Matthew 23:37 Is Problematic For the Calvinist Concept

Matthew 23:37 is problematic for the deterministic stance calvinism posits:

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

If calvinism is correct, then Jesus’ statement that He “often wanted to gather the children of Jerusalem together” is problematic in two areas. First of all, this passage implies that Jesus wanted to do something that He was not able to do and it even further implies that the people were not willing to do what He wanted them to do. If those who were not willing were not effectually called then they could not be “unwilling” because they had to choice to choose to be willing.

The truth is, Jesus “often wanted to gather them together BUT THEY were not willing.” That is what the text says. There is no caveat here that says, “Jesus wanted to gather them but didn’t because it was not God’s will and He could not have said “they were not willing” if He knew that God never intended to save them in the first place.

The only possible objection would be the statement, “Jesus is not talking about saving them.” In His humanity, he is pointing to the frailty of life and the fact of judgment that faces all who are lost and without Christ. This MIGHT work IF Jesus had not said, “How often I would have gathered you together.” Calvinism cannot comport with “Jesus wanting to often gather them together” with “they were not willing.” These two phrases cannot be reconciled in a calvinist concept. One of two things has to be true; one, Jesus was not willing together them together and so they were not willing or 2 had Jesus really wanted to gather them together they WOULD HAVE been willing. Verse 37 cannot be reconciled within the calvinist framework as it stands.

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Acts 11 and The Gift of God Given When We Believe

In Acts 11, the Bible says the Apostles heard that the gentiles had received the Word of God. Reading between the lines, this was not considered a good thing for in verse 2 and 3 we read, And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!” The remainder of the chapter is a record of Peter’s response to their charges.

4 But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. 6 When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ 10 Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven.

In verse 8, Peter acknowledged the tradition that he had been taught. He had no intention of eating what he had been taught about eating what the Scripture had been labeled as “unclean.” Notice something. Peter said, “I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat’.” Now, Peter has no idea whose voice it is that he heard and so his response was the right discussion. One might understand that this is the way temptation comes. Peter’s response to this “voice” is also telling; “Not so Lord!” Our response to temptation ought to always be addressed to the Lord, who is out strength! In speaking to the Lord, God spoke back!

In verse 11, “At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing.” The whole purpose of the vision God let down from heaven, was to let Peter know that he needed to go with these gentile men to their home. When Peter arrived at the gentile’s home, he recounted the following: “13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’”

This statement, “he will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved” is very interesting. Some might look at this statement and conclude, “God has brought salvation to the elect who lived in this house.” He sent Peter to share the gospel with them because God has opened their eyes so that they can respond and be saved.” One thing is unquestionably true; God made it clear that these gentiles needed to hear the gospel to be saved. The question remains, how was this household saved?

Listen to Peter’s testimony; “15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” OK; here it is; “the Holy Spirit fell upon them as it did for us at the beginning.” Regeneration preceded their repentance and believing faith and they were saved. God told them to go find Peter and bring him to their house so that he could share the gospel and “you and your household WILL be saved.” How much clearer could the Scriptures be?

Consider verse 17. “If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” WOW. God gave these gentiles the SAME GIFT He gave us, notice this, “WHEN WE BELIEVED on the Lord Jesus Christ.” As Peter was sharing the gospel with them, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as He did for them when they believed, and these gentiles believed and THEN they were saved. God gave THE GIFT WHEN THEY BELIEVED. He did not give THE GIFT and THEN THEY BELIEVED.

It is clear in this passage that “the gospel is indeed the power of God unto salvation to them who believe.” The GIFT of salvation comes WHEN we believe not so that we can believe.

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The Error of Total Depravity and Inability in Acts 17

In Acts 17 the Apostle Paul addresses the philosophers at Mars Hill. I want to look at a couple comments that I find very interesting concerning the issue of total depravity and inability as trumped by Calvinism. I will also make a comment concerning the emphasis on God’s sovereignty and omniscience that drive the Calvinist tenets.

In verse 22 we read, “Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you:”

It is interesting that Paul is here addressing a group of educated pagans who are “religious folk.” In the courtyard, they had erected statues to all kinds of gods and even had one to “the unknown god” to appease one they may have not known about. This is an interesting comment seeing that apart from God’s effectual calling, no one will “seek God.” These educated men knew that there was a god. Unlike the educated folk today, they made a place for gods in their lives. It still seems a little odd to me that a theological position could ignore men’s long standing effort to KNOW GOD and then deny his ability to respond to the God of the Bible apart from some special grace on God’s part. I will leave that statement at that. Paul says, this unknown God is the One I want to “proclaim to you.” In Paul’s mind, there is no idea of effectual calling or special grace that enables any of them to be miraculously saved; he believes that the proclamation of the Word can save them all if they will respond in repentance and believing faith.

