Friday, July 20, 2007

T.U.L.I.P. vs R.O.S.E.(Part III)

Let's take a look at our Lord's high priestly prayer in chapter 17 of the Gospel of John.

Just prior to His betrayal and arrest, Jesus in chapter 17 prays for Himself, His disciples and all those who will trust in Him for salvation through the disciples' teaching. Let's consider some facts about Jesus and about prayer.

Fact #1: According to John 9:31,God does not hear the prayers of sinners (except the prayer of repentance). Jesus is the perfect and sinless Son of God. Therefore, Jesus' prayers would always be heard by God.

Fact #2: According to I John 5:14, we have this confidence that if we ask anything in accordance with God's will He will hear us. Jesus clearly proclaimed that He and His father are one and that He always does the will of His Father. Therefore, God always hears His Son's prayers.

Fact #3: I John 5:15 states that if indeed God hears us in whatever we ask (according to His will), we KNOW that we have the requests that we have asked of Him. As established by fact #2 Jesus always prays according to the Father's will; therefore, Jesus (above every other being in history) most certainly obtained every request that He has ever asked of His Father.

With the above facts in mind, let us consider John17:6-9, 20, 24.

17:6 "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

17:7 Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You.

17:8 For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.

17:9 I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.

17:20 "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;

17:24 Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

Jesus states in His prayer that He has made known the Father's name to those whom the Father had given Him. In verse 9, Jesus make it very clear that He is only praying for these same people. In fact to avoid any confusion, He further clarifies His request by stating He is "not praying for the world but for those whom You (the Father) has given me, for they are Yours". Now, some might argue that this prayer was made soley for the disciples. I think that upon further inspection this would prove too much. According to the facts listed above, restricting this prayer to the disciples only would mean that only they would ever be saved. Jesus makes misconstruing His words nigh impossible in verse 20 when He states, "I do not ask for these (the disciples) only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word . . ."

It is apparent here that Jesus is distinguishing between two different groups of people. One group consists of His disciples and those who would trust Him because of their teaching. The other group consists of the world, i.e., everybody else. It is also apparent that this high priestly prayer is basically a prayer for the salvation of the people included in the former group. In accordance with Fact #1 (above), the Father would definitely hear this prayer of Jesus because Jesus is not a sinner. In accordance with Fact #2 (above), The Father would also hear this prayer of Jesus because it was in accordance with His will. In accordance with Fact #3 (above), Jesus would definitely obtain His desire in this prayer be cause of its adhereing to Facts #1 and #2.

Without question, I believe that each and every person who is included in the group for whom Jesus did pray are the exact same persons for whom Jesus made atonement. What about the other group, the world?

Did Jesus go to the cross and make atonement for those whom He did not even care to include in His high priestly prayer? Jesus was certainly aware of the truths expressed in the facts listed above. If He intended to atone for the world's sin also, why did He leave them out of His prayer? Surely had He intended for the world to be saved, His prayer would have cinched it.

Conversely, it follows that the atonement of the world's sin was not the Father's will. If it had been His will, Jesus could not truthfully state that He and the Father were one and that He always did what the Father did. This is so because, nowhere in Scripture does Jesus ever pray like this for the world.

Did Jesus still atone for those for whom He did not care to pray but they still somehow end up in Hell? Based on the listed facts this is impossible. The Father would have heard, agreed with and granted Jesus' request for the entire world's salvation.

Did Jesus or the Father intend for the precious blood of Jesus to be shed for those that they knew had no chance in hell of getting to heaven? For this to be the case, the Father would have to intend to waste the precious, innocent and altogether holy blood of His sinless Son to a great degree. Consider, Jesus in addtion to atoning for sin also suffered the unfettered wrath of God while on the cross. The combined weight of all the sin of mankind and the wrath of God all endured knowing that it would be wasted on the vast majority of mankind. Is man so precious in God's sight that He would treat His perfect Son's blood as such a common thing? I think not. I believe that God is victorious in everything He does. Every drop of Jesus' precious blood was effective in bringing to salvation those He intended to save. Not a single molecule of it was wasted. If His atonement is just available, and only made it possible for whoever would take Him up on it; then there was always the possibility that no one would ever take Him up on it. I'm sorry, but I just believe God thinks more of His Son than that!

