Posts Tagged ‘Justification by Faith’
I use to believe that human beings would gladly love to hear that God saves us by His grace through faith in Christ Jesus. I thought that that was indeed very good news to us fallen humans who have nothing to offer a holy God for our salvation or for our forgiveness. I was convinced that the Church needed to preach this good news and the world would gladly hear the gospel message, repent of their sins, and embrace the Lordship of Christ over their lives.
How wrong I was.
The truth of Romans 1:18-32 and especially in verses 18 and 25 continue to ring true the more I am involved with evangelism. People do not love God. They do not love the truth of God. They despise God and His laws and they refuse to have Him reign over them. Each person seems to want to be the master of their own fate, the captain of their souls. They want to do it their way. They want to love and cherish and worship their sins rather than the one true God. The idea of justification by faith is offensive to those wrapped in their sins and who believe that they can earn their own salvation. I even had one guy tell me, “When the day of judgement comes, I will stand and take it like a man.” I told him he would not stand and take it like a man but would tremble in fear and seek to run away from the awful presence of a holy and just God (Hebrews 10:31).
People love darkness rather than light (John 3:19-21). The NIV reads:
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
People do not desire the truth of God. They want their sin and their open rebellion against God.
Yet this should not cause us not to preach the gospel to the lost. Scripture says that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20). Paul the Apostle, despite intense persecution, saw the glory of God revealed in the gospel as he faithfully preached the Word (Acts 18:1-11). Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, makes it clear that the success of evangelism lies not in our methods or our dress or our style but in the faithfulness of God. God is the one who saves sinners for His own glory and honor (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). Jesus makes it clear in John 6:44 that none can come to the Father unless the Father draws them. This same Greek word for draw here in John 6:44 is found in John 12:32. When we lift up Jesus in truth, He saves sinners. Our duty is to simply preach Jesus to the lost. God will save sinners (1 Corinthians 1:21).
Preaching justification by faith does not often bring people joy but hatred. Religious people want to believe that it is God’s grace plus their works that obtain salvation. They want to add to the work of Christ. Few surrender to the teaching that salvation is wrought completely by God. Most want to believe it is faith in Jesus plus our works that keep us saved or at least help God along. This is simply not true. God saves us and keeps us by His grace through faith. Salvation from beginning to end is by grace through faith (2 Corinthians 1:24). We are not to add to the work of Christ through some false belief that it is our works, our obedience to the law that keeps us right with God. What keeps me saved is grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, and not even my faith, is my salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). Jesus is my faithful high priest before the Father (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus’ blood forgives me of my sins (Acts 13:38-39) and His blood is what helps me remain pure before God (1 John 1:7). The work of Christ is my total salvation. I bring nothing to the table to offer a holy God. Jesus alone is the very One who has redeemed me by His grace (Mark 10:45).
The religious, the sin lover, the unbeliever – these are the ones who despise the most the truth of justification by faith. The gospel is offensive to our human pride (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). We may acknowledge the giving of God’s Son for our salvation but few really believe that Jesus is our total salvation. Many semi-Pelagians abound who believe that God does His part and we do ours. No! The work of salvation is all of God (Acts 15:11). Jesus alone is the One that we must cast our total faith in to save us from the wrath of God (Romans 5:8-9). As 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10 (NASB) reads,
8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.
I pray that you and I would be among those who marvel at the work of Christ and long for Him to be glorified among His saints! I long to see His salvation not just come but to be preached by the Church of Christ throughout the nations (Mark 16:15).
The Arminian must strive to defend and preach the biblical truth of justification by faith. This is the heart of the biblical teaching on salvation through faith in Christ alone. Our justification before God, as Arminius writes, is not a matter of works (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7) but is by grace through faith. Both Arminians and Calvinists agree in this core doctrine.
IX. THE JUSTIFICATION OF MAN BEFORE GOD
I am not conscious to myself, of having taught or entertained any other sentiments concerning the justification of man before God, than those which are held unanimously by the Reformed and Protestant Churches, and which are in complete agreement with their expressed opinions.