He introduces this unknown God as the Creator of the world and everything in it. This God does not live in statues or manmade edifices like the temple. He made every person from one blood; one family and God has the boundaries of their being for one reason; verse 27, “that they should seek THE LORD (not some pagan god) in hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any of us.”

This statement is more than interesting because Paul is clearly saying in this message to a group of lost pagans, that they are where they are so that they might seek the Lord in hopes that they MIGHT find Him. This statement made by the Apostle Paul clearly debunks the whole concept of total depravity and inability and the necessity of regeneration prior to repentance and believing faith. Paul is telling these learned men that they are in a place in their lives where they might seek God and find Him. The proclamation of the gospel has power to save those who respond favorably to the promises made in it by God Himself. This is the essence of what Paul is preaching to the philosophers in Athens.

In the earlier verses of chapter 17, Paul preached Jesus in Thessalonica and verse 4 says, “some were persuaded.” This is also an interesting choice of words. Paul and Silas moved on to Berea where it is said that these folks “were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.” (VV11-12) The question is, were they “more fair-minded” because they were regenerated or because they were willing to listen to Paul and Silas’ preaching to be moved by the power of the spoken Word? Regeneration cannot be the case because they “searched the Scriptures” to find out for themselves if the things Paul had been preaching was true or not. Had they been regenerated enabling them to search the truth, they would have repented instead of searched the Scriptures. One thing is true about calvinism’s regeneration; it cannot be a progressive move. When one is effectually called, he repents. One cannot be gradually called to “new life.” So, one of two things had to be true. One, regeneration as posited by Calvinism is not supported by this passage or Paul’s statement here is theologically inaccurate. These new believers heard the gospel and searched the Scriptures to verify the accuracy of the claims being presented. If they heard and had the desire to search the Scriptures, then they had to have been regenerated in the Calvinist system; if that were the case they would have repented instead of having to search. This is completely inconsistent with the total depravity/inability position.

Notice Paul’s statement in verse 29: “29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.” Paul talks about “God’s Divine nature.” He does not talk about God’s sovereignty; he does not speak about God’s omniscience; he speaks of God’s Divine nature. This is important because God’s sovereignty is an attribute of His divinity. God’s omniscience is an attribute of His divinity. He is not divine because He is sovereign or omniscient; He is sovereign and omniscient because He is divine. I believe this points to one of the more serious problems shaping the academic theological landscape. Instead of building theology based on God’s Divine nature, most have focused on His sovereignty and omniscience to frame the foundation from which they have built their cases.

Why is this distinction important? It is important because focusing on a particular attribute can give a false picture of the whole entity. For example, a man can be a father; he can be an employer and he can also be a gambler and a drunkard. If one focuses on the father and employer. One might think “this guy is a great guy.” If one focuses on the drunkard and gambler, one might think, “Wow this guy is a real loser.” The problem ought to be obvious; neither conclusion is necessarily accurate and the conclusion drawn is clearly determined by the attributes considered. All attributes accurately describe the man but obviously give very differing perspectives.

Is it possible to focus on God’s sovereignty or His omniscience and “miss God’s Divine nature completely?” If God is sovereign and omniscient BECAUSE He is Divine, then perhaps focusing on individual attributes may indeed give one a false picture of God’s total Divine nature and ultimately His total character and being. I believe this to be true where the majority of academic theological discussion stands. God is more than sovereign or omniscient. He is perhaps more than anything, love. (Ps. 118:1; I John 4:8,16) God is Holy. (Is 43:3; 6:3; I Peter 1:16) He is Merciful. (Deut. 4:31; Ps 103:8, 116:5; Eph. 2:4) He is Perfect in all He does. (2 Sam. 22:31;Ps. 18:30; Matt 5:48) He is Faithful. (Deut. 7-9, 32:4, Ro. 4:21; I Cor. 1:9, 10:13) He is Sovereign,(Gen.1:1; I Chron. 29:11-12; Ps. 115:3; Lam. 3:37; Eph. 1:11) Omnipotent,(Jere. 32:27; Is 40:28; Matt. 19:26; Luke 1:37; Heb.1:3) Omniscient, (Job 3:16, 28:24; I Sam. 2:3; Ps. 147:5; Matt. 10:30; I John 3:19-20) and Immutable, (Job 23:13; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 6:17) a God of Wrath, (Zeph. 1:14-15, 18; Ps. 69:24; Rom. 1:18; Heb. 12:29; Rev. 19:15) A God of Grace (I Cor. 15:10; Eph. 2:8; Titus 2:11) and this is not an exhaustible list. 2 Peter 3:19 clearly states, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” This passage reflects God’s Divine nature and clearly stands as one of the more problematic passages in the total depravity/inability and limited atonement tenets presented by Calvinism.

