Monday, June 29, 2009

Predestination in Acts, Part II

“Paul and Barnabas’s ministry in Pisidian Antioch on the first missionary journey is met alternatively by faith in their message (Acts 13:42-44, 47-49) and persecution (Acts 13:45-46, 50-51). As a result the apostles are up (Acts 13:42-44), down (Acts 13:45-46), up (Acts 13:47-49) and down (Acts 13:50-51). In the midst of the vacillating responses, the Gentiles turn to the Lord. ‘When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and ALL WHO WERE APPOINTED FOR ETERNAL LIFE BELIEVED’ (Acts 13:48). Luke presents A DIVINE CLASSIFICATION OR APPOINTMENT TO ETERNAL LIFE. AND THAT APPOINTMENT TO ETERNAL LIFE PRECEDES FAITH ON THE PART OF THE BELIEVERS- ‘all who were appointed for eternal life believed’” (Robert A. Peterson & Michael D. Williams, “Why I Am Not An Arminian,” page 52).

Peterson and Williams use their clever tricks here again with Acts 13:48. But, as the evidence will show, they are wrong on this text in Acts as well.

I looked up this verse in my Apologetics Study Bible, produced by the Holman Christian Standard publishing company. They interpreted the verse as thus: “And all who HAD BEEN APPOINTED TO ETERNAL LIFE BELIEVED.” However, there is a problem with the HCSB: the issue of the verbs.

To figure out what to do with this verse, I decided to look the verse up in my “Reader’s Greek New Testament,” produced by Zondervan. I’ll produce the verse here so that you can get an idea of the problem caused by the Holman Christian Standard rendering:

Akouonta de ta ethne exairon kai edoksazon ton logon tou kuriou kai episteusan hosoi esan tetagmenoi eis zoen aionion;

The words “hosoi esan tetagmenoi eis zoen aionion” are translated (reading from left to right), “as many were appointed into (or to) life eternal.” I want us to go back, though, and look at the beginning of the verse.

The words “akounta de ta ethne exairon kai edoksazon ton logon tou kuriou kai episteusan” are translated as “hearing but the Gentiles rejoiced and glorified the word of the Lord and believed.” When we arrange words in a proper English order, we get the following: “but the Gentiles hearing [the Word] rejoiced and glorified the word of the Lord and believed.”

What you have in the early part of verse 48 is the proper order in which salvation is appropriated to the believer: first, the Gentiles “heard” the word; then, they rejoiced and glorified the Word of the Lord; last but not least, they believed. Their hearing the Word caused them to rejoice and glorify the Word of the Lord (for they understood the Word after hearing it); then, as a result of understanding how wonderful the Word is, they then believed the Gospel—and were appointed to eternal life.

Peterson and Williams would like to have us believe that people are given eternal life BEFORE they believe—but this simply isn’t true! Understand these words from the apostle Paul:

“So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ” (Romans 10:17, HCSB).

In the context of Romans 10, Paul is discussing the issue of the Jews who have not achieved righteousness through the law, and the Gentiles who have achieved righteousness by faith (Rom. 9:30). Israel’s problem, though, doesn’t seem to be that they haven’t heard the message, but rather that they did not respond properly to it:

“But I ask, ‘Did they not hear?’ Yes, they did:
Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the inhabited world.
But I ask, ‘Did Israel not understand?’ First, Moses said:
I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that lacks understanding.
And Isaiah says boldly:
‘I was found by those who were not looking for Me; I revealed Myself to those who were not asking for Me.’
But to Israel he says: ‘All day long I have spread out My hands to a DISOBEDIENT AND DEFIANT PEOPLE’” (Romans 10:18-21, HCSB).

Israel’s problem had nothing to do with whether or not she was ELECTED to be saved or given eternal life; rather, Israel’s problem was that she was “disobedient and defiant” (as Romans 10 illustrates). So, while Israel did indeed hear the message, she did not respond to the message by professing faith. Instead, she revolted against it, still trying to do things her own way—by works of the law.

Listen to what Paul has to say to the Ephesians in the midst of a chapter discussing
their election IN CHRIST:

“In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation—in Him WHEN YOU BELIEVED—were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13,

First, the Ephesians heard the word of truth, the gospel; then they believed in what they heard from the Word—and, as a result, they believed and were saved. And what was the evidence of their salvation? “when you believed—were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” They were not sealed IN HIM until AFTER THEY BELIEVED, not before!

The problem with Peterson and Williams’ assessments of Acts is that it disagrees with the rest of Scripture. And in the event that one’s individual interpretation disagrees with the rest of Scripture, then he or she must go back and change their own interpretation to match the voice of Scripture. This is indeed the key to UNDERSTANDING (or standing under) the Word of God.

Now, back to the Greek text itself. The first part of Acts 13:48 tells us that the Gentiles heard the Word, rejoiced, glorified the Word, and believed. But the Greek text then says, “hosoi esan tetagmenoi zoen aionion.” The words “esan tetagmenoi” translate to “were had been appointed.” The word “tetagmenoi” is a perfect passive participle. The passive participle translates to a past tense verb—for example, “believed.” This is the basic passive participle. If the verb is a perfect passive, this means that the passive tense is attached to a perfect tense. The perfect tense translates in English to “has” or “have”. The perfect passive translates to “had been.” In this case, the word “tetagmenoi” translates to “having been appointed.”

But the problem comes in when you have to consider the verb before “tetagmenoi”—the word “esan.” The word “esan” is an imperfect verb, meaning “were.” The verb is a passive tense of the verb “to be” (usually written as “is”). So the text reads “were having been appointed.” In cases like this, when you have a passive verb meeting another passive verb, one of the passives must yield to the other. Because “were” is vital to this verse, then “having been appointed” must be changed accordingly. The best way to combine these two verbs is to translate the phrase as “were appointed.”
To say then, that these people “were appointed” before they believed is to do the text a terrible disgrace. Take the following example:

“All those who caught the swine flu were admitted to the hospital.”

Would I interpret this verse to mean “all those who were admitted to the hospital caught the flu” and state that only after the patients were admitted to the hospital that they caught the swine flu? Of course not! Yet, this what Peterson and Williams do to the text: they claim that those who believe were appointed to believe BEFORE they did, which is not what Scripture teaches. Even with Ephesians 1, we see that it is only AFTER THEY BELIEVED that they were sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit. If the effects happen AFTER the belief instead of before, then we are not inclined to believe that God has handpicked those who would believe in Him.

Acts 13:48 shows us a “cause and effect” plot: first, the Gentiles accept the Word, hear it, and rejoice in its truth—then they believe and are appointed to eternal life. It is usually a good rule of thumb to match interpretations with the known factors in Scripture. Peterson and Williams, though, stick to a presupposition. We can all stand to benefit from their mistake…

Predestination in Acts, Part I

“In Corinth on his second missionary journey, Paul, discouraged by Jewish opposition, stops preaching in the synagogue and turns to the Gentiles (Acts 18:5-8). The Lord speaks to Paul in a vision one night telling him to continue preaching the gospel (Acts 18:9). God promises the apostle, ‘I have many people in this city’ (Acts 18:10). Paul obediently stays on in Corinth for eighteen months ministering the Word of God (Acts 18:11). Luke teaches that people in Corinth BELONGED TO GOD EVEN BEFORE THEY BELIEVED THE GOSPEL. Again we see God’s election of people to salvation. Interestingly, although some claim that an emphasis on God’s sovereignty in salvation hinders evangelism, that emphasis encouraged Paul to continue preaching” (Robert A. Peterson & Michael D. Williams, “Why I Am Not An Arminian,” pp. 52-53).