There was lately a short controversy in relation to this subject, between John Piscator, Professor of Divinity in the University of Herborn in Nassau, and the French Churches. It consisted in the determination of these two questions:
(1.) “is the obedience or righteousness of Christ, which is imputed to believers and in which consists their righteousness before God, is this only the passive obedience of Christ?” which was Piscator’s opinion. Or
(2.) “is it not, in addition to this, that active righteousness of Christ which he exhibited to the law of God in the whole course of his life, and that holiness in which he was conceived?” Which was the opinion of the French Churches. But I never durst mingle myself with the dispute, or undertake to decide it; for I thought it possible for the Professors of the same religion to hold different opinions on this point from others of their brethren, without any breach of Christian peace or the unity of faith. Similar peaceful thoughts appear to have been indulged by both the adverse parties in this dispute; for they exercised a friendly toleration towards each other, and did not make that a reason for mutually renouncing their fraternal concord. But concerning such an amicable plan of adjusting differences, certain individuals in our own country are of a different judgment.
A question has been raised from these words of the Apostle Paul: “Faith is imputed for righteousness.” (Rom. 4) The inquiry was,
(1.) Whether those expressions ought to be properly understood, “so that faith itself, as an act performed according to the command of the gospel, is imputed before God for or unto righteousness — and that of grace; since it is not the righteousness of the law.”
(2.) Whether they ought to be figuratively and improperly understood, “that the righteousness of Christ, being apprehended by faith, is imputed to us for righteousness.” Or
(3.) Whether it is to be understood “that the righteousness, for which, or unto which, faith is imputed, is the instrumental operation of faith;” which is asserted by some persons. In the theses on justification, which were disputed under me when I was moderator, I have adopted the former of these opinions not in a rigid manner, but simply, as I have likewise done in another passage which I wrote in a particular letter. It is on this ground that I am accounted to hold and to teach unsound opinions concerning the justification of man before God. But how unfounded such a supposition is, will be very evident at a proper season, and in a mutual conference. For the present, I will only briefly say, “I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude that, in this sense, it may be well and properly said, to a man who believes, faith is imputed for righteousness through grace, because God hath set forth his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a propitiation, a throne of grace, [or mercy seat] through faith in his blood.” Whatever interpretation may be put upon these expressions, none of our Divines blames Calvin or considers him to be heterodox on this point; yet my opinion is not so widely different from his as to prevent me from employing the signature of my own hand in subscribing to those things which he has delivered on this subject, in the third book of his Institutes; this I am prepared to do at any time, and to give them my full approval. Most noble and potent Lords, these are the principal articles, respecting which I have judged it necessary to declare my opinion before this august meeting, in obedience to your commands.
Can Arminians and Calvinists unite to preach the gospel to the lost? My answer: yes! And why you ask? Simple: we both believe that salvation is a divine work of God wherein the enslaved person must, by grace and by the work of the Spirit of God, repent of their sins and be saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His work upon the cross. Once a person repents, we can disagree to whether they were chosen from eternity past or became the elect of God by grace through faith but either way, we should rejoice that the sinner repented and believed the gospel.
I have seen quotes from some Calvinists who seem to believe that we Arminians would argue for free will and that a person, any person, all persons, can just believe when they want to and be saved. That is not true. We Arminians agree with our Calvinist brothers and sisters that people are slaves to sin and by nature hate God. We agree that apart from the grace of God and the convicting and drawing work of the Holy Spirit, none could be saved. Arminius stated:
This is my opinion concerning the free-will of man: In his primitive condition as he came out of the hands of his creator, man was endowed with such a portion of knowledge, holiness and power, as enabled him to understand, esteem, consider, will, and to perform the true good, according to the commandment delivered to him. Yet none of these acts could he do, except through the assistance of Divine Grace. But in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace.
If Arminius believed that a person can be saved by mere free will, he certainly did not express this in his sentiments. Arminius further stated about divine grace:
In reference to Divine Grace, I believe, 1. It is a gratuitous affection by which God is kindly affected towards a miserable sinner, and according to which he, in the first place, gives his Son, “that whosoever believers in him might have eternal life,” and, afterwards, he justifies him in Christ Jesus and for his sake, and adopts him into the right of sons, unto salvation. 2. It is an infusion (both into the human understanding and into the will and affections,) of all those gifts of the Holy Spirit which appertain to the regeneration and renewing of man — such as faith, hope, charity, &c.; for, without these gracious gifts, man is not sufficient to think, will, or do any thing that is good. 3. It is that perpetual assistance and continued aid of the Holy Spirit, according to which He acts upon and excites to good the man who has been already renewed, by infusing into him salutary cogitations, and by inspiring him with good desires, that he may thus actually will whatever is good; and according to which God may then will and work together with man, that man may perform whatever he wills.
