Saturday, September 22, 2007

Romans: Points to Ponder

My resignation from my former church was effective on the last Sunday of July. During the month of August we visited four different churches, two out of town while we were vacationing, and two in town when we returned. In one of the churches the pastor was preaching a series on the book of Acts; in the other three, the pastors were all preaching series on the book of Romans. In the bulletin from one of those three churches the following six statements were listed under the heading Romans: Points to Ponder.

1. God loves everybody.
2. Jesus died for everybody.
3. The only way anybody can be saved is through faith in Jesus.
4. We have to tell everybody about Jesus.
5. Anybody who wants to be saved can be saved.
6. When somebody gets saved, God keeps them saved forever.

My purpose here is to show my agreement or disagreement with these six statements.

1. God loves everybody. Agree.

With the distinction that the love he has for a believer is different than the love he has for an unbeliever.

Bruce Goettsche, in an article titled The God Who Loves, writes:
The second misconception is the notion that God loves everyone the same. I love my family, I love my country, I love my job and I love to read…but I don’t love them all the same. God loves believers and unbelievers differently. God loves the world…but He loves His children in a much greater way.

Don Fields, in an article titled Is the Calvinist’s God Loving?, writes:
I have heard many Christians argue against Calvinism and limited atonement (particular redemption) in particular by making the claim that God loves everyone with the same equal, undifferentiated, indiscriminate love. This is known as the unibenevolent love of God.

He adds:
…after looking at every verse in the Bible containing the word “love”, I only found one verse that could lead one to believe that God loves every single person in exactly the same way – John 3:16. It is obvious that every other reference is either limited in extent or in degree.

In an article titled Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin / Love the Sinner, Hate the Sinner, Justin Taylor quotes John McKenzie:
There is a lawful hatred of the sinner; and indeed there must be, since such a hatred is the obverse of the love of God. The love of God hates all that is opposed to God; and sinners – not merely sin – are opposed to God.

Another writer makes the claim that because God don’t make junk
God´s going to make a winner out of you not the loser you think you are.

He seeks to give an accurate picture of: God, Satan, my response, and you. What is noticeably missing from the you section is that we are sinners deserving nothing but the wrath of God.

Jonathan Edwards, in his great sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, does give an accurate picture of man deserving God’s wrath:
The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.

Ephesians 2:3 informs us that we are by nature children of wrath:

Ephesians 2:1-3
1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

Paul’s words in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 are an encouragement to the believer by identifying us as brethren beloved by the Lord.
13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God loves everybody, but He does not have the same depth of love for the unregenerate as He does for the regenerate. He loves the elect with a different and much deeper love than the non-elect. His love for His chosen people, His sheep, is of a different quality than the love He has for the goats.

2. Jesus died for everybody. Disagree.

Gospel Outreach Ministries
has a link titled Doctrines of Grace. That link leads to a number of other links, most notably links to articles about TULIP. The Limited Atonement article begins this way:
The doctrine of Limited Atonement (or Particular Redemption) is probably the most controversial of the doctrines of grace and most difficult to accept by many believers. Limited Atonement states that Christ’s redeeming work was intended to save the elect only, and actually secured salvation for them. His death was the substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ’s redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation; including faith which unites them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, therefore guaranteeing their salvation.

The article also references a number of Scripture passages, of which these are a sample:

Isaiah 53:11-12 – verse 11 states that Christ will justify many, while verse 12 states that He bore the sin of many. Notice that the word all is not used in this passage.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

John 10:15 states that Christ lays down His life for the sheep.
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

1 Peter 2:24 states that Christ bore our sins.
21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Later in the Limited Atonement article the writer states:
Therefore, the atonement Christ made for the sins of His people was limited in purpose; not in its value, but in its purpose, for it was designed for the elect of God.

In an article titled The Case for Definite Atonement, Roger Nicole writes:
The doctrine is not concerned with the intrinsic value of the sacrifice of Christ. It is freely granted by all parties to the controversy, and specifically by the Reformed, that the death of our Lord, by virtue of His divine nature, is of infinite worth and therefore amply sufficient to redeem all mankind, all angels and the whole world, even a thousand worlds besides, if He had so intended. Rather the point at issue here concerns the chief purpose of the Father in sending the Son and the chief intention of Christ in laying down His life in sacrifice.

He adds:
…the choice here is not between limited and unlimited atonement, but between an effective atonement limited in breadth to the redeemed, and an universal atonement limited in depth to the point of ineffectuality.

The Canons of Dordt speak about His death being sufficient for the sins of the world but efficient only for the elect.

Canons of Dordt – Second Head of Doctrine:
Article 3
The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.

Article 4
This death derives its infinite value and dignity from these considerations because the person who submitted to it was not only really man and perfectly holy, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, which qualifications were necessary to constitute Him a Savior for us; and because it was attended with a sense of the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin.

Article 8
For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever.