Robert Peterson and Michael Williams attempt here to do what they’ve done throughout all of the Gospel of John as well as Revelation: hide certain details about the text.
In Acts 18, they write regarding verse 10, “God promises the apostle, ‘I have many people in this city.’” The problem with this, however, is that they leave out the earlier part of verse 10:

“For I AM WITH YOU, and NO ONE WILL LAY A HAND ON YOU TO HURT YOU, because I have many people in this city” (Holman Christian Standard Bible).

So the reason why the Lord tells Paul that He has many people in the city is so that Paul would be assured that “no one will lay a hand” on him. This is why in Acts 18:9, the Lord tells Paul, “Don’t be afraid, but KEEP ON SPEAKING AND DON’T BE SILENT.” There would be people in the city who would believe the gospel and profess faith in Christ. As a result of the gospel, Paul would have friends amongst the unbelievers in the city.

As we see, the Lord’s words to Paul about not keeping silent had to do with Paul’s fear of losing his life—not primarily about those who would believe the gospel, although the new converts would be protection for Paul. We do read in verse 11 that “he stayed there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”
If we look back to the early verses of Acts 18, we find that in Corinth, the Jews refuse to believe the gospel:

“When Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with preaching the message and solemnly testified to the Jews that the Messiah is Jesus. But WHEN THEY RESISTED and BLASPHEMED, he shook out his clothes and told them, ‘Your blood is on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles’” (Acts 18:5-6, HCSB).

Notice that the Jews “resisted and blasphemed” in response to the gospel message. Just like those Jews of Acts 7 who heard Stephen preach, these Jews resist Paul’s preaching of the gospel as well. To the Calvinist I pose the question, if we have in Acts TWO INSTANCES (chapters 7 and 18) where people are resisting the gospel, then how is it that there can be a concept of “Irresistible Grace”? And to make matters worse, how is it that Christians, after getting saved, can RESIST the Spirit of Grace (if grace is irresistible)?

As I said earlier, the Lord told Paul about many people of His in the city because this would serve as proof that Paul would be protected by the Lord.
We have one more passage to tackle in Acts: Acts 13. And that is what my next post will be all about.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Predestination in Revelation, Part II

Today I’m gonna continue my series on Predestination in Revelation. I’ve been tackling Peterson and Williams’ book titled, “Why I Am Not An Arminian,” and investigating their misunderstandings of biblical passages. I’m hanging around their aforementioned verses in the book of Revelation because they quote them as referring to God’s spiritual protection upon His people. However, as we will see, the spiritual protection of believers comes through their faith and endurance—and both of these will be needed for the time on earth of which Revelation 13 speaks.

I’ll print the main verses here:

1 And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. (A) He [a] had 10 horns and seven heads. On his horns were 10 diadems, (B) and on his heads were blasphemous names. (C) [b] 2 The beast I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like a bear's, and his mouth was like a lion's mouth. (D) The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. 3 One of his heads appeared to be fatally wounded, [c] but his fatal wound was healed. The whole earth was amazed and followed the beast. (E) [d] 4 They worshiped the dragon (F) because he gave authority to the beast. And they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? (G) Who is able to wage war against him?"
5 A mouth was given to him to speak boasts and blasphemies. (H) He was also given authority to act [e] [f] for 42 months. (I) 6 He began to speak [g] blasphemies against God: to blaspheme His name and His dwelling—those who dwell in heaven. 7 And he was permitted to wage war against the saints and to conquer them. He was also given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation. (J) 8 All those who live on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book [h] of life (K) of the Lamb who was slaughtered. (L) [i]
9 If anyone has an ear, he should listen: (M)
10 If anyone is destined for captivity,
into captivity he goes.
If anyone is to be killed [j] with a sword,
with a sword he will be killed. (N)
Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints.
(Revelation 13: 1-10, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

The chapter itself refers to the beast of Revelation, the one whom the dragon will give power to the beast. The dragon will be the beast’s serpent—and everyone will bow down to the best. Notice the praise given to the beast: “Who is like the beast? Who is able to wage war against him?” These words parallel those ascribed to the Lord in Exodus:

LORD, who is like You among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
revered with praises, performing wonders?
(Exodus 15:11, HCSB)

Moses and the Israelites praised God for His victory over the Egyptians at the Red Sea; but in Revelation, “everyone whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slaughtered” would praise and worship the beast (Rev. 13:8).

But in verses 9 and 10, we have something entirely different from what we would expect. Peterson and Williams may not have seen it, but it is pretty evident to most:

9 If anyone has an ear, he should listen: (M)
10 If anyone is destined for captivity,
into captivity he goes.
If anyone is to be killed [j] with a sword,
with a sword he will be killed. (N)
Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints.
(Rev. 13:9-10, HCSB)

Here the Spirit tells us to listen to what He is saying. What is He saying? He’s already told us that those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life will worship the beast. Their lives will be spared because they worship him and are useful to him. But what about the believers? Will Christians be spared? No. To see this, go back to Revelation 13:7—the beast was given authority not just over every tongue, tribe, and nation, but “he was permitted to wage war against the saints and conquer them” (13:7a). This means that all power and authority on earth belongs to him at this point in the book. With all this power, he is now allowed to harm the saints of God—something that, evidently, wasn’t apparent through the earlier chapters of the book. With this power EVEN OVER THE SAINTS, the beast will now have his way with them. And what exactly do the saints have to look forward to?
They will be killed with the sword and taken into captivity: “if anyone is destined for captivity, into captivity he goes. If anyone is to be killed with a sword, with a sword he will be killed” (Rev. 13:10).

Revelation 13:10 parallels an Old Testament passage regarding God’s people. God promised to punish Old Testament Israel for her sins against God, her constant turning away from the One true living God. This is what the Lord gave Israel for her punishment:

“Then the Lord said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel should stand before Me, My compassions would not [reach out] to these people. Send them from My presence, and let them go. If they ask you: Where will we go? You must tell them: ‘This is what the LORD says:
Those [destined] for death, to death;
Those [destined] for the sword, to the sword.
Those [destined] for famine, to famine;
Those [destined] for captivity, to captivity’”
(Jeremiah 15:1-2, HCSB).

Because of Israel’s sin, God would let her experience “four kinds of judgment” (Jer. 15:3). However, this is placed in the context of Revelation 13, where God’s people, those who have been faithful, will endure harsh persecution because they REFUSE to bow down to the beast. Instead of the saints being persecuted for rebelling against God (which the Israelites did), they will now be punished for REBELLING AGAINST THE BEAST, and refusing to bow down and worship him!

