Monday, August 26, 2013

Is Satan A Calvinist (part 5 of 10)

     What are commonly referred to as the “five points of Calvinism” is a good starting place, but we have to move beyond them to something more descriptive and that encapsulates more fully the teachings of Scripture.  Left to themselves, the five points don’t completely define God’s plan to redeem sinful man thereby glorifying himself.  Many truths go untaught and unnoticed.  They do not do justice to all of the rich and illustrious themes that permeate all of the biblical revelation.  So, more harm may be done than good if they are not developed further and put into the context of other complimentary teachings.
Sovereignty of God
The sovereignty of God may be implied in the points, but it is not directly stated.  This monumental attribute is hinted at; being an integral component within all the points.  However, it is not fleshed out and explained in order to heighten the understanding of and substantially deepen  the awesome grandeur of God’s redemptive plan.  God’s sovereignty means that everything is under his control.  Nothing, I mean nothing, is outside of his ascendancy.  Nothing comes to pass except by the will of God.  Everything is foreordained, planned, seen, known, accounted for, taken into consideration, and purposeful.  All things are done by him and for him.  All of history: every decision, sin, birth, death, rise, fall, in, out, up, down, act, will, purpose, intent, aim, goal, thought, motive, step, misstep, etc. coalesce in the mind of God and are directed by his wisdom and power to achieve all that he has designed in order to bring all honor, glory, adoration, and praise to the thrice holy and Blessed Trinity.  This comprises, it has to include, all of the destinations of man and angels.  Nothing falls outside of the realm of God’s sovereign program or power; nothing is beyond his reach.
Beeke says, “To be Reformed is to stress the comprehensive, sovereign, fatherly lordship of God over everything....”[1]  Similarly, Boice wrote, The doctrines of grace thus require the sinner to accept God’s sovereignty in salvation.  This submission also comes to characterize the Christian’s entire experience....”[2]

The Bible reveals all throughout that God is sovereign; that he reigns supreme.  “God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.”  “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.”  “For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.  Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.”  “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”  “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purposes.’”  “...So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.  Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.  Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all.  In your hand are power and might, and in your hand is to make great and to give strength to all.”[3]  Likewise, there are many other texts such as Psalm 3:8, Jonah 2:9, Exodus 3:19-20 and 4:21-23, Psalm 105:25 and Genesis 15:13-16, Acts 2:23, 4:28, Isaiah 10:5-19, and 1 Timothy 6:15 that illustrate God’s sovereignty.
Jonathan Edwards had a profound appreciation and passion for the sovereignty of God.  One way in which he expressed this is as follows,
The redeemed have all their good of God... It is of God that we have our Redeemer.  It is of God that has provided a Saviour for us... It is of God that Christ becomes ours, that we are brought to Him, and are united to Him.  It is of God that we receive faith to close with Him, that we may have an interest in Him... It is of God that we actually receive all the benefits that Christ has purchased.  It is of God that pardons and justifies, and delivers from going down to hell; and into His favour the redeemed are received, when they are justified... It is if God that the redeemed receive all their true excellency, wisdom, and holiness....[4]

[1]Joel R. Beeke, “The Marrow of Calvinism” in Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction To Calvinism                        (Orlando, Fl: Reformation Trust, 2008), 41.
[2]James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken, The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering The                            Evangelical Gospel (Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2002), 189.
[3]Psalm 47:8, 103:19, 135:5-6, 115:3; Isaiah 46:9-10, 55:11; 1 Chronicles 29:11-12
[4]Jonathan Edwards, “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2 vols.                       (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 2004), 2:3-4.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Is Satan A Calvinist (part 4 of 10)

The final point is the perseverance of the elect.  Once more, all of the points build upon each other.  The logic is obvious: man is depraved and cannot save himself, God elects some to everlasting life, Christ atones for the sins of the elect, the Spirit applies Christ’s work and merit to the elect, and the elect persevere unto the end by God’s grace.  What God begins he finishes.  Nothing goes unachieved.  God chose to save, he accomplished salvation, he called the elect and they are saved in time, and he keeps them saved eternally.
Berkhof says that perseverance, “may be defined as that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart, is continued and brought to completion.”[1]  The Westminster Confession is even more precise, “they, whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved (XVII. I).