Arminius said about the free will of mankind:
In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace. For Christ has said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” St. Augustine, after having diligently meditated upon each word in this passage, speaks thus: “Christ does not say, without me ye can do but Little; neither does He say, without me ye can do any Arduous Thing, nor without me ye can do it with difficulty. But he says, without me ye can do Nothing! Nor does he say, without me ye cannot complete any thing; but without me ye can do Nothing.” That this may be made more manifestly to appear, we will separately consider the mind, the affections or will, and the capability, as contra-distinguished from them, as well as the life itself of an unregenerate man.
Arminians then believe, with our Calvinist brethren, that apart from the aid of the Spirit of God through grace, none can be saved. When we preach salvation to the lost, we preach the same as Calvinists do, that God calls people to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30-31) but we agree with our Calvinist friends that salvation is the work of God and not mankind (Romans 1:16-17). The Lord alone saves sinners for His own glory and honor (Ephesians 1:4-13). Salvation is not accomplished by the will of mankind (John 1:12-13) but by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). We deny that works either save us 0r keep us saved (Titus 3:5-7) though works flow from our state of salvation in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14-26).
To further separate us from the Pelagians, let us read this from Arminius:
Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace. That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word “grace,” I mean by it that which is the grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration. I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the actions, and bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires. This grace goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succour in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and have fallen, establishes and supplies them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it.
So let us preach the gospel to all (Mark 16:15) knowing that God is the One who saves sinners by His enabling grace.
The Internet can be a blessing and yet a curse at the same time. While much of what I read on the Internet is good. There is also much bad. A Calvinist on Twitter (if you put in the hash mark #Arminian he often will come up) goes around putting out pictures such as this one in this post. He either is lying about Arminianism or he simply misunderstands Arminianism because I have yet to figure out how he could teach this. This is not Arminianism. This is Pelagianism. Any first year seminary student would grasp this unless they are tainted by reading only Reformed theologians. Yet even most Reformed theologians including Dr. Michael Horton or Dr. John MacArthur acknowledge that Arminians do not believe we save ourselves or that we help God with our faith. Jesus alone is our Savior and our faith is in Him alone (John 6:29; Romans 5:1). Our salvation is based entirely upon the Lord Jesus and not upon faith in our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).
Yet honestly even Calvinists acknowledge that God doesn’t make us believe unless they are hyper-Calvinists. They too agree that a person who has faith in Jesus is believing by their own free will and not because God makes them believe. They believe God draws them and that He places it within them to want to believe but He does not make them believe. The obvious error would be to say that God makes us believe is that this would make the free offer of the gospel pointless since God will save whom He will save and He will damn whom He will damn. It is all His sovereign choice. Some Calvinists believe this while many would not. John Calvin, at least in my reading of him, did hold to double predestination or at least a form of it. Some Calvinists such as R.C. Sproul Sr. hold that God must first regenerate a person in order for them to believe so that they are born again to believe.
As an Arminian, I hold that salvation is all of God. Because of the nature of our depravity, none of us can be saved apart from the work of the Holy Spirit to convict us and draw us to the Son (John 6:44; 16:8-11). I believe the will of God is for all to be saved but only those who believe the gospel by His grace are the saved of God (1 Timothy 4:10).
In no way do I believe that works save a person (Romans 4:4-5). I believe good works reflect our salvation but do not secure our salvation (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14-26). Our salvation and security are based on the Lord Jesus and His promises and His work (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). In no way do I obtain salvation or help God to save me by me doing something. Salvation is all of grace (Acts 15:11). My efforts cannot save (Isaiah 64:6).
So what part of my Arminianism is works based? What part of my salvation is based upon me doing something to earn God’s favor or the gift of His Son? I see none.
I urge both Arminians and Calvinists to seek to understand each other. Do we disagree? Yes. Do we have differences? Yes. Can we disagree and still be brothers and sisters in Christ? Yes! Let us seek not to spread lies about each other nor build false straw men such as this one to attack others.