The end of Revelation 13:10 is the part I want to emphasize:
“Here is the endurance and faith of the saints.”

Despite the persecution, Christians are called to maintain their faith and endurance (or perseverance).

Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams would like to make readers believe that, no matter what, believers are spiritually protected. However, John in Revelation disagrees. To him, those who profess faith in Christ will be SPIRITUALLY VULNERABLE during the reign of the beast. Because of the power and authority given to him, every saint will be “under the microscope,” exposed to the world. And why? because the beast wants EVERYONE to worship him; and if he doesn’t have his way, then believers can expect to go to their deaths.

John states it here that those who profess faith will have to maintain FAITH AND ENDURANCE through this difficult time, a time that the world has yet to see. Whether or not a person endures is all based on that person: will the tribulation on the earth MAKE or BREAK the saints? That will all be revealed in time. However, we have Jesus words about the one who reigns victoriously with Him in the end:

“The victor will be dressed in white clothes, and I will NEVER ERASE HIS NAME FROM THE BOOK OF LIFE, but will acknowledge his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev. 3:5, HCSB). I pray that we will inherit this promise.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Predestination in Revelation, Part I

I’ve finished my series on predestination in the Gospel of John. Today I’m gonna start with our continuing study of predestination from a different book altogether—the Book of Revelation. And, by the way, I’m still marinating in the book “Why I Am Not An Arminian” by Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams.

“A theme from Revelation that pertains to the doctrine of election is ‘the book of life’ (Rev. 3:5; 17:8; 20:12, 15) or ‘the Lamb’s book of life’ (Rev. 13:8; 21:27). This book serves as the census register of the city of God. The names of the saints were enrolled ‘in the book of life from the creation of the world’ (Rev. 17:8). The chief use of that book is TO ASSURE THOSE LISTED THEREIN OF GOD’S SPIRITUAL PROTECTION (Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21;27) Although Arminians sometimes claim that predestination does not result in salvation, the passages mentioning the book of life disprove that claim. That is because those whose names are written in the book from creation (Rev. 17:8) will be spared the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15) and will enter the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:27)” (Robert A. Peterson & Michael D. Williams, “Why Am I Not An Arminian,” page 53).

To tackle the claim made by Calvinists (specifically the one above), I am gonna deal with the statement in bold: that the names are written in the book of life “TO ASSURE THOSE LISTED THEREIN OF GOD’S SPIRITUAL PROTECTION.”
Let’s start with Revelation 3:5—

“In the same way, the victor will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev. 3:5, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

These words are the words of Christ. We know this because Jesus says just prior to this that “I will come like a thief” (a thief in the night- Rev. 3:3), and “you have a few people in Sardis who have not defiled their clothes, and they will walk WITH ME IN WHITE, because they are worthy” (Rev. 3:4). In addition, look at verse 5. Jesus says to those who overcome, “I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will ACKNOWLEDGE his name before My Father and before His angels.”

Notice that the person speaking CAN erase names from the book of life. Who else could do this but Christ alone?

“Then I saw in the right hand of the One seated on the throne a scroll with writing on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. I also saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?’ But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or even to look in it. And I cried and cried because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or even to look in it.
Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Stop crying. Look! The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has been victorious so that He may open the scroll and its seven seals. Then I saw one like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth. He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of the One seated on the throne.
When He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and golden bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song:
‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; because YOU WERE SLAUGHTERED, AND YOU REDEEMED PEOPLE FOR GOD BY YOUR BLOOD from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:2-9, HCSB).

Secondly, Jesus says in the above passage of Revelation 3 that He would acknowledge the victorious one before His Father and the angels. Jesus says something similar to this in the Gospels:

“Therefore, everyone who will ACKNOWLEDGE Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32, HCSB).

The last thing I wanna point out about the context concerns Jesus words of “coming like a thief” from Revelation 3:3. Jesus references Himself as a thief in Revelation 16:

“Look, I am coming LIKE A THIEF. Blessed is the one who is alert and remains clothed so that he may not go naked, and they see his shame” (Rev. 16:15, HCSB).

As context reveals, Jesus is the One speaking in Revelation 3 to the church at Sardis.

According to Peterson and Williams, predestination results in salvation (from their quote above), and they believe Revelation 3 proves that. But it doesn’t.

First, notice the condition of the church at Sardis:

“I know your works; you have a REPUTATION FOR BEING ALIVE, but YOU ARE DEAD. Be alert and strengthen what remains, WHICH IS ABOUT TO DIE, for I have not found your WORKS COMPLETE BEFORE MY GOD. Remember therefore what YOU HAVE RECEIVED and heard; KEEP IT, and REPENT” (Rev. 3:1b-3a).

The church at Sardis had a reputation for being a living church, a name for good works. They were well-known for righteousness. This, then, does not sound like a church that NEVER BELIEVED in Christ! I say this now because the rest of the context will demonstrate the necessity of this statement.

In addition, “what remains” at the church at Sardis is “about to die.” Don’t you find this a little puzzling, that their reputation for good works is without merit, that they are described as “dead” and that “what remains” is “about to die”? What is this regarding “about to die?” The context refers to their works. Jesus says it in the reference above that “I have not found your works COMPLETE before My God.” The church at Sardis has not done all it could do, has not done nearly enough as a church with a reputation for good works. Although they have clearly been saved, their work has not testified to their salvation. In the next statement above, Jesus says, “Remember therefore what you HAVE RECEIVED and HEARD; KEEP IT, and REPENT.” Not only did they hear the truth, they received the truth, welcomed the truth. Jesus said that the only way for them to be pleasing in His sight was to KEEP IT, and repent of their slothfulness. As we can see, “what remains” is “about to die.”
So this church is on the edge of spiritual apostasy, walking away from Christ. Their faith in Christ is about to die, about to wane completely, and the Lord tells them to repent right away of this and go back to what they were before their lapse in their spiritual walk. What will happen if they don’t repent?

“But if you are not alert, I WILL COME LIKE A THIEF, and you have no idea at what hour I will come AGAINST YOU” (Rev. 3:3, HCSB).

Jesus’ reference to Himself as a thief matches His words to the disciples in Luke 12:

“Those slaves the master will find alert when he comes will be blessed. I assure you: He will get ready, have them recline at the table, then come and serve them. If he comes in the middle of the night, or even near dawn, and finds them alert, those slaves are blessed. But know this: if the homeowner had known at what hour the THIEF was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect” (Luke 12:37-40, HCSB).

Luke 12 continues where Christ gives the parable of the faithful servant put in charge of the household until the master returns; but once the master goes off, the slave responds, “My Master is delaying his coming, and starts to beat the male and female slaves, and to eat and drink and get drunk” (Lk. 12:45).When the master returns, “He will cut him to pieces and ASSIGN HIM A PLACE WITH THE UNBELIEVERS” (Lk. 12:46).

So when Jesus tells the church at Sardis that He would return like a thief in the night, He wasn’t joking. If He found that they had not repent and continued in good works, they too, would be assigned a place with the unbeliever.

The church at Sardis, then, consisted of those who had believed in the gospel and had become part of the body of Christ; but all that could “go up in smoke” if they had not remained faithful when the Lord returned.

