f The Wittenberg Door: Who’s Sovereign in Salvation? – Part 9 – Arminianism: Resistible Grace

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Monday, August 25, 2008

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

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

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

Man’s Plight

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

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

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

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

Saving Grace

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

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

Louis Berkhof (1873-1957)

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

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

Ephesians 2:8-9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Owen (1616-1683)

Conclusion

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

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

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

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