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“You must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine… These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority…” (Titus 2:1-15 NIV)

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage —with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV)

Introduction

Today’s Christians have been exposed to a variety of different “revival” movements. From the “Jesus’ movement” in the 1960’s to the “Seeker” movement in more recent times. We’ve witnessed numerous things sincerely intended to kick-start a revival of Christian outreach. Much of this has been based on the theological assumption that there are countless people in the world seeking God but either not finding Him or churches are simply not getting the message out to them as they should. So, the Church’s job is to target these people with whatever it takes to get them into the Church.

The further theological assumption is that if we can get them in church, make friends with them and show them God’s love, they’ll be able to “make a decision” for Christ and be “saved.” Thus, the church’s program needs to be designed to “attract” seeking people to worship services that are tailored to be “user friendly,” “non-threatening” and “seeker sensitive.” Worship is focused on being more casual and informal with sermons that are as therapeutic as they are biblical. All of this is done to encourage persons into a position of “accepting Jesus.”

While its a recognized fact that there are many people actively seeking God; and while it’s the Church’s desire to tell them the “good news” of the gospel; we must assert that no one can be “saved” except by the blood of Christ’s sacrifice for sin.

A foundational issue is how do we view unsaved persons? Are they dead in their sins and trespasses, as Paul suggests in Ephesians 2:1, echoing the idea of total depravity? Or do they possess some inherent spiritual ability to seek after God despite their sin nature? And another thing! Who initiates and guides the individual to salvation? Does the human will cooperate with divine grace in the miraculous work of regeneration? Or is it God alone who calls us into His Kingdom to be among the elect? “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 7:21 NIV) Few would argue that many are seeking after God, even claiming to have faith, and yet they’re not, nor have they ever been, “saved.”

The predominant view among Christians today is that God gives sinners the ability to exercise a choice on the basis of sound information upon which they may be “saved.” This combination of inherent human faith and God’s gift of grace is sometimes called “synergism” implying that salvation is an act of both human will and divine grace. This view asserts that salvation is the result of faith rather than its cause.

But our historical forbearers said in the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith:

“This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature co-working with his special grace, the creature being soley passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit; he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead.” (ch. 10, sec. 2)

So, what do we really mean by the “Doctrine of Grace?” Is grace simply God’s part in our self-initiated seeking for salvation or is it the product of His exclusive and effectual call?

 

Election

The words elect and election, as used in the New Testament (NT), may be taken to actively denote God’s choice or to passively denote the privilege of being chosen by Him. The verb occurs 29 times in the NT. It would appear that God’s election of persons to salvation is His eternal and sovereign choice to be His adopted children (Eph. 1:4; Rom. 8:29), not because of any foreseen merit or obedience on their part (prevenient grace). Rather, faith and obedience are the result of God’s election, not the cause of it (1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Pet. 1:3; 2Tim. 1:9). Election has no other basis than the good pleasure of God. It is not conditional, it doesn’t rest on any foreseen act of faith that God happens to know before we do. Rather, faith is part of the blessing the elect have been chosen to receive (1 Pet. 1:1,2; Eph. 2:8-10; Phil. 1:29).

However, what Scripture calls “reprobation” also has its basis in the good pleasure of God ‘s will (Rom. 9:11-18). While election is the product of a purely sovereign God, taking no account of the person’s merit, reprobation is judicial and does take into account the guilt of the sinner.

The thought to remember is that God didn’t look down through the telescope of time and foresee that we would choose Him, then based on that view chose us in response. Rather, we must understand that “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” (2 Timothy 1:9 NIV).

The biblical notion of Total Depravity or Total Inability is important to note here because so many make their first mistake not giving sufficient importance to the sinful rebellion and spiritual separation of the human race from God that occurred at the fall of Adam (Original Sin). While some neglect it, others view it as some far away event that has little influence—if any—upon the lives of people living today. But unless we insist on the reality of our spiritual separation from God, and the totally disastrous effect that it’s had on the entire human race, we’ll never fully appreciate our dire condition and desperate need for a redeemer. Because of this inborn corruption, inherited from our parents Adam and Eve, we are totally unable to do anything spiritually good, including acknowledge Christ as Savior. In short, we were dead in our sin, and our will is enslaved to Satan. So, now again, we may ask; “Does my faith depend upon the salvation given by the Holy Spirit, or does salvation depend upon me and my faith?”

“There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God” Rom. 3:11. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jer. 17:9. So, according to Scripture, we may be certain any doctrine that teaches the human will cooperates with divine grace in the work of salvation, is at best unscriptural.

The subject of God’s Sovereignty is a matter of profound and humbling truth. The cause of anyone’s faith comes as a gift from God, we’re told. That is, the gracious sovereignty of God makes us able to believe. We must then ask; “Are we putting our trust in something we’ve done—whether it was to pray a prayer or seek God in church—or, are we saved because of the salvation Power of God’s Holy Spirit who resurrected us while we were dead in our sins and gave us life?