But verse 4 is refreshing:

“But you have a FEW PEOPLE IN SARDIS who have not defiled their clothes, and they will walk with Me in white, because they are worthy. In the same way, the victor will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev. 3:4-5, HCSB).

Despite the sad condition of the church at Sardis, there were a few who had continued to persevere despite the majority. The Lord doesn’t promise to destroy the entire church—just the majority that had given in to spiritual laziness.
But the verse we are to center in on is verse 5: why would the Lord have to write and promise never to “erase” names from the book of life? Because the majority of this church had begun to lose faith and walk away from Christ. And if they didn’t get their act together, their names WOULD BE BLOTTED OUT of the book of life (in contrast to those who had remained undefiled, whose names would never be taken out of the book).

Some people could say, “Well, see, those whose names would be taken out of the book of life were unbelievers to begin with.” But evidence within Revelation itself disproves this statement:

“All those who live on the earth will worship him [the beast], EVERYONE WHOSE NAME WAS NOT WRITTEN FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD in the book of life of the Lamb who was slaughtered” (Rev. 13:8, HCSB).

Peterson and Williams claim that the book of life is “to assure those listed therein of God’s spiritual protection,” but Revelation 3 (unlike Revelation 13:8) refers to those who ARE in the book of life who COULD BE BLOTTED OUT of it if they don’t repent of their sin. Those of Revelation 13:8 have NEVER had their names in the book of life; those in Revelation 3 HAVE THEIR NAMES in the book of life, but “what remains” is “about to die” because they are “dead,” according to Christ Himself.
So the names in the book of life were not GUARANTEED to be protected—just those that persevered. Jesus says that only those “who have not defiled their clothes…will walk with Me in white, BECAUSE THEY ARE WORTHY” (Rev. 3:4, HCSB). The few that had remained faithful to God qualified to walk with Him in white as victors.

Revelation 3, then, is written to the church at Sardis to wake them up from their sinful, dead slumber. If they didn’t, their names would be blotted out of the Lamb’s book of life— those who had endured faithfully would overcome and reign with the Lamb. Contrary to Peterson and Williams, however, protection was not guaranteed—it came with the condition of perseverance. And this is the problem with unconditional election—it acts as if eternity is already guaranteed! But it is only to be appropriated PROVIDED that the believer endure to the end. As Jesus Himself said it in Matthew 24, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13, English Standard Version).

The Remonstrance Returns: A Response to Michael D. Williams' Article, "The Five Points of Arminianism" by Deidre M. Richardson

“The will of God cannot, according to Arminius, circumscribe human choices such that any particular choice is metaphysically necessary. Divine determination of any degree or stripe is a violation of the integrity of the human free will. To be free, the will must be free from all coercion. The integrity of the autonomous creature is the one irreducible theological principle of Arminius’s thought…if it is appropriate to speak of a doctrine of sovereignty here, it appears that it can only be the sovereignty OF THE HUMAN WILL. In Arminian thinking, God can only get his way IF HE HAPPENS TO BE TRAVELING IN THE SAME DIRECTION AS WE ARE.”

First, I would like to applaud Michael Williams for completing his work, “Why I Am Not An Arminian.” Roger Olson praises him highly for his remarks regarding Arminians—that they are fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. However, in this essay, I will critique Williams’ analyses of the five points of Arminianism and show why, scripturally, Williams’ Calvinist leanings cannot be correct.

Arminian Article One states:

“That God by an eternal and immutable decree has in Jesus Christ his Son determined before the foundation of the world to save out of the fallen sinful human race those in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ who by the grace of the Holy Spirit shall believe in this his Son Jesus Christ and persevere in this faith and obedience of faith to the end; and on the other hand to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath and condemn (them) as alienate from Christ—according to the word of the holy gospel in John 3:36, ‘He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life, and whosoever is disobedient to the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him,’ and also other passages of the Scriptures.”

Regarding Article One, Williams writes:

“While the intention here is to reject any notion of salvation by works, a salvation by merit, Arminius’s doctrine of election through foreseen faith cannot fully escape the allegation that merit is intrinsic to his understanding of salvation. John Frame states the Calvinist analysis here most succinctly: ‘The Arminian wants to have it both ways. He wants to say that faith has no merit, but he also wants to say that our faith somehow motivates God to save us, that God chooses us on the basis of our choosing him. But if faith motivates God to save us, then it must have merit in his eyes’.”

The first error Williams makes in his assessment of Arminius (a typical Calvinist attack) is that he labels faith as a work (“merit is intrinsic to his[Arminius] understanding of salvation”). Read what the apostle Paul writes regarding faith:
“This is the message of faith that we proclaim: IF you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Let’s look at this passage. First, note that Paul calls the message “the message of FAITH” that “we PROCLAIM.” The message is ALL ABOUT FAITH! This is what Paul preached, no matter where he went, regardless of who he met. For Arminius, faith was central to salvation—for faith in the work of Christ is what is required, as Romans 10:8-9 demonstrates. Next, note that Paul says, “IF you confess with your mouth,” and “IF you believe in your heart” (the word “if” serving as the initial word for both actions). The text does not tell us that God has decided to save some and damn others. If anyone confesses and believes, he or she is saved. Salvation comes through these two steps—confession and belief; and there are no others to perform.

Paul also speaks of faith (as distinguished from merit) earlier in the book of Romans:

“What should we say then? Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained righteousness—namely THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT COMES FROM FAITH. But Israel, pursuing the law for righteousness, has not achieved the law. Why is that? BECAUSE THEY DID NOT PURSUE IT BY FAITH, but as if it were by works" (Rom. 9:30, NASB)

Paul contrasts the Jew and the Gentile here: the Gentiles have received righteousness without the works of the law, while the Jews have gotten nothing for their human efforts—because they were still trying to “earn” their salvation through the law.
Paul gives us an interesting statement: “the righteousness that comes from faith.” The Gentiles have received God’s righteousness THROUGH FAITH. Faith then, is not a work, for the text does not say “the righteousness OF faith,” but “the righteousness that COMES FROM faith.” It is not the faith that makes a believer righteous—it is the work of Christ that a believer RECEIVES by faith that makes the believer righteous. Paul explains this to the Corinthians:

“He[God] made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

We have an opportunity to become righteous because He “traded places” with us—while He hung on the cross, we went free. He became the sin that we committed so we could become the righteousness God demanded.

Now, with 2 Corinthians 5:21, let’s approach the John Frame quote:

‘The Arminian wants to have it both ways. He wants to say that faith has no merit, but he also wants to say that our faith somehow motivates God to save us, that God chooses us on the basis of our choosing him. But if faith motivates God to save us, then it must have merit in his eyes’.

I’ve never read where an Arminian ever said that our faith motivates God to save us. Williams (nor Frame) have paid attention to Arminius’ Article One: it clearly states that those who believe “by the grace of the Holy Spirit” will be saved. Our faith can’t motivate God to save us because it takes God’s GRACE before we can ever come to faith!! Our faith, then, is DEPENDENT upon God’s grace, not INDEPENDENT of it. If faith could be demonstrated independently, then grace would not be needed. This hypothetical independence of faith is of the semi-Pelagian heresy, which Arminians do not believe. Read the words of Roger Olson (quoting Arminius):

“In his LAPSED AND SINFUL state, man is NOT CAPABLE, of and by himself, either to THINK, to will, OR to do that which is really good; but it is NECESSARY FOR HIM TO BE REGENERATED AND RENEWED IN HIS INTELLECT…by God in Christ THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT, that he MAY BE QUALIFIED rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good…BUT YET NOT WITHOUT THE CONTINUED AIDS OF DIVINE GRACE.”

So our faith does not motivate God. God gives grace independent of whether or not we are motivated to choose Him.

However, while God’s grace is first applied before faith can even become possible, the Lord DOES expect us to come to Him with faith. The writer of Hebrews states:

“Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.”

If we don’t have faith we cannot please the Lord. Our coming to Christ is of null effect if we don’t have faith. Notice that this verse is in the midst of Hebrews 11, the famous chapter so dubbed as “The Role Call of Faith.” Those who were accepted in God’s sight were those whose faith was supplemented by works. The existence of faith is predicated on what we do. It shows whether or not we really believe what we say we do. Look at Hebrews 11:6 again—it says that the Lord rewards “THOSE WHO SEEK HIM.” This tells us that God does not “pull” people like a magnet into the Kingdom of God. The Lord does not force people to accept Him, or put some secret “force” behind them that makes them do what is right. No—He extends the invitation to come receive His righteousness by faith—and whether or not we come is up to us.

Frame’s last statement is puzzling: that, if faith must come prior to salvation, then it must have merit in God’s eyes. It very well may have merit; but even our faith is given by God Himself:

“For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly then he should think. Instead, think sensibly, AS GOD HAS DISTRIBUTED A MEASURE OF FAITH TO EACH ONE.”

Everyone has been given a measure of faith. Because everyone has faith, and faith comes from God, then God has extended His kindness to ALL. So everyone has been given faith by which to please Him.

Article Two:

“That in agreement with this Jesus Christ the Savior of the world died for all men and every man, so that he merited reconciliation and forgiveness of sin for all through the death of the cross; yet so that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer—also according to the word of the gospel of John 3:16, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ And the first epistle of John 2:2, ‘He is the propitiation for our sins; and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world.’”

Regarding Article Two, Williams writes that the article was written against the Calvinist position, “in conformity with Arminius’s notion of a GENERAL DECREE OF REDEMPTION (which compels me to say only that Christ died for sins).”

But Christ did die for the sins of the whole world. I am a believer and have faith in Christ, but Christ did not die just for me, or for a special group—but for all. As Paul wrote in Romans,

6 For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, (K) Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. 8 But God proves (L) His own love for us (M) in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!

In the midst of our sin, Christ gave His life for us. Were believers the only sinners at that time? No—we stood condemned ALONG WITH ALL THE WORLD in sin. The Arminian can still say that Christ died for him, but not only for him. As 1 John 2:2 tells us (Arminius quoted this in his second Article), “He is the propitiation for our sins; AND NOT ONLY FOR OURS, BUT ALSO FOR THE SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD.” Who did John write this letter to? The believers. What evidence is there?

“Dear friends, WE ARE GOD’S CHILDREN NOW…”

“I am writing to you, little children, BECAUSE YOUR SINS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN ON ACCOUNT OF HIS NAME. I am writing to you, fathers, because YOU HAVE COME TO KNOW THE ONE WHO IS FROM THE BEGINNING…I have written to you, children, BECAUSE YOU HAVE COME TO KNOW THE FATHER.”

Therefore, when John says that Christ didn’t die for our sins, he is telling us that MORE THAN JUST THE BELIEVER is involved—the sinner is as well.

Article Three:

“That man does not have saving faith of himself nor by the power of his own free will, since he in the state of APOSTASY and sin cannot of and through himself think, will or do any good which is truly good (such as is especially saving faith); but that it is necessary that he be regenerated by God, in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, affections or will, and all powers, in order that he may rightly understand, meditate upon, will, and perform that which is truly good, according to the word of Christ, John 15:5, ‘Without me ye can do nothing.’”

Look back at the first words of Article Three:

“That man does not have saving faith of himself nor by the power of his own free will, SINCE HE IS IN THE STATE OF APOSTASY AND SIN…”

Before someone comes to Christ, he or she “is in the state of apostasy.” Wait a minute! Before Christ, we’re in APOSTASY? But, we aren’t saved! We haven’t had a chance to walk away, have we?

This is where Romans 5 comes to the rescue:

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because ALL SINNED.”

So we strayed from God IN ADAM! Adam was the representative of the human race, and his sin we all were partakers of. We shared in the transgression—all of humanity, despite the fact that we weren’t born yet, or hadn’t done any wrong (“those who did not sin in the likeness of Adam’s transgression,” Rom. 5:14, HCSB).

The word “apostasy” comes from the Greek verb “aposteisontai,” meaning “to depart.” So when Arminius writes that we are in “apostasy and sin,” he is saying that, not only are we unbelievers before we accept Christ, but that we are in such a state BECAUSE WE ABANDONED CHRIST ONCE BEFORE—IN ADAM, in the Garden.

Williams asks the question, “But how does this third article fit with Arminius’s OPTIMISTIC VIEW of human free will and his SYNERGISTIC view of redemption WHICH INSISTED THAT MAN’S ACCEPTANCE OF THE GOSPEL IS A NECESSARY CONDITION FOR REGENERATION?” We read of Arminius’s answer in Article Four:

“That this grace of God is the commencement, progression, and completion of all good, also in so far that regenerate man cannot, apart from this prevenient or assisting, awakening, consequent and cooperating grace, think, will or do the good or resist any temptation to evil; so that all good works or activities which can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. BUT WITH RESPECT TO THE MODE OF THIS GRACE, IT IS NOT IRRESISTIBLE, since it is written concerning many that they resisted the Holy Spirit. Acts 7 and elsewhere in many places.”

While everything good the believer does is attributed to the grace of God, grace is not irresistible—this means that people can resist this grace and choose not to accept it. Arminius doesn’t leave us to wonder whether or not the Spirit can be resisted. He gives us an example of Spirit resistance in Acts 7:

“You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always RESISTING the Holy Spirit; as your forefathers did, so do you.”

In Acts 7 Stephen is preaching a long sermon at the “Freedman’s Synagogue, composed of BOTH Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia” (Acts 6:9). It is after they hear part of his sermon that they began to accuse him of speaking blasphemy against God (Acts 6:11-14).

Arminius believes that the Spirit of Grace can be resisted. Williams’ answer?

“At the end of the article, we read that grace can be resisted by the recalcitrant human will. Grace is not efficacious as in the Augustinian and Calvinist sense that by God’s power his grace effects its goal, namely, the redemption of sinners such that their redemption comes by no power of their own but is due solely to the power and work of the triune in the Remonstrance, however, GRACE IS NOT CAUSAL BUT MERELY PERSUASIVE IN NATURE…the call of the gospel is not YOU WILL but rather YOU SHOULD.”

