1 Corinthians 15 and the Claims of Calvinism

Calvinism as a system claims that God reprobated a large segment of mankind so that they can never be saved. [1] It further claims that the atonement is for this reason limited only to the elect who alone will benefit from the atonement and be saved (with no possibility of falling away).  In such a system Jesus died only for the sins of the elect.  If this is the case it seems that many passages of Scripture are disingenuous in commanding all people everywhere to repent and believe on Christ when repentance is impossible for reprobates and Christ did not die for them anyway (For more on that see here).

If Calvinism is to be consistent in these claims it cannot allow for a person to rightly tell someone that Christ died for them.  The best one can do is say that if they repent and believe, Christ died for them [2] or that Christ died for sinners (meaning “some sinners” but not necessarily the sinner they are presently speaking to) or that Christ might have died for them, or something similar [3].  Therefore, consistent Calvinists say it is wrong to tell the unsaved that Christ died for them [4].  This may seem shocking enough to most Christians, but Calvinists today are often claiming further that the Bible never gives us an example of anyone telling unbelievers that Christ died for them.  It is with this claim in mind that we turn to our text:

 1CO 15:1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,

1CO 15:2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

1CO 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

1CO 15:4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (NASB, emphasis mine)

Paul is recounting to the Corinthians the content of the gospel message as Paul first preached it to them.  The need for this reminder is made clearer later in the chapter where we discover that some are denying the resurrection and by extension are denying the gospel that Paul preached.  Paul makes it clear that the message as he describes it here is the message he first brought to them “of first importance”.  This gospel message includes three main components.  The first is that “Christ died for our sins” followed by the fact that Christ was buried and then rose again on the third day, all of which happened “according to the Scriptures”.  This is the specific content of the gospel message as Paul first delivered it to these Corinthians.  They “received” this gospel by faith and are currently standing on these truths delivered to them by Paul when he first preached this specific gospel message to them.

We can draw several conclusions from what Paul says to the Corinthians in this passage.  The one that most concerns us at present is that the initial message of the gospel to the Corinthians prior to their receiving (by faith) the message Paul preached is that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures”.  The rest of the gospel message about the resurrection reinforces this central truth.  We know this because Paul later explains to them that if Christ is not raised then their faith is worthless and they are “still in [their] sins” as a result.  Therefore, the central message of the gospel, according to Paul, is that “Christ died for our sins”.  The resurrection is no less important in that it gives ultimate verification to the primary message of the gospel, Christ’s death for the forgiveness of sins.

But does Paul say that Christ died only for the sins of the elect?  To the contrary, Paul’s initial message to these unsaved Corinthians was that “Christ died for our sins.”  The natural way to understand Paul’s language here is that Christ died not only for Paul’s sins, but for all of their sins as well.  This is the message they needed to receive in order to be saved.  In accepting the truth by faith that Christ died for their sins, they received the forgiveness that results from Christ’s death to all that believe.  So here we have a clear example of the gospel message being preached to unbelievers and the central message of that gospel being not that Christ died for the elect, or that Christ died for sinners (meaning “some” sinners), but that Christ died for “our” (everyone’s) sins.  This is, according to Paul’s own words, the content of the gospel message delivered to them “as first importance.”  Paul is now admonishing them to remember that message that they received (that Christ died for them) and to continue to stand on that message, less their faith prove to be “in vain”.  But if it is unclear whether Christ died for them, how then can they be called on to stand firm on that truth?

Suppose we take Paul’s words to mean Christ died for “our” (the elect’s) sins [5].  That would be a most unnatural way to read the text.  Beyond that, it is hard to imagine how they would appropriate that message.  Is it by believing that Christ died for the elect alone that they are saved?  Surely not.  They could believe that Christ died for Paul and others that at least appeared to be elect (see note #3 below) without believing that Christ died for them in particular.  Indeed, according to Calvinism there is no way to know if Christ died for us until we repent and believe (and even then we cannot know for sure that Christ died for our sins until we persevere to the end [death or Christ’s return] in faith, see note #4 below).

But believe what?  According to Paul it is that Christ died for our sins.  That is the preeminent message of the gospel and it is a message that is grossly at odds with the claims of Calvinism [6].  We can’t trust Christ to save us if Christ did not die for our sins [7].  We can only trust that Christ might have died for us, though the odds are against it (see note #1 below)

We will now take a moment to examine the first part of Paul’s message as it has further relevance for Calvinism in that it seems to plainly contradict the Calvinist doctrine of inevitable perseverance:

1CO 15:1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,

1CO 15:2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.  (NASB, emphasis mine)

In verse one Paul makes it clear that he is addressing those who received his initial gospel message that Christ died for their sins and was buried and raised again.  Not only did they receive this message, but they are presently standing on that message and as a result will be finally saved, with one important qualifier: they must continue to hold on to that truth in the faith that they initially received that truth in.  In other words, if they turn from the truth of that initial message that they received and deny the resurrection, they would in turn be denying the very truth that will ultimately save them.  In such a case their initial faith in the death and resurrection of Christ will prove to have been in vain, since it did not continue.