3. The only way anybody can be saved is through faith in Jesus. Agree.

With the distinction that faith is a gift from God, and unless and until God gives an individual that gift, he cannot be saved.

Ephesians 2:8-9
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Canons of Dordt – Second Head of Doctrine
Article 7
But as many as truly believe, and are delivered and saved from sin and destruction through the death of Christ, are indebted for this benefit solely to the grace of God, given them in Christ from everlasting, and not to any merit of their own.

Canons of Dordt – Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine
Article 14
Faith is therefore to be considered as the gift of God, not on account of its being offered by God to man, to be accepted or rejected at his pleasure; but because it is in reality conferred, breathed, and infused into him; or even because God bestows the power or ability to believe, and then expects that man should by the exercise of his own free will, consent to the terms of salvation and actually believe in Christ; but because He who works in man both to will and to do, and indeed all things in all, produces both the will to believe and the act of believing also.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne, in an article titled Saving Faith The Gift Of God, writes:
When a man chooses an apple off a tree, he generally chooses the ripest, the one that promises best. It is not so with God in choosing the soul He saves. He does not choose those that have sinned least, those that are most willing to be saved; He often chooses the vilest of men, “to the praise of the glory of his grace.”

He goes on to say:
Once I saw no form nor comeliness in Jesus, no beauty that I should desire Him. But He came like a roe or a young hart, leaping on the mountains, skipping on the hills. He stood behind our wall, He looked in at the window, showing Himself through the lattice. He showed me His hands and His feet pierced for sinners. He showed me that there was room beneath His shining righteousness. He showed me His heart, the same yesterday, today, and forever; and now I cannot but say, He is to me beautiful and glorious, excellent and comely. If there were ten thousand other ways of pardon, I would pass them all by, and flee to Him. He is altogether lovely. This I trust is saving faith, which is the gift of God.

4. We have to tell everybody about Jesus. Agree.

Because preaching is the means by which the beloved of the Lord come to faith.

Romans 10:13-17
13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?” 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Canons of Dordt – First Head of Doctrine
Article 3
And that men may be brought to believe, God mercifully sends the messengers of these most joyful tidings to whom He will and at what time He pleaseth; by whose ministry men are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified. "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?" (Rom. 10:14-15).

Canons of Dordt – Second Head of Doctrine
Article 5
Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel.

5. Anybody who wants to be saved can be saved. Agree.

With the distinction that only the elect want to.

Canons of Dordt – Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine
Article 3
Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto, and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they are neither able nor willing to return to God, to reform the depravity of their nature, or to dispose themselves to reformation.

Article 10
But that others who are called by the gospel obey the call and are converted is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will, whereby one distinguishes himself above others, equally furnished with grace sufficient for faith and conversions as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains; but it must be wholly ascribed to God, who as He has chosen His own from eternity in Christ, so He confers upon them faith and repentance, rescues them from the power of darkness, and translates them into the kingdom of His own Son, that they may show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into His marvelous light; and may glory not in themselves, but in the Lord according to the testimony of the apostles in various places.

Article 12
And this is the regeneration so highly celebrated in Scripture and denominated a new creation: a resurrection from the dead, a making alive, which God works in us without our aid. But this is in no wise effected merely by the external preaching of the gospel, by moral suasion, or such a mode of operation, that after God has performed His part, it still remains in the power of man to be regenerated or not, to be converted or to continue unconverted; but it is evidently a supernatural work, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, astonishing, mysterious, and ineffable; not inferior in efficacy to creation or the resurrection from the dead, as the Scripture inspired by the author of this work declares; so that all in whose heart God works in this marvelous manner are certainly, infallibly, and effectually regenerated, and do actually believe. Whereupon the will thus renewed is not only actuated and influenced by God, but in consequence of this influence, becomes itself active. Wherefore also, man is himself rightly said to believe and repent, by virtue of that grace received.

Rejection 4
That the unregenerate man is not really nor utterly dead in sin, nor destitute of all powers unto spiritual good, but that he can yet hunger and thirst after righteousness and life, and offer the sacrifice of a contrite and broken spirit, which is pleasing to God. For these are contrary to the express testimony of Scripture. "Who were dead in trespasses and sins"; "Even when we were dead in sins" (Eph. 2:1, 5); and: "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5); "for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen. 8:21). Moreover, to hunger and thirst after deliverance from misery, and after life, and to offer unto God the sacrifice of a broken spirit, is peculiar to the regenerate and those that are called blessed. "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me"; "Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon Thine altar" (Ps. 51:10, 19); "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Matt. 5:6).

John 6:37-44 helps us to understand that only the elect are capable of being saved.

John 6:37-39
37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.

Some months ago I was studying this passage for a Wednesday night series on the gospel. The question that came to my mind, from verse 37, was whether someone can come to the Son apart from the Father giving that someone to the Son. Verse 44 answers that question:

John 6:44
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

Since both verse 39 and verse 44 speak of raising up at the last day, we conclude that those who are given by the Father in verse 37 are the same ones drawn by the Father in verse 44.