In the introduction to John Owen’s book, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, J. I. Packer states: “The saving power of the Cross does not depend on faith being added to it; its saving power is such that faith flows from it. The cross secured the full salvation of all for whom Christ died.

The cross saves! The wooing power of the Holy Spirit challenges our deadness through grace drawing us to Jesus Christ to a full acceptance of Him, and finalizing our salvation with Godly sorrow and true repentance and sincere (faith which is by Him [Christ] Acts 3:16)… who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification… For the preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the POWER OF GOD… But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; …that according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord;….that no flesh should glory in His presence.” (The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, J. I. Packer, Introductory Essay)

In a book of sermon quotations preached by Forrest L. Keener, Bethel Baptist Church, Lawton Oklahoma, pastor Keener defines the term “born again” as follows: [Gen. 6:5] “…And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. This may be one of Scriptures very best descriptions of human depravity. Notice also, in the Gospel of John 3:3, that passage of scripture that we are all quite familiar with: ‘Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ I want you to notice the word see. He does not say there, merely that he cannot enter. Certainly that is supposed. But the statement is more than that. He cannot see the kingdom of God. Now the word see there, does not simply mean to view it with our eyes, our optical abilities, but it means that he cannot perceive the kingdom of God. It is not something that is understandable or perceivable to a man, except he be born again. Having read these passages, I want to go to the book of Ephesians, chapter 2.

   “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in times past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” The condition of man’s soul necessitates his salvation. Man does not need to be saved unless he is lost. He does not need to be regenerated unless he is dead. The condition of his soul necessitates his salvation.” (Grace not Calvinism, Forrest L. Keener, p.31-32)

 

Summary

The Scriptures teach that God has a special, fully effectual, electing love for those whom He has predestined to salvation in Jesus Christ.[1] Jesus’ death was a vicarious, substitutionary death that literally secures the salvation for those whom it was intended.[2] The Holy Spirit’s conviction of the soul is only given to those who are actually called to faith. At the time of this conviction, the person is re-created (regenerated, born again), faith is given and the person is effectively called to rest that faith in Christ.[3]

This teaching of salvation has been the theology of the Church since its inception, beginning with the Apostles as the noted passages from show. It has become an unpopular thing today because it takes salvation out of the hands of people and places it where it belongs; in the hands of God. Salvation is of the Lord! We will let the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon, have the last word on this: “If anything is hated bitterly, it is the out-and-out gospel of the grace of God, especially if that hateful word “sovereignty” is mentioned with it. Dare to say “He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion” (Romans 9:15), and furious critics will revile you without stint.

The modern religionist not only hates the doctrine of sovereign grace, but he raves and rages at the mention of it. He would sooner hear you blaspheme than preach election by the Father, atonement by the Son, or regeneration by the Spirit.

If you want to see a man worked up till the Satanic is clearly uppermost, let some of the new divines hear you preach a free grace sermon. A gospel which is ‘after men’ will be welcomed by men; but it needs divine operation upon the heart and mind to make a man willing to receive into his in most soul this ‘distasteful gospel of the grace of God’. My dear brethren, do not try to make it tasteful to carnal minds.

Hide not the offence of the cross, lest you make it of none effect. The angles and corners of the gospel are its strength — to pare them off is to deprive it of power. Toning down is not the increase of strength, but the death of it.

Learn, then, that if you take Christ out of Christianity, Christianity is dead. If you remove grace out of the gospel, the gospel is gone. If the people do not like the doctrine of grace, give them all the more of it. (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1891, p.49)

I preach the doctrines of grace because I believe them to be true; because I see them in the Scriptures; because my experience endears them to me; and because I see the holy result of them in believers.   The doctrine which I preach to you is that of the Puritans: it is the doctrine of Calvin, the doctrine of Augustine, the doctrine of Paul, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The Author and Finisher of our faith himself taught the most blessed truth which well agreed with our text – “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Eph 2:8

 

[1] See Matt 25:34; Jh 17:24; Rom 11:5, 6; Eph 1:4-6; 2Thess 2:13, 14; 1Pet 1:2; 2:9.

[2] See Matt 1:21; 20:28;  Jh 10:11, 24-29 17:1-11, 20, 24-26; Acts 20:28; Eph 5:25-27; Rom 8:32-34; Heb 9:15.

[3] See Ps 110:3; Matt 11:25-27; 13:10, 11, 16; 16:15-17; Mk 4:10-12;  Jh 6:37, 44, 45, 64, 65; Acts 11:18; 13:48; 16:14; 18:27; Rom 8:29, 30; Eph 2:1-10; Phil 1:29; 2Tim 2:25, 26.