peter's call to repent and be baptized as the practical application of the Gospel address in this sermon.

However, is it a natural reading of this text to view verse 38 as a part of Peter's sermon? In this verse he replies to a question that he has just been asked.

It is quite possible that Peter had not finished his sermon in verse 36 and it is even possible that he might have even gone on to say what he says in verse 38. However, there is no indication in the text that Peter had not concluded his sermon in verse 36.

There are two reasons why my pastor views this passage that way. The first is that he is viewing it through the lens of one preparing sermons which, conventionally,have a practical application in their conclusion. Secondly, he views repentance and faith as essentially the same thing.

The Free Grace advocate views the Jewish audience as converted and regenerate in verse 37. They are 'pricked in their' heart. They believe what Peter has told them or else they would not be asking him what to do. Therefore, we must view Peter's reponse in verse 38, not so much as evangelism, but as follow-up or discipleship class.

As for practcal application, Peter already gave them something to do in the sermon. He quoted Joel 'whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.' Do you think the audiece would have asked Peter what to do without doing what he had already implied they should do? I am quite sure those men indeed called on the name of the Lord, either audibly or in their hearts by faith. If so, they were saved men before they heard Peter's answer in verse 38.