Consider verses 30 Paul tells these religious educated philosophers, “God has overlooked men’s ignorance as seen in their use of statues but now God commands all men everywhere to repent.” Repentance is man’s response to the gospel message that says God “31 has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” In verse 34, Paul says, “some joined him and believed.”

The truth is simple. If total depravity and inability are correct there are a couple of things that are problematic in the passage. First of all, the new believers in Thessalonica and Berea do not fit the regeneration before repentance and faith model presented by the Calvinist system. Second, in Paul’s address to the men in Athens, they should seek THE LORD (not some pagan god) in hopes that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any of us.” There is no hint of depravity or inability to be overcome by regeneration. In fact, God is “near them all” Paul says indicating that He is also accessible to those who would repent and believe, which some did.

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Romans 1 and Total Depravity in Calvinism

Paul writes in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

“For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed ‘from faith to faith’.” This verse is important because it identifies the purpose of the power of the gospel as it is both experienced and then lived out in the life of the new born believer. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to EVERYONE who believes. Believing in the provisions and the promises of God brings salvation to the lost sinner. The gospel of Christ IS the power of God unto salvation. These words are themselves life to those who hear them and believe. (Proverbs 4:22, John 5:63)

In verses 18 and following, Paul focuses his attention on God’s wrath on unrighteousness.

Paul writes, “18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. Notice something very interesting. Paul says that the unrighteous “suppress the truth” because “what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.” This presents some very serious problems for the total depravity/inability position and regeneration solution to man’s plight as a sinner in need of conversion. First of all, suppressing the truth is a conscious choice made on man’s part and one that is made in light of the truth that has been made manifest to them by God Himself. This would serve to support the statement in Genesis 3:22 where God said, “man has become like us ‘knowing good and evil’.” Total depravity and inability maintains that man has no ability in himself or on his own to “know good” nor to choose good because all good things come from God and apart from His grace being bestowed on the unregenerate, he can only know and choose evil. In Romans 1:18 Paul says man “suppresses the truth that has been made known to him by God Himself.”

In regeneration, God gives man a new heart and a new nature that allows him to know the truth and to respond to that truth in repentance and believing faith. This response to the newly regenerated being is irresistible and in fact the only response that he can make. He cannot choose to do otherwise. A serious problem with this concept is highlighted in Romans 1:19. God has made Himself known to men. That is crystal clear in this passage.

One could argue that this is the result of his being created in the image of God. Nowhere in the Bible is it ever said that God stopped making man in His own image. The Bible does say that man now has a sinful nature that is the direct result of Adam’s sin in the garden but nothing is ever said that man is no longer made in the image of God. If man does indeed have this created nature and an acquired secondary sinful nature, then it is certainly possible that God has made Himself known through this created nature that every person has and man’s acquired or secondary nature “suppresses that truth in unrighteousness.” In either case, this passage certainly casts doubt on the total depravity/inability and regeneration process as presented in Reformed Theology.

Continuing, “20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Paul writes and interesting statement here: “His invisible attributes are ‘clearly seen’.” That which is invisible is everything but clearly seen. However, with God all things are possible and He has Himself made Himself known to sinful man. That is what the text clearly says.

Once again, this passage is especially problematic for the Calvinistic position on irresistible grace because Paul clearly says the person who has been enlightened by God Himself and understands those things, is without excuse. These men know God but do not glorify Him as God nor are they thankful and they have become “futile in their thoughts.” Notice his statement in verse 22, “Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” Paul says, “they BECOME futile in their thoughts and they BECAME fools.” Their spiritual condition is the result of the ramifications of the choices they have made concerning the claims of Christ revealed to them in the gospel. There are consequences to the choices men make! They are not fools BECAUSE of the limitations on their choices; they become fools because of their choices.

Look at verse 23; “they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” These are the choices these unrighteous men made. Look at verse 24; “24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” THEREFORE, because of what has already taken place, “God gave them up to uncleanliness.” If they were totally depraved as Calvinism contends, there would be no need for God to “give them up” because the Calvinist truth is God had no plan or provision for the salvation of the non-elect in the first place. This is extremely troubling.

Verses 26 and 27 say, “26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” Again God would not be giving up the guy who had no chance of redemption. The text clearly says that these individuals “received in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” Clearly these individuals are going to face consequences for their choices.

