Site Meter
|The Thirsty Theologian| |Sola Gratia| |Sola Fide| |Solus Christus| |Sola Scriptura| |Soli Deo Gloria| |Semper Reformanda|
|The Thirsty Theologian| |Sola Gratia| |Sola Fide| |Solus Christus| |Sola Scriptura| |Soli Deo Gloria| |Semper Reformanda|

Unconditional Election

(19 posts)

Luther the Calvinist

Friday··2007·09·28
I know it’s not quite right to call Luther a Calvinist, but it’s kind of fun. In any case, I might still be a Lutheran if Lutheranism more accurately reflected the doctrine of Luther, and if Lutherans didn’t work so hard to distance themselves from Calvin. The following commentary on Romans 8:28 sounds a lot like the Calvinist heresy I was warned about as a young Lutheran. I apologize for the length, but it didn’t seem right to cut it up. We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (8:28.) The Greek text has the singular “works together” (sunergei), which is more fitting, since the referece is to the Holy Ghost; for this is the (Apostle’s) meaning: We must not be surprised that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, since He works together with God’s saints in all they do. That is the true exposition of the statement: “He maketh intercession for the saints.” In this (intercession) He works together with us, as He works together with us in all other things (Luther here follows the Greek reading: Panta sunergei ho Theos: in all things God works together with us for good.) The Apostle here says without any qualification: “Who are the called according to his purpose.” There is only this one purpose, namely, the purpose of God, which those recognize who recognize God. There is no other purpose than the one divine purpose (of salvation). This passage is the foundation on which rests everything that the Apostle says to the end of the chapter; for the means to show that to the elect who are loved of God and who love God, the Holy Spirit makes all things work for good even though they are evil (in themselves, e.g., sickness, persecution, etc.) He here takes up the doctrine of predestination which is not so incomprehensible as many think, but it is rather full of sweet comfort for the elect and for all who have the Holy Spirit. But it is most bitter and hard for (those who adhere to) the wisdom of the flesh. There is no other reason why the many tribulations and evils cannot separate the saints from the lover of God than the are the called “according to His purpose.” Hence God makes all things work together for good to them, and to them only. If there would not be this divine purpose, but our salvation would rest upon our will or work, it would be based upon chance. How easily in that case could one single evil hinder or destroy it! But when the Apostle says: “Who is he that condemneth?” “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (8:33, 34, 35), he shows that the elect are not saved by chance, but by God’s purpose and will. Indeed for this reason, God allows the elect to encounter to many evil things as are here named, namely, to point out that they are saved not by their merit, but by His election, His unchangeable and firm purpose (of salvation in Christ). They are saved despite their many efforts (to lead them into perdition). What then is there to our own righteousness? To our good works? To the freedom of the will? To chance in the things that occur? That (denial of all these things) is what we must preach, (as does the Apostle), for that means to preach rightly. That means to destroy the wisdom of the flesh. So far the Apostle has destroyed merely the hands, feet, and tongue of the wisdom of the flesh; now he wipes it out utterly. Now he makes us see that it amounts to nothing, and that our salvation altogether lies in His hands. God absolutely recognizes no chance; it is only men who speak of chance. Not a single leaf falls from the tree without the will of the Father. All things are essentially in His hands, and so are our times. There are yet three thoughts that should be considered in connection with the subject (of divine predestination). First there are the proofs of God’s unchangeable election, gathered from the words of Scripture and His (divine works. The Apostle says: “Who are the called according to his purpose .” “Purpose” here stands for God’s predestination, or His free election, of His (eternal) counsel (regarding the salvation to individual persons) later, in chapter 9, the Apostle illustrates God’s eternal election by referring to Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau (v. 8f.). As he clearly shows, the difference between these men rests solely upon divine predestination. Lastly, for God’s eternal election the Apostle quotes two passages: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” (9:15); and : “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (9:18). Similar passages are found elsewhere in Chapters 9 and 10. There are passages treating of God’s eternal election also in other books of Scripture. Thus we read in John 13:18: “I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen” and in John 10:27-29: “My sheep here my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal love; and they shall never perish. Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater that all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand’; and in II Timothy 2:19: “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knows them that are his.” A further proof of God’s eternal purpose of election we find in His works. First, in the works which God did to Ishmael and Esau, Pharaoh and the Egyptians, as they are reported in this chapter and the following, Again, in the divine acts by which He gives over His saints to so many evil and rapacious enemies and yet does not permit them to lose their salvation. This clearly proves that His election stands firm and so cannot be hindered by any creature. Then also this act of God proves the divine election that He permits may to commit great sins and yet they are brought to repentance and are saved (David: II Samuel 12:13). While others who in the beginning lead a pious life and do may good works not saved (Saul: I Samuel 13:13). Compare for this also Judas and the thief on the cross (Matt. 26:14; Luke 23:41). The second thought (that we should consider in connection with God’s eternal election) is that all objections to predestination proceed from the wisdom of the flesh (human reason). Hence, whoever does not deny himself and does not learn to keep his thoughts in subjection to the divine will, never will find an answer to his questions. And that rightly so, for the foolish wisdom of the flesh exalts itself above God and judges His will, just as though this were of little importance. It should rather let itself be judged by God. For this reason the Apostle refutes all objections with two brief statements. First, he checks our arrogance by asking: “O man, who art thou that thou replies against God?” (Rom. 9:20) Then he defends the divine election by asking: “Hath not the potter power over the clay?” (v.21) The first and most flimsy objection against divine election is this, that man has been given a free will by which he can earn for himself either merit or demerit. To this I reply: Man’s free will without divine grace has not the least ability to secure righteousness, but is totally corrupt. The second objection is this: “Who will have all men to be saved” (I Tim. 2:4); that is, God gave His Son into death for us, as He has created us for life eternal. Again: All things exist on account of man; but he himself exists for God’s sake to enjoy first; for all these statements are realized properly in the elect, as the Apostle writes in II Timothy 2:10: “I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that thy may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” A third objection reads: Where there is not sin, there God does not condemn. But whoever is a sinner of necessity is condemned unjustly. To this I reply: We are all sinners of necessity and so under condemnation, but no one is a sinner by coercion, or against his will. A fourth objection is this: God hardens the will of man so that he desires to transgress the divine Law all the more. Hence, God is the cause why men sin and are condemned. This is the strongest and most weighty objection. But the Apostle meets it by saying that so it is God’s will, and that if God so wills He does not act unjustly, for all things belong to Him as the clay belongs to the potter. He thus establishes His law in order that the elect may obey it, but the reprobates may be caught in it, and so He may show both His wrath and His mercy. Here indeed the wisdom of the flesh objects saying: “It is cruel and regrettable that God seeks His glorification in my misery.” Ah, it is the voice of the flesh that says: “My, my!” strike out this “my, my” and say instead: “Glory be to Thee, O Lord!” Then you will be saved. The wisdom of the flesh seeks its own glory and is more afraid of suffering than of desecrating God. Hence it follows its own will rather than the divine will. We must think differently of God than we do of men; for He owes us nothing. That is what the Apostle teaches at the close of the eleventh chapter: “Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?” (11:35) The third thought (that we could consider in connection with God’s eternal election) is that this doctrine is indeed most bitter to the wisdom of the flesh, which revolts against it and even becomes guilty of blasphemy on this point. But it is fully defeated when we learn to know that our salvation rests in no wise upon ourselves and our e conduct, but is founded only upon what is outside us, namely on God’s election. Those who have the wisdom of the Spirit become ineffably happy through the doctrine, as the Apostle himself illustrates this. To them, (His elect), Christ says: Fear not , little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). So also God says in Isaiah 35:4: “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.” Everywhere in Scripture those are praised and encouraged who listen to Gods Word with trembling. As they despair of themselves, the Word of God performs its work in them. If we anxiously tremble at God’s Word and are terrified by it, this is indeed a good sign. If one fears that he is not elected or is otherwise troubled about his election, he should be thankful that he has such fear; for then he should surely know that God cannot lie when in Psalm 51:17 He says: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken on contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Thus he should cheerfully cast himself on the faithfulness of God who gives this promise, and turn away from the foreknowledge the threatening God. Then he will be saved as one who is elected. It is not the characteristic of reprobates to tremble at the secret counsel of God; but that is the characteristic of the elect. The reprobates despise it, or at least pay no attention to it, or else they declare in the arrogance of their despair: “Well, if I am damned, all right, then I am damned.” With reference to the elect we might distinguish between three classes. First, there are those who are satisfied with God’s will, as it is, and do not murmur against God, but rather believe that they are elected. They do not want to be damned. Secondly, there are those who submit to God’s will and are satisfied with it in their hearts. At least they desire to be satisfied, if God does not wish to save, but reject them. Thirdly, there are those who really are ready to be condemned if God should will this. These are cleansed most of all of their own will and carnal wisdom. And these experience the truth of Canticles 8:6: “Set me a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death.” Such love is always joined with cross and tribulation, for without it the soul should becomes lax, and does not seek after God, nor thirst after God, who is the Fountain of Life. —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1954), 111–116.

