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Section 8A .. A Question Of Salvation/Predestination

 

003white  Section A Question of Salvation       >      Index To Predestination       >      DOC Part V...  Irresistible Grace

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Predestination
 

Calvinism Part V...
Irresistible and Efficacious
Grace

Carol Brooks.

Index To All Sections

Section 1: An Introduction to John Calvin and his Doctrines of Grace
Section 2: Total Inability... The Cornerstone
Section 3: Unconditional Election
Section 4: Limited Atonement
You Are Here 001orange Section 5: Irresistible Grace
Section 6: Perseverance of The Saints and Death Before Sin
Section 7: When the Gospel Becomes a Lie and Assurance of Salvation...
How Can Any Calvinist KNOW He is Saved?
Section 8: God.. God’s Sovereignty and Omnipotence. Hypocrisy Unlimited
Section 9: Conclusion
Section 10: Calvinism and The First 1500 Years. The Sins of Augustine
 

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On This Page

Introduction

"Common" and "Special" Grace

Irresistible Grace Vs. Free Will
Freedom Is Freedom
Implications Of The Claim That 'God's Grace Makes A Person Willing'
Force, Programming, or "Changing Someone's Mind"

Romans 14:23... in Context
Was Paul Saying That Even A Man's "Virtue" Is Evil In The Sight Of God?  Actually No!

Exhorting Believers to Make Their Election Sure
2 Peter 1:10-11: and The Book of Hebrews

Romans 12:1-2
Paul exhorts Christians to actively choose to do what is reasonable

Philippians 2:12-13
Paul's urging made absolutely no sense if God had taken complete control of their lives

Why Does The Bible Praise Faith?

 


Irresistible Grace
is represented by the fourth letter of the acronym TULIP.

Since, according to the Calvinist, people are supposedly dead and cannot, of themselves, respond to God or the Gospel, God has to initiate salvation in their lives. He does this through His grace, which changes both their hearts and nature prior to conversion. He changes their wills, because totally depraved people never could, nor would they ever want to, choose to repent. The lucky person elected to salvation by God is first regenerated (or "born again") and then is made into a believer or disciple of Christ.

Article 11 of the Canons of Dordt says...[Emphasis Added]

    Moreover, when God carries out this good pleasure in his chosen ones, or works true conversion in them, he not only sees to it that the gospel is proclaimed to them outwardly, and enlightens their minds powerfully by the Holy Spirit so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God, but, by the effective operation of the same regenerating Spirit, he also penetrates into the inmost being of man, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart, and circumcises the heart that is uncircumcised. He infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will alive, the evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one compliant; he activates and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds. [43]

In other words God chooses a person who then, in turn, chooses God.

Not only is it out of the individual's hands as to whether he will choose God's efficacious grace, but he or she is unable to resist God's grace. Hence the name 'Irresistible' Grace. Some Calvinists believe that even the elect can resist God's grace for a while...As said on the web site of Pastor Colin Maxwell, a Presbyterian "Itinerant Evangelist" in the Republic of Ireland and a staunch defender of "balanced Calvinism". (This quote is from a page entitled "A Word To Those Who Take It Upon Themselves To Write Against Calvinism) ..

    "there does come a time when the elect can resist the Spirit's striving no more".

 He adds [Emphasis Added]

     No, we don't believe that men are brought kicking and screaming to God against their will. We believe that grace makes them willing in the day of God's power (Psalm 110:3) [44]

By the way, when I looked up Psalm 110:3, which says, "Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew", I could not for the life of me see how it proved anything. Turning to the commentary made by Adam Clarke, I was glad to see that I was not just being obtuse... Clarke says

    This verse has been woefully perverted. It has been supposed to point out the irresistible operation of the grace of God on the souls of the elect, thereby making them willing to receive Christ as their Savior. Now, whether this doctrine be true or false it is not in this text, nor can it receive the smallest countenance from it.

To add to this, someone, somewhere down the line, came up with the concept of ...


"Common" and "Special" Grace
To define the terms. Special Grace is God's Irresistible and Transforming Grace described above. Common Grace is.. well.. everything else.