Finally Paul writes in Verse 28: “28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.” Once again there is no need for God to give the unregenerate in the Calvinist scheme over to a debased or depraved mind. If he is already spiritually dead, blind and deaf this passage makes no sense. Understand something, according to verse 32 these men “know the judgment of God” but reject Him all the same and are deserving of death.

The truth is man is responsible in his response to the gospel. He is responsible for what He does with God’s special revelation of Who He is and what it is that He wants to do in a person’s heart as God reaches out to the lost through the power of His Word and the reconciling, convicting work of the Holy Spirit in the unrepentant heart. To continue to refuse the offer of grace to be saved carries with it serious consequences as laid out in these few verses in Romans 1.

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Problems With Proposed Article III to the Constitution of the SBC

On March 4, Baptist Press published the following article titled, Q&A: Article III on Messenger Qualifications.

In this article, in a Q&A with SBC LIFE, Ernest Easley, chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, addressed some of the main issues surrounding a proposal regarding how churches qualify to send messengers to the SBC annual meeting.

The following are the proposed changes that were approved at the EC meeting in February to be revisited at the June 9 meeting of the Executive Committee meeting for presentation at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the SBC in Baltimore. To read the article in BP CLICK HERE.

Following is the text of the proposed Article III, to be considered in June.

Article III. Composition: The Convention shall consist of messengers who are members of Baptist churches in cooperation with the Convention at levels which the Convention, from time to time, determines. The following subparagraphs describe the Convention’s current standards and method of determining the maximum number of messengers the Convention will recognize from each cooperating church to attend the Convention’s annual meeting.

1. The Convention will only deem a church to be in friendly cooperation with the Convention, and sympathetic with its purposes and work (i.e., a “cooperating” church as that descriptive term is used in the Convention’s governing documents) which:

(1) Has not intentionally operated in any manner demonstrating opposition to the doctrine expressed in the Convention’s most recently adopted statement of faith. (By way of example, churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior would be deemed not to be in cooperation with the Convention.)

(2) Has formally approved its intention to cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention. (By way of example, the regular filing of the annual report requested by the Convention would be one indication of such cooperation.)

(3) Has made undesignated, financial contribution(s) through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity during the fiscal year preceding.

2. Under the terms above, the Convention will recognize to participate in its annual meeting two (2) messengers from each cooperating church, and such additional messengers as are permitted below.

3. The Convention will recognize one (1) additional messenger from each cooperating church for each full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts or for each six thousand dollars ($6,000), whichever is less, which the church contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity.

4. The messengers shall be appointed and certified by their church to the Convention, but the Convention will not recognize more than twelve (12) from any cooperating church.

5. Each messenger shall be a member of the church by which he or she is appointed.

6. If a church experiences a natural disaster or calamitous event and, as a result, the church is not qualified to appoint as many messengers as the church could appoint for the Convention’s annual meeting immediately before the event, the church’s pastor or an authorized church representative may, for no more than the three (3) annual meetings after the event, certify the facts to the registration secretary and obtain the same number of messengers it could have certified for the Convention’s annual meeting immediately before the event.

I have already commented on the 1% provision and the $6000 limit for additional messengers.

Today I want to look at what I believe is the more egregious language in the proposed changes and this has nothing to do smaller church complaints on messenger representation.

I find the following proposed changes very troubling.

1. The Convention will only deem a church to be in friendly cooperation with the Convention, and sympathetic with its purposes and work (i.e., a “cooperating” church as that descriptive term is used in the Convention’s governing documents) which:

(1) Has not intentionally operated in any manner demonstrating opposition to the doctrine expressed in the Convention’s most recently adopted statement of faith. (By way of example, churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior would be deemed not to be in cooperation with the Convention.)

My first question is why this proposed change in the first place? Dr. Easley gives an answer to this question in the BP article:

Q: If giving or attendance are not expected to be improved by the suggested changes, what improvements are expected?

A: To name a few, friendly cooperation is better defined, the Cooperative Program is explicitly referred to and prioritized, greater participation by smaller churches is facilitated, filing an Annual Church Profile is promoted (though not required), and involvement in the annual meeting is protected for churches affected by calamity.

By making participation in the convention more than just about money, it sends a signal to churches that may wish to give a token contribution to the convention in order to benefit from such things as seminary tuition discounts, that being identified with the SBC means something.