     Does the Bible support this doctrine?  “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”  “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”  “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”  “Who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”[2]  Yes, most emphatically the scriptures teach the perseverance of all the saints.
If the opposite is true, that the elect could fall away and lose their salvation, what becomes of the biblical view of God?  He would cease to be God; instead he would be weak and powerless.  How worthy of all worship and praise would he be if he could not accomplish the final salvation of his elect?  J. C. Ryle said it best,

...the attributes of God’s character revealed in the Bible... are all involved in the perseverance of the saints.  If the elect may finally perish, what becomes of God’s counsel about them in eternity, and His doings for them in time... the offices which the Lord Jesus fills... what discredit is thrown on His discharge of them, if any of His believing people can finally be lost.  What kind of Head would He be, if any of the members of His mystical body could be torn from Him?  What kind of Shepherd would He be, if a single sheep of His flock was left behind in the wilderness?  What kind of Physician would He be, if any patient under His hand were at length found incurable?  What kind of High Priest would He be, if any name once written on His heart were found wanting when He makes up His jewels?  What kind of Husband would He be, if He and any soul once united to Him by faith were ever put asunder?[3]


[1]L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941), 546.
[2]Philippians 1:6; 2 Peter 1:10; John 10:28-29; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:5.
[3]J. C. Ryle, “Perseverance” in Old Paths (Banner of Truth, 1999), 493.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Is Satan A Calvinist (part 3 of 10)

The third point considers the atonement.  The points build upon each other; when the previous articles are explained and understood, then the next point necessarily and logically follows.  Man is depraved and cannot save himself.  God, to glorify himself and magnify his attributes, elected to save some and not others.  Some get grace and some get justice.  Some get what they don’t deserve and could never earn, and then the others get what they have merited and deserve.  If this is the case, then the sacrificial, substitutionary atonement is only on behalf of the elect.  Only the sin of the chosen was laid upon Christ.  Jesus, being the High Priest, offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for the elect.  If he died for everyone, if he paid the price for all sin, then all would be saved.  That is not the case though; not all are redeemed; not all are forgiven; not all are in Christ; not all have received the gift of repentance and faith and righteousness.  Most stand condemned and guilty before God.  Most hate Jesus and his gospel.  Most are unconverted and unchanged.
This is a very difficult teaching.  It is very unpopular and maligned.  Yet, it is the truth of God’s word that is significant and is to be cherished and believed, not man’s.  Christ’s purposeful and particular atonement is true no matter how we feel about it.  It would still be true if everyone ever born denied it.  Look to the scriptures.  Read and meditate on Exodus 12 and Leviticus 16.  The Passover and Annual Day of Atonement were efficacious only for those represented and who trusted God by faith.  Notice the particular and “narrow” language used in Isaiah 53. 

As to be expected, the New Testament is more clear and precise.  In Romans 3:21-25, Paul uses the word propitiation in the context of Christ’s death.  This word means to appease or to turn away God’s wrath.  Jesus is the propitiatory sacrifice.  He turned aside the wrath of God.  Now, did he turn aside the wrath of God for all or just the elect?  If all, then how and why does God punishes some in hell for eternity?  How could he justly pour out his wrath on those in hell if he had been propitiated?  Some would say it is because of unbelief.  Isn’t unbelief a sin?  Wouldn’t unbelief have been atoned for (according to their scheme)? 
The author of Hebrews in 9:25-28 says that Christ offered himself as a sacrifice and bore the sins of many.  Again, the language is limited.  Jesus, as the High Priest, bore the sins of his people, not every individual.  Verses could be multiplied, but the truth is evident for those humble enough to accept it.  One need only look at what the Bible really says; put away preconceived notions and presuppositions.  Also, look at the words that scripture uses to describe salvation.  Words such as: redemption, reconciliation, and propitiation.  Not all are redeemed or bought out of slavery.  Not all are reconciled to God, the enmity still exists.  Not all are adopted into God’s family.  Not all are united or joined to Christ.  Not all are sanctified by the Spirit.  Not all are born from above.  Not all are justified, but stand condemned.  Not all are cleansed, purged, converted, punished as children, convicted, assured, Spirit-indwelt, penitent, faithful, or called.  Not all hear his voice.  Not all are known by him.  Not all are sheep.  Most are goats or wolves masquerading as sheep.
The Westminster Divines expressed this doctrine rather diplomatically when they wrote, “The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself,... hath fully satisfied the justice of His Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given Him.” (VIII. V)