Louis Berkhof, who graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1900 (of course), wrote some twenty-two books including Systematic Theology, which I understand is used in many conservative colleges and seminaries [45], said

    In general it may be said that, when we speak of “common grace,” we have in mind, either (a) those general operations of the Holy Spirit whereby He, without renewing the heart, exercises such a moral influence on man through His general or special revelation, that sin is restrained, order is maintained in social life, and civil righteousness is promoted; or, (b) those general blessings, such as rain and sunshine, food and drink, clothing and shelter, which God imparts to all men indiscriminately where and in what measure it seems good to Him. [46]

Correct me if I am wrong but the above statement has some very serious implications. Since "Civil righteousness" and "order in social life" is disintegrating (a far cry from what is was even fifty years ago) and the level of crime is in a never ending upward spiral, does it mean God's "common grace" is either less than it used to be, or is not as effective as it used to be? Besides which, if God, on an everyday basis, imparts to all men rain and sunshine etc in "what measure it seems good to Him", can the rains failing in a particular geographic location be directly attributed to it seeming "good to Him" to lessen His general blessings in the area? Wouldn't that make Him personally responsible for the ensuing crop failure and famine?

But it was reformed theologian Dr. Loraine Boettner that took it a step further stating that [Emphasis Added]

    "... Calvinists do not deny that mankind in general receive some important benefits from Christ’s atonement. Calvinists admit that it arrests the penalty which would have been inflicted upon the whole race because of Adam's sin; that it forms a basis for the preaching of the Gospel and thus introduces many uplifting moral influences into the world and restrains many evil influences. Paul could say to the heathen people of Lystra that God “left not Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness,” Acts 14:17. God makes His sun to shine on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. Many temporal blessings are thus secured for all men, although these fall short of being sufficient to insure salvation. [47]

Using the term common grace to apply to the fact that God causes “His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45) is one thing. It is a completely different kettle of fish to say that these general benefits resulted from Christ's atonement. We can speculate all we want to but there is not one shred of evidence in the Bible which points to Jesus' death on the cross having anything to do with the beneficial aspects of this planet that are equally accessible to all men.. regenerate or otherwise.

Besides which what "penalty" does common Grace arrest? In Genesis 3: 14-19 God outlines several curses which were the result of disobeying Him, all of which are still in effect. Man still toils to eat and woman still suffers in childbirth. Everyone still returns to the dust from whence they came. Or are there some other penalties that God forgot to mention and are "arrested" because of Christ's atonement which actually isn't complete.

When in Acts 14, Paul told the priest of Jupiter in the city of Lystra that they needed to turn from "vain things unto a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them is", he added that God had not left them without a witness.. "in that he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness". All Paul was saying was that the very orderly functioning of the seasons and crops were evidence of the living God that they needed to turn to, instead of worshipping idols. 

However lets return to the topic of "Special" or Irresistible Grace


Irresistible Grace Vs. Free Will

Freedom Is Freedom
While claiming that there isn't a single person alive who would have chosen to believe and be born again, the Calvinist maintains that we do have some free will, which we can use to make moral choices. John Piper says

    "There is no doubt that man could perform more evil acts toward his fellow man than he does. But if he is restrained from performing more evil acts by motives that are not owing to his glad submission to God, then even his "virtue" is evil in the sight of God. Romans 14:23 says, "Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." This is a radical indictment of all natural "virtue" that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God's grace."  [48]

Lets break this down. Since this restraint comes not from God, the unregenerate man is obviously using own his free will to refrain from stealing, raping, pillaging or killing his neighbor (Quite a few of us have made a moral decision to not indulge in these sins). However consider that merely by choosing to not do even more evil is, by default, a choice for good. So, to an extent, our free will seems to be working quite well. And freedom is freedom. Either we are all robots programmed to do exactly what God wants, which means we have absolutely no free will at all. OR we can use our free will to both resist evil and yield to God. As pointed out by David Servant,

    It is utterly impossible to have freedom to resist God if one doesn't have freedom to yield to God.  [476]

Apparently however, the only other way we use this free will is to resist the influence of the Holy Spirit.  Mr. Piper goes on to say [All Emphasis Added]

    The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. It means that the Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible. In Acts 7:51 Stephen says to the Jewish leaders, "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit as your fathers did." And Paul speaks of grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19).

    ... Someone may say, "Yes, the Holy Spirit must draw us to God, but we can use our freedom to resist or accept that drawing." Our answer is: except for the continual exertion of saving grace, we will always use our freedom to resist God.