I understand what Dr. Easley is saying here and I am not questioning the intent of the proposed provision. However, I do believe it poses a serious potential problem. The problem is not in the intent today but in the application in the future. “Friendly cooperation with the convention” opens the door to all kinds of interpretation and that seems terribly problematic. The proposed changes should be focused on messenger qualifications but these provisions reach much farther than that. These provisions seem to qualify what is and what is not considered a member church of the convention. One might argue that is not the intent but clearly it could be seen as such down the road.

Dr. Easley makes a great point in his discussion when he says, “filing an Annual Church Profile is promoted (though not required), and involvement in the annual meeting is protected for churches affected by calamity.” I believe it would be well to require churches that qualify for additional messengers to be those that file the ACP report. However that should not be a determining qualification in determining a church’s being friendly with the convention.

The proposed changes continue in defining what could be considered a non-friendly church:

(1) Has not intentionally operated in any manner demonstrating opposition to the doctrine expressed in the Convention’s most recently adopted statement of faith. (By way of example, churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior would be deemed not to be in cooperation with the Convention.)

This is terribly problematic. A friendly church could now be defined as one that has “not intentionally operated in any manner demonstrating opposition to the doctrine expressed in the Convention’s most recently adopted statement of faith.” This provision has no business being in the Constitution of the SBC. If a church took a stand against some provision that was deemed oppositional to the BF&M, that church could be voted out of the SBC. The issue of homosexuality is listed today but tomorrow that could be Calvinism, Communion or a host of other theological issues that the current leadership might want to seek to isolate and eliminate.

Some will no doubt say, these are outlandish charges. The Executive Committee has no intention of any such thing taking place. I have no doubt but what that is true. The point is, if these provisions are adopted as they are presented, they will no doubt open the door to applications that may not have any basis in intent today but may be used at a later date in much different applications than those being suggested for the adoption of these provisions today.

My prayer is that these provisions will be reconsidered and the EC proposal deals specifically with messenger quotas and drop the additional proposed provisions.

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New EC Proposed Changes for Messenger Qualifications to SBC Annual Meeting

Baptist Press recently announced the Executive Committee of the SBC has voted to place on its June 9th meeting a recommendation to be presented at the annual meeting in Baltimore to change Article 3 of the SBC constitution dealing with qualifications for churches to send messengers to the annual meeting of the SBC. Article III currently states that churches in friendly cooperation with the convention can send one messenger and one additional messenger for each $250 per year “paid to the work of the Convention,” an amount dating back to 1888.

Under the new proposal to be considered at the June EC meeting on the Monday before the SBC annual meeting, each cooperating church that contributed to Convention causes during the preceding fiscal year would automatically qualify for two messengers. Additional messengers would be recognized from a cooperating church by one of two options, whichever allows the greater number of messengers:

– One additional messenger for each full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts through any combination of gifts through the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity.

– One additional messenger for each $6,000 the church contributes in the preceding year through the same combination of the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity.

The $6,000 figure was arrived at by adjusting for inflation and other factors since 1888. It is meant to be comparable to the $250 figure adopted 126 years ago.

You may read the BP article in its entirety by CLICKING HERE.

What is interesting to me is the idea that smaller churches may be upset with the newer proposal. Every church has gone from one messenger to two, which represented the highest number of messengers sent from churches in the first place. This allowance makes it possible for the pastor and his wife to attend as messengers. The next highest group of registered messengers is one single messenger. I do not see why smaller churches ought to be upset with the proposed changes.

There is one thing I do not understand. Why do we need the $6000 qualifier for additional messengers? Why does the EC believe a church that has $1,000,000 in undesignated giving get 1 additional messenger for $6,000 instead of the 1% figure of $10,000? Why should a church whose undesignated giving is $10 million get additional messengers for $6000 instead of the 1% figure of $100,000?

I believe the 1% rule ought to apply to ALL giving of ALL churches with no provision for a reduced allowance. In addition to that, I believe the giving ought to apply to CP giving since that is the engine that drives the convention. Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon giving ought to be considered as well.

Personally, I do not believe monies given directly to entities ought to be considered for messenger qualifications. I do not believe Great Commission giving ought to be considered for messenger qualifications. These figures do not represent monies given to promote the financial budgeted items that are adopted and approved by the messengers at the annual meeting. CP funds currently drive the SBC and those churches who support the CP are the ones who ought to be able to send the most messengers to the annual meeting.

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Jesus’ Divinity and His Humanity: Synergistic or Monergistic?

A lot has been written about man’s ability to respond to God’s salvific initiative in revelation and reconciliation. Romans 1:16 tells us that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe. On the surface, that verse sounds simple. When an individual is confronted with the gospel message, those words are life to those who repent and by faith place their trust in the perfect promises of God. While most will give a hearty amen that last statement, some will quickly qualify the “those who believe.” The qualifier that some will suggest is that those who believe are those who God has given the ability to believe and they are the only ones who WILL believe.

