Not So Random Thoughts 55

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

“God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another—God alone. As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself, and so is not humbled before God; but plans out for himself (or at least hopes and longs for) a position, an occasion, a work, which shall bring him final salvation. But he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation. (Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will)

When Jonathan Edwards was ministering in the 1700’s he taught people that they needed to seek the Lord for a new heart in order to believe. He taught the people that they had proud hearts as their nature and that those proud hearts needed to be humbled and broken in order to have a true faith. He taught them that God must humble their hearts and that God must humble them and that faith was a gift of God. When the people heard that Arminianism was spreading in neighboring communities, they were alarmed as they thought that was a sign that the day of salvation was leaving as God was turning the area over to false teaching. In past times Arminian theology was seen as dangerous and as opposed to the true working of God who worked all by His grace alone.

The Arminianism that the people were afraid of in the days of Edwards was perhaps stronger theology than the Pelagianism in our day that passes as Arminianism. In order to be clearer, I am using the term “Arminianism’ as standing for those who assert free-will as a theology or in a practical sense. The issue, then, is over the freeness of God in showing grace or the freeness of man in asserting his own will and choices. To put it another way, is grace in the freeness of God to show as He pleases or has God put grace in the hands of man’s will to dispense it to himself as man pleases? When people understand that God shows grace as He pleases and that anything that man can contribute is really opposed to true grace, then we can understand why the people in Edwards’ day were alarmed. Perhaps we should also understand why we should be alarmed.

The glorious Gospel of the free-grace of God in Christ Jesus is not consistent with the teaching of free-will. The previous sentence is actually quite weak. It is more accurate to say that the Gospel of the free-grace of God in Christ Jesus is directly contradictory to the teaching of free-will. Grace is either contingent upon the character and pleasure of God or it is contingent upon the free-will of man. What men must come to see (according to Luther in the quote at the top) is that until man is humbled and broken and despairs of any hope from himself that man will not look to Christ alone. Men will look to Christ for some help, and perhaps for a lot of help. But until men despair of all help from themselves they will not look to Christ alone. Men will either look to their own will to participate or they will look to Christ alone. Men will look to their own will for faith or they will look to Christ for faith. The teaching of free-will is not just a little error; it strikes at the very heart of the Gospel.

In our day it is extremely, extremely rare to find anyone who thinks that free-will is a dangerous teaching. This is a sign that God has turned us over in our day to our own imaginations. It is extremely rare for men to teach on the inability of men and to strive with them over their need to be humbled and broken before they will be able to believe. Faith in Christ cannot come from a proud and self-reliant heart. This is to say once again that the teaching of free-will is extremely dangerous. When we see Arminianism and practical Arminianism among the Reformed in creed what we are seeing is the judgment of God. False prophets seem to be on every corner and they are wreaking havoc with the truth of the Gospel. On judgment day there will be many who will trust in their own will and the works that came from that will. How they will cry out about the preaching they have done. How they will cry out of how they did it in the name of Christ. But the Lord Jesus will still say to them, “’I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”

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