Jesus also identifies who His atonement is intended for in chapter 10 of John's Gospel. One of Jesus' famous "I am" statements was the He is "the Good Shepherd".
In verse 14 He states, "I am the good shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father know Me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep". In verses 26-28, Jesus told some of the Jews that they did not believe Him because they were "not part of my flock". He continued to say that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him and that He gives them, His sheep, eternal life . . .

The language in these passages is very exclusive. Earlier in the chapter Jesus makes it clear that He calls His own sheep by name (v.3-4)In verse 14, who is that knows Jesus? It is His own. Who is it that Jesus lays His life down for? It is the sheep. Matthew makes it clear in his Gospel that there are sheep and there are goats. In the end the sheep go on to eternal life with God, the goats go on to eternal damnation. So, who here wants to pitch his tent on the belief that Jesus intended to atone for the goats? Again, this absolutely smacks of treating the blood of Jesus as a common thing.

In my next, and hopefully concluding, post I will tackle Genesis 3:15 and the use of the words "all", "every" and "world" in Scripture. Study up!

Be Like the Bereans, Baby!!!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

T.U.L.I.P vs. R.O.S.E (Part II)

Well, now comes the big one . . . the “L”. "Limited Atonement". The very words send shivers up the spines of many. To reduce the shock some have renamed this tenet as: “definite atonement”, “particular atonement”, “particular redemption” and others. The bottom line is, who did Jesus die for?

But before we explore the possible answers to that ultimate question, let’s deal with some preliminary issues. First, why did Jesus give His life on the cross in the first place? The short answer is: in order to satisfy the just penalty of death and separation from God for sin. Second, was Jesus successful in this quest? In other words, has the penalty for sin been fully and completely paid/satisfied? I hope we all will agree He most certainly has done so. Third, does their remain any portion of this payment/satisfaction yet to be paid? The Reformed response is that there is absolutely NOTHING that must be added; Jesus + 0 = Salvation. Fourth, Jesus’ death on the cross was also redemptive for the Old Testament saints due to their looking forward in faith for the then coming Messiah. Therefore, Jesus’ victory on the cross is effectual for all eras: past, present and future.

With these issues in mind, I can conceive of only three options for the scope of Jesus’ atonement:

Option “A”: Jesus died for everybody on planet Earth. This position is known as “Universalism”.

Option “B”: Jesus died to make salvation “possible” for everybody. This is a major tenet of Arminianism.

Option “C”: Jesus died to absolutely guarantee salvation for only a portion of humanity. This is a major tenet of Calvinism.

No doubt, veterans of the Calvinist/ Arminian/Universalist debate are familiar with the texts each side uses to support their position. I will not post an exhaustive list of them here, but I will list a few for the Calvinist (and therefore, correct) argument. You “Arminians” out there may feel free to provide your texts in the “comments” section and I will promptly show you your error in response. As for any “Universalists” in our midst, I must dismiss you with one simple statement from our Almighty, All-Knowing Savior, “I tell you, many will come from the east and west and recline at the table with Abraham , Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. (Matthew 8:11-12). That doesn’t sound like salvation to me!

Matthew 1:21 states in regard to Jesus that, “ . . .He will save His people from their sins”. I derive two conclusions from this statement from the inerrant, infallible Word of God.

1) Jesus, being sovereign and invincible God, cannot fail in anything He attempts. If indeed He intended to save everyone and some one ends up unsaved; then Jesus has failed in this thing which He has attempted. But that is impossible because He is the sovereign and invincible God. Therefore, Jesus did not intend to save everyone.

2) If indeed, He will save His people from their sins and some people end up unsaved; then all people cannot possibly be His people. Therefore, Jesus did not intend to save everyone.

The Arminian will often point out II Peter 3:9 in response to verses like Matthew 1:21. This verse states: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance”. There are a couple of issues which must be understood with this passage. First of all, who are the “you”,the “any” and the "all" referred to in the verse? Speculation is unnecessary for who the "you" are as the answer is provided in the very first verse of Peter’s letter. In verse 1, Peter addresses those for whom his instructions are intended: “To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours . . .” The “you” of chapter 3 verse 9 are these same people (and consequently all people throughout time) who have obtained this faith, no one else. The “any” in verse 9 has a referent, that referent is the “you” of the same verse. God is not willing that any (of “you”, you who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours, you of all eras) should perish . . . The "all", consequently, are of those referred to by the "you". Peter is quite simply addressing true Christians in this passage. And God will not allow true Christians to perish.

