In SOTERIOLOGY we study salvation. In this post I’m going to examine the opening thoughts of one man’s teaching on this subject in opposition to a free will approach to salvation. He is teaching from a predestined understanding. And you by your comments and questions will determine where we go from here. I will do what I normally do by looking at statements and then questioning or commenting on them. In this post I’m just dealing with the first two paragraphs of his recent post. At this point I couldn’t get past his opening questions.
“The ‘million dollar question’ before us is – Is salvation the work of God alone or is it the work of man cooperating with God?”
Let me start by saying that this in my opinion is not the main question for believers, it is not even a valid question for a true believer to ponder; because unless we are not believers and are involved in liberal teachings this question should not be for us. The fact is our work has nothing to do with salvation, and shouldn’t in either system of theology, which in this case would be Calvinist vs Armenian. The issue is always God’s provision by His grace and through our believing in that provision, as it is stated in the Gospel. Even if we are predestined we must have belief.
The difference in thinking is not in our being worthy of salvation, because coming to Christ is not based upon our being worthy. For we are not. We are disobedient sinners coming to Christ because of that fact. The difference in the two theologies is presented once we are in Christ. It is after coming to Christ that we are faced with the question — do our actions based on our belief in Scripture have anything to do with our remaining in Him?
The difference is that with a complete belief in predestination a man no matter how he lives can do nothing to remove himself from his current state if chosen to — salvation. Thus when Jesus said “abide in me” and if you don’t you will be cut off as a branch to be cast into the fire; this was Jesus speaking to someone who was never saved in the first place. Being in Him gets lost from the conversation. How this happens is by giving some teachings of Jesus more weight than others. To the Armenian’s understanding, I would think that It is not a matter of one working for Salvation; it is a matter of ones use of this gift of our new birth to follow God’s directive to abide in Christ. And if we take for granted this great salvation as Paul said we then are living dangerously.
The writer goes on:
“Is salvation bestowed by God’s grace alone or does man merit it?”
To that I would answer that God’s grace alone purchased our salvation, I do not think that merit is the proper term for what the Armenian believes. It would be easer to believe that Calvinists would fall into this trap, based on their over emphasis on our being chosen. To me passing the test that James speaks of, and walking the straight and narrow that Jesus speaks of is determined by not yielding up this gift to anyone, though many may try to rob it from us.
So, to me this is not the proper question to ask the Armenian. For both sides know and teach that man cannot earn what Jesus paid for with a Great price, in order that we might hear and believe or hear and not believe.
The question he asks about merit means that the Armenian is doing everything he can to earn heaven on his own. But is one earning heaven by being obedient to to what he believes God has requested in His Word?
Jesus is the only perfect Lamb of God who presented to God, His very life as an acceptable sacrifice for our sin. The writer continues:
“Is man’s will in bondage or does he have a ‘freewill’?”
There are other good questions about this: When man is in bondage to his sin does he desire a way out? Does he like the struggle that goes on within him because his conscience is not yet seared? Does he have a conscience? Does God gift all men with a conscience? The answer is that, yes he is in bondage, and that his free will struggles against his God given conscience, which provides his ability to understand right from wrong. He has eaten in Adam of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
“Did Christ save His people or only make everyone savable?”
Again a better question: Did Christ die for the sins of the whole world, or only for those who have been chosen? In fact it was some of the chosen of Israel who were cut off (Romans 11). They were branches in the tree before being cut off. “He came unto His own and His own received Him not”. The writer continues in the next paragraph:
“Church history is highlighted by confrontations on this doctrine. Those who preach that salvation involves man’s freewill and works have ever opposed those who preach that salvation is by God’s grace alone.”
Yes, I’m sure this has been the case. Although I would say it differently. I would replace “works” with obedience. Because obedience demands a choice, and choice requires free will. It is necessary in God’s creation that in order for man to exercise free will that he have a choice. If man has no choice then he has no free will. Adam was given a choice. That choice was communicated to Eve. Think of it. Man has always had the opportunity to choose God’s instructions over Satan’s temptation. This was true even in the garden. When the serpent stood with Eve in the garden something happened that is not fully explained. Listen:
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
“When the woman saw” — what did the woman see? She saw several things. One of them: “that the Tree was good for food”. How did she see this? The serpent told her but she also saw? He must have taken the fruit in his hand; then possibly took a bite but did not die. God had said “in the day you eat of it you shall surely die”. And thus man was given his first free will choice. Believe God for who He is without having all the answers and understanding, or believe Satan and your eyes which gives an appearance and sounds good, but ultimately will deceive you. The writer goes on:
“This opposition has come from Pharisees and Judaism (1st century)” He of course goes on to include the Armenian from the 17th century onward. These are those in opposition to predestination or no choice in our choosing God over self and evil, as he sees it. So God has directed this opposition according to predestination. But to be grouped with the Pharisee as the enemy of the cross is quite a stretch. His inclusion is misleading as there is really no comparison between Pharisees not believing in Jesus and those of the Armenian free will persuasion who not only believe in, but follow Jesus, yes with the help of God — not alone. Works to earn salvation may be the path of the liberal who is closely aligned with the Pharisee in that requard, but most free will faith believers recognize that belief in Jesus the lamb of God is the only way to salvation. I said most because just like the predestined chosen— some fall away.
Now if everything is predestined as Michael says, why do Armenians who believe in Jesus and preach the gospel — the good news of what Jesus did in order to purchase their Salvation still preach this free will stuff? Apparently they must be predestined to do this, so why is Michael so concerned? Oh, I forgot he is also predestined to be concerned and do what he does, and Eve was predestined to sin. None of this has anything to do with man believing something anything according to Michael. So is God then responsible for our sin that He intends to send man to hell over. God forbid that we believe that. Does God intervene in order to accomplish his purposes? — Yes. Does He use even evil for our good? — Yes. Will He one day change us so that our will is in total agreement with His will? I believe so, but this act I do not believe will be in opposition to our wanting it to be so. When you leave the city of Sodom do not look back. Remember Lots wife.
This post is inspired by the article:
WHY DO I LOVE THE TULIP?
BECAUSE TO ME THE ‘TULIP’ IS AN ACRONYM WHICH SETS FORTH MY POSITION IN SOTERIOLOGY
By Michael Jeshurun