God Ordains the Means

Thursday··2008·06·12
Richard Phillips explains why Calvinism is not an impediment to evangelism: [D]ivine sovereignty does not stand against evangelism because God ordains not only the ends but also the means. He predestines some to be saved and commands us to preach to that end. If we do not preach and teach the gospel, then none will be saved. But God has ordained that some will be redeemed; He has chosen His people to be saved. So he has also ordained that we should preach and share the gospel, and therefore we will, exercising our human responsibility in accordance with His sovereign purpose. God commands all who are His to engage in evangelism; it is part of our obedience to Him. Packer explains: “We are not all called to be preachers; we are not all given equal opportunities or comparable abilities for personal dealing with men and women who need Christ. But we all have some evangelistic responsibility that we cannot shirk without failing in love both to our God and neighbor.” —Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist (Reformation Trust Publishing, 2007), 171.

No Grace without Sovereignty

Tuesday··2008·07·08
There can be no grace where there is no sovereignty. Deny God’s right to choose whom he will and you deny his right to save whom he will. Deny his right to save whom he will, and you deny that salvation is of grace. If salvation is made to hinge upon any desert or fitness in man, seen or foreseen, grace is at an end. . . . Men may call these speculations. They may condemn them as unprofitable. To the law and to the testimony! Of such speculations, the Bible is full. There man is a helpless worm, and salvation from first to last, is of the Lord. God’s will, and not man’s, is the law of the universe. If we are to maintain the gospel—if we are to hold fast to grace—if we are to preserve Jehovah’s honor—we must grasp these truths with no feeble hand. For if there be no such being as a Supreme, pre-determining Jehovah, then the universe will soon be chaos: and if there be no such thing as free electing love, every minister of Christ may close his lips, and every sinner upon earth sit down in mute despair. —Horatius Bonar, Christ Is All, ed. Darrin R. Brooker & Michael Haykin (Reformation Heritage Books, 2007), 83–84.

Friday Freebee

Friday··2008·08·01 · 10 Comments
Watch this video of James White refuting Norman Geisler, especially if you are an Arminian (or one of those mythical “neither Calvinist nor Arminian” creatures). The first person to point out the glaring inconsistency—on Dr. White’s part, not Geisler’s—will receive a free copy of The Potter’s Freedom, compliments of the Thirsty Theologian.

Lord’s Day 35, 2008

Sunday··2008·08·31
I reioyced, when they sayd to me, We wil go into the house of the Lord. (Psalme 122:1) AssuranceAlmighty God,I am loved with everlasting love, clothed in eternal righteousness, my peace flowing like a river, my comforts many and large, my joy and triumph unutterable, my soul lively with a knowledge of salvation, my sense of justification unclouded. I have scarce anything to pray for; Jesus smiles upon my soul as a ray of heaven and my supplications are swallowed up in praise. How sweet is the glorious doctrine of election when based upon thy Word and wrought inwardly within the soul! I bless thee that thou wilt keep the sinner thou hast loved, and hast engaged that he will not forsake thee, else I would never get to heaven. I wrong the grace in my heart if I deny my new nature and my eternal life. If Jesus were not my righteousness and redemption, I would sink into nethermost hell by my misdoings, shortcomings, unbelief, unlove; If Jesus were not by the the power of his spirit my sanctification, there is no sin I should not commit. O when shall I have his mind! when shall I be conformed to his image? All the good things of life are less than nothing when compared with his love, and with one glimpse of thy electing favor. All the treasures of a million worlds could not make me richer, happier, more contented, for his unsearchable riches are mine. One moment of communion with him, one view of his grace, is ineffable, inestimable. But O God, I could not long after thy presence if I did not know the sweetness of it; and such I could not know except by the Spirit in my heart, nor love thee at all unless thou didst elect me, call me, adopt me, save me. I bless thee for the covenant of grace.—The Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennett, editor (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002). Psalme 129 (Geneva Bible) A song of degrees. 1 They haue often times afflicted me from my youth (may Israel nowe say) 2 They haue often times afflicted me from my youth: but they could not preuaile against me. 3 The plowers plowed vpon my backe, and made long furrowes. 4 But the righteous Lord hath cut the cordes of the wicked. 5 They that hate Zion, shalbe all ashamed and turned backward. 6 They shalbe as the grasse on the house tops, which withereth afore it commeth forth. 7 Whereof the mower filleth not his hand, neither the glainer his lap: 8 Neither they, which go by, say, The blessing of the Lord be vpon you, or, We blesse you in the Name of the Lord. Grace be with you, and Peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

How Can You Know?