At the heart of this matter is man’s sin nature. I suppose the question could be asked, “is man a sinner because he sins or does he sin because he is a sinner” I believe the correct answer to that question is “yes.” Both are equally true. The next question focuses on the extent of this sin nature and man’s ability to respond to God. Total depravity seeks to answer this question by saying man is enslaved to this sin nature and is dead in his sin and is therefore incapable of making any decision that glorifies God and can ONLY sin. On the surface, this statement seems to make sense. Obviously no one can on their own make any decision that will glorify God apart from His Divine initiative. At the heart of the issue is, what does the Scripture mean when it declares an individual “dead in his trespass and sin?” Can a lost person respond to the gospel in repentance and believing faith or does God have to change this sinful nature FIRST and give him new life so that he THEN can repent?

I want to approach this argument from a different perspective. I believe the best answer to this question may well be found in a discussion of the remedy. I believe the incarnation may hold the key to understanding the ramifications of sin in our hearts. In the incarnation, God became flesh and dwelt among us. The question is this; was Jesus 100% man AND 100% God? Once again I believe the correct answer is YES. Both are true. Now, which “nature” controlled Jesus? Was Jesus’ Divine nature in control of every decision He made or was His human nature in control? I suggest that the answer here again is “yes”. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” If one attempts to argue that Jesus’ Divine nature controlled every decision He made then His humanity was of no consequence and He could not have been “tempted in all points AS WE ARE yet without sin.” Jesus had the responsibility to “choose” just as all men do.

Consider the following passage: “8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8) Jesus was obedient in every decision He made. His humanity was 100% subjected to God’s Divine will and purpose for His life. One must understand that BOTH natures are submissive to the other. Jesus’ Divine nature was submissive to His human nature just as His human nature was submissive to His Divine nature. Some might ask, “How can that be?” I believe the best answer is that it perfectly pictures the relationship that God created in the Garden of Eden where humanity is in perfect harmony with God’s Divinity. Today, conversation is focused on God’s sovereignty and it is difficult to talk about God’s sovereignty being subject to man’s choice. However, if that conversation is framed around God’s Divine nature and His Divine will relative to man’s choice to choose and the consequences of those choices, the conversation takes on a whole different perspective.

Could Jesus have sinned? Some will argue that the answer to this question is “no.” I believe Jesus COULD have sinned and chosen to submit to temptation. Otherwise, I find it extremely difficult to imagine Him being tempted in all points AS WE ARE and the resulting statement being made, “yet without sin.” The point of this statement is that Jesus WAS tempted, which means there was the potential for submission but He did not submit and fail. Jesus’ choices were in perfect harmony with His Divinity and His Divinity was in perfect harmony with His humanity.

In Philippians 2, we read the following, “5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Clearly, Jesus CHOSE to go to the cross. He was “obedient to the point of death.” He COULD have chosen to do otherwise. I argue that this is the significance of the Gethsemane experience where Jesus prayer, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me but nevertheless, let Your will be done.”

Two things stand out in this exchange. The first is that Jesus could have chosen to do something other than what He did. Why did Jesus appear to shrink from going to the cross? Some will argue that in His humanity, He did not want to die. Perhaps that reflects an element of the agony He experienced. I also believe the significance of Him going out to the disciples who were asleep carries a key to understanding the dilemma He faced and that agony He was forced to consider. Perhaps Jesus was being tempted once again, much like the temptation following the 40 days of fasting when He began His public ministry. Here Satan appealed to His pride; “Jesus I know you are going TO THE CROSS; You cannot do it today. Look at Your disciples, they are asleep and if You go today, Your death will be in vain and the church will never get off the ground and I will win.” I believe the real agony of Gethsemane was more of timing than anything. “God I know I am going to go to the cross; I just do not see how I can do it NOW.” Nevertheless, not My will but your will be done.”

This is I believe an important concept to understand. If Jesus’ Divinity was subject to His humanity as well as His humanity subject to His Divinity, then it provides for a much different perspective to frame the foundation for a discussion concerning the relationship that exists detailing our humanity and His Divinity. If one sees God initiative in revelation and reconciliation as one aspect of His Divine will and our response in obedience to His will as the other side then the whole discussion may well take on a new perspective.

Was Jesus’ life a synergistic balance of both natures or was it more monergistic in nature? I believe it was the former and because He lives to make intercession for us, that same synergistic balance is what God looks for in us and as such His Divine will is subject to our human wills as our human wills becomes subject to His Divine will, our lives take on new meaning and purpose as He is able to do in us, with us and for us more than we can as or hope for in Christ Jesus.

