f The Wittenberg Door: August 2008

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Who’s Sovereign in Salvation? – Part 9 – Arminianism: Resistible Grace

In my last post on this topic, Part 8, we found that Christ died for the elect, those whom were given Him by the Father before the foundation of the world. Furthermore, we saw that Christ actually accomplished salvation for His people, not merely making it possible.

Now we’ll turn our attention to the Arminian doctrine of Resistible Grace. We’ll consider the question, “Does the Bible teach that God extends grace to all men, but men can resist that grace?” But first, we’ll consider the plight of man and the nature of saving grace.

Man’s Plight

Before considering the nature of saving grace, it’s appropriate to recall why saving grace is necessary:

Our first parents, through the instigation of the Devil (Rev. 12:9), chose to rebel against our most holy God (Gen. 3:1-6). The result of this rebellion was the entrance of sin into the world (Rom. 5:12-14). The nakedness for which Adam and Eve were ashamed extended far beyond mere clothing—they and their progeny were now separated from God and in need of reconciliation (Rom. 5:12-21).

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
Genesis 2:16-17

As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one.”
Romans 3:10-12

Saving Grace

Grace (Latin: Gratia; Greek: Charis; Hebrew: Chen) refers to the undeserved favor shown from one to another, particularly from a greater to a lesser.

“. . .grace is an attribute of God, one of the divine perfections. It is God’s free, sovereign, undeserved favor or love to man, in his state of sin and guilt, which manifests itself in the forgiveness of sin and deliverance from its penalty. It is connected with the mercy of God as distinguished from His justice. This is redemptive grace in the most fundamental sense of the word. It is the ultimate cause of God’s elective purpose, of the sinner’s justification, and of his spiritual renewal; and the prolific source of all spiritual and eternal blessings.”

Louis Berkhof (1873-1957)

Man can do nothing to earn (merit) God’s grace. If he could, then it would be a wage not a gift, and would be grounds for boasting before God.

8) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
9) not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

Mankind has rebelled against God, and, as a result, stands condemned. But God, for His own good pleasure, chooses to spare some—to show mercy. By its very nature, grace does not come about by anything man does—we don’t pray our way into it, chose our way into it, or anything else. It is completely, from first to last, an underserved gift from God. Thus the appropriate response is to fall down before a gracious God who does not give us what we deserve.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness
Romans 1:18

When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”
Acts 11:18

When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
Acts 13:48

Note: Refer to Part 6 for further information related to God’s sovereign choice in election.

This message of grace, therefore, is essential to the gospel message, as Puritan John Owen explains . . .

Gospel promises then are: (1) The free and gracious dispensations; and, (2) discoveries of God’s good-will and love: to, (3) sinners; (4) through Christ; (5) in a covenant of grace: (6) wherein, upon his truth and faithfulness, he engageth himself to be their God, to give his Son unto them, and for them, and his Holy Spirit to abide with them, with all things that are either required in them, or are necessary for them, to make them accepted before him, and to bring them to an enjoyment of him.

John Owen (1616-1683)


Because of the fall man is separated from God. And left to his devices he’ll continue in his sin and rebellion. But God, in His great mercy, chooses to grant a stay of execution to some—not only that, He chooses to adopt the condemned! This message of God not giving us what we deserve should make us fall to our knees and sing along with John Newton . . .

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

In my next post on this topic we’ll see what the Scriptures have to say regarding the efficacy and application of God’s grace.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Who’s Sovereign in Salvation? – Part 8 – Arminianism: Unlimited Atonement 2

In my last post on this topic, Part 7, we saw that Unlimited Atonement carries with it certain doctrinal consequences. In this post we'll consider the Scriptures that address the questions, “For whom did Christ die?” and “Did Christ actually save anyone? Or did He simply make salvation possible?”

Scriptural Considerations

Christ Came to actually save men . . .

She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.
Matthew 1:21

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
Luke 19:10

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
1 Timothy 1:15

Also consider: 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 1:3-4; Tit. 2:14; 1 Pet. 3:18

Christ actually reconciled His people to God through His death . . .

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Romans 5:10

18) Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,

19) namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

21) And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,

22) yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach
Colossians 1:21-22

Christ accomplished justification for His people . . .

being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus
Romans 3:24

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
Romans 5:8-9

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE
Galatians 3:13

Also consider: 1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 1:13-14; Heb. 9:12; 1 Pet. 2:24

Christ secures regeneration and sanctification for His people . . .

For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake
Philippians 1:29

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption
1 Corinthians 1:30

3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

4) just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him In love
Eph. 1:3-4

Also consider: Acts 5:31; Titus 2:14, 3:5-6; Eph. 5:25-26; Heb. 9:14, 13:12; 1 John 1:7.

As a matter of fact, the Scriptures do not speak of Salvation in tentative terms. Instead, salvation is spoken of as being accomplished by Christ, not merely as being made possible by Him. That’s why on the cross he proclaimed “it is finished,” not “it is possible.”

The Good Shepard

We’ve seen thus far that Christ was successful in his mission. Consider John 6:35-40, where Christ declares that “all that the Father gives Me will come to Me.” He further promises that He’ll lose none and that He’ll raise them all up on the final day. A good Shepard indeed!

In the tenth chapter of John we learn more of our good Shepard. For instance, we learn that he laid down His life for His sheep. He also promises that His sheep will hear His voice. Moreover, He explained to the unbelieving Jews that the reason they didn’t believe is “because you don’t belong to my sheep.”

What are we to make of this? Christ died for His people—the sheep—not the goats. Furthermore, He declared that His sheep will hear His voice, meaning that His elect will respond to the gospel call. Finally, the reason the unbelievers are unbelievers is because they are not His sheep. Consequently, Christ’s death was not for everyone, but for His elect (sheep) only—not a drop of Christ’s blood was wasted!

Also consider: Mat. 1:21, 20:28, 26:28; Rom. 8:32-34; Heb. 9:15, 28.


Many more Scriptures could be cited, such as Christ’s high-priestly prayer in John 17, where He prays “not for the world,” but “for those whom you have given Me.” Even though this is but a brief survey, the Scriptures are clear: Christ died for the elect, those whom were given to Him by the Father before the foundation of the world. Furthermore, Christ actually accomplished salvation for His people, not merely making it possible. Once again, as Christ said on the cross, “It is finished!”

In our next installment, we’ll consider the Arminian doctrine of Resistible Grace.