Calvinism and Arminianism 16

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).

The Gospel must be understood in light of God’s supreme purpose in creating the world. The supreme purpose of God is Himself and His own glory, and when one views the Gospel in that light it changes everything. God lives in eternal, infinite, and unbroken love within the Trinity. The Father created the World through the Son and He created the world for the Son. The world, to borrow a phrase, is the theater of the glory of God. The world, however, does not add to the glory of God, but instead it manifests and shines forth the glory of God. The Lord Jesus is said to be the very shining forth of the glory of God (Hebrews 1:3) and so we see how the world was created through the Son, but also see how it is that the world was created for the Son. The world was created as a way for the glory of God to shine out in Christ and for the beauty and glory of God to be put on display. However, the glory of God was to be put on display for God primarily. The Father loves the Son and beholds His own glory and the glory of the Son simultaneously, which is to say that the Father beholds Himself in the Son. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just that God thought so highly of sinners that He sent the Son, but instead the Father loved the Son and the Son loved the Father and so they created the world and have a Gospel as a way to behold and love themselves in the Trinity.

The Gospel that the Reformers recovered and declared was a Gospel that was to the glory of God alone. The Gospel that Arminius and the Remonstrants countered with, and indeed the modern Arminians have went farther than Arminius did, was not to the glory of God alone but instead allowed for man to have enough freedom (in theory) that man would share in that glory. The Gospel of God and the Gospel of the grace of God that thundered forth in the Reformation is not the same as that put out by Arminians in the present day. The older Gospel is by a “free, unconditional,” and “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.”

In this we see the triune nature of God and how salvation manifests His glory. This “free, unconditional,” and “invincible grace is God being motivated within Himself and for His own glory to save sinners quite apart from anything they have done or can do. This grace justifies sinners for the sake of Christ and not for the sake of the faith that the sinner comes up with, but instead the grace that God gives sinners is to quicken them by His Spirit in order to give them Christ and faith. This is the display of triune glory and the triune God beholds this glory that was from Him, and through Him, and to Him and He is pleased.

We must begin to repent of our graciousness and winsomeness and realize that those things can get in the way of grace. We must begin to see the seriousness of trying hard to be ecumenical and seeking a unity that is opposite of the Gospel of grace alone. It is not that God is glorified by our efforts to have unity because that is nothing but our own efforts at trying to get alone. The true nature of the glory of God is that it must come from God first and He will not share His glory with another. The Gospel of grace alone that is truly alone is a Gospel of the glory of God alone because it comes from God alone. It is a glory that shines forth from Him, comes in and through Christ, is applied by His Spirit, and then what His people do is done out of a love for Him that originated with Him. The “gospel” that depends on a “free-will” originates with man and is not from God and as such is not for His glory in the biblical sense. A gospel that depends on a human will is not the Gospel that depends on God alone. The gospel that does not depend on God alone is not the Gospel of the glory of God alone. “Free-will”, then, is not consistent with and in fact opposes the Gospel of grace alone to the glory of God alone.

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