Calvinism and Arminianism 13

One of the greatest differences between the evangelical Calvinists and those they deride as “Hyper-calvinists,” is the evangelical Calvinists believe Arminians and Pelagians are otherwise sound “Christians,” and refer to them as their brothers and sisters. The Hyper-calvinists believe that as long as one is unconverted from his natural freewill state by the operation of the Spirit of God, and converted to the free grace of God by the Gospel of the grace of God, there is insufficient evidence to consider such as a “Christian,” or a “brother or sister.” This is not to say that they consign them to hell–that is not their desire, for by their own experience they understand that before that gracious divine call out of darkness, they, too, were “vessels of wrath even as others.” Arminians and Pelagians are as much in need for the gospel as any “heathen” or pagan. Calvinists would do well to “evangelize” their Arminian or Pelagian “brothers and sisters.”

To the Reformers, the crucial question was not simply, whether God justifies believers without works of Law. It was the broader question, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ’s sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith. Here was the crucial issue; whether God is the author, not merely of justification, but also of faith; whether, in the last analysis, Christianity is a religion of utter reliance on God for salvation and all things necessary to it, or of self-reliance and self-effort. ‘Justification by faith only’ is a truth that needs interpretation. The principle of sola fide is not rightly understood till it is seen as anchored in the broader principle of sola gratia (Johnson & Packer’s intro to Luther’s Bondage of the Will).

Here is the crux of the issue in many ways, perhaps in the most important ways. The primary goal of God in justifying sinners is not so that sinners would be saved, but so that the glory of His grace would be manifested. As noted in the quote just above, it was a crucial issue with the Reformers whether God is the author of the faith of the sinner or is the sinner the author of his or her own faith. Sinners were not thought to be saved by faith alone so as to give them a way to be saved by an act of their own wills, but instead justification by faith alone was asserted and declared in order that sinners could see that they were saved by grace alone to the glory of God alone.
The point of the Gospel is not just to set out a way for sinners to be saved, but it is a way for God to exalt and glorify His own name and manifest the sovereignty and beauty of His grace. One is not justified by faith alone when one believes that the creed teaches that one should believe that, nor is one saved because one believes that the Bible teaches that. One is only justified by (through) faith alone when one has the mighty work of God in his or her soul and that person has a God-wrought faith in the soul. In this case, then, we behold the glory of God and His grace in saving sinners by grace alone. Sinners are saved by faith in order that it may be by grace (Rom 4:16). It is not that they have to come up or can come up with faith on their own, but justification is by faith so that it can be by grace and grace alone. The real and true nature of faith is not just a belief in something nor is it an act of the free-will, but instead it is what God alone can work in the soul by unity with Christ.
While it may appear that justification by faith is simply opposed to a person working his or her way to salvation, it is opposed to any and all works. Somehow and someway we must seek the Lord to give us a view of His sovereign grace and the beauty of the glory of His grace. Someway we must being to view all things in light of who God is and His purposes for all things rather than viewing things through the lenses of human-centeredness and the purposes of self. Behold the glory and beauty of God’s centeredness upon Himself from Ephesians 1:

5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight
10 In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 …having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

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