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The Problem With Calvinism Part 3

In Romans 1:16 the apostle Paul declares, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”

I praise God for the gospel message that has the power to save sinners who repent and believe. I believe the gospel message contains life changing and life giving power. Proverbs 4:22 tells us that “these words to those who find them” and then John 6:63 clearly says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” I believe the gospel is the means God uses to draw the lost to a point of conviction that leads to a response of repentance or rejection. Most calvinists will argue that God uses the gospel message to draw the elect to repentance as well.

I do believe this is unquestionably what the Bible teaches but I adamantly disagree with the calvinist position and will argue that not only is it inconsistent WITH calvinism it is impossible in the calvinist system. Now, understand, I did not say this is inconsistent with what calvinists maintain but it is impossible where calvinism is concerned.

The preaching of the gospel in calvinism CANNOT draw the elect to Christ and here is why: according to the tenets of calvinism, until regeneration takes place the unrepentant person has a dead heart, deaf ears and blinded eyes; he is dead. A lost man cannot respond to the gospel unless and until he is FIRST regenerated. Once regeneration takes place, he can do no other than respond with repentance and believing faith. So in all actuality, the gospel has NO bearing at this point whatsoever; repentance and believing faith are the result of and a response to regeneration and effectual calling NOT the gospel.

This has to be true or the whole concept pf total depravity and inability fails and the calvinist system in total with it.

Like it or not, for the calvinist, the gospel is for sanctification NOT conversion.

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The problem With Calvinism Part 2

There is a second reason that I cannot accept the tenets of Calvinism and it involves the Calvinist postulate that God before the foundation of the world chose the elect to be “in Christ” and those individuals are the ones Jesus died for on the cross to pay the penalty for THEIR sin and THEIR sin alone. Calvinism contends that propitiation and expiation were completed on the cross. Propitiation means God’s wrath is satisfied while expiation means sin has been wiped away. Propitiation involves a sacrifice. So Christ went to the cross to become our substitute and in dying, He paid the price for our sin, expiating our sin and propitiating God’s wrath therefore reconciling us to Him.

People are propitiated and problems expiated. If this is indeed true and propitiation and expiation were completed on the cross for the elect and the elect alone, then two things MUST be true. First of all, the elect are predestined for heaven and never become the elect but rather ARE the elect from the foundation of the world. The second truth is the non-elect can NEVER be redeemed because no expiation was provided for them on the cross and forgiveness is impossible apart from the shedding of blood. According to calvinism, Jesus did not shed a drop of blood to expiate the sin of the non-elect and propitiation is not possible for the non-elect.

There is another implication that must be considered if propitiation and expiation were completed on the cross and that is the eternal state of the elect. Calvinism posits every person being born in an unregenerate state and at the appointed time, the elect are regenerated and repentance THEN takes place and believing faith becomes operative and conversion takes place. The question must be answered is this; are the elect and the non-elect in the same condition prior to regeneration?

I am convinced they are not. If expiation was completed on the cross for the elect or ANYONE for that matter, his or her sin has already been dealt with. If propitiation was completed on the cross, then God’s wrath is placated and reconciliation has already taken place for the elect. Listen to John Piper’s comment on propitiation,

“If ‘the whole world’ referred to every individual in the world, we would be forced to say that John is teaching that all people will be saved, which he does not believe (Revelation 14:9-11). The reason we would be forced to say this is that the term propitiation refers to a real removal of wrath from sinners. When God’s wrath against a sinner is propitiated, it is removed from that sinner. And the result is that all God’s power now flows in the service of his mercy, with the result that nothing can stop him from saving that sinner.

Propitiated sins cannot be punished. Otherwise propitiation loses its meaning. Therefore if Christ is the propitiation for all the sins of every individual in the world, they cannot be punished, and must be saved. But John does not believe in such universalism (John 5:29). Therefore it is very unlikely that 1 John 2:2 teaches that Jesus is the propitiation of every person in the world.” To see Piper’s comments CLICK HERE.

Piper is correct. Propitiation refers to a REAL REMOVAL OF WRATH FROM SINNERS. Given this statement, the following conclusion that Piper makes is problematic: “the result is that all God’s power now flows in the service of his mercy, with the result that nothing can stop him from saving that sinner.” Once expiation and propitiation take place, the result is the sinner IS SAVED not TO BE SAVED. If expiation and propitiation are completed on the cross, there is NOTHING that needs to be done for the one whose sins have been removed. Piper’s own statement confirms this: “Therefore if Christ is the propitiation for all the sins of every individual in the world, they cannot be punished, and must be saved.” Now, he is looking at another angle of his own argument BUT the implications work both ways!