When I confront sinners with the gospel, what the two doctrines that people hate the most? I would say the following:
1. You Are A Sinner Who Has Earned God’s Wrath.
People want to hear that God loves them, that He has a wonderful plan for their lives, that He accepts them in their sins. They don’t want to hear that they are under the wrath of God. They despise the thought that they, this good, moral being, deserve the wrath of God. Hitler does. George W. Bush does (yes I have heard that). The Connecticut shooter does but not us. Not I. Not me. We compare ourselves to the worst people we know and we feel better about our chances before God.
Yet when I confront them with the Law (1 Timothy 1:8-11) and show them their sins (Romans 7:7), they shut their mouths of self-boasting and typically sit there with this look on their face of, “I am doomed.” Sometimes they listen to me move on the cross and the work of Christ but many will revert to, “Well, God is good and loving so He’ll overlook my sins.” But then I ask them if they would think a judge good and just if he let the guilty go free. He would be good if he punished the law breakers for their violations no matter how small. Same is true of God, our moral Judge. He will judge all (Romans 2:7-11; Revelation 20:11-15). All people must stand before God (Hebrews 9:27). On that day, what will be your answer when He examines you by His Law and finds you guilty as charged?
2. Justification by Faith.
People want to think that because they are good people or do good things, God will accept them. I’ve had people tell me that they are going to heaven when they die because they joined a church or read their Bible once or said a “sinner’s prayer.” I’ve had them justify themselves by pointing to good deeds to which I point to Isaiah 64:6. People, oddly enough, reject the idea that Jesus is the only way to salvation. They want to believe there are many other roads, other ways, other plans, loopholes to heaven. Some want to pretend that God will let all in and be merciful but again, what kind of judge would He be to do so and on what basis?
People despise being told that faith and repentance in Jesus is the only way (John 14:6). They want to hear me tell them that they only believe in Jesus and then add their works or add this or that to Jesus and this will ensure salvation. Instead, I point to the fact that Jesus must be our Lord and Savior to enter into heaven. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. Only those who repent of their sins are His (Acts 2:38-39). Those who abide in sin are not His (1 John 3:6-9). Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23 that many will say that Jesus was their Lord but will be denied heaven because of their practicing wickedness. Repentance then is necessary for us to be saved.
Calvinists insist that the word “world” in 1 John 2:2 cannot possibly mean “the whole world” but instead they take “world” and teach that John means “Jews and Gentiles” or those from the world. They do this because to teach that “world” means “world” would deny limited atonement and they would be forced to embrace unlimited atonement which simply cannot happen otherwise the other four points of Calvinism would be in jeopardy. To see an example of a Calvinist holding firmly to 1 John 2:2 not being “world” but instead “all types from the world” see this post here.
Let’s do this, let’s look at John’s use of “world” in 1 John to see how John would use the term. For this study, I will be using Dr. Robert Picirilli’s book, Grace, Faith, Free Will. The Greek word is “kosmos” and it occurs 23 times in 1 John. Dr. Robert Picirilli notes the use of kosmos in 1 John as follows:
2:15-17 (6 times)
4:1-5 (6 times)
5:4-5 (3 times)
Picirilli notes that the use of “the world” can be used personally by John (3:1, 13) or impersonally (2:15). The use of “world” in 1 John 2:2 is personal.
John consistently uses “the world” against the Church. Only four times in 1 John does he use “the world” to not be negative: 1 John 3:17 and 4:17; 4:9; and 4:14 which is the same meaning as in 1 John 2:2. The Church is not to love “the world” (1 John 2:15-17), does not recognize Jesus nor His disciples (3:1), hates disciples (3:13), has the spirit of the antichrist (4:3-4), is overcome by disciples (5:4-5), and is in the grip of the evil one (5:18-19).
Dr. Picirilli notes at this point that one would be hard pressed to see, given the consistent use by John for “the world”, to mean “the elect of all nations.”
Even stronger is the use of the Greek word “holos” (or “whole”) in 1 John 2:2. The only other place this word is found in 1 John 5:19. How can 1 John 2:2 be “the elect from Jews and Gentiles” while “the whole world” in 1 John 5:19 cannot? I admit that context must determine the usage but Calvinists have greatly read into 1 John 2:2 their own doctrine when it comes to John’s use of “the world” as being only “the elect.”
I also recommend Dr. Picirilli’s remaining comments on the use of the plural “we/us” in 1 John 2:2. He points out that John is consistent also in his usage of the plural and this strengthens the Arminian argument for unlimited atonement.
