Category Archives: Doctrines of Grace

R.C. Sproul-“Grace Alone”

“Soli Deo gloria is the motto that grew out of the Protestant Reformation and was used on every composition by Johann Sebastian Bach. He affixed the initials SDG at the bottom of each manuscript to communicate the idea that it is God and God alone who is to receive the glory for the wonders of His work of creation and of redemption. At the heart of the sixteenth-century controversy over salvation was the issue of grace.

It was not a question of man’s need for grace. It was a question as to the extent of that need. The church had already condemned Pelagius, who had taught that grace facilitates salvation but is not absolutely necessary for it. Semi-Pelagianism since that time has always taught that without grace there is no salvation. But the grace that is considered in all semi-Pelagian and Arminian theories of salvation is not an efficacious grace. It is a grace that makes salvation possible, but not a grace that makes salvation certain.

In the parable of the sower we see that regarding salvation, God is the one who takes the initiative to bring salvation to pass. He is the sower. The seed that is sown is His seed, corresponding to His Word, and the harvest that results is His harvest. He harvests what He purposed to harvest when He initiated the whole process. God doesn’t leave the harvest up to the vagaries of thorns and stones in the pathway. It is God and God alone who makes certain that a portion of His Word falls upon good ground. A critical error in interpreting this parable would be to assume that the good ground is the good disposition of fallen sinners, those sinners who make the right choice, responding positively to God’s prevenient grace. The classical Reformed understanding of the good ground is that if the ground is receptive to the seed that is sown by God, it is God alone who prepares the ground for the germination of the seed.

The biggest question any semi-Pelagian or Arminian has to face at the practical level is this: Why did I choose to believe the gospel and commit my life to Christ when my neighbor, who heard the same gospel, chose to reject it? That question has been answered in many ways. We might speculate that the reason why one person chooses to respond positively to the gospel and to Christ, while another one doesn’t, is because the person who responded positively was more intelligent than the other one. If that were the case, then God would still be the ultimate provider of salvation because the intelligence is His gift, and it could be explained that God did not give the same intelligence to the neighbor who rejected the gospel. But that explanation is obviously absurd.

The other possibility that one must consider is this: that the reason one person responds positively to the gospel and his neighbor does not is because the one who responded was a better person. That is, that person who made the right choice and the good choice did it because he was more righteous than his neighbor. In this case, the flesh not only availed something, it availed everything. This is the view that is held by the majority of evangelical Christians, namely, the reason why they are saved and others are not is that they made the right response to God’s grace while the others made the wrong response.

We can talk here about not only the correct response as opposed to an erroneous response, but we can speak in terms of a good response rather than a bad response. If I am in the kingdom of God because I made the good response rather than the bad response, I have something of which to boast, namely the goodness by which I responded to the grace of God. I have never met an Arminian who would answer the question that I’ve just posed by saying, “Oh, the reason I’m a believer is because I’m better than my neighbor.” They would be loath to say that. However, though they reject this implication, the logic of semi-Pelagianism requires this conclusion. If indeed in the final analysis the reason I’m a Christian and someone else is not is that I made the proper response to God’s offer of salvation while somebody else rejected it, then by resistless logic I have indeed made the good response, and my neighbor has made the bad response.

What Reformed theology teaches is that it is true the believer makes the right response and the non-believer makes the wrong response. But the reason the believer makes the good response is because God in His sovereign election changes the disposition of the heart of the elect to effect a good response. I can take no credit for the response that I made for Christ. God not only initiated my salvation, He not only sowed the seed, but He made sure that that seed germinated in my heart by regenerating me by the power of the Holy Ghost. That regeneration is a necessary condition for the seed to take root and to flourish. That’s why at the heart of Reformed theology the axiom resounds, namely, that regeneration precedes faith. It’s that formula, that order of salvation that all semi-Pelagians reject. They hold to the idea that in their fallen condition of spiritual death, they exercise faith, and then are born again. In their view, they respond to the gospel before the Spirit has changed the disposition of their soul to bring them to faith. When that happens, the glory of God is shared. No semi-Pelagian can ever say with authenticity: “To God alone be the glory.” For the semi-Pelagian, God may be gracious, but in addition to God’s grace, my work of response is absolutely essential. Here grace is not effectual, and such grace, in the final analysis, is not really saving grace. In fact, salvation is of the Lord from beginning to end. Yes, I must believe. Yes, I must respond. Yes, I must receive Christ. But for me to say “yes” to any of those things, my heart must first be changed by the sovereign, effectual power of God the Holy Spirit. Soli Deo gloria.”

From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343

Special thanks to Eric Young at Reformed Bibliophile

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When Should a Difference in Doctrine Make You Leave?

Desiring God.org– If your pastor asked you not to talk about the doctrines of grace, what would you do?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LltkcUT-w-0]

If you were a member of an Arminian church, and your pastor asked you not to talk about the doctrines of grace, what would you do?

I would ask him what he means: “Do you mean at home with my kids? Do you mean in conversation when somebody asks me? Do you mean Sunday school on the doctrine of salvation? What do you mean?”

And if he said, “All of the above,” I would leave the church. I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily do that immediately. I would say, “Whoa. So you’re forbidding me from doing what the Bible requires me to do, namely, to speak the truth in love. Since I can’t follow Christ here under your leadership, you’re asking me to leave.”

But I would say, “Could we just study and pray about this?” And if he’s willing to engage in any kind of process, I don’t want to encourage people to leave. I don’t want to encourage people to walk away from their churches. I want them to work at being there and ministering and caring and being unified as much as possible.

But if all of that comes to naught, I think something as much as, “You may not speak about the things that are very dear and precious and central to your understanding of the gospel,” that would probably mean you need to find another church.

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Encouraged by the Rise of Calvinism

If I were to write an article (and I plan on it) or give a sermon on why I am a Calvinist, this message by Pastor Jeff Noblit would be what I would like to write or say. In this incredible message by the pastor of Grace Life Church of the Shoals and the founder of Anchored in Truth Ministries, Jeff Noblit lays the foundation as to why he has been encouraged by the rise of Calvinism in Baptist churches. He spoke at the Building Bridges: Southern Baptists and Calvinism conference held at Southeastern Baptist Seminary in November 2007. Baptist or not, this message is a must for your library.   

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MCP for Thursday October 2, 2008

The Westminster Confession states, “. . . Wherefore they who are elected being fallen in Adam, are redeemed in Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.”  

On this program Mike and Pastor Scott Reiber discuss this fundamental, yet controversial, Biblical doctrine that states that God designed the work of redemption specifically with a view to saving those He chose to save. The program also includes a clip from a message from Dr. R.C. Sproul

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Theology 101-Limited Atonement

The Westminster Confession states, “. . . Wherefore they who are elected being fallen in Adam, are redeemed in Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.”  

On this program Mike and Pastor Scott Reiber discuss this fundamental, yet controversial, Biblical doctrine that states that God designed the work of redemption specifically with a view to saving those He chose to save. The program also includes a clip from a message from Dr. R.C. Sproul

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Sovereignty and Free Will

It is our selfish, sinful nature that leads us to demand that “we” control the shots. ‘I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps’ is the philosophy of the world. However, for the Christian, the Word of God tells that He is sovereign, in total, absolute control of all things. yet, many in the church seek to deny this basic foundational truth. On this program, Mike shares audio clips from R.C. Sproul and from Eric Holmberg’s DVD presentation Amazing Grace, The History and Theology of Calvinism, in affirming that the Lord God is sovereign!

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