This is problematic for Calvinism in two important ways.  First, Calvinism asserts that true faith will always endure because God will preserve that faith and cause the believer to persevere in that faith Himself.  So if one receives the truth of the gospel and stands on that truth he will certainly continue to stand on that truth to the end.  If one does not continue he never really stood on that truth to begin with and never truly received that truth to begin with.  But this is at odds with the way Paul speaks of the matter.  Paul does not doubt they received the message; nor does Paul doubt their present commitment to the message.  Paul only questions whether they will continue in that message or turn aside to deny the resurrection, an indispensable part of the message initially received.

If Paul believed that those who fall away never believed in the first place we would expect him to end with “unless (otherwise) you never really believed to begin with” or something similar.  But instead Paul simply points to the fact that in abandoning the faith one will not attain to the object and hope of that faith once exercised since he has turned away from the very message that will ultimately save him.  Therefore, their faith, while it truly existed for a time, will prove to be “in vain” since it does not continue to the point of fully receiving the promise of the gospel- final salvation.

We see similar language in Romans 11:16-24.  After describing election in the context of the ancient olive tree (which represents God’s covenant people beginning with their identity with the patriarchs and ending with their identity with Christ, the final and supreme Head of the covenant), Paul goes on to warn the Gentiles who have entered the new covenant through faith in Christ and have been grafted into the people of God as a result, that they must be careful not to be arrogant over the Jews who have been broken off from the olive tree as a result of their rejection of Christ, the final and supreme Head of the covenant.  The problem for Calvinism is that Paul describes these Gentiles as believers who have been grafted into God’s chosen people and who are presently standing by faith.  There can therefore be no doubt that Paul is speaking to saved individuals who are presently enjoying the blessing of the new covenant through faith union with Christ.  The specific language makes this indisputable,

Ro 11:17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,

Ro 11:18 do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.

Ro 11:19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.”

Ro 11:20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.

Ro 11:21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

Ro 11:22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.

Just as in 1 Corinthians 15 we find Paul telling those that he describes as presently saved and enjoying the benefits of salvation that they can yet be “broken off” from the people of God and the salvation that belongs to them alone if they do not “continue” in God’s kindness through faith.  Again, if the Calvinist accounting of perseverance were true, we would expect to find Paul telling them that they would have never been in the olive tree and have never believed in the first place.  However, Paul says exactly the opposite; describing them as true believers who can be broken off from a tree they are presently attached to, enjoying all the benefits of God’s elect people in Christ Jesus. [8]

Conclusion:  We have found that Calvinist claims about limited atonement and inevitable perseverance are severely challenged by the language of 1 Corinthians 15.  We have also found that the Calvinist claim that it is unscriptural to tell sinners that Christ died for their sins is inaccurate, as we have Biblical precedent in Paul’s initial gospel proclamation to the Corinthians that “Christ died for our sins.”  We have also examined a few possible counter arguments and found them to be severely problematic given the context and specific language employed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15.

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[1] If Jesus is correct that “few” in contrast to “many” enter through the narrow gate unto salvation (and I assume Calvinists would agree that He is correct), then we must conclude that God has reprobated the vast majority of humanity “for His glory” (Matthew 7:13, 14).  Somehow, it would then seem that reprobation must bring God more glory than election unto salvation.  It should also be noted that when I speak of God reprobating people, it could be conceived as a direct action of God or as a more indirect action, as in “passing over” the many that will as a result be left reprobate.  I agree with Wesley and many others that this amounts to a distinction without a difference, or as John Wesley notes after carefully dissecting the claims that passing over is very different and less offensive than direct reprobation, it is “the self same thing.” (See Wesley’s famous sermons, Predestination Calmly Considered and On Predestination).

[2] This would probably seem to most to be the inverse of what the Bible claims and what we should tell unbelievers about the Gospel- that because Christ died for them, they should repent and believe.  Peter actually says exactly that in his second sermon in the book of Acts (For a more detailed study of that passage see here).

[3] In such a scheme Calvinist parents can have no real assurance that Christ died for any of their children or that God even loves their children in a saving way (God may instead “hate” them in reprobation as He did Esau).  Nor can a Calvinist parent tell their children that Christ died for them or that God loves them in any meaningful way.  Calvinist Erwin Lutzer tries to claim that Calvinists can have strong assurance that their children are elect, but that claim is easily refuted given the fundamental premises of Calvinism (for more on that see here).