Although Williams labels Arminianism as possessing a “synergistic” view of redemption, this in and of itself is not true. No one is arguing that the work of salvation is solely the work of the Lord—only the Lord could save us from our sins (we were unable to do so).

“In Him we have REDEMPTION through HIS BLOOD, the forgiveness of our trespasses, ACCORDING TO THE RICHES OF HIS GRACE, that He lavished on us WITH ALL WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING.”

Why would the Lord give us grace IF we didn’t need to accept Him THROUGH FAITH? After all, Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that it takes both grace and faith to receive salvation.

However, what Arminius (and his followers) are saying is that, while the redemption has been wrought by God alone, it is not IMPARTED to a person UNTIL that person receives it BY FAITH. There is no other way to receive the work.

Secondly, Arminius does not possess optimism about free will—rather, he has a realistic view of human free will:

“That man does not have saving faith of himself nor by the power of his own free will, since he in the state of APOSTASY and sin cannot of and through himself think, will or do any good which is truly good (such as is especially saving faith); but that it is necessary that he be regenerated by God, in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, affections or will, and all powers, in order that he may rightly understand, meditate upon, will, and perform that which is truly good, according to the word of Christ…”

Arminius argues here that it is NECESSARY for a man to be changed by the Holy Spirit. Notice that when the man is regenerated, he is not only given the ability to meditate and will those things that are good, but he is also “renewed in understanding.” This is confirmed by the apostle Paul:

“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man, WHO IS BEING RENEWED IN KNOWLEDGE ACCORDING TO THE IMAGE OF HIS CREATOR.”

When we have come to faith because of God’s Holy Spirit, then we receive a new man. And the new man is “being renewed in knowledge.” This tells us that the old man had “his practices,” things he did because of his old nature. But the new man now has a choice—he is not an automaton, doing what he is forced to do, as if some “secret impulse” is guiding him towards righteousness. No—he is now freed to CHOOSE whether to do the deeds of his flesh, or to do the deeds that accompany someone possessing the Spirit of God.

The one who puts on the new man is seeing his knowledge renewed, or “made new again,” which implies that at one point, his knowledge was complete (ours was complete in the Garden of Eden). The knowledge is being renewed, even as the image of God, planted on humanity, is being renewed. The image is being made anew, so that one can begin to “see” clearly the things of God and discern what is right and wrong. Why would God give us this knowledge IF we didn’t have a responsibility to make an educated choice that would be most pleasing to God?

The next charge made by Michael Williams is that Arminians assert that “grace is not causal but PERSUASIVE.” However the charge was made, Williams is right. Arminians are not going to say that grace is causal. Grace is there as an aid, the lens through which the believer “sees” God (“the door” according to John 10), but grace is not going to MAKE the believer walk to “the door”[Christ] and open it[receive salvation]. Paul talks about the persuasive nature of the gospel:

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or bad. Knowing, then, the fear of the Lord, we PERSUADE people.”

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul makes the point that everyone will stand before Christ to be judged in the end—for everything that they have done. Why are we to be judged, IF, as the Calvinist says, God has already chosen some to be saved and others to be damned? Notice, too, that Paul said that he and others PERSUADE all people. What does the word “persuade” mean? This is what I gathered, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary online:

“To move by argument, entreaty, or expostulation to a BELIEF, position, or COURSE OF ACTION.”

So when Paul writes that he and others PERSUADE men, he is stating the fact that, while God’s grace is there for every man, that grace is not CAUSAL—it doesn’t move people to belief. Only by employing man’s rational component, his intellect and reason, can a person receive salvation by faith. If grace were causal, there would be no need to persuade men—for grace would win them over, whether or not it was against their will or intellect.

Grace IS PERSUASIVE; for, if it were CAUSAL, what would be the need for faith? Both grace and faith are needed in order to receive salvation. If the Calvinists have it their way, Ephesians 2:8 will read, “Now by grace are ye saved; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” If it is just grace, and grace is given to every man (as Scripture tells us), then God would ELECT EVERYONE TO SALVATION! However, God doesn’t pick EVERYONE to be saved; why? Because of faith, belief. And God knows, as well as we do, that some will accept the faith while others reject it. God doesn’t handpick everyone to be saved, and He doesn’t handpick SOME to be saved; He allows everyone to receive salvation by grace through faith. And whether or not one receives it is up to them.

Paul also tells us how a sinner comes to salvation in Christ:

“’For EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord WILL BE SAVED.’ But how can they call on Him in whom THEY HAVE NOT BELIEVED? And how can they believe without HEARING ABOUT HIM? And how can they hear WITHOUT A PREACHER? And how can they preach unless they are sent?...but ALL DID NOT OBEY THE GOSPEL. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has BELIEVED our message?’ So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. But I ask, ‘Did they not hear?’ Yes, they did:
‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the inhabited world.’
But I ask, ‘Did Israel not understand?’ First, Moses said:
‘I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that lacks understanding.’
And Isaiah says boldly:
‘I was found by those who were not looking for Me; I revealed Myself to those who were not asking for Me.’
But to Israel he says: ‘All day long I have spread out My hands to a disobedient and DEFIANT people.’”

First, for someone to accept the Gospel, he or she has to hear the Word from a preacher (Rom.10:14), who is sent (Rom. 10:15); then, once the Gospel has been preached, the sinner has to make a choice based on what they heard. Based on their hearing, they have to choose whether or not to believe. And once they believe, they then call on the name of the Lord and are saved (Rom. 10:13).Why would Paul go through this process IF everyone was elected, some to eternal life and others to eternal reprobation and torment?

But, Paul asks, “Have they not heard?” In other words, a person would surely believe if they heard the message, right? To this answer, Paul quotes Psalm 19:4. This Psalm discusses the general revelation of God as well as His Word. Paul says, yes, they have heard the message because Scripture foretells that they would.
If Israel heard the message, then, did they understand it (understanding being next in the process of belief)? Paul quotes from Deut. 32:21 to let them know that “a nation that lacks understanding,” in this case, the Gentiles (context of Romans), would come to faith—while the nation that had understanding (the Israelites) wouldn’t come to faith because of their unbelief.

In verse 26, Paul uses Isaiah 65 to say that “those who were not looking for Me,” i.e., the Gentiles (those for whom salvation was not given originally) would find the Messiah.
In verse 27, the Lord has an altogether different response for Israel: although they have heard the message and have fully understood it, they have become a “disobedient and defiant people,” who refuse to believe. Notice that the Lord says, “ALL DAY LONG I HAVE SPREAD OUT MY HANDS” to such people.

Michael Williams responds to Article Four:

“…the Arminian notion of prevenient grace DE FACTO nullifies the doctrine of depravity that was affirmed in the last article. The spiritual inability spoken of in the third article becomes an empty shell, a purely hypothetical notion. If all people have sufficient free will that they are able to respond believingly to the gospel, then when or where does anyone exist who lives under the conditions described in the article on the Fall—that is, devoid of ‘the power of his own free will’ and ‘in the state of apostasy and sin?’ What was lost in the third article—the freedom of the will—is reinstated in the fourth.”

Williams is wrong, once again. Article 3 tells us that

“That man does not have saving faith of himself nor by the power of his own free will, since he in the state of APOSTASY and sin cannot of and through himself think, will or do any good which is truly good (such as is especially saving faith); but that it is necessary that he be regenerated by God, in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, affections or will, and all powers, in order that he may rightly understand, meditate upon, will, and perform that which is truly good, according to the word of Christ…”

The third article of Arminianism tells us that the man “in the state of apostasy and sin” cannot bring himself to saving faith. However, look back at Article Four. Article Four is not talking about the same thing as article three. Article Three is talking about that a man cannot come to saving faith APART FROM the grace given to him by God. However, in order for man to make a choice of whether to accept or reject, his will must be “freed” so that he can make a decision. Once his will is freed to make a decision, the choice is up to him. This is what we call “Grace through faith”—grace is supplied so that FAITH IS POSSIBLE!

There are quite a few passages of Scripture that show the connection between grace and faith, but I’ll provide two:

23for(A) all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24(B) and are justified(C) by his grace as a gift,(D) through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God(E) put forward as(F) a propitiation(G) by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in(H) his divine forbearance he had passed over(I) former sins.

8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God's gift—

Notice that in both examples, grace comes BEFORE faith. What is faith? Faith is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary online as:

3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction.
I also looked up a definition for the word “belief”:
3: conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence.

Both definitions use the word “conviction” when talking about faith. And what does it mean to be convince someone? to overcome by argument.
So, someone who is convinced comes to faith because of a powerful argument or strong evidence attesting to the truthfulness of something.

To say it best, faith is what happens when I use my intellect and reason to examine the Gospel for myself and see whether or not Christ really came to earth as God in the flesh, Immanuel, and whether or not He really did die for the sins of the whole world (including my sin). Being saved is not some mental relaxation process where my mind isn’t engaged in the Good News about Christ. If it is, then I should question why my intellect was even given to me in the first place. The Calvinist would like to have us believe that grace pulls “the elect” along a tidal wave, whose end is salvation and glory; however, if this is so, then man is no more than a machine—and God becomes the “machine operator” who pushes certain buttons to get certain reactions. We become His puppets, and He becomes abusive and rapist. Remember what I stated earlier about the image of God being renewed? Let’s read it again:

“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man, WHO IS BEING RENEWED IN KNOWLEDGE ACCORDING TO THE IMAGE OF HIS CREATOR.”

Because the new man is renewed (made new) IN KNOWLEDGE, it seems as if the Lord doesn’t just throw our minds out of the window. Contrary to Calvinist thought, the Lord can still (and does) use our minds for His glory, once we “awaken” out of the “slumber” of sin and apostasy and by faith accept Him as Lord and Savior. The God image that we bear starts to be restored day-by-day once we accept Christ. God, then, doesn’t eliminate the image of Himself that we bear, nor does He do away with our faculties that were given to us BY VIRTUE OF being created in His image and having His likeness. God particularly restores the mind once grace is accepted because of the pivotal role of mankind in God’s plan. Let’s go back to see how important the mind of man was:

19 So the LORD God formed out of the ground each wild animal and each bird of the sky, and brought each to the man to see what he would call it. (S) And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal;

Man is so pivotal to God’s plan in the world that man was allowed to demonstrate His intellect in the Garden of Eden. Adam didn’t have to wonder how he got all the knowledge he had to name the animals—for God implanted the knowledge in Adam when He created him. Adam, bearing an intellect because His Creator does, was able to act in his role as “lord” (lowercase) over the earth—by naming the animals. And as the human head of creation, Adam gets to name his wife Eve as well.

If the intellect and will were of such pivotal importance in the Garden of Eden, why would they be ANY LESS IMPORTANT when man professes faith in Christ? If the image of God is being restored in man every day, and that image was connected with the intellect and will, then why wouldn’t the intellect and will be restored also? Calvinism portrays human beings as animals who live off of instinct—but we were made for more than this! As the crowning creation of all God made, WE have been given a mind and will LIKE GOD so as to be able to do things the rest of creation cannot do. And “eliminating” these in salvation, when God has created us to be in fellowship with Him, is to place mankind among the beasts of the field and the creatures that crawl on the earth.

Let’s read Arminius’s Article Five:

“That those who are incorporated into Jesus Christ and thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit have abundant strength to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh and to obtain the victory; it being well understood (that this is) through the assistance of the grace of the Holy Spirit, and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends the hand, and—if only they are prepared for welfare and desire his help and are not negligent—keeps them standing, so that by no cunning or power of Satan can they be led astray or plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the word of Christ, John 10, ‘No one shall pluck them out of my hands.’ But whether they can through negligence fall away from the first principle of their life in Christ, again embrace the present world, depart from the pure doctrine once given to them, lose the good conscience, and neglect grace, MUST FIRST BE MORE CAREFULLY DETERMINED FROM THE HOLY SCRIPTURES before we shall be able to teach this with the full persuasion of our heart.”

Williams responds to Article Five with the following:

“It is expected because it fits the Arminian dictum of the SOVEREIGNTY OF THE HUMAN FREE WILL. Human choice, even a choice which consists of negligence in the things of God, is determinative. Free will trumps all else, even the grace of God. When man has veto power over the redemptive work of God, the power of determination is always in the hands of man and never in God’s…Perseverance in the faith may be enabled by grace, but IT IS FINALLY DEPENDENT UPON OUR OWN ACHIEVEMENTS AND STRIVINGS.”

Arminius believed perseverance was important for the believer. While he believed someone could neglect their relationship with Christ, he didn’t go so far as to say that someone could depart from the faith. Arminius believed that to make this point would require greater study of the Word of God. Another article will be needed to examine this tenet of Arminianism, but for now, one verse of Scripture will suffice:

“Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the latter times some WILL DEPART FROM THE FAITH, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons...”

The Greek word for “will depart” is “aposteisontai”; its parent word is “aphistamai,” which can mean “to go away,” “to desert, to withdraw from one,” or “TO FALL AWAY, TO BECOME FAITHLESS.”

Our English word “apostasy,” is a derivative of the Greek word. Looking up the English word “apostasy,” I got these definitions:

1 : renunciation of a religious faith
2 : abandonment of a previous loyalty : DEFECTION

Looking up the word “defection,” I got the following:

: conscious abandonment of allegiance or duty (as to a person, cause, or doctrine)
Apostasy, therefore, involves a “conscious abandonment,” a decision of the will to walk away from something. It is an intentional departing from what one has known (in this case, the Christian faith).

The evidence is in the Greek, but Arminius left this question open.
So Williams and other Calvinists can assert that Arminians praise free will as the center of their theology, but linguistically, willful abandonment and departure from the faith seem to be an apparent reality.

It is my hope that after this long study, it has been shown that the Calvinist attacks on Arminius’s Five Points is unwarranted. While I respect Michael Williams for his work on “Why I Am Not an Arminian,” I think his work left me confident about being one.