    When a person hears a preacher call for repentance he can resist that call. But if God gives him repentance he cannot resist because the gift is the removal of resistance. Not being willing to repent is the same as resisting the Holy Spirit. So if God gives repentance it is the same as taking away the resistance. This is why we call this work of God "irresistible grace". [48]

According to Calvinism people do not even have the desire to know God. Therefore, the answer would be resoundingly in the negative should an unregenerate person be asked whether they want to repent and become a disciple of Jesus. We have all heard of case after case where a person has heard the Gospel message many many times (even for years in some instances), and has resisted it for just as long. But one day they are convicted by the Holy Spirit and do an amazing turn around. Certainly the Scriptures do say that God's Grace can be resisted...

    Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye. [Act 7:51]

    Quench not the Spirit [1 Thessalonians 5:19]  

So that person who hears and rejects the Gospel message, whether once or repeatedly, is doing so because, at the moment of hearing, the influence of the Holy Spirit has to fall into the 'resistible' category. But a moment later, God's Holy Spirit could make his influence "irresistible" and cause the person to do something that they would have soundly resisted minutes before.

But, I have to wonder if the implications of the claim that 'God's grace makes a person willing' have been carefully thought through.


Implications Of The Claim That 'God's Grace Makes A Person Willing'

Force...
It will be argued that God doesn't force people to do anything even though man has absolutely no choice in the matter, which happens to be the very definition of the word force. Returning for a moment to the words of pastor Colin Maxwell [Emphasis Added]

     "... there does come a time when the elect can resist the Spirit's striving no more". No, we don't believe that men are brought kicking and screaming to God against their will. We believe that grace makes them willing in the day of God's power (Psalm 110:3) [44] 

The Canons of Dordt echoes the thought [Emphasis Added]

     He infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will alive, the evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one compliant; he activates and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds. [43]

But since I can understand people recoiling from the thought of force, which all too often implies violence, and since I am equally sure that God does not force anyone to do anything... lets look at this whole process in the light of the claim that God's Graces makes a person willing.


Programming..
God's "Irresistible Grace" is supposed to change the very will of a person, causing them to think a certain way, believe a certain way and act a certain way.

Now compare this with robots that, by their appearance or movements, often give the impression that they have intent or purpose of their own. However this is deceptive because robots are able to do tasks on their own, not because they have free will, but because they are pre-programmed, or guided by computer. What they do and how they act has been determined by a force outside of themselves.

What exactly is the difference?


or "Changing Someone's Mind"
One other explanation I read comes from the pen of Dr Nick Needham of the Inverness Reformed Baptist Church in Inverness, Scotland. He says [Emphasis Added]

    The idea, then, that God's grace forces people to become Christians, is in reality a wild caricature of Reformed teaching. There is a whole universe of difference, even on the human level, between forcing someone to do something against their will, and changing their minds about something so that they do it willingly. I could force you against your will to drink something you believed to be poison, by pouring it down your throat at gun point. But I could get you drink it willingly, by explaining to you that it is not poison at all, but a medicine that will cure you of an illness you have; my explanation is persuasive, I change your mind, and you drink it willingly. Something of the sort, albeit on an altogether higher plane, happens when God draws us to Christ. He first works within us to change our minds, our perception of Christ, granting us a new sense of spiritual vision to see Him as the Sovereign Truth and the Supreme Good. Accompanying that radical change of perception comes an equally radical change of will. We now come to Christ gladly. We are not forced to come, but made willing to come. [49]

Unfortunately the argument is faulty.

If person A explains to person B that the liquid he is offering is beneficial not harmful, and person B decides, on that basis, to accept and drink it, person B has made a free-will decision. Person B has listened to person A, has deduced that he is not lying and is in possession of the facts concerning the properties of the drink, therefore consciously decides to put the cup to his lips. So in this case Person A does not change the mind of person B. Person B changes his own mind or is "made willing" by a combination of logic, presented facts, trust etc. but, in the final analysis, his decision is his alone. Although we do use the expression "change someone's mind", the fact is

There is no such thing as one person literally changing the mind of another person. They have to do it themselves.

Incidentally, any tactic which can be seen as overriding an individual's control over their own thinking, behavior, emotions or decision making is known as mind control or brainwashing.

Besides which, how can God take any pleasure in people who would have chosen to continue in rebellion towards Him and His Word. They love Him not because they chose to do so, but because their very wills were changed, which is a euphemism for they were programmed to do so. If you have been manipulated into having positive emotions for something or someone, call it what you will, but do not call it "love", which can only be based on free choice. (And, by the way, the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints is open to the charge of force).