Second, there is the matter of God’s not “willing” that any should perish. On the surface it might be assumed that since God is not “willing” that any perish, then none should perish. Well, that leads us back to “universalism” which is patently false (previous discussion on Matthew 8:11-12). So there must be some caveat regarding God’s will. Dr. R.C. Sproul delineates this caveat for us in his, “Chosen by God”:

“In the first place we must understand that the Bible speaks of the will of God in more than one way. For example, the Bible speaks of what we call God's sovereign efficacious will. The sovereign will of God is that will by which God brings things to pass with absolute certainty. Nothing can resist the will of God in this sense. By his sovereign will he created the world. The light could not have refused to shine.

The second way in which the Bible speaks of the will of God is with respect to what we call his preceptive will. God's preceptive will refers to his commands, his laws. It is God's will that we do the things he mandates. We are capable of disobeying this will. We do in fact break his commandments. We cannot do it with impunity. We do it without his permission or sanction. Yet we do it. We sin.

A third way the Bible speaks of the will of God has reference to God's disposition, to what is pleasing to him. God does not take delight in the death of the wicked. There is a sense in which the punishment of the wicked does not bring joy to God. He chooses to do it because it is good to punish evil. He delights in the righteousness of his judgment but is “sad” that such righteous judgment must be carried out. It is something like a judge sitting on a bench and sentencing his own son to prison.

Let us apply these three possible definitions to the passage in 2 Peter. If we take the blanket statement, “God is not willing that any should perish,” and apply the sovereign efficacious will to it, the conclusion is obvious. No one will perish. If God sovereignly decrees that no one should perish, and God is God, then certainly no one will ever perish. This would then be a proof text not for Arminianism but for universalism. The text would then prove too much for Arminians.

Suppose we apply the definition of the preceptive will of God to this passage? Then the passage would mean that God does not allow anyone to perish. That is, he forbids the perishing of people. It is against his law. If people then went ahead and perished, God would have to punish them for perishing. His punishment for perishing would be more perishing. But how does one engage in more perishing than perishing? This definition will not work in this passage. It makes no sense.

The third alternative is that God takes no delight in the perishing of people. This squares with what the Bible says elsewhere about God's disposition toward the lost. This definition could fit this passage. Peter may simply be saying here that God takes no delight in the perishing of anyone.”

Wow, I know this is a lot to chew on. So why don’t I break here and let you digest this. I ‘ll see you next time with T.U.L.I.P. vs. R.O.S.E. (Part III)!

Be Like the Bereans Baby!!!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

T.U.L.I.P. vs. R.O.S.E.

Well, it's good to be back! In case you hadn't noticed, I've been away for a while. I have recently returned from a wonderful vacation ( or as they say these days, "vay-kay") with my family. The high point (figuratively and literally) was our visit to
Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. Beautiful country out there and quite a thrill to see the monument up close and personal. For any of my readers in the Black Hills area, "thanks for your hospitality"

Back to cases . . . my pastor, Michael Leach, and I are currently discussing the "Doctrines of Grace" on our radio program "The Glory of the Gospel" ( Sunday mornings @ 9:30 on WNIV-970AM in Atlanta or on the 'net @ Of course this is still a heavily debated issue and we certainly cannot fully exhaust the topic on the radio. Over the next couple of posts, however, I would like to take a shot at the two most contested members of the T.U.L.I.P., Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement.

As you may know the chief question concerning the Doctrines of Grace is: how does a person receive salvation. Without going into all the history of how they came about, I will jump ahead to the doctrines themselves ( "TULIP: The Five Points of Calvinism in the Light of Scripture" by Duane Edward Spencer is a good concise history of the meetings that lead to the development of the doctrines). Here are the five points as described by the acronym:

T=total depravity
U=unconditional election
L=limited atonement
I=irresistible grace
P=perseverance of the saints.

As I stated, the most hotly debated members of the T.U.L.I.P. are the "U" and the "L". First the "U". The fact that God elects people to salvation should be rather plain. I can't list all the verses here, but I would challenge you to look up the words "elect" and "election" in a concordance and count for yourself how many times the people of God are referred to in this manner. So the real issue is, on what basis does God elect people to salvation. It is the testimony of Scripture and therefore the Reformed position that God elects individuals to salvation unconditionally and according to His own good pleasure. Opponents of this position generally argue that God foresees something in the individual that prompts Him to elect that individual to salvation. Basically the argument goes that God, with His omniscience, looks into the future and observes that the person will eventually be receptive to the Gospel. Or that God foresees great promise in an individual and on that basis elects the individual. These arguments are really a misinterpretation of Romans chapter 8, where the "golden chain of salvation" is described by the Apostle Paul. The misinterpretation centers on the meaning of the word "foreknew".