[4] But really it is unclear how a Calvinist could even tell someone who appears to be a saved believer that Christ died for them as they may yet fall away and, by Calvinist assumptions, prove that they were never saved or elect to begin with.  Calvinism severely undercuts Biblical assurance in many ways (for more on that see here).

[5] Another possible Calvinist explanation would be to claim that Paul was speaking of them as they presently were in saying that Christ died for “our sins” since upon their believing Paul could now say that Christ had in fact died for them.  But this would be an extremely awkward way to understand the text since Paul is recounting his initial message to them and admonishing them to continue to believe it as they first received it.  Not only that, but as noted above, even if they appeared to believe, Paul could not say with confidence, according to Calvinism, that Christ died for them until they demonstrated their faith was genuine and saving by persevering to the end.  But isn’t it true that even in Arminianism many might not have genuine saving faith?  Indeed it is, but that would not change the fact that Christ died for them since in Arminianism Christ died for all, even those who will never believe.  So Arminianism would still be fully in harmony with Paul’s gospel message.

[6] Again, we find the same basic gospel message in Peter’s second sermon recorded in Acts 3.  For details concerning that message see my post, Provisional Atonement Part 3: The Integrity and Justice of God in the Gospel Offer.  But even if the Bible nowhere showed anyone preaching the message that “Christ died for your sins” it is everywhere implied, especially in those passages which command all to repent and believe on the message on the basis of Christ’s death along with those passages which use universal language in describing the extent of the atonement, of God’s love or desire for all to be saved.  There are many things that believers speak about in ways that the Bible never directly does.  For example, the Bible nowhere describes the Trinity as we often explain it to those who have questions about the Trinity (as God in three persons, or One eternal Being existing in three persons, etc.).  However, we can confidently say such things based on what the Bible does say, even if the Bible does not use that specific language.

Furthermore, the Bible only records a few accounts of the gospel message being preached to sinners and we should not assume that there were not many other ways the message was articulated in the hundreds or thousands of other times the gospel was preached to unbelievers.  And thankfully, we have in 1 Cor. 15 clear evidence that Paul indeed preached to unbelievers that Christ died for their sins (since, in that context, “ours” naturally includes “yours” as well as “mine”).

[7] A Calvinist could possibly answer this by pointing out that in Calvinism God must cause us to have faith irresistibly and would only cause those that Christ died for to believe that Christ died for them.  But this still does not address the resulting disingenuous nature of the offer of salvation throughout Scripture or the specific language that Paul used in presenting the gospel message to the Corinthians as recounted in 1 Corinthians 15; neither does it address the difficulty inherent in the fact that only a faith which perseveres to the end can be considered genuine in Calvinism (see note #4 above).  There again, the Calvinist has no solid grounds for believing that Christ died for them at all since he may yet fall away and prove that his faith was not genuine after all and that Christ did not die for him, though he thought he did.  Only the Arminian view allows for us to accept the straightforward language in Scripture concerning the gospel offer and the nature of the gospel to be received, that Christ died for all and there is therefore forgiveness of sins available for all (Acts 3:19-26).

[8] We should further point out that if Paul’s warning to these believers can never attain or actually happen since God will inevitably preserve them in the faith, then it is nonsense for Paul to tell them to “be afraid” lest they are broken off as a result of not continuing in the faith.  Paul speaks to them as true believers joined to God’s elect people and for that reason, according to Calvinism, they have nothing to fear since it is impossible for true believers to fall away. Everything in Paul’s language points us towards the real possibility of apostasy and away from the Calvinist doctrine of inevitable perseverance.  For a detailed study of several Scriptures which contradict the Calvinist doctrine of inevitable perseverance, see my series here.

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13 Responses

  1. Absolutely magnificent. That argument from 1 Cor. 15 has really reinforced my opinion that we can say “Christ died for you.” And if we can say that, we can also say “God loves you” since the cross stands as the ultimate expression of God’s love (Rom. 5:8).