John 10:26 records the words of Jesus to the Jews, telling them that the reason they do not believe is because they are not His sheep. He goes on to say that if the Father had given them to Him, they would believe because that is what those given by the Father do.

John 10:22-30
22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”

Sometimes when I go to a fast food restaurant, if the server is not busy, I will ask for something that is not on the menu. For example, at KFC I will ask for a hamburger. This usually elicits a puzzled look from the server, who then kindly informs me that they don’t sell hamburgers, they sell chicken. I have the freedom to choose the restaurant, but once I choose the restaurant, I am limited by the menu available at that restaurant. Sinners are limited as well. Adam in the garden made a choice, and as his descendants we are limited to the fleshly menu, which has no spiritual items.

Romans 8:5-8 shows us the two menus, the fleshly and the spiritual:
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

In order for us to be able to order from the spiritual menu the Spirit of God must dwell in us. Ephesians 2:1-10 speaks of our spiritual deadness and the great love and mercy of God, who makes us spiritually alive:
1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

The prophet Ezekiel in 11:19-20 speaks of those who have had their stony heart replaced by a fleshly heart being obedient to God.
19 Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.

6. When somebody gets saved, God keeps them saved forever. Agree.

Canons of Dordt – The Fifth Head of Doctrine
Article 8
Thus, it is not in consequence of their own merits or strength, but of God's free mercy, that they do not totally fall from faith and grace, nor continue and perish finally in their backslidings; which, with respect to themselves, is not only possible, but would undoubtedly happen; but with respect to God, it is utterly impossible, since His counsel cannot be changed nor His promise fail, neither can the call according to His purpose be revoked, nor the merit, intercession and preservation of Christ be rendered ineffectual, nor the sealing of the Holy Spirit be frustrated or obliterated.

Article 12
This certainty of perseverance, however, is so far from exciting in believers a spirit of pride or of rendering them carnally secure, that on the contrary, it is the real source of humility, filial reverence, true piety, patience in every tribulation, fervent prayers, constancy in suffering, and in confessing the truth, and of solid rejoicing in God; so that the consideration of this benefit should serve as an incentive to the serious and constant practice of gratitude and good works, as appears from the testimonies of Scripture and the examples of the saints.

Rejection 2
That God does indeed provide the believer with sufficient powers to persevere and is ever ready to preserve these in him, if he will do his duty; but that though all things which are necessary to persevere in faith and which God will use to preserve faith are made use of, it even then ever depends on the pleasure of the will whether it will persevere or not. For this idea contains an outspoken Pelagianism, and while it would make men free, it makes them robbers of God's honor, contrary to the prevailing agreement of the evangelical doctrine, which takes from man all cause of boasting and ascribes all the praise for this favor to the grace of God alone; and contrary to the apostle, who declares that it is God "Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 1:8).

Romans 8:35-39
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.
All rights reserved.

Links in this article are provided solely for information purposes,
and do not in any way imply full and complete endorsement.


Pastor Bob said...

Good stuff brother! I'm glad I am a subscriber to your blog. With a busy schedule and little time, yours is well worth the read!

Thank you for being so clear and thorough, and yet still concise.

Kevl said...

Hello All,

1 John 2:2 and other passages such as the famous John 3:16, and 2 Cor 5:19.

He did die for everyone.

It is those who are not found in the Lamb's Book of Life who will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Their sins having been paid for, yet still not reborn and so retaining nothing but their own sin nature. Not having the nature of Christ they can not enter Heaven.


BKoosh said...

Regarding #2, I think this hymn verse says it well:

"If thou hast my discharge procured,
And freely in my room endured
The whole of wrath divine,
Payment God cannot twice demand—
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then again at mine."

Augustus Toplady

J. Brian McKillop said...

Here is a link to an article by Gary Long concerning the phrase whole world:

Lee and Charity Myers said...

Hey Dad, I had a professor give a great illustration about God's love for everyone and His love for His chosen children.
He gave the example of marriage. He set up a mock scenario where he came home and told his wife that he loved her. He then followed that statement with "now honey, just remember that I love all the other women I meet just as much." Now, how ridiculous would that be? What kind of love is that? Now yes the man has a love for humankind which includes women and has a great desire to help them and see them come to know the Lord, but it is drastically different from the kind of love that he has for his wife.
My professor also gave the example of his love for the kids at his church for whom he ministers, but he would not make the sacrifice of paying for their college tuition just because he loves them. But he does pay for his own children to go to school because he loves them. See, there is a difference in degrees of love. This professor said that in a similar way, God loves everyone and has a desire that everyone come to know Him. But there are only some that He has called to be His children (adopted into His family) that He gave His life to save.
I thought these were thought- provoking illustrations.

J. Brian McKillop said...

I have linked to this article on Sharper Iron. You can follow the discussion there by pasting this link into your browser: