I am confused, very confused. Can someone please explain?
In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 Paul is scolding the church at Corinth for something I believe is very prevalent today in circles made up of people much more intelligent than I’ll ever be. Yet I clearly see that what is being done is wrong, why don’t they? Paul is frustrated and, well let’s just let the Holy Spirit, through Paul, speak for Himself.
10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Now because I have a habit of digression, let me get right to the point and ask a few questions. Was John Calvin just a man? Was Jacob Hermann just a man? I believe we can all agree that the answer to both of these questions is a resounding, “Yes.”
When one describes themselves as a Calvinist or an Arminian (for the Latin form of Hermann’s last name, Arminius) are they not doing the same divisive thing that Paul is castigating the Corinthian church for in the above Scripture? If I’m wrong, I’m sure I’ll hear about it, but I don’t think I am. I have never, in all my years of knowing the Lord, met so many Christians who have such a need to define their belief system in this way as I have since I started blogging. Why? Is it because we simply can’t define our beliefs by Scripture, instead we need to say, “Ummm yeah, what he said?”
I am not an expert, not a theologian by any stretch of the imagination, just a reader and doer of the Word who is having a difficult time understanding how the smarter crowd thinks its fine to define ourselves as anything other than a follower of Jesus Christ, and Christ alone.
So, regardless of the fact that the Canons of the Council of Dort actually formulated what today we know as the Five Points of Calvinism not Calvin himself, in spite of the fact that theologians the likes of George Whitefield, Charles Hodge, B.B. Warfield, and Charles Haddon Spurgeon agreed with Calvinism and even though a National Synod of the Church convened in Dort, examined the teachings of Arminius in the light of Scripture and found them to be heretical; both of the positions of the men mentioned above are fallible in that they are just that, opinions of men, human, fallible men. In deed, both positions for me, leave something to be desired. But what do I know, I’m just housewife. A housewife with the Word of God at her disposal and a hunger for His Word, my very breath of life.
So if I’m neither a Calvinist or an Arminian then what am I? I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I believe the Word of God alone is infallible. I believe that the Scripture speaks for itself on depravity, God’s sovereignty, human responsibility, election, predestination, eternal security and the nature and extent of the atonement of Jesus Christ. The most Scripturally sound teachings on these subjects that I have found are these:
We believe that all are sinners (Romans 3:23) and unable by human performance to earn, deserve, or merit salvation (Titus 3:5). We believe that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and that apart from God’s grace, no one can be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). We believe that none are righteous, or capable of doing good (Romans 3:10-12), and that apart from the conviction and regeneration of the Holy Spirit, none can be saved (John 1:12-13; 16:8-11; I Peter 1:23-25). Mankind is clearly fallen and lost in sin.
We believe that God chose the believer before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-6), and based on His foreknowledge, has predestined the believer to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29-30). We believe that God offers salvation to all who will call on His name. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” We also believe that God calls to Himself those who will believe in His Son, Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 1:9). However, the Bible also teaches that an invitation (or call) is given to all, but that only a few will accept it. We see this balance throughout scripture. Revelation 22:17 states, “And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” I Peter 1:2 tells us we are, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God, the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” Matthew 22:14 says, “For many are called, but few are chosen (elected).” God clearly does choose, but man must also accept God’s invitation to salvation.
We believe that Jesus Christ died as a propitiation (a satisfaction of the righteous wrath of God against sin) “for the whole world” (I John 2:2; 4:9-10), and that He redeems and forgives all who will believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as their only hope of salvation from sin, death, and hell (Ephesians 1:7; I Peter 1:18-19). We believe that eternal life is a gift of God (Romans 6:23), and that “whosoever believeth” in Jesus Christ will not perish, but will have eternal life (John 3:16-18). I Timothy 4:10 says “we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe.” Hebrews 2:9 states that Jesus, “was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.” The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ was clearly sufficient to save the entire human race.