  2. I believe you have the reformed, or as you call it Calvanist view totally incorrect. We can, in fact tell people Christ died for you. Christ’s death was sufficient to pay the price for everyones sin. Therefore we can tell all Chrst died to pay the price for your sin. However Paul tells us the natural man cannot understand spiritual things, nor can he. It is impossible because he does not have the Spirit of God, he has not been born from above. Jesus tells Nicadimas, you must be born again. Of course this confusses Nicadimas, and he ask, ” am I to go back into my mothers womb?” Having said this I will ask you how are you born again? Notice the question closely. The question is not how do you born yourself agian, Because you cannot possibly born yourself. Think of it in this way, what decisions did you make in your physical birth. Did you decide, your birthdate , where you were born, or to whom you would be born? No you did not, and it is the same wtih those born of the Spirit. In Eph. chapter 1 Paul tells us that it took a mighty power from God to raise Christ from the dead. In chapter 2 he tells us as for you, you were dead in trespasses and sins, and God has raised you up with Christ. In other words, the same mighty power that it took to raise Christ from physical death is the same power it took to raise us from spiritual death. Therefore it is truly a miracle, when someone recieves salvation. However it is not miraculous if salvation is our own doings. The next point I would like to address is, God does not reprobate any one, rather we have reprobated ourself. We chose to reject God, however God would not allow our choice to ruin His creation, rather He chose to act to save it. One last point. I cannot see how, in your positon, you can say God has anything to do with bringing us to salvation. In other words it seems to me you are saying God only makes salvation possible, He does not exactly save anyone. If you say He does bring us to salvation, then what of those that are not saved? Does He attempt to bring all to salvation and fail?

  3. “It seems that many passages of Scripture are disingenuous in commanding all people everywhere to repent and believe on Christ when repentance is impossible for reprobates”

    Is scripture equally “disingenuous” in commanding all people everywhere to “be perfect” and to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength all the time? I’m pretty sure no man born of a human father has ever managed to keep those commands, so if they are “impossible” to obey then I suppose you would have to stand with the pagans in concluding that a righteous God would never make such demands in the first place.

    Rom8:32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.

    Gal3:13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

    If Jesus were given up for the unbelievers, how will God not give them all things, including justification? If He became a curse for them, how could a righteous Judge declare them “cursed” and demand that they depart?

    You continually offer “good news” to the pagan, but nothing it seems that would point to their need for Jesus…

    “Calvinism asserts that true faith will always endure because God will preserve that faith and cause the believer to persevere.”

    Calvinism…the scriptures…

    1Cor1:8He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

    Phil1:6…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

    Heb12:2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…

    Jude24To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy…

  4. “In such a scheme Calvinist parents can have no real assurance that Christ died for any of their children.”

    They can only have the assurance that comes from trusting God – a real assurance to some, if not perfectly satisfying to you. But it is true that Arminians can cheerfully assure their children that inasmuch as Christ died for Judas and Hitler, He died for them also. “To Him who is UNable to keep you from falling…” #sweetdreams

    Re:Rom11 – “The problem for Calvinism is that Paul describes these Gentiles as believers who have been grafted into God’s chosen people and who are presently standing by faith. There can therefore be no doubt that Paul is speaking to saved individuals who are presently enjoying the blessing of the new covenant through faith union with Christ. The specific language makes this indisputable.”

    There’s a subtlety here that you miss. Were those jews who were “broken off” really faithfully and humbly walking with their God before Jesus came? Did Jesus’ coming merely expose their faithless works or did He really change the requirements for salvation? IMO, it’s a bit silly to suggest that these jews who relied on their works would have been saved if they lived 100 years beforehand but were just unlucky to live in the time of Christ. Go back and read Romans 4 again.

    It looks like this tree is pointing more to the visible people of God rather than the saved people of God. The internally circumcised jews of faith and the faithless jews with merely external circumcision were both in this tree prior to Christ – but both were hardly “saved” – when the transition came in the time of Christ and the Church inherited the Word and the promises. Then yes, the unbelieving jews were broken off as they refused to become Christians. But their invitation to become part of the church remained. And baptized “believers” who have been grafted in as Simon (Acts8:13-24), the guy in 1Cor5 and the apostates in 1John2:19 were grafted in…risk being cut off from assurance and membership in the church if they persist in unbelief and lack repentance.

    Yes, there is overlap between the covenant/visible community of God’s people and the saved in both the OT and NT, but it’s a bit sloppy to suppose that jews who believed in works-righteousness were actually saved until Jesus showed up and changed the rules.

  5. I should add that in matters regarding perseverance (not the primary topic of this post, I know), Calvinists and Arminians have quite a bit in common. It’s interesting in looking at your blog in general that you would rather split hairs in dealing with Calvinist teaching than address the hot mess of the so-called “free grace” teachers like Zane Hodges, for whom the word “apostate” is just another synonym for “brother.”

    Properly taught, Calvinist “perseverance” has nothing to do with “once saved, always saved.” Yet Arminians continue erringly to complain both that “Calvinists teach eternal security” and “Calvinists cannot teach real assurance…”

  6. charles and Jack,

    Thanks for taking the time to read my post and leave comments. Obviously you do not agree with what I have written and also seem to have misuderstood some as well. I am strapped for time right now, but will try to get to your comments ASAP. I appreciate your patience.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  7. Jack, it is interesting that you state “I believe you have the reformed, or as you call it Calvanist view totally incorrect.” when in fact it is you that has the Arminian or Non-Calvinist view totally incorrect.