Romans 14:23... in Context: John Piper uses this verse to buttress his statement (above) that even a man's "virtue" is evil in the sight of God if it does not stem from his "glad submission to God". But he quotes only the second half of the 23rd verse of Romans 14, totally ignoring, not only the first half of the verse, but the entire context. The verse in it's entirety says

    "But he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; and whatsoever is not of faith is sin". 

In Romans 14 the apostle Paul is not dealing with doctrinal absolutes like the deity of Christ, the physical resurrection etc, nor undisputed sins like stealing and immorality. In this chapter Paul is concerned with more flexible issues, usually matters of personal conviction that Christians can and do disagree about.  Paul specifically makes mention of eating meat or only vegetables (V. 2), observing certain holy days (V. 5), drinking wine (V. 21).

For example, while no form of meat was forbidden under the New Covenant, a Jewish Christian might have recoiled from the thought of sitting down to a bacon breakfast. To him it might have remained "wrong" to eat any form of pork. It really didn't matter one way to God (Paul said in Verse 14 that he was convinced that "nothing is unclean of itself") except if the person concerned considered it unclean.

In Verse 21 Paul warns the strong that "It is good not to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor to do anything whereby thy brother stumbleth" (V. 21). These instructions to those that were stronger, was neither to judge others in these matters nor to exercise his Christian liberty in such a way that he puts a stumbling block in the way of a weaker brother which could cause him to fall. Another Christian tucking into a plate of ham could very well have caused the Jewish Christian to doubt this new religion or even to imitate the other against his own conscience.

The next verse (22) which says "The faith which thou hast, have thou to thyself before God. Happy is he that judgeth not himself in that which he approveth" makes it clear that any convictions you have are personal and to be kept to yourself, which means that you do not need to try and convert a weaker Christian to your point of view.

How a weaker brother could fall and sin by following in the footsteps of another, is clarified in Verse 23 where Paul says if this person is not fully convinced in his own mind that he is free to drink that glass of wine, then it is sin. Whatever action is not done with a full conviction that it is right, is sinful.

Romans 14:23 has absolutely nothing to do with "a radical indictment of all natural "virtue", nor does it affirm that all or any of the actions of impenitent unregenerate people are sinful. This is also easily proved by the case of the centurion Cornelius who, before he is converted, is visited by an angel who tells him that God has noticed and is pleased with his prayers and alms. Additionally Luke says some very complimentary things about Cornelius, calling him a devout, God-fearing, prayerful man [Acts 10:1-5]. For details see section Total Inability. [Also See None That Seeketh]

    Also Note that Romans 14:15 says "For if because of meat thy brother is grieved, thou walkest no longer in love. Destroy not with thy meat him for whom Christ died", which flies in the face of the entire Calvinist doctrine of salvation.. How could eating meat destroy a person sovereignly elected by God, for whom Christ died?

But, one would imagine that after people had come to faith in the Gospel the apostles could put their feet up, confident in the "Efficacious Grace" of their God. Instead they endlessly continued...


Exhorting Believers to Make Their Election Sure,
not neglect salvation, and not fall away from the Living God lest they be disbarred from entering into the Promised Land.

None of which make a whit of sense against the backdrop of Calvinism.

2 Peter 1:10-11: Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble: for thus (Greek houtõ) shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

    Both Peter's Epistles were written to believers in various provinces of Asia Minor. In it he says that diligence, virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and love need to abound in believers, then adds that he that lacks these things is blind (V.9). The cultivation of this standard is important in order to "become partakers of the divine nature" (V. 4).

    I have heard it said that this verse means that the believers were to make their election sure to themselves or be themselves convinced that they had been call into God's kingdom. which the text does not say. In 1Corinthians 10:12 Paul advised against being too sure of salvation. He said "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall". What Peter actually says is that the believers had to make their "calling and election sure", because if they did these things they would never stumble and after that be admitted into the Kingdom.  

      Note: The word translated thus is the Greek houtõ, which means in this way or after that.

    A believer who does not confirm his calling and election by holiness and good works, will stumble and not be admitted into the kingdom. So either Peter didn't know much about Unconditional Election and Irresistible Grace, or Calvinism is way off track.