One of two things MUST be true; propitiation and expiation are either completed at Calvary or they are not. They cannot be completed at Calvary and then appropriated at conversion. One thing is absolutely clear; completed means what it means. If one MUST repent and believe BEFORE propitiation or expiation are completed, then they cannot be completed on the cross and the whole foundation of calvinism’s position on limited or particular atonement crumbles.

If propitiation and expiation and the atonement are indeed completed on the cross, then as Piper points out, sin is removed when propitiation and expiation are completed and there is now no more condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus; if propitiation, expiation and atonement were completed at the cross and sin is indeed removed and reconciliation completed, there is no need for regeneration at a later date. If the postulates of calvinism are indeed true, the elect are born the elect and do not BECOME the elect and they cannot not be the elect. There is never a time in the life or an individual who is born the elect where his sin is not paid for in full and as such there is never a time when he is in danger of God’s wrath and in fact he is born reconciled to God.

I understand this is NOT what calvinists teach, but it is consistent with the tenets of calvinism as I have put forth and that is why I cannot subscribe to the calvinist theological system.

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Individual Election in Ephesians 1

Some point to Ephesians 1 as a proof text highlighting God’s initiative in individual election. This article will look at the text to see what it is that Paul is saying to the church in Ephesus and to the church today.

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us.”

Who is the “us” that Paul is referring to? The church at Ephesus. He is speaking to the “we who are saved.”

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us (the redeemed, the saved, the church) with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us (the redeemed, the saved, the church) in Him before the foundation of the world, that we (the redeemed, the saved, the church) should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us (the redeemed, the saved, the church) to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us (the redeemed, the saved, the church) accepted in the Beloved.

One must understand that this passage itself has nothing to do with individual election. This does not negate any significance in individual election but this text itself does not demand it. In this light, that which was ordained before the foundation of the world was not the names of the elect but rather the blessings for the elect or those who are redeemed and have been saved. When Paul writes, “having predestined us” he is simply saying God made provision for our salvation in Christ Jesus.

Notice the last phrase in verse 6, “He made us accepted in Christ Jesus.” When does this “accepted” take place? Was it accomplished on the cross? Was it accomplished at repentance? WHEN does one move from the unaccepted to the accepted? This is an essential question. Calvinism contends individual election was settled actually PRIOR to the cross, before the foundation of the world. When Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin, He died for the sin of the elect and their sin alone. According to the postulates of Calvinism, the elect are NEVER the non-elect and are in fact, accepted before the foundation of the world. Now, this position is not negated by this passage but the terms of being accepted must be defined because the timing of this acceptance is crucial in the varying theological positions.

Verse 7 describes those who are accepted in the Beloved.

7 In Him we (the redeemed, the saved, the church) have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us us (the redeemed, the saved, the church) in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us us (the redeemed, the saved, the church) the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.

What is Paul saying here: Simple; Human history is pointing to eternity. That is what verse 10 is saying. One could argue that in this particular text, everything that God has foreordained and predestined is with eternity in mind; not individual election.

11 In Him also we (the redeemed, the saved, the church) have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, (provisions for eternity) 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

Verses 11 and 12 the “we” changes some. Notice verse 13. Paul writes, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

So it must be understood that the “we” in verse 11 and certainly verse 12 does not include the “you” in verse 13. It could be argued that this would be true of every “we” in chapter 1 to this point. So what is it that Paul is saying? Paul is saying that God has gone to great lengths to bring salvation to the gentiles. That is it. Personally, I am actually inclined to believe that the “we” and “us” in all the verses mentioned above, reference not the (the redeemed, the saved, the church) but rather they are a direct reference to him and those Jewish believers that are co-laborers together who are bringing the gospel message to the gentiles. In this foreordained and predestined work of God is all of Israel’s storied history from which Christ came and became the fulfillment of the law and sacrificial system.

Now note what Paul says about the gentiles who have received this inheritance that has been foreordained and predestined by God.

Paul writes, “13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

The gentiles trusted AFTER they heard the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Note a couple of things. It is the Word of Truth that had power to save them; they trusted AFTER they heard the Word of Truth. Paul does not say anything about them being regenerated so that they could THEN trust or believe. The Word of God has power to save them that believe. (Romans 1:16) To further clarify this redeeming process, he wrote, “after you believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” It is clear that new life comes AFTER one believes, not before. The Spirit is life. (John 6:63-70)

Ephesians 1 is not a proof text on individual election.

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