    You state “We can, in fact tell people Christ died for you. Christ’s death was sufficient to pay the price for everyones sin. Therefore we can tell all Christ died to pay the price for your sin.” Well, which is it, Christ died for you (without any qualifications) or Christ paid a price that was sufficient for you (but if you are Non-Elect then he did not die for you at all)? Since most people end up in the Non-Elect category that means that Christ did not die for them at all and means that the Gospel offer that you presented to them was at best disingenuous and at worst deceptive.

    You asked “Having said this I will ask you how are you born again?”. That is easy, you are born again by the Spirit through faith. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” Eph 1:13. Unless you believe that someone can be born again without faith?

    You said “Think of it in this way, what decisions did you make in your physical birth. Did you decide, your birthdate , where you were born, or to whom you would be born? No you did not, and it is the same with those born of the Spirit.” You are taking the comparison of physical and spiritual birth too far as an analogy is only meant to compare certain aspects, not every aspect. Look at what Jesus himself said to Nicodemus in the same chapter: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life….Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:14-18. I do agree with your comment but only in the sense that we can only believe and God has to cause us to be born again and we have no part in that aspect of our Salvation. I don’t think that this is what you meant though. Would you say that we are completely passive in our Salvation and faith is not even necessary? Are you saying that God forces us to believe and we are nothing more than robots?

    You said “In Eph. chapter 1 Paul tells us that it took a mighty power from God to raise Christ from the dead In chapter 2 he tells us as for you, you were dead in trespasses and sins, and God has raised you up with Christ. In other words, the same mighty power that it took to raise Christ from physical death is the same power it took to raise us from spiritual death.” Well lets look at Ephesians: “and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead” Eph 1:19-20. So its clear that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that works in us THROUGH FAITH!!!

    You said “Therefore it is truly a miracle, when someone recieves salvation. However it is not miraculous if salvation is our own doings.” I agree that Salvation is a miracle but you really overstepped your bounds with the comment about saving ourselves. You believe that Non-Calvinists think that they save themselves? Do you believe that one could be an Arminian and still be saved? No one here believes that we save ourselves.

    You said “God does not reprobate any one, rather we have reprobated ourself. We chose to reject God, however God would not allow our choice to ruin His creation, rather He chose to act to save it.” It sounds like you want to be an Arminian up until the fall and then you want to embrace Calvinism. I don’t think that anyone here would disagree with this comment you made.

    You said “I cannot see how, in your positon, you can say God has anything to do with bringing us to salvation.” This is another out of line comment and you seem to be inferring that Arminianism = Pelagianism. Very common mistake but you need to study the differences more so that you don’t make these false accusations.

    You said “In other words it seems to me you are saying God only makes salvation possible, He does not exactly save anyone. If you say He does bring us to salvation, then what of those that are not saved? Does He attempt to bring all to salvation and fail?” There is a lot here that can be refuted but let me point this out in regard to only making salvation “possible”. Christ dying on the cross was not only for those who would believe in the future but also for those who looked forward to Christ in faith and had already passed away. Therefore, when Christ died it secured the salvation of many that had already passed away and that refutes your notion of only a “possible” salvation. Also, we believe that God is all knowing therefore he already had in view those that would come to him in faith in the future when he died meaning that it wasn’t just making salvation “possible” but securing it for those that he foreknew would come to him in faith. Regarding God failing, if he set the terms (that only those who respond by repentance and faith would be saved) and allows those terms to play out how is that God failing?

    Ben, sorry about the long post but I had some time on my hands and wanted to respond to this post.

  8. JPC,

    No problem. Regarding his comments about being born again, I would recommend he read this post I wrote a long time ago: http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/john-3/ There are so many posts on this site that address the Calvinist assertion that regeneration precedes faith. I would recommend that both Charles and Jack take a look at some of those posts when they get the chance.

    I would also recommend my posts on provisional atonement, which address many other issues he brings up (just as you addressed them here). http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/provisional-atonement-series/

    Like you, I find it baffling that Calvinists want to claim that trusting in Christ is a “work.” Of course it is not, since faith does not earn or merit salvation. Rather, faith is looking to Christ to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves: save us. Faith simply receives a free and undeserved gift from God (Romans 4). Amazing how Calvinists think we could rightly take credit for receiving a gift. It also bothers me that Calvinists seem to so plainly deny God the sovereign right to make salvation conditioned on a free (though God enabled) faith response. It seems that in Calvinism God is free to do anything except grant His creatures a measure of free will and hold them accountable for the choices they make.