The Book of Hebrews:
While no consensus of opinion has ever been arrived at concerning the authorship of the book of Hebrews, the target audience has never been in question. The late Dr. Walter Martin, is said to have humorously remarked that the Book of Hebrews was written by a Hebrew to other Hebrews telling the Hebrews to stop acting like Hebrews. This quip, although light-hearted, was nevertheless very true. As said by commentator Albert Barnes, the book of Hebrews...

    makes no allusion to Gentile customs or laws. It all along supposes that those to whom it was sent were familiar with the Jewish history; with the nature of the temple service; with the functions of the priestly office; and with the whole structure of their religion. No other person than those who had been Jews are addressed throughout the Epistle. There is no attempt to explain the nature or design of any customs except those with which they were familiar. At the same time, it is equally clear that they were Jewish converts - converts from Judaism to Christianity - who are addressed.

Yet he appeared to be no less confused than Peter and Paul.

Hebrews 2:3 how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard;

    I guess the author of Hebrews never read Calvin's Institutes since he did not seem to know that the elect can not neglect salvation, while the non-elect have no choice but to neglect it. Worse, he seemed to be under the impression that people already converted could let their salvation slide.

Hebrews 3:12-15 Take heed, brethren, lest haply there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God: but exhort one another day by day, so long as it is called to-day; lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin: end: while it is said, To-day if ye shall hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.

    Note carefully that this verse is addressed to the "brethren", or regenerate saved believers who are being warned against developing "an evil heart of unbelief" and falling away from the living God. How is this possible for people who have been Unconditionally Elected and given the gift of Efficacious and Irresistible Grace?

    Either Calvinism is full of holes or God's grace is not quite as Irresistible or Efficacious as is made out to be.

Hebrews 4:9-11 There remaineth therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest hath himself also rested from his works, as God did from his. Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience. 

    The context tells us that this passage is comparing entry to Heaven to the entry into the Promised Land promised to the Israelites... or His "rest". [Read 3:15 on]. The verse quoted above urges "the people of God" to "give diligence" to enter into His rest but, according to Calvinism the "people of God" have already been preordained to salvation and will therefore undoubtedly enter into His rest. How can they give diligence to something that they have no control over?

Or, perhaps it is that these four verses indicate that Calvinism is wholly and irreconcilably wrong and we are responsible for our own salvation and we, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, have to be diligent throughout our natural lives to ensure that we do not fall before entering the Promised Land... just like Paul spoke of doing in 1 Corinthians 9:27

    but I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.


Romans 12:1-2: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your reasonable service (or worship). Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is— his good, pleasing and perfect will.

    Note: The words reasonable service have been rendered spiritual service or spiritual worship in most translations. But the word used is logikos which means rational or logical.

Paul's use of the word “brethren,” indicates that he is addressing Christians who have come to faith in Jesus Christ. He has, in the first eleven chapters, built a detailed defense of God's plan of salvation and how exactly it includes both Jew and Gentile. These eleven chapters are the doctrinal part of Romans.

Chapter 12 opens with the word "therefore" which indicates that what Paul is about to say is based on the foundation already laid in chapters 1-11. His exhortation in verses 1 and 2 is a call or plea to the Roman believers to follow a particular course of action based on all he has already taught them. Paul’s emphasis is on how these new Christians should live in response to what God has done for them, and he shows vital concern that these believers make the right choice, which is to be shaped and influenced by God and not by the world. 

But note that everything that Paul exhorts these Christians to do is accomplished by them making a specific decision and commitment. They have to actively choose to do what is reasonable, which is to...

a) Present or offer their bodies as a living sacrifice, which a metaphor taken from the Old Testament sacrifices offered on the altar (In the Old Testament, the offerer's gift was presented to God and became His property). Paul earlier used the same word translated present in chapter 6 where he contrasts the two options believers have.. they can either present themselves to sin, or they can present themselves to God and make themselves available to Him.

    neither present your members unto sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. [Romans 6:13]

Paul also tells them not to...

b) conform to the pattern of the world, but to... c) be transformed by the renewing of their minds. (The Greek word for “be transformed” is metamorphoõ the source of the English metamorphosis, usually associated with the change a caterpillar makes into a butterfly).

Notice Paul is doing far more than just telling us how to be transformed; he is exhorting them (and us) to carry out that transformation. Transformation results from the renewing of the mind. If God were the one renewing the minds of believers, they would automatically be transformed and would need to take no action whatsoever, in which case Paul's exhortation was senseless, illogical and a waste of breath.


Philippians 2:12-13
 So then, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who worketh in you (Greek humin) both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.