Wednesday··2008·10·01 · 3 Comments
After spending some time on the doctrine of limited, or particular, atonement, explaining that Christ’s death did not merely make salvation possible, but actually secured it for a particular people, R. C. Sproul answers the question, “How can you know if you’re one of the elect?” If you are one of the flock of Christ, one of His lambs, then you can know with certainty that an atonement has been made for your sins. You may wonder how you can know you’re numbered among the elect. I cannot read your heart or the secrets of the Lambs Book of Life, but Jesus said: “‘My sheep hear My voice’” (John 10:27a). If you want Christ’s atonement to avail for you, and if you put your trust in that atonement and rely on it to reconcile you to almighty God, in a practical sense, you don’t need to worry about the abstract question of election. If you put your trust in Christ’s death for your redemption and you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, then you can be sure that the atonement was made for you. That, more than anything else, will settle for you the mystery of God’s election. Unless you’re elect, you won’t believe on Christ; you won’t embrace the atonement or rest on his shed blood for your salvation. If you want it, you can have it. It is offered to you if you believe and trust. One of the sweetest statements from the lips of Jesus in the New Testament is this: “‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world‘” (Matt. 25:34b). There is a plan of God designed for your salvation. It is not an afterthought or an attempt to correct a mistake. Rather, from all eternity, God determined that He would redeem for Himself a people, and that which He determined to do was, in fact, accomplished in the work of Jesus Christ, His atonement on the cross. Your salvation has been accomplished by a Savior Who is not merely a potential Savior, but an actual Savior, One Who did for you what the Father determined He should do. He is your Surety, your Mediator, your Substitute, your Redeemer. He atoned for your sins on the cross. —R. C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Reformation Trust, 2007), 151–153.

Lutheranism versus Calvinism

Tuesday··2011·03·15
Yesterday I happened upon the following excerpt from Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics. As a Lutheran-turned-Calvinist, I found it particularly interesting, and the more I considered it, the more I saw the truth of it. The difference seems to be conveyed best by saying that the Reformed Christian thinks theologically, the Lutheran anthropologically. The Reformed person is not content with an exclusively historical stance but raises his sights to the idea, the eternal decree of God. By contrast, the Lutheran takes his position in the midst of the history of redemption and feels no need to enter more deeply into the counsel of God. For the Reformed, therefore, election is the heart of the church; for Lutherans, justification is the article by which the church stands or falls. Among the former the primary question is: How is the glory of God advanced? Among the latter it is: How does a human get saved? The struggle of the former is above all paganism- idolatry; that of the latter against Judaism- works righteousness. The Reformed person does not rest until he has traced all things retrospectively to the divine decree, tracking down the “wherefore” of things, and has prospectively made all things subservient to the glory of God; the Lutheran is content with the “that” and enjoys the salvation in which he is, by faith, a participant. From this difference in principle, the dogmatic controversies between them (with respect to the image of God, original sin, the person of Christ, the order of salvation, the sacraments, church government, ethics, etc.) can be easily explained. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1: Prolegomena (Baker, 2003), 177. Also yesterday, as it happened, I had done something I normally do not do: study a text without reading Calvin. So, with Bavinck in mind, I looked up both Luther and Calvin on Genesis 11:30. Luther wrote: But Sarai was barren; she had no child (11:29, 30). The Scriptures (here) report that Sarai (Sarah) had no children. This shows that at that time children were regarded as precious gifts of God, for the text represents Sarai’s barrenness as a great affliction. So the almighty God chastened this saintly man (Abraham) with this great tribulation as he lived in this sin-cursed world in which we all (by our sins) are deserving of hell. The wicked (meanwhile) had many children and a large generation, while Abraham’s marriage was without issue. But this was more than a mere trial of Abraham, for it also demonstrated very convincingly God’s adorable mercy, power and faithfulness, for barren Sarai, when she had become old and was beyond the years of bearing children, received a son, from whom there came a great people. —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Genesis Volume I, trans. J. Theodore Mueller, (Zondervan, 1958), 203–204. and Calvin: But Sarai was barren. Not only does he say that Abram was without children, but he states the reasons namely, the sterility of his wife; in order to show that it was by nothing short of an extraordinary miracle that she afterwards bare Isaac, as we shall declare more fully in its proper place. Thus was God pleased to humble his servant; and we cannot doubt that Abram would suffer severe pain through this privation. He sees the wicked springing up everywhere, in great numbers, to cover the earth; he alone is deprived of children. And although hitherto he was ignorant of his own future vocation; yet God designed in his person, as in a mirror, to make it evident, whence and in what manner his Church should arise; for at that time it lay hid, as in a dry root under the earth. —John Calvin, Commentary on the Genesis, Volume I (Baker Books, 2009), 337–338. This text, at least, corroborates Bavinck. While Calvin interprets it as a mirror of God’s glory, Luther sees God’s purpose for Abraham.