We believe that God’s grace is not the result of human effort or worthiness (Romans 3:24-28; 11:6), but is the response of God’s mercy and love to those who will believe in His Son (Ephesians 2:4-10). Grace gives to us what we do not deserve nor can earn by our performance (Romans 11:6). We believe that God’s grace and mercy can be resisted by us. Jesus said in Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.” We are not condemned because we have no opportunity to be saved, but a person is condemned because he makes a choice not to believe (John 3:18). In John 5:40 we read “And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life.” Jesus also said in John 6:37, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:40 states, “And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that everyone who seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life.” In John 7:37 Jesus said “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.” In John 11:26 He adds “whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.”
Jesus clearly acknowledges the fact of human resistance and rejection. In John 12:46-48 He said, “I am come as a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on Me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not; for I came, not to judge the world but to save the world. He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath One that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
In Stephen’s message in Acts 7:51, he concluded by saying, “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye.” In Romans 10:21, the apostle Paul quotes Isaiah 65:2 when he speaks of God’s words to Israel, “All day long I have stretched forth My hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.” In one of the five warning passages of the book of Hebrews, we read in Hebrews 10:26, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Verse 29 adds, “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, with which he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” Clearly, God’s grace can either be resisted or received by the exercise of human free will.
We believe that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 8:38-39), and that there is no condemnation to those who are in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1). We believe that the promise of Jesus in John 10:27-28 is clear: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” Jesus said in John 6:37, “him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” We have this assurance in Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” We believe that the Holy Spirit has sealed us unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30).
But we also are deeply concerned over the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father, who is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name have cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” Apparently there are many who claim to be believers that in fact are not.
Jesus said in Luke 9:62, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” I Corinthians 6:9-10 insists that “the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God” and warns us not to be deceived. A list is then given of various kinds of sinful lifestyles with an ending remark that they will not inherit the kingdom of God. Similar statements and conclusions are given in Galatians 5:19-21 and Ephesians 5:3-5.
Galatians 5:4 says “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Colossians 1:22-23 says about Jesus Christ “In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight, if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature that is under heaven, of which I, Paul, am made a minister.” II Timothy 2:12 says “if we deny Him, He also will deny us.” Hebrews 3:12 says, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” Can true believers (“brethren”) depart from the living God? I Timothy 4:1 says that “in the latter times, some shall depart from the faith.” II Thessalonians 2:3 speaks of “a falling away” or an apostasy. II Peter 2:20-21 makes these remarkable statements: “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in it, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.”
It is no wonder that Peter says in I Peter 1:10, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” We thank God for the encouragement of Jude 24 – “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.”
Maintaining a Bible-centered balance in these difficult issues is of great importance. We do believe in the perseverance of the saints (true believers), but are deeply concerned about sinful lifestyles and rebellious hearts among those who call themselves “Christians.” We don’t have all the answers to these matters, but we desire to be faithful to the Lord and His word. If we find ourselves basing our view of salvation on the performance and attitudes of people we become discouraged and concerned. But when we keep our eyes on the Lord, and trust in Him alone and in His power, we say with Peter in I Peter 1:3-9:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to His abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations, that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ, whom, having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”
It is not easy to maintain the unity of the Spirit among us on these matters. It seems that the sovereignty of God and human responsibility are like two parallel lines that do not seem to intersect within our finite minds. God’s ways are “past finding out” (Romans 11:33), and the Bible warns us to “lean not unto thy own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). To say what God says in the Bible – no more and no less – is not always easy, comfortable, or completely understandable. But Scripture tells us that the wisdom from above will be loving and kind toward all, seeking the unity of the believers, not trying to find ways to divide and separate from one another. May God help us all to love each other, to be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as Jesus Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32)! In difficult doctrinal matters, may we have gracious attitudes and humble hearts, desiring most of all to please Him who has called us to serve Him in the body of Christ. Discussion – YES! Disagreements – YES! Division – NO!
Can you guess who’s teaching this is? Does it matter? Not to me, because I don’t follow them either, I follow Jesus Christ!