Calvinism and Arminianism 24

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.”

So it is not irreligious, idle, or superfluous, but in the highest degree wholesome and necessary, for a Christian to know whether of not his will has anything to do in matters pertaining to salvation. Indeed, let me tell you, this is the hinge on which our discussion turns, the crucial issue between us; our aim is, simply, to investigate what ability ‘free-will’ has, in what respect it is the subject of Divine action and how it stands related to the grace of God. If we know nothing of these things, we shall know nothing whatsoever of Christianity, and shall be in worse case than any people on earth…That God’s mercy works everything, and our will works nothing, but is rather the object of Divine working, else all will not be ascribed to God. (Luther’s Reply to Erasmus)

It is impossible to get around the thought of Luther as to how vital the doctrine of man’s inability and bondage was to him and his formulation of justification by faith alone. One simply has to conclude that Luther was incorrect or that our squeamishness about preaching and teaching on the inability of man was wrong. Corresponding to that, we would also have to conclude that Luther’s formulation of justification by faith alone was wrong as well. But if we arrive at those conclusions, it has major ramifications for the modern day. If Luther was indeed wrong, then the heart of the Reformation was wrong. But if Luther was right, we have deviated from his teaching so much that we would be condemned by him for virtually returning to Rome. But again, to repeat the point that has been stated in multiple recent BLOGS, Luther said that “if we know nothing of these things, we shall know nothing whatsoever of Christianity.” This should resound in our ears. Even more, however, Luther said that if we know nothing of these things we “shall be in worse case than any people on earth.” This should get our attention.

Are we truly missing the vital point or the crucial issue of the Gospel in our day? Are those who stress the inability of man and teach others that as an important part of understanding the Gospel of grace alone right instead of being Hyper-Calvinists? Could it be possible that the teachings and doctrines of Arminianism in our day should not be embraced as a version of Christianity but instead viewed as a deadly error? These are serious, serious issues and they should be viewed as if the weight of eternity rested upon them (in a sense).

While the teaching of the inability of man is seen as unimportant in evangelism today, it was vital to Luther and his views of the Gospel of grace alone. Luther thought it was vital to investigate what ability “free-will” had and how it was related to the Divine action and the grace of God. We must discover that once again if we are going to understand the Gospel as taught by Luther and the Gospel that swept through Europe and other parts of the world as well. It was that Gospel that change hearts, the Church, nations, and perhaps the world in that day. It was either the eternal Gospel of Jesus Christ or it was not. Does God’s mercy work everything and our will work nothing as Luther said? Is our will the object of the Divine working or does God respond to our “free-will” as Luther taught? If our answer is less than it is the Divine working that does all, then all cannot be ascribed to God alone.

Luther took great pains in his life, writings, and preaching to protect and stress the sovereign grace of God because that is the only kind of grace there is. Sinners are saved by sovereign grace and that grace alone and we must fight and do all we do to protect the Gospel of grace alone because it alone declares this sovereign grace. Luther was like Paul when he said “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). The Gospel that is not of grace alone is not the Gospel of the grace of Christ and is a different gospel. If we preach, teach, and evangelize with a Gospel that is not by grace alone we have a different gospel. We have to wake up to this.

The Church needs a true reformation and revival in our day as well. It needs to be rescued and delivered from the Pelagian/Arminian teaching of “free-will” as badly as the Church needed to be rescued from Rome in Luther’s day. Unless God is pleased to open our eyes and hearts to the vital issue of the will and how it relates to the Gospel of grace alone, we will plod along arguing about our Confessions, the sacraments, and other things, but we will have no power and no light. We will continue to have many who are Reformed in word and creed but Pelagian in heart and practice. We will have many who will continue to espouse sovereignty in teaching but refuse it in practice. That is what we will have until people are awakened to what they give up when they accept “free-will” as anything other than dangerous to the Gospel of grace alone.

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