The next point can be referred to as efficacious grace.  The overarching thought is that all whom God elected and sent Christ to die for will be saved by the drawing and regenerating work of the Spirit.  It is the favor of God; a transforming; a raising the dead to life; causing one to be born again; a nature-changing, mind-altering, soul-satisfying, heart-transplanting, life-converting work of God.  The Spirit calls and awakens the sinner, who can do nothing else but answer.  All of the barriers are broken, sin is atoned, guilt is washed away, the conscience is cleansed, the affections are renewed, and the will has a new Master.  The spiritually blind and deaf now see and hear.  Those who at one time hated God are now reconciled.  The disobedient joyfully obey.  The prodigal has come home.  The sheep hear his voice and follow only the Great Shepherd.  The leper is declared clean. 
Paul says that God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began....”(2 Tim. 1:9) In 2 Corinthians 4:6 he said, “for God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  The reader may also refer to Ephesians 2:4-10; Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17; John 3:3-8; Colossians 1:13-14, 2:13; 1 Peter 1:3, 2:9; and Titus 3:5.
The Westminster Confession states,
All those whom God hast predestined unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of the state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace (X. I).

Monday, August 5, 2013

Is Satan A Calvinist? (part 2 of 10)

The second point is election.  Because of the depravity of our nature, natural man is inclined to evil.  Unless initiated by God and operated upon by his Spirit, natural man would never choose or seek after God and his salvation.  But, the good news is that God has chosen some out of every tribe, nation, and tongue to inherit eternal life.  This is the doctrine of election.  No one deserves salvation; all have merited hell and judgment.  However, because of his love for his glory and grace, God elected some to save while passing over the rest and leaving them to their just deserts.  Both his grace and justice are magnified.
Loraine Boettner wrote, “the Reformed Faith has held to the existence of an eternal, divine decree which, antecedently to any difference or desert in men themselves separates the human race into two portions and ordains one to everlasting life and the other to everlasting death.”[1] Again, the Confession is extremely helpful on this point.  It reads in part,
By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.  These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.  Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto: and all to the praise of Hid glorious grace. (III. III-V)
It is interesting to note that John Calvin in his Institutes does not handle the doctrine of election until the third book.  His name is synonymous for the doctrines of grace; it is called Calvinism.  However, as important as the doctrines are, there are others that must be explained before them, in Calvin’s mind anyway.  These are some of his thoughts on election,

We shall never be clearly persuaded, as we ought to be, that our salvation flows from the wellspring of God’s free mercy until we come to know his eternal election, which illumines God’s grace by this contrast: that he does not indiscriminately adopt all into the hope of salvation but gives to some what he denies to others.[2]

We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man.  For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others.  Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or to death.[3]

...God once established by his eternal and unchangeable plan those whom he long before determined once for all to receive into salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, he would devote to destruction.  We assert that, with respect to the elect, this plan was founded upon his freely given mercy, without regard to human worth; but by his just and irreprehensible but incomprehensible judgment he has
barred the door of life to those whom he has given over to damnation.[4]

All of this is well and good, but what saith the scriptures?  Both Testaments teach and reveal God’s sovereign election.  One only has to think of Jacob and Esau;  Israel being chosen out of all the nations on the earth; the call of Abraham; God choosing to save only Noah and his family; electing Jeremiah and ordaining him as a prophet before he was born; Elijah and Elisha being sent to non-Israelites when their own people were disregarded; the fact that no Egyptians were told of the Passover, deliverance was not ever offered to them.  God chose not to redeem any of the fallen angels.  We are also told of elect angels later in the New Testament which supposes that some were ordained to fall while others were kept from sinning.

The New Testament is very clear about election.  The basic teaching cannot be denied.  Opponents do, however, interpret it in such a way so as to explain it away.  Not too many are bold enough to deny it outright; they instead attempt to soften the blow by placing the decision in the will of man.  Election is said to be based on the foreknowledge of God.  That is, God looked through time, saw who would choose salvation, and then elected them based on that choice.  The scriptures are very different in that regard.  The decision is made by God before time and because of his decision to elect, those appointed to eternal life repent and believe in Jesus.
“And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).  Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 is just as clear.  It reads, “we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”  In 1 Thessalonians 5:9 Paul wrote, “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ....”  These are only two passages; there are many, many more.  Consult Romans 9 and Ephesians 1 for more clear, obvious, and solid teaching on election.

[1]Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1932), 83.
[2]Calvin, Institutes, 3.21.1.
[3]Ibid. 3.21.5.
[4]Ibid. 3.21.7.