It Doesn’t Matter What I Believe

Monday··2013·11·25
We need to make this our approach to every doctrine we study: When I was teaching college, I was working in my office one day when a student knocked on my door. She introduced herself and immediately said, “Sir, I would like to know if you believe in predestination.” The reply I gave her has become something of a stock answer for me. I said: “It doesn’t matter what I believe. The question is, ‘Does the Bible teach predestination?’” —Richard D. Phillips, What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? (Reformation Trust, 2008), 34–35.

Is God Unjust?

Tuesday··2013·11·26
And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” —Romans 9:10–13 Anticipating objections, the very next verse of Romans 9 says, “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!” But objections come anyway, as men are determined to impose their sense of justice upon God, declaring with authority what God would and wouldn’t do. “That’s not fair!” is presumed to pass as a theological argument. But God will speak for himself. Reformed Christians affirm that God elects some to salvation “unconditionally,” but this does not mean that He does so arbitrarily. Paul addresses this while confronting the very objection that predestination is unfair: “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part?” Whenever we find that an objection we are raising is confronted directly in the Bible, we should be careful to heed the answer. Paul says, “By no means!” (Rom. 9:14). Paul’s answer to the question of fairness in unconditional election is important. Essentially, he replies, “Did you say justice?” If justice is what we want—if we want to be treated fairly by God—then the result will be the damnation of us all. No one who wants things to be fair with God can ever hope for heaven, for the simple reason that fairness demands that all sinners be damned. No, says Paul, when it comes to predestination—or salvation in general—the right category is mercy. And mercy, by definition, is sovereignly granted. It cannot be earned. It never is a matter of fairness, but always is a gift of grace. Paul elaborates in Romans 9:15–16: “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” This makes the essential point that when the Bible speaks of God’s predestination, or unconditional election, it is always joined to His mercy. Why is that? Paul’s illustration from the life of Moses makes it clear. God’s statement, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,” was made after the Israelites had soiled themselves with the golden calf while Moses was receiving the law on Mount Sinai. They all were under judgment. But in this hopeless situation, God told Moses that He would choose some to be objects of His mercy. This is exactly how it is with the entire human race. The Reformed doctrine of predestination does not teach that God looked down on a neutral mass of humanity and decided to send some to heaven and others to hell. God was not sitting in eternity with a pile of daisies, picking petals and musing, “I love him, I love him not!” Rather, God looked down from on high on humanity wholly lost in sin. When God predestined to salvation, He predestined sinners who were bound for judgment and were utterly opposed to His will. Donald Grey Barnhouse therefore states: “If we may say so, the doctrine of election was God’s secret weapon which made it possible for some men to be saved. If He had not retreated into His sovereignty . . . there would have been nothing but a curse and no one would have been saved.” —Richard D. Phillips, What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? (Reformation Trust, 2008), 38–40.

To Make Known His Glory

Wednesday··2013·11·27
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. —Romans 9:19–24 Along with the doctrine of unconditional election comes the difficult doctrine of reprobation. It is this doctrine most of all that causes many to cry, “That’s not fair!” That cry comes from the prideful assumption that man is the center of redemptive history. But we are not the center; the center of the biblical narrative, God’s story, is God himself. Barnhouse tells of a shop in Paris that is world—famous for its magnificent, intricate white lace. To display their samples in the store windows, the proprietors place the darkest black velvet behind the lace; only in this way can the intricate details of the craftsmen’s achievement be seen. It is the same with God’s grace. Were no one ever condemned—were there no display of God’s judgment and wrath—there would be no knowledge of the glories of God’s grace. In that case, the true God would be unknown to His creatures, and His purpose in creation—to display the fullness of His glory—would be unrealized. Having failed in this purpose, God would no longer be God. For this reason, God’s decree of reprobation is necessary. God being perfect in every attribute, it is necessary for His every attribute to be exercised: goodness in creation, power in triumph, mercy in grace, and justice in wrath. —Richard D. Phillips, What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? (Reformation Trust, 2008), 44.

