Outline of Romans 9:
vv. 1-5 – Paul expressed his grief over the unbelief of the nation of Israel.
vv. 6-9 – Main theme. God’s selection or election of his people from within ethnic Israel originates from God’s sovereign grace.
vv. 14-18 – Answer to objection that predestination makes God unjust.
vv. 19-29 – Answer the objection that predestination makes personal responsibility irrelevant.
Thesis: Not everyone who belongs to ethnic Israel belongs to the spiritual Israel. The spiritual Israel includes a remnant of ethnic Israel, but is not restricted to ethnic Israel. God’s selection or election of his people from within ethnic Israel is not based on works but originates from God’s sovereign grace. Who constitutes the spiritual Israel will become evident at Paul’s argument unfolds.
Historically, the church has upheld the doctrine that God from eternity past, before the creation of the world, has predestined individuals to receive salvation. These individuals are elected “in Christ”. However, Arminians, beginning from the 17th century, have argued that election is corporate rather than individual. Arminians object to individual election since it appears to them that God is arbitrary and unjust when he chooses and saves some individuals, but bypasses other individuals. But, by the same token, the same objection also applies to corporate election if God chooses to save a group of people and bypasses other groups. More importantly, the hermeneutics of the Arminian view of corporate election becomes evidently inadequate when it is tested with a close reading of two crucial biblical passages found in Ephesians 1 and Romans 9.
Arminianism reduces God’s election to a generic, group election, in contrast to Paul’s teaching of election of specific individuals in Christ:
(1) Arminians assert that God’s election described in Eph.1:4 is based on a generic criterion, that is, foreseen faith. However, the focus of the text is on God’s act of choosing some individuals rather than on some individuals’ act of choosing Christ. It says nothing about foreseen faith. Elsewhere, Paul argues in Rom. 9:11 that faith is the result for been chosen. It is not the reason for being chosen. Evidently, Arminians have smuggled the idea of foreseen faith into the text. As a result they have reversed Paul’s understanding of the relationship between election and faith Continue reading “The Unbreakable Chain of Salvation Part 3 – The Case for Individual Election in Ephesians 1 & Romans 9”
Definition of Terms Predestination refers to how God foreordains (determines in advance) all events and circumstances to accomplish his eternal plan to manifest his glory and bless his people. Election refers to “that eternal act of God whereby He, in His sovereign good pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, chooses a certain number of men to be the recipients of special grace and of eternal salvation. /1/
Election in Ephesians 1 First, election is an act of supreme love. Election is not some impersonal plans executed by a cold and remote Creator. In election, the heavenly Father chooses his people “in love” (v. 4) for “the adoption of children” into his family. The heavenly Father is not a grudging God, for he has generously blessed the elect “in Christ with every spiritual blessing.” (v. 3, 5). In short, election as “glorious grace” is the magnificent fountain of “all spiritual blessings” (v. 6) listed throughout this epistle. Continue reading “The Unbreakable Chain of Salvation Part 2 – What Election in Christ Means. Ephesians 1: 3-6”
Questions about God’s foreknowledge and his election of certain people to salvation are frequently raised during my talks in churches and colleges. These questions are raised not out of mere curiosity, but out of a desire to be assured of one’s salvation. Such an assurance may be enjoyed only if we believe that God is the author of our salvation from beginning to the end, that salvation is by God’s grace alone and that the history of the church with its ups and downs is not the result of arbitrary human choices, but represents the working out of God’s eternal plan of salvation. Hence, the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in predestination and election (monergism) is a most comforting doctrine.
I. The Salvation Chain For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Rom. 8: 29-30).
When Paul states that to those who love God and are called according to his purpose all things work together for good, he is not thinking only of those things that can be seen round about us now, or those events that are taking place now; no, he includes even time and eternity. The chain of salvation he is discussing reaches back to that which, considered from a human standpoint, could be called the dim past, “the quiet recess of eternity,” and forward into the boundless future.One very important fact must be mentioned: every link in this chain of salvation represents a divine action. To be sure, human responsibility and action is not thereby ruled out, but here (Rom. 8:29, 30) it is never specifically mentioned. [William Hendriksen Romans (Baker Books, 1981), p. 281]Continue reading “The Unbreakable Chain of Salvation. Part 1: The Meaning of “Foreknowledge” in Rom. 8:29”
“We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)
I. Biblical data that supports the premises of the two following arguments
Christ is the propitiation for our sins. He intercedes with the Father on the basis of his accomplished his work of atonement. He is the perfect advocate whose intercession with the Father is always successful (I John 2:1; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 9:24-26; John 11:41-42,).
II. Argument 1 from Christ’s intercession
Premise: Christ’s intercession with the Father is always successful.
Outline of argument:
(1) If Jesus intercedes for all, all would actually be saved.