    Note: Unlike English, Greek has both singular and plural forms of the personal pronoun "you". In the passage above Paul uses the plural form (humin) which indicates he is not referring to any one individual, but to the Philippians as a corporate body.. the church. This also applies to Philippians 1:6. See Perseverance of The Saints.

This entire verse is devoted to Paul exhorting the church at Philippi to corporately "work out” the salvation that they had already obtained by faith. Appealing to the example of Christ who humbled Himself for our salvation, Paul entreats them to apply this attitude to their lives, do nothing through strife or conceit, but in modesty and humility put their fellow man before themselves. In other words Paul is stressing that the Philippians conduct themselves in a manner worth of the Gospel and show the fruit of their salvation ie. peace, love, and harmony. By this they will not only prove themselves to be children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, but that Paul's labours have not been in vain.

But these are also words of encouragement. Paul is telling the Philippians that they can they can bring their salvation to fruition because God is working in them. The two phrases “to will” and “to work” indicate that God both prompts and performs, but this could not mean that God was doing it for them. Paul's urging made absolutely no sense if God had taken complete control of their lives.

Finally one has to ask...


Why Does The Bible Praise Faith?
Hebrews 10 ends with the words

    But my righteous one shall live by faith: And if he shrink back, my soul hath no pleasure in him. But we are not of them that shrink back unto perdition; but of them that have faith unto the saving of the soul. [Hebrews 10:38-39]

followed by what has been called the Faith Hall of Fame in chapter 11 which speaks glowingly of the men and women of faith in the Old Testament starting with Abel, Enoch and Noah. Wending his way through the generations, the author of Hebrews has a great deal to say about the faith of Abraham (and Sarah) before moving on to Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses and even Rahab.

However when it comes to Abraham, We need to go further back than the well known story of him being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac on the Lord's say so. We need to go back to the time when Abraham was first told to leave his home and country and travel to an unknown land.  God commanded and Abraham apparently packed up and moved even though he was not exactly a young man.

    Now Jehovah said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing; and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed. So Abram went, as Jehovah had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. [Genesis 12:1-4]

So how did Abraham manage to respond so positively to God's wish? According to Calvinism, he had to have been the recipient of God's "Efficacious" and "Irresistible" Grace which changed his will and prompted his decision to obey God and leave Ur of the Chaldees. Otherwise the response of this 'totally depraved' man would have been more along the lines of "Thanks, but no thanks".

Instead, Abraham is literally the father of faith... spoken admiringly of by many New Testament figures. In fact God Himself spoke very favorably of Abraham saying to Isaac in Genesis 26:4-5

    And I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these lands. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

God didn't even seem to want to hide some things from Abraham

    And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that which I do; (Genesis 18:17)

Paul and James said "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness", with James adding that Abraham was "called the friend of God". [Romans 4:3, James 2:23. Also See Romans 4:18-22] 

The point is this... If faith is exclusively a gift of God, then the measure of faith He apportions each one has to be His decision as well. So why exactly have these people (especially Abraham) been singled out for their great faith? How could Abraham (or anyone else) be commended for something in which he was wholly passive.

Similarly Luke tells us that Jesus marvelled (Greek thaumazo) at the Centurion's faith, going as far as to say that He had not found so great a faith in Israel (Luke 7:9). If faith is, as Calvinism claims, a gift of God and that man can do nothing of himself to stir up faith, then what was there to marvel at? Why would Jesus praise the centurions great faith which was merely faith that God has sovereignly bestowed on him.

Part 6... Perseverance of The Saints

 

End Notes
[43] The Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine. Human Corruption, Conversion to God, and the Way It Occurs. Article 11: The Holy Spirit's Work in Conversion.
http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=
http://www.reformed.org/documents/canons_of_dordt.html

[44] Pastor Colin Maxwell. A Word To Those Who Take It Upon Themselves To Write Against Calvinism. http://www.corkfpc.com/criticisingcalvinism.html

[45] http://www.theologue.org/LouisBerkhofBio.html

[46] Systematic Theology By Louis Berkhof. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1996. Page 436

[47] Loraine Boettner. Limited Atonement. Ch. 9. Certain Benefits Which Extend To Mankind In General. http://www.the-highway.com/atonement_Boettner.html

[48] John Piper. Bethlehem Baptist Church. What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism.  http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/what-we-believe-about-the-five-points-of-calvinism

[49] Dr Nick Needham. The Five Points of Calvinism... Irresistible Grace.
http://www.wicketgate.org/5points/irresistible_grace.html

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