The Lord Hears

Thursday··2014·02·13
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself; The Lord hears when I call to Him. —Psalm 4:3 “But know.’ Fools will not learn, and therefore they must again and again be told the same thing, especially when it is such a bitter truth which is to be taught them, viz.:—the fact that the godly are the chosen of God, and are, by distinguishing grace, set apart and separated from among men. Election is a doctrine which unrenewed men cannot endure, but nevertheless, it is a glorious and well-attested truth, and one which should comfort the tempted believer. Election is the guarantee of complete salvation, and an argument for success at the throne of grace. He who chose us for himself will surely hear our prayer. The Lord’s elect shall not be condemned, nor shall their cry be unheard. David was king by divine decree, and we are the Lord’s people in the same manner: let us tell our enemies to their faces, that they fight against God and destiny, when they strive to overthrow our souls. O beloved, when you are on your knees, the fact of your being set apart as God’s own peculiar treasure, should give you courage and inspire you with fervency and faith. “Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him?” Since he chose to love us he cannot but choose to hear us. —Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Passmore and Alabaster, 1883) [read entire commentary on Psalm 4 at spurgeon.org].

Because He Loveth Thee

Thursday··2014·08·28
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. —Ephesians 2:8–9 For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? —1 Corinthians 4:7 As the undeserving recipients of God’s most extreme favor, Christians ought to be anything but proud. Yet, it is all too easy for us to look around and notice how much better we are than the unbelieving world. How absurd that is. Comparisons to the world are only true and edifying if we have eyes to see our true condition, and what the difference truly is. Look abroad in the world, and thou mayest see others refused when thou art chosen, others passed by when thou art called, others polluted when thou art sanctified, others put off with common gifts when thou hast special grace, others fed with the scraps of ordinary bounty, when thou hast the finest of the flour, even the fruits of saving mercy. As Elkanah gave to Peninnah, and to all her sons and daughters, portions, ‘But to Hannah he gave a worthy portion, because he loved her;’ so God giveth others outward portions, some of the good things of this life; but to thee, Christian, he giveth a Benjamin’s mess,—his image, his Spirit, his Son, himself,—a worthy portion, a goodly heritage, because he loveth thee. Others have a little meat, and drink, and wages, but thou hast the inheritance; others, like Jehoshaphat’s younger sons, have some cities, some small matters given them; but thou, like the firstborn, hast the kingdom, the crown of glory; others feed on bare elements, thou hast the sacrament; others stand without doors, and thou art admitted into the presence chamber; others must fry eternally in hell flames, and thou must enjoy fulness of joy for evermore. O give thanks unto the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever; to him that chose thee before the foundation of the world, for his mercy endureth for ever; to him that called thee by the word of his grace, for his mercy endureth for ever; to him that gave his only Son to die for thy sins, for his mercy endureth for ever; to him that entered into a covenant of grace with thee, for his mercy endureth for ever; to him that hath provided for thee an exceeding and eternal weight of glory, for his mercy endureth for ever. ‘give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever.’ —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:213–214

By the Grace of God Alone

Monday··2014·09·29
I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen . . .—John 13:18 I know whom I have chosen. This very circumstance—that [the apostles] will persevere—[Jesus] ascribes to their election; for the virtue of men, being frail, would tremble at every breeze, and would be laid down by the feeblest stroke, if the Lord did not uphold it by his hand. But as he governs those whom he has elected, all the engines which Satan can employ will not prevent them from persevering to the end with unshaken firmness. And not only does he ascribe to election their perseverance, but likewise the commencement of their piety. Whence does it arise that one man, rather than another, devotes himself to the word of God? It is, because he was elected. Again, whence does it arise that this man makes progress, and continues to lead a good and holy life, but because the purpose of God is unchangeable, to complete the work which was begun by his hand? In short, this is the source of the distinction between the children of God and unbelievers, that the former are drawn to salvation by the Spirit of adoption, while the latter are hurried to destruction by their flesh, which is under no restraint. Otherwise Christ might have said, “know what kind of person each of you will be;” but that they may not claim anything for themselves, but, on the contrary, may acknowledge that, by the grace of God alone, and not by their own virtue, they differ from Judas, he places before them that election by free grace on which they are founded. Let us, therefore, learn that every part of our salvation depends on election. —John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XVIII (Baker Books, 2009), Commentary on the Gospel according to John, 2:63–64.

