The Case for Irresistible Grace
Read the entire article here.
Mankind is born with a sinful nature. He is both sinful from the first day of life and chooses to sin as soon as he is able. Sin is both nature and choice to man. The original sin of man, the eating of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, is imputed to all natural descendants of Adam–the human race. Because of this Fall, mankind is totally dead in sin (Rom 6:23).
Our natural inclination is to do evil. No one chooses to do good of their own accord. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that man is as evil as he can be all of the time. Sometimes, man does good. But the Fall has rendered man completely unable to will and do good. We are in bondage to sin, and there is only one way to free ourselves: knowing the Son by the mercy of God.
If one accepts the total bondage of the will to sin, so much so that man is unable to will and do good of his own accord, then the next point follows from it. God’s mercy is the only thing that can save us. God preserves a people for himself, for his glory. By his mercy, he chose sinners from all races, nations, peoples, and walks of life for heaven. No one understands this selection process, and the Bible doesn’t reveal what it is. We only know that it has nothing to do with the creature (see Rom 9, especially vv 13, 18).
Since mankind is totally depraved, and God’s solution to that was to unconditionally elect some to enjoy eternal life with him, it then follows that atonement was made for only those that are elect. The doctrines of grace now hinge on the effectual call of the Spirit to God’s elect.
Romans 8:29-30 states:
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
This is the Golden Chain of Redemption. It starts with foreknowing. Foreknowing what? Well, that’s a good question. The typical Calvinist response to that is that God knows us in the Biblical sense. His love is great for the elect, who he knew in advance from all eternity. That is what it means here to “foreknow”–to love deeply in advance.
But I’m not your typical Calvinist. I tend to believe that between autonomy and theonomy exists a balance. In other words, God knows ahead of time which people will love him and he acts accordingly to save them. This is closer to Molinism than Calvinism.
Those whom he predestined are conformed to the image of his Son. Notice that the Bible makes no bones about who is conformed to the image of the Son: it is those who are predestined.
Those same people are also called, and those same people are then justified. Finally, those same people will be glorified in heaven. Notice again that this is the same people each time, making a strong case for the Atonement being limited only to the elect. So-called Four-Point Calvinists teach that the Atonement is unlimited in its efficacy, which contradicts this Golden Chain. The ones who are predestined are the ones that are conformed, they are also called, justified, and finally glorified.
It is the calling that I will now examine. The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it like this:
All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. (10.1)
This follows the Golden Chain perfectly. All of those whom God has predestined for life, he effectually calls in his time out of sin and death. This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit–to effectually call the elect, and quicken their hearts to grace and salvation in Jesus. Not only that, but he removes their heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh, so that they can understand the things of God.
This doesn’t destroy the concept of free will. People come freely to God, made willing by his grace. In his natural state, man will never choose communion with God (1 Cor 2:14). God makes man willing by quickening his heart to the things of God. Then man is able to choose God. In this new state, man wants to choose God. Man becomes a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). This means that regeneration precedes faith.
In the next post, I will detail Scriptural evidence for irresistible grace.
Posted on November 18, 2008, in Bible Thoughts, Theology and tagged Calvinism. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.
John 10:9 says “I am the door: by me if ANY man enter in, he shall be saved…” (emphasis on “any” added)
2nd Peter 3:9 says “…but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that ANY should perish, but that ALL SHOULD come to repentance.” (again… emphasis added)
1st Timothy 2:4 says “Who will have ALL men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (emphasis… 🙂 )
Therefore, I do not believe that there are specific people elected. Is there a possibility that “predestined” simply means that God knows who we are, but did not pick us out?
Consider Rom 9:11-16:
The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it better than I could:
Hmmm. You do pose a good point my friend. Admittedly I’m still up in the air on this one. These verses seem to contradict each other. So why spread the gospel? So the elect hear the call? Hmmm *wheels turning… goes to dictionary…*
Predestine: to destine, decree, determine, appoint, or settle beforehand
Predestination: The doctrine that God in consequence of His foreknowledge of all events infallibly guides those who are destined for salvation…
*continues chewing this thought*
infallible: incapable of error in defining doctrines touching faith or morals…
Cory… we must be missing something. There is something not said in that “golden chain”… as we have seen… the scripture conflicts… how do we resolve this? It seems like it MUST depend somewhat on our desire… He does look at our hearts… He does use discretion… time and time again in the bible… He has mercy on those whom He chooses, but NOT without the condition of obedience to Him, or if He is using someone unworthy for a bigger purpose. Even Nebuchadnezzar was His “servant”…
Hmmm… so He predestined those of us who He foreknew would love Him? Well… okay… duh…
But WE still have to go through these actions of choosing… because WE don’t know who is chosen…
So although this is mindbogglingly interesting, is this really worth spending time trying to understand?
I think I get it now… but what’s the point of knowing this? To me it seems like kind of a moot point to understand.
There is one potential weakness in the Chain of Limited Atonement, and that this link of “Called”. Is this just a clarification?
In Matthew 22:14 Jesus said (in a parable) that “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
Admittedly, this does not say that everyone is called. However, it does say that people who will not be atoned will be called. And what are they being called to, if not the atonement?
In fact, Ezekial wrote on just this. Ezekial chapter 33 starts thusly (emphasis added):
33:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, 3 and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.
And if there is any doubt that Ezekial was writing something consistent with the Gospel, we can simply read on:
17 “Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ when it is their own way that is not just. 18 When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. 19 And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this. 20 Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways.”
And so here is my question, and it is an honest question. If we are to sound the trumpet to all of the world, and not just the pre-destined elect, then how does our conduct under doctrine of “limited atonement” guide our actions any differently under that of “unlimited”?
Just to clarify, I personally take refuge in the fact that God knows the elect and who He pre-destined; that is my personal answer. But is there any more to it? As a witness and minister of God, I cannot see the difference it is supposed to make in my ministry or in my witness to others. I also cannot see the salvific value in teaching this distinction (limited vs. unlimited) as doctrine.
A small anecdote however: My previous pastor was teaching on this once and addressed the following question: “So, what about me, what use it for me to come to Jesus if God didn’t choose me?” His answer is that the question’s premise is false, and a misunderstanding, because if you don’t think God chose you, but you choose Him, then your eyes will be opened, and you will find that God chose you first, your choice was your free will… a nice explanation of that paradox, huh?
By the way, I am not finding a problem with what Paul wrote in Romans 8:29-30. I am just saying when he used the word “called”, Paul was not limiting his discussion of atonement to those who are called, but that, of those who are called, Paul was only referring to those would be atoned.
I know this if off topic but I’m looking
into starting my own weblog and was wondering what all is needed to get set up?
I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
I’m not very internet savvy so I’m not 100% sure.
Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks
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