In my response recently with the same Calvinist author above over his views regarding limited atonement (in which he argued that one must embrace universalism if you hold to an unlimited view), I asked him to show me one verse in the Bible that says Christ died only for the elect. To merely state a verse where it says that Jesus died for someone (or something) does not mean then that He died only for that which it mentioned. Scripture says that Jesus died for the Church (Ephesians 5:25), the sheep (John 10:11), us (Galatians 1:4), or Paul but it never says in the New Testament that Jesus died only for the elect. Take Galatians 2:20 where Paul says that Christ died for him. Are we to assume that Jesus died only for Paul? In John 10 where Jesus says that He lays down His life for the sheep, are we then to conclude that He lays down His life for the Church or His friends? To merely assume since someone is not mentioned in the text does not mean that He didn’t die for them when in fact it is clear that Jesus did die for all in places such as 1 John 2:2. I replied to the Calvinist brother, “If I asked you if Jesus died for the church you would say yes and point to Ephesians 5:25. If I asked you if Jesus died for the sheep you would say yes and point to John 10:11. If I asked you if Jesus died for Paul you would say yes and point to Galatians 2:20. But when I point out that Jesus died for the world in places such as 1 John 2:2, you turn and deny this simply because your theology will not allow it and not because of your conviction from Scripture.” Again, Scripture is clear that Jesus died for the sheep, the Church, Paul, us, the world, etc. but not once do we find that He died only for the elect. This must be implied through doctrinal positions instead of Scripture.
One final note is this issue of double jeopardy. Calvinists like to argue that if Christ died for all men’s sins then they should be atoned for when they die since God cannot be just in punishing them for the sins He laid upon Christ on the cross. First of all, no one is saved merely by the atonement of Christ. That Jesus died on the cross or shed His blood saves no one. Even Calvinists acknowledge this. We are saved by grace through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23-26). Scripture is clear that we are justified by faith (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9). If Christ died for the elect only then it logically follows that the elect are born saved, regenerated, and sinless. Yet all Calvinists agree that they were sinners and now are saved by grace through faith. How can this be if Christ died for the sins on the cross and paid their sin debt? How can God place the sins of the elect on Christ and then still call people to repent of sins that He has already forgiven them of and did not see because they were in Christ? It is illogical.
The atonement, by itself, saves none. It is faith in the atonement that saves. In this sense, Jesus is the Savior of the whole world in that He died for all and made provision for their forgiveness but He saves only those who believe (1 Timothy 4:10). Only those who appropriate His atonement are redeemed and forgiven. The elect then are those who place their faith in Jesus, those foreknown by God (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2).
In closing, I asked the same author above when he got saved. He didn’t really answer me for he knew my question was a trap. We get saved when we place our faith in Jesus. This is clear in Scripture (John 3:1-7). The Calvinist will argue that all of salvation is a work of God and no Arminian would disagree. I have been saved for over 20 years and have never heard one person say that they saved themselves when they were saved by faith. While salvation is a work of God (Titus 3:5-7), God does not believe for us. Even Calvinist theologians acknowledge this. Certainly we Arminians agree that the Spirit of God must help a person to place their faith in Jesus. But we believe that the will of God is for all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and that He has graciously given His Son for this purpose (John 1:29; 3:16). We further believe that God has sent His Spirit to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement to come (John 16:8-11). What would be the point of the Holy Spirit convicting the world if in fact God already had sent His Son to die only for the elect?
It is clear that we all are saved by grace through faith. You didn’t get saved when Jesus died on the cross. You didn’t get saved when Jesus rose from the dead. You didn’t get saved when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. You were saved when you placed your faith in the saving, precious, shed blood of Jesus that forgives sins (Acts 13:38-39). In Acts 16:30-34 we read of the conversion of the Philippian jailer and we read in verses 30-31:
Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Notice what Paul didn’t say. He didn’t say that this man was already saved (through the cross or universalism) nor did he say that he was already saved to believe (regeneration before faith) but he tells him to believe in the Lord Jesus and he would be saved. This man demonstrates his repentance and is baptized (v.33). The work of salvation was accomplished by Christ and for the glory of God but the man was not saved until he exercised faith in Jesus who alone saves (Acts 4:12).