Lord’s Day 6, 2016

Sunday··2016·02·07
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. —John 10:27–30 Hymn 138. (C. M.) Saints in the hands of Christ. John x. 28, 29. Isaac Watts (1674–1748) Firm as the earth thy gospel stands, My Lord, my hope, my trust; If I am found in Jesus’ hands, My soul can ne’er be lost. His honour is engaged to save The meanest of his sheep; All that his heav’nly Father gave His hands securely keep. Nor death nor hell shall e’er remove His favourites from his breast; In the dear bosom of his love They must for ever rest. —The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book I: Collected from the Holy Scriptures (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

When Were You Saved?

Monday··2016·02·08
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. —1 Peter 1:3–5 Many Christians point to a date on which they were saved. Others couldn’t name a date, but have believed the gospel and know they have a living faith in Christ and are saved. In truth, if you are alive and reading this, you are not yet saved—not finally, that is. Yet, if you have received genuine saving faith in Christ, you can be sure that you have an inheritance in heaven, because God has promised to finish what he has begun (Philippians 1:6). As R. C. Sproul explains, [T]he Bible uses the verb to save in every tense of the Greek language. There is a sense in which we were saved from the foundation of the world. We were being saved, we are saved, and we are being saved, but ultimately we shall be saved when we enter into the fullness of the inheritance that is being reserved. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 32.

The People of God

Monday··2016·02·22
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers . . . —1 Peter 2:9–11 For disciples of Christ, this text is especially comforting at this time when, in my view, my earthy country is at an all-time low, and the coming elections offer little hope of arresting, let alone reversing, our descent. We are chosen citizens of another kingdom, and we have been chosen for a purpose. We belong to a better place, and a purpose that transcends politics. We as Christians are a people without a country. There is never an equation in the Bible between the people of God and a peculiar nationalism. The kingdom of God is not limited to the borders of the United States of America. It transcends every human border. The kingdom of God is spread throughout the whole world, and the reason is that citizens in that kingdom belong to a different kind of country, a holy nation—as the Scriptures define it, a heavenly nation. Our citizenship really cannot be defined by our passports, because in this world we remain pilgrims. In the words of the old gospel hymn, “This world is not my own; I’m only passing through,” but that does not mean that we are a people without a country.* We are citizens of a holy nation created by God, His own special people. The reason that we are a chosen generation and a royal priesthood and that God has conferred upon us citizenship in a heavenly, holy country is, according to Peter, this: that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (v. 9). We have received our citizenship for the purpose of proclaiming God’s praises. To worship God is to offer Him not an animal sacrifice or a cereal offering but the sacrifice of praise. The praise of God should be on our lips every moment because citizens of this heavenly kingdom spend eternity praising the King of that heavenly nation, singing with the angels, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12). —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 69. * I know. It’s funny that he should use that exact phrase when the paragraph’s first sentence said exactly that. Try not to miss the point.