    You also rightly point out that statements about being corrupt because of our choices are not compatible with traditional Calvinism, since in Calvinism God irresistibly decreed all things, including any seeming decisions we would make or what our spiritual condition or nature would be. They want to point to our choice as the basis for responsibility, but cannot rightly do so when we consider that our every thought, desire, and action was decreed by God in such a way that we had no more power to think, desire, or act otherwise than to create a universe. Anyway, I hope to address them more directly some time soon. Thanks for the input.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  9. I believe you have the reformed, or as you call it Calvanist view totally incorrect. We can, in fact tell people Christ died for you. Christ’s death was sufficient to pay the price for everyones sin. Therefore we can tell all Chrst died to pay the price for your sin.

    Actually, it is you who have the Calvinist view incorrect. A Calvinist would never say Christ died for the reprobate. You may be more of a 4-point Calvinist (though you say in another thread that you are not a Calvinist, deny exhaustive determinism, while holding to unconditional election), but that is not the traditional Calvinist perspective. I think the 4-point position is inconsistent, but I am happy that they at least affirm that Christ died for all, even if inconsistently with other Calvinist doctrines.

    However Paul tells us the natural man cannot understand spiritual things, nor can he. It is impossible because he does not have the Spirit of God, he has not been born from above.

    In that context, Paul is speaking about Christians who are resisting the Spirit’s leading them on to maturity (1 Cor. 2:6-13). This is clear from 1 Cor. 3:1 where he calls them “Infants in Christ”. So those that Paul says are “natural” are believers who are immature and not “spiritual” due to the fact that they are letting their petty disputes about which apostle is the greatest keep them from growing in spiritual things, etc. This is also clear from the fact that the Bible is clear that the Holy Spirit is received by faith and comes to dwell in us by faith (Gal. 3:2, 14).

    Jesus tells Nicadimas, you must be born again. Of course this confusses Nicadimas, and he ask, ” am I to go back into my mothers womb?” Having said this I will ask you how are you born again? Notice the question closely. The question is not how do you born yourself agian, Because you cannot possibly born yourself. Think of it in this way, what decisions did you make in your physical birth. Did you decide, your birthdate , where you were born, or to whom you would be born? No you did not, and it is the same wtih those born of the Spirit.

    My post on John 3 addresses all you write here. Check it out when you get the chance. http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/08/20/does-jesus-teach-that-regeneration-precedes-faith-in-john-33-6/

    In Eph. chapter 1 Paul tells us that it took a mighty power from God to raise Christ from the dead. In chapter 2 he tells us as for you, you were dead in trespasses and sins, and God has raised you up with Christ. In other words, the same mighty power that it took to raise Christ from physical death is the same power it took to raise us from spiritual death.

    Right, and all of this is “by grace, through faith”. Faith precedes this spiritual resurrection as Colossians also makes clear (1 Cor. 2:11-14)

    Therefore it is truly a miracle, when someone recieves salvation. However it is not miraculous if salvation is our own doings.

    No one said it was “our own doings”. If you receive a gift from someone, would say the gift was of your doings? Of course not. That would be silly. Why then would you think receiving the gift of salvation from God would make the gift of salvation “our own doings”? Again, that is plain silly. Suppose the gift enabled you to continue to live or to keep your house or to provide for your family in a way that would have been impossible otherwise. Wouldn’t you consider such a gift a miracle that saved you from your predicament? Would it cease to be a miracle just because you were not forced to take the gift?

    . The next point I would like to address is, God does not reprobate any one, rather we have reprobated ourself.

    I am glad we agree on this and if you reject Calvinist determinism then you can say such things, but if you were coming from a traditional Calvinist view, you could not rightly say we “reprobated ourselves”.

    We chose to reject God, however God would not allow our choice to ruin His creation, rather He chose to act to save it. One last point. I cannot see how, in your positon, you can say God has anything to do with bringing us to salvation. In other words it seems to me you are saying God only makes salvation possible, He does not exactly save anyone.

    God brings all those to salvation who yield to His grace. Just because God brings people to salvation in a resistible way, does not mean he does not bring them to salvation. That is a very strange way to look at it. Are you saying that if you “bring” someone to your point of view, or “bring” them to the store, or “bring” them to any number of things, you must have brought them irresistibly?

    If you say He does bring us to salvation, then what of those that are not saved?

    They resisted. In other words, God’s work in bringing people to salvation is not irresistible.

    Does He attempt to bring all to salvation and fail?