(2) But not all are saved.
(3) Therefore Jesus does not intercede for all.*
III. Argument 2 from “Propitiation”
Premise: Christ as “propitiation” has turned away God’s wrath (1John 2:2).
Outline of argument:
1) If Christ has really bore God’s wrath for everybody, nobody will go to hell, since their punishment has already been born by Christ.
2) But Scripture does testify that the wicked will experience punishment in hell.
3) Therefore Christ is not the propitiation for the sins of everybody
It is imperative that theological discourse goes beyond polemics and offers positive evidence and constructive arguments to establish the veracity of doctrine. This being the case, I would like to invite our readers to consider carefully several lines of biblical evidence and theological arguments for the doctrine of definite atonement given below:
The Particularistic Vocabulary of Scripture
The Scriptures themselves particularize who it is for whom Christ died. The beneficiaries of Christ’s cross work are denominated in the following ways: “The house of Israel, and the house of Judah,” that is, the church or “true Israel” (Jer. 31:31; Luke 22:20; Heb. 9:15); his “people” (Matt. 1:21); his “friends” (John 15:13); his “sheep” (John 10:11, 15); his “body,” the “church” (Eph. 5:23–26; Acts 20:28); the “elect” (Rom. 8:32–34); the “many” (Isa. 53:12; Matt. 20:28; 26:28; Mark 10:45); “us” (Tit. 2:14); and “me” (Gal. 2:20).
Arminians charge Calvinists as guilty of diminishing the universal significance of Christ’s atonement by teaching definite (limited) atonement. However, Calvinists reject the charge as unwarranted since they affirm the atonement of Christ as “sufficient for all.” In truth, it is the Arminians who limit the effectiveness of Christ’s atonement by teaching that Christ’s atonement only offers potential salvation for all, since there remains a possibility that Christ’s atonement may not achieve its intended purpose. [Re: Why Arminians Limit the Atonement More than Calvinists] This uncertainty precludes believers from enjoying any assurance of salvation. In contrast, Calvinists teach that Christ’s atonement does not merely make salvation possible; it accomplishes a definite purpose. It makes salvation certain as Christ really saves to the uttermost every one of those for whom he died. Christ’s atonement is “effective for the elect.” Hence believers may enjoy the assurance of salvation.
Arminians also reject the Calvinists’ understanding of the phrase, “for all” to mean “all without distinction” as hermeneutical gymnastics that go against the plain reading of Scripture which for Arminians, would require understanding the phrase, Christ died “for all” to mean “all without exception.”
The term “Limited Atonement” has become a favorite fodder for Arminians in their criticism of Calvinism (or preferably, Reformed theology). However, their criticism is misplaced for the following reasons:
(1) Historically, the term, “TULIP” was not used when the five points of Calvinism were originally affirmed in the Synod of Dort (1618). It gained popularity only in the 20th century as a convenient mnemonic device to summarize five central teachings of Reformed theology.
(2) The criticism is misguided. It would be more fruitful to shift the debate from a fixation with the negative term, “Limited Atonement” (which suggests a spirit of defensiveness), to an engagement with the positive affirmation of the Reformed doctrine of “Definite Atonement,” “Effective Atonement” or “Particular Redemption.”
(3) Arminians should think twice before throwing stones at the Calvinists when they themselves could well be living in a glass house. In truth, Arminians also teach a “Limited Atonement”, perhaps more so than Reformed theology! [Tu quoque?] Continue reading “Why Arminians Limit the Atonement More than Calvinists”
Providence is God’s work of sustaining creation and his sovereign, benevolent control of all things, guiding them toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God.
It is widely held that humans are free to the extent that they are able to choose between alternative possibilities with equal ease. Compatibilism (also known as soft determinism) rejects this so-called “power of contrary choice” or the “liberty of indifference”, and contends that choice is not a matter of indifference; we always chose what we personally want. We also act in accordance to our nature, motives and desires. Our choices change under different circumstances, but ultimately they follow what appears to be the most compelling motive for the moment.
The two main rivals of the doctrine of providence are deism and pantheism: (1) Deism envisages God leaving creation alone, having endowed it with inherent powers to operate according to its inbuilt laws. (2) Pantheism does not distinguish God from the world. Since God’s action or providence are identical with the course of nature, there is no independent or secondary causes in the outworking of creation.
[I am leaving out the philosophical theory of occasionalism, represented by Al-Ghazali (Muslim) and Malebranche (Christian) to keep the post simple, and so as not to burden some of my readers who may problems following complicated philosophical discussions. Occasionalism teaches that created beings are absolutely devoid of causal powers and all events are directly caused by God. God is directly, immediately and solely responsible for bringing about all phenomena.]
The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) strikes a balance between these two rival positions in its article on the decrees of God.