Before Arminius

Monday··2018·01·08
Although the Arminian Remonstrance took place in the seventeenth century, the controversy goes back much farther than that. None of the doctrines bearing the “Arminian” or “Calvinist” labels originated with Arminius or Calvin. Arminianism has its roots in Pelagianism, the system put forth by the fifth century monk Pelagius (360–418). Calvinism is simply a reiteration of Augustinianism, so named after Augustine (354–430), bishop of Hippo (in modern-day Algeria), who, against Pelagius, defended the biblical doctrines of original sin and monergistic soteriology. Pelagianism diverged much farther from orthodoxy than Arminianism. While an Arminian may be a Christian (as R. C. Sproul once said, “just barely”), a Pelagian cannot. Pelagius taught that everyone was born in the same state as Adam, able to keep the law perfectly and believe the gospel. Augustine said, No, man has inherited Adam’s sin. Consequently, his very nature is so corrupted that, without divine grace—bestowed upon those whom the Father has chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world—he is neither able nor willing to believe. Enter John Cassian (360–435), a monk from Gaul (France), who concocted a middle way between Pelagianism and Augustinianism. Short of denying original sin as Pelagius had, Cassian taught that man, though corrupted by sin, retained the ability by the natural powers of his mind to take the first step towards conversion and, having taken that first step, would then gain the Spirit’s help in coming the rest of the way. This middle way was called Semi-Pelagianism, and “is not at all differing from . . . Arminianism.” Both Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism were rejected by the Reformers. Like Augustine, the Reformers held to the doctrines of the sovereignty of God, the total depravity of man, and unconditional election. As Boettner shows, they stood together in their view of predestination: It was taught not only by Calvin, but by Luther, Zwingli, Melanchthon (although Melanchthon later retreated toward the Semi-Pelagian position), by Bullinger, Bucer, and all of the outstanding leaders of the Reformation. While differing on some other points they agreed on this doctrine of Predestination and taught it with emphasis. Luther’s chief work, The Bondage of the Will, shows that he went into the doctrine as heartily as did Calvin himself. . . . Thus, it is evident that the five points of Calvinism, drawn up by the Synod of Dort in 1619, were by no means a new system of theology. On the contrary, as Dr. Wyllie asserts of the Synod, “It met at a great crisis and was called to review, re-examine and authenticate over again, in the second generation since the rise of the Reformation, that body of truth and system of doctrine which that great movement had published to the world.” —The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004), 11–13.
As I’ve been writing on the five points as presented in The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, and referred to the TULIP acrostic/acronym, it occurs to me that I haven’t actually listed them. I suppose it’s safe to assume that most of my readers are familiar with them, but for those who aren’t, here is a brief summary (for longer explanations, click the links at the end of each): Total Depravity: When Adam fell, all mankind fell with him, and inherited his sin (Romans 5:12). This sin has so corrupted all men that, without regeneration by the Holy Spirit, we are unable to respond in faith to the gospel. The word “total” does not mean that we are as depraved as we could be. All people do not descend to the most extreme depths of evil (we are not all Hitler, Stalin, or abortion rights activists). “Total” means that sin has corrupted the totality of our beings—there is no part of us that is not touched by sin. In the Arminian versus Calvinist context, applying this truth to the notion of free will, we realize that though our will may be free, it is a corrupt, sinful will, “hostile toward God” (Romans 8:7). The late R. C. Sproul preferred to call it Radical Corruption. Unconditional Election: God has chosen a people for himself, not based on any quality they possess or any good they may do (Romans 9:11), but “according to the kind intention of His will” (Ephesians 1:5). Sproul preferred Sovereign Election. Limited Atonement: Christ died specifically to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Who are “his people”? See above. Because of the misleading nature of this term, Sproul preferred Definite Atonement. Irresistible Grace: Those who the Father has chosen will infallibly respond in faith to the gospel call (John 6:37). This is not intended to mean that the Holy Spirit forces people against their wills to come to Christ, but that, in regeneration, he changes their wills so that they come gladly. For this reason, Sproul preferred Effectual Grace. Perseverance of the Saints: All who are chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and regenerated by the Spirit will be infallibly kept in the faith (John 6:39–40). Again, because “perseverance” sounds like something we do (contra Philippians 2:13), Sproul made his own improvement: Preservation of the Saints. Thus far, you’ve only seen the doctrine and its history presented, with very little support. Stay tuned . . .

Unconditional Election in Scripture

Monday··2018·01·15
As we have seen. all of mankind is born dead in sin (Romans 5:12). Sinful human beings are both unwilling and unable to believe and follow Christ. This is not merely due to ambivalence; we are, by nature “hostile toward God” (Romans 8:7). “It is in this context that the Bible sets forth the doctrine of election.” God would have been perfectly just to leave it at that—he is in no way obligated to show mercy to anyone—but he did not. According to his eternal purpose, he chose a people for himself and foreordained their salvation. This choosing took place “before the foundation of the world.” just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. —Ephesians 1:4 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. —2 Thessalonians 2:13 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity —2 Timothy 1:9 Contrary to Arminian dogma, God’s choice was not based on his foreknowledge of our response to the gospel (an explanation of “foreknew” in Romans 8:29 will be forthcoming in a future post). for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:11–13 Lest we be tempted to protest the injustice of such an apparently arbitrary choice, What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. . . . You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? —Romans 9:14–16, 19–21 God’s choice is not unjust, nor is it arbitrary. He has a purpose: For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. . . . What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. —Romans 9:17–18, 22–24 Election is part of salvation, but it is not, by itself, salvation. The elect surely will be saved, but until the moment of rebirth (John 3:3), they are not yet “in Christ.” As Paul indicates in the following verse, all are not saved simultaneously, though they were so chosen “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. —Romans 16:7 Election was based solely on the sovereign choice of God, but sovereign election is only a part of the theme of God’s sovereignty over all creation. Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, “My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure”; Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it. —Isaiah 46:9–11 This post is a brief summary of The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004), 27–39.

@TheThirstyTheo



Who Is Jesus?


The Gospel
What It Means to Be a Christian


Norma Normata
What I Believe


Westminster Bookstore


  Sick of lame Christian radio?
  Try RefNet 

Links