    We could only rightly say that God “fails” if God’s intention were to bring people to salvation irresistibly and yet was not able. But that is not God’s intention. God wants to bring people to salvation in a resistible manner, in which such people can either yield to His grace or continue to resist it. If that is God’s intention, then He does not fail. We do.

    God Bless,

    Ben

  10. charles,

    I hope to get to some of your comments some time this week.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  11. charles,

    I wrote:

    “It seems that many passages of Scripture are disingenuous in commanding all people everywhere to repent and believe on Christ when repentance is impossible for reprobates”

    You responded:

    Is scripture equally “disingenuous” in commanding all people everywhere to “be perfect” and to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength all the time? I’m pretty sure no man born of a human father has ever managed to keep those commands, so if they are “impossible” to obey then I suppose you would have to stand with the pagans in concluding that a righteous God would never make such demands in the first place.

    Where do you get the idea that I am standing “with the pagans”? Just curious, what do you think the point of those commands are and how do you think they compare specifically to God’s command to repent and believe in Christ? You need to clarify how you are making a connection before I can respond concisely. Do you think that a believer empowered with the Holy Spirit can love the Lord as God desires that person to love Him?

    Rom8:32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.

    Gal3:13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

    If Jesus were given up for the unbelievers, how will God not give them all things, including justification? If He became a curse for them, how could a righteous Judge declare them “cursed” and demand that they depart?

    You are confusing provision with application. Even Calvinism must admit that Christ was given up for unbelievers since even the elect are unbelievers until God irresistibly regenerates them. Jesus satisfied the curse of the law (death) provisionally for all and made it possible for all to receive justification through faith in Him, but the application of this provision to the person is contingent on faith (even in Calvinism).

    You continually offer “good news” to the pagan, but nothing it seems that would point to their need for Jesus…

    Where do you get this idea? If God commands sinners to repent and believe to receive forgiveness, then how does this not illustrate “the pagan’s” need for Jesus?

    I wrote: “Calvinism asserts that true faith will always endure because God will preserve that faith and cause the believer to persevere.”
    You responded:

    Calvinism…the scriptures…

    1Cor1:8He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

    Amen. He is faithful. But there is no guarantee here that we will be faithful. You would need to show that this verse has specific reference to God making sure our faith will never fail, but the verse does not say that. It can simply be a reference to God’s empowering them to continue without guaranteeing that they will. Or Paul is simply speaking from the perspective of them continuing to believe and for that reason being “confirmed” to the end, especially since the context is corporate, referring to the church (the true church, vs. 2). In that case it would be just like Rom. 8 and 11 in that the promises made to the elect body of Christ only apply to the individual so long as they remain in that body through faith.

    Heb12:2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…

    Jesus is the author of our faith since without Him there could be no faith. That He is the “perfecter” of our faith does not mean that we cannot prevent Him from doing so. Indeed, the passage is an admonishment to continue in the faith by looking to Christ as an example and remembering that through Him and His example our faith can find strength. Verse 1 calls on them to “run with endurance” and then points to Jesus in verse 12 as an example of how to do that. Verse 3 makes this especially clear. If verse 2 was meant to say that Christ gives them faith and makes them continue to believe irresistibly, then it would not fit the context of verses 1-3f. Also, “author” can mean “founder” or “beginner” in that Christ’s faithful endurance is what our faith is built on and what our faith should emulate unto “perfection”, just as He “endured” the cross and the hostility of sinners in crucifying Him. For that reason the writer reminds them that they have not yet endured as Christ has since they have not yet “resisted to the point of blood.”

    Jude24To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy…

    He is indeed able to keep us from falling and will always enable us to keep from falling, but that does not mean that God will irresistibly keep us from falling. Hence the need for us to “remain in God’s love” (vs. 21) and to heed the warnings of the entire epistle.

  12. I wrote: “In such a scheme Calvinist parents can have no real assurance that Christ died for any of their children.”

    charles responded:

    They can only have the assurance that comes from trusting God – a real assurance to some, if not perfectly satisfying to you.

    But what are they trusting God for? Are they trusting God that He did not reprobate them from all eternity? What good would that do if He did reprobate them? How can they trust God that Christ died for their children while knowing that Christ may not have died for them? Why should they trust God for something that may not be true because God has made it false by His own sovereign eternal decree?

    But it is true that Arminians can cheerfully assure their children that inasmuch as Christ died for Judas and Hitler, He died for them also.

    And what is wrong with that? Why bring Judas and Hitler into this? How does that change things? Indeed, Judas and Hitler could have taken advantage of Christ’s death just as our children can. The point is not whether or not we can be sure that our children will yield to God’s grace and receive His forgiveness, but that Christ did truly die for them and truly desires for them to be saved. Nothing you say here even addresses that issue. Again, what assurance can they have that Christ died for them, when He may not have; and how could they possibly tell their children that Christ died for them or even that He desires to save them?