Thanks to the "Open Theists" among us, God's omniscience has become doubted by many professing Christians. But for the remaining faithful, God's knowledge of ALL things, past present and future, PERFECTLY is undisputed. However, in the case of Romans 8, it is not God's knowledge of things or events that is described. It is God's intimate knowledge of PERSONS that is extolled. Just as Adam's "knowing" his wife Eve leading to the birth of Cain and Abel, portrays intimate love; God's foreknowledge of those He has elected to salvation portrays intimate love of them. These verses do not describe God as foreseeing any particular action by His elected persons. They describe Him as intimately loving these person long before the foundations of the earth and having purposed to save them even before they have been born. As for any future promise they might have or good they might do, how could that possibly figure into God's decision? What do they have that God has not given them? Any promise they have is given to them by God, so how can that help them get elected? Jonah chapter 2 makes clear, salvation is ALL of God.

The great American ideal of fairness and equality leads many to ask, why doesn't God elect everyone to salvation. "In the interest of fairness; if God elects one, He should elect all". Don't ask God to be fair, you wouldn't want to see God when He's fair. Fairness demands that every human being that has ever walked the earth go to Hell. Don't pass "Go", don't collect 100 dollars, go directly to Hell! We are justly condemned sinners, God owes salvation to NO ONE. That He saves anyone is a testimony to His mercy and grace. Perhaps the following diagram will help illustrate:

Some sinners sent to Hell= JUSTICE/NO MERCY
Some sinners are saved= MERCY/NO JUSTICE
No sinner receives INJUSTICE

Justice requires a good judge to punish sin, God is THE good Judge. God is not embarrassed by His wrath and He is glorified by His perfect justice. He sovereignly chooses those in whom His glorifying, righteous wrath will be displayed. Mercy requires love and forbearance, God is love. God's love is glorified in His perfect mercy by granting pardon to undeserving sinners of His sole choice via the shed blood of His sinless son, Jesus Christ. No man will ever be able to accuse God of injustice. And no man will be able to boast that God chose him because of anything within himself.

I think that the main reason that so many can't come to grips with T.U.L.I.P. these days is that far too many of us subscribe to another acronym: R.O.S.E.

R= restricted sovereignty
O= obnoxious egoism
S= Sick in trespasses
E= extreme equality

As I've said before, most professing Christians will claim that God is sovereign. But for some odd reason, when it comes to our salvation (in their minds) God restricts His sovereignty and hopes and prays that people will "make a decision for Christ". Evidently, there are some people who God desperately wants to save, but He is helpless unless they exert their "free will" to accept Him. Sounds more like Sally Fields to me, "You like me, you really like me"!!!

It can only be Obnoxious Egoism that makes the creature believe that the creator would not overrule their hell bound will in order to save it. The constant refrain that states, "God will not violate your will" is blatantly false. Ask Abimelech, who willed to violate Sarah, but whose will God violated (Genesis 13). Ask Jonah who willed to go to Tarshish, but God violated his will and landed in Nineveh. Have you ever prayed for someone to be saved? What are you asking God to do, but to violate their will?

Contrary to the report of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2, which states that prior to salvation we are "DEAD" in trespasses and sins; R.O.S.E. subscribers must only believe that we are only Sick in trespasses and sins. Because the last time I checked, dead men don't do anything. They can't move , they can't breath, they can't eat and they certainly can't CHOOSE! The Bible, however, reports that God said to Adam and Eve that in the day they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil the would surely DIE. Not that they would get really sick, but still be able to reach out. Not that they'd get really sick, but would improve. No, they would die. And everyone that would come after them would be born spiritually dead. Unresponsive to God, out of fellowship with God, unable to please God. Not choosing the good, not knowing the good, not wanting the good. Therefore, if anything good was going to come from them or be chosen by them, God would have to bring them back to spiritual life FIRST=REGENERATION.

Extreme Equality suggests, once again, that if God offers this wonderful gift of salvation to one of us, He is somehow obligated to offer it to us all. That's as american as hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. God is SOVEREIGN. God would be just to send us all to Hell and start all over. Get over yourself.

God is the author and finisher of our salvation.

Be Like the Bereans, Baby!