    Let me also point out that you have not even addressed the language of 1 Corinthians 15 and the exegetical implications of that language that I posted on. Rather, you have made only emotional and philosophical responses peppered with prooftexts and snide remarks while ignoring the many passages that contradict your viewpoint.

    “To Him who is UNable to keep you from falling…” #sweetdreams.

    See my previous post on this supposed prooftext.

    Re:Rom11 – “The problem for Calvinism is that Paul describes these Gentiles as believers who have been grafted into God’s chosen people and who are presently standing by faith. There can therefore be no doubt that Paul is speaking to saved individuals who are presently enjoying the blessing of the new covenant through faith union with Christ. The specific language makes this indisputable.”

    There’s a subtlety here that you miss. Were those jews who were “broken off” really faithfully and humbly walking with their God before Jesus came? Did Jesus’ coming merely expose their faithless works or did He really change the requirements for salvation? IMO, it’s a bit silly to suggest that these jews who relied on their works would have been saved if they lived 100 years beforehand but were just unlucky to live in the time of Christ. Go back and read Romans 4 again.

    I’m sorry, what is in Romans 4 that is supposed to help me see your “subtlety”? Being “broken off” through unbelief doesn’t need to have specific reference to rejecting Christ. It can be a prior unbelief that led to them naturally rejecting Christ as a consequence. Either way, it is a matter of faith that joins one to the covenant people of God. Romans 4 actually addresses that issue since it wasn’t a faith in Christ specifically that made Abraham righteous. But for the present time it is a matter of faith in Christ and Paul makes clear that the Gentiles are part of God’s people now because they are presently standing “by faith”.

    It looks like this tree is pointing more to the visible people of God rather than the saved people of God.

    So why would it matter if the Gentiles were broken off from just the “visible people of God” and not the “saved people of God?” And why should they be afraid if Paul is only talking about the “visible”, but not necessarily “saved” people of God?”

    The internally circumcised jews of faith and the faithless jews with merely external circumcision were both in this tree prior to Christ – but both were hardly “saved” – when the transition came in the time of Christ and the Church inherited the Word and the promises.

    I disagree with this strongly. Paul is speaking throughout chapters 9-11 about what marks God’s true covenant people. Further, even if we assume you are correct, you are left with the same difficulty since Paul says to the Gentiles who have been grafted in by faith (which even according to you would have reference to Christ now) facing the possibility of being broken off through unbelief. He also says that the Jews can be grafted in again if they do not continue in unbelief, making it clear yet again that the olive tree represents God’s covenant people who have partaken of the covenant through faith throughout the ages. Your inserted division does not fit the context or the language and it does nothing to address the Gentiles possibly being broken off if they do not continue in the faith.

    Then yes, the unbelieving jews were broken off as they refused to become Christians. But their invitation to become part of the church remained. And baptized “believers” who have been grafted in as Simon (Acts8:13-24), the guy in 1Cor5 and the apostates in 1John2:19 were grafted in…risk being cut off from assurance and membership in the church if they persist in unbelief and lack repentance.

    Again, this idea that the olive tree simply represents “church members” who may or may not be saved is contrary to the context and language of the text as described above.

    Yes, there is overlap between the covenant/visible community of God’s people and the saved in both the OT and NT, but it’s a bit sloppy to suppose that jews who believed in works-righteousness were actually saved until Jesus showed up and changed the rules.

    What is sloppy is your explanation and how it makes Paul simply talking about who is in or out of the “visible” church without any reference to salvation. That makes nonsense of the specific language he uses as explained above and is out of harmony with the context of the chapter, Romans 9-11 as a whole and the entire epistle. Paul’s point throughout is that only those who have faith have ever been God’s chosen covenant people, and only they will be justified and saved. That was true then (Rom. 4), and it is true now (Rom. 9:30-33; 10:1-11; 11:16-24).

    God Bless,

    Ben

  13. I should add that in matters regarding perseverance (not the primary topic of this post, I know), Calvinists and Arminians have quite a bit in common. It’s interesting in looking at your blog in general that you would rather split hairs in dealing with Calvinist teaching than address the hot mess of the so-called “free grace” teachers like Zane Hodges, for whom the word “apostate” is just another synonym for “brother.”

    Properly taught, Calvinist “perseverance” has nothing to do with “once saved, always saved.” Yet Arminians continue erringly to complain both that “Calvinists teach eternal security” and “Calvinists cannot teach real assurance…”

    Charles, the problem would seem to be your looking at my blog “in general”. You might want to start here: http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/10/08/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-1-definitions/

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