(1) Williams, Michael D. “The Five Points of Arminianism.” Presbyterion 30/1 (Spring 2004):26.
(2)While the five points of Arminianism are contained in other sources, I will cite Williams’ work where he prints them (will be so throughout this article).Williams, “Five Points,” page 27.
(3)Ibid., 28.
(4) Romans 10:8b-9 (Holman Christian Standard Bible). All verses in this article will come from this version unless otherwise stated.
(6)2 Corinthians 5:21.
(7)Olson, Roger.”Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.” Downers Grove: IVP, 2006, page 42. Here he quotes from Arminius’s “Works,” this one being “A Declaration of the Sentiments of Arminius.”
(8)Hebrews 11:6.
(9)Rom. 12:3.
(10)Williams, “Five Points,” page 29.
(12)Rom. 5:6-8.
(13)1 John 3:2.
(14)1 Jn. 2:12-14.
(15)Williams, “Five Points,” page 29.
(17)Williams, “Five Points,” page 29.
(19)Acts 7:51 (HCSB).
(21)Ephesians 1:7.
(23)Colossians 3:9-10.
(24)2 Corinthians 5:10-11.
(26)Romans 10:13-21.
(27)Rom.10:27, HCSB.
(28)Williams, 31.
(29)Rom. 3:23-25, ESV.
(30)Eph. 2:8, HCSB.
(34)Colossians 3:9-10, HCSB.
(35)Gen.2:19-20, HCSB.
(36)Williams, 32.
(38)1 Timothy 4:1, HCSB.

(1) Brand, Chad Owen, E. Ray Clendenen, Paul Copan, and J.P. Moreland, eds. The Apologetics Study Bible. Holman Christian Standard Bible. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007.
(2) Olson, Roger.”Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.” Downers Grove: IVP, 2006.
(3) Williams, Michael D. “The Five Points of Arminianism.” Presbyterion 30/1 (Spring 2004).

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Election of the Gospel of John-- Part IV

Jesus prays in anticipation of the cross and his return to the Father. The Son’s mission of salvation is governed by the Father’s prior election of people. Although the Father has ‘granted’ the Son ‘authority over all people,’ the Son only gives ‘eternal life to all those’ the Father has ‘given him’ (Jn. 17:2). The Son is thus sovereign over all people but only grants the gift of eternal life to the elect. Furthermore, Jesus explains his mission, ‘I have revealed you to those you gave me out of the world’ (Jn. 17:6). As a result, they accept the divine message and believe in the Son (Jn. 17:7-8).

Jesus’ prayers likewise reflect a PRIOR DIVINE DISCRIMINATION. ‘I pray for them. I AM NOT PRAYING FOR THE WORLD, but for those you have given me, for they are yours’ (Jn. 17:9). Jesus uses the word ‘world’ to refer to those not given to him by the Father…in this famous passage, John portrays election as the Father’s having given people to the Son. They first belonged to the Father, and he gave them to Jesus
” (Robert A. Peterson & Michael D. Williams, “Why I Am Not An Arminian,” page 51).

As I’ve stated through the series on John, I do believe in a group called “the elect.” However, when Jesus talks about “thise you gave me out of the world” (Jn. 17:6), the Lord is here talking about the eleven disciples (minus Judas, of course!). When He talks about “those you have given me,” here the Lord is referring to the eleven disciples. Notice too, that the Lord prays this to the Father:

“I ask on THEIR behalf…of those whom You have given Me…” (John 17:9, NASB)

The Lord Jesus talks about the “men whom You gave me,” of verse 6; these men are the eleven disciples.
But in verse 20, the Lord prays for His future followers:

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but FOR THOSE ALSO WHO BELIEVE IN ME THROUGH THEIR WORD;” (John 17:20, NASB)

So now, we discover that Jesus also includes those who would believe in Him in the future. But, verse 20 indicates something different than the earlier verses of John 17: whereas the earlier verses talk about the disciples being chosen “out of the world,” verse 20 indicates that, in the future, those who would become disciples would BELIEVE in Christ. There is an elect group, but that group is elect IN CHRIST. There is not some arbitrary group that Christ has determined to believe in Him. Yes, the Father has given Him the inheritance of believers: but the inheritance of believers, His possession, are those who come to Him by faith.

Last but not least, in verse 21, the Lord prays that even the world would believe that the Father sent Christ. So even though the Lord prays that only the disciples in Him would be protected, He does pray for the salvation of the world (that the world would BELIEVE).

John chapter 17 goes back to John 3, where Jesus is talking to Nicodemus:

“For God so loved THE WORLD, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to JUDGE THE WORLD, but that THE WORLD MIGHT BE SAVED THROUGH HIM” (John 3:16-17, NASB).

So the Father gave His Son, Jesus, on behalf of the ENTIRE WORLD! Look in verse 17. Notice that the Son was not sent to CONDEMN or JUDGE the world, but for the purpose of SAVING THE WORLD. It was the Father’s desire that the world come to faith in His Son, not condemnation.

Well, what do we do with John 17? I believe that this has something to do with what we label this chapter: “The High Priestly Prayer.” Jesus is here acting as High Priest for all those who are in Him. Sounds like Hebrews to me:


In Hebrews 3 the writer is talking to those who are children of God. And the Lord Jesus is labeled “The high priest OF OUR CONFESSION,” meaning that the audience is made up of those who have already CONFESSED the Lord Jesus and believed on His name (Romans 10:9). Therefore, if Jesus is in John 17 preceding for those the Father gave Him out of the world, to protect them, to unite them, and to keep them safe, then those Jesus is praying for are those who had made a confession and believed in Him.
Even though the world has not believed on Him in John 17, Christ still prays for the world to come to faith in Him. This is why He sends His apostles out into the world, to bring others to faith.

So John 17 is not about God foreordaining that some will come to faith while others will be condemned; it is about praying that more people will believe on His name. Remember, this is the same Lord who told Nicodemus (when discussing salvation) that “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17). And this is the same God that “desires that none should perish, but that ALL SHOULD COME TO REPENTANCE” (2 Pet. 3:9). It is this optimism for the world that God the Father had in mind when He sent His Son Jesus to die for the sins of mankind. If the Father’s wish was to save some, then the Lord does come to condemn the world—which is in DIRECT VIOLATION of what Jesus Himself says in John 3:17.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Election of the Gospel of John-- Part III

John 15:14-19. After giving the analogy of the vine and the branches, Jesus assures his eleven disciples (Judas has already left to betray him), ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear’ lasting fruit (Jn. 15:16). The implication is THAT THE FRUITFUL BRANCHES SPOKEN OF EARLIER IN THIS CHAPTER ARE THOSE WHOM JESUS HAS CHOSEN. They bear fruit because he has chosen and appointed them to that end. Someone will say that Jesus’ choice is a choice of persons to be his disciples and not a choice to eternal life…here Jesus warns the disciples that the world will hate them because it has hated him first…the choice of John 15:16, 19 was a choice of the eleven disciples ‘out of the world’ that results in their belonging no longer to the world, but to Jesus…Jesus chose the eleven out of the world so that they would belong to Him (Jn. 15:19; salvation) and also so that they would bear lasting fruit (Jn. 15:16; service)” (Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams, “Why I Am Not An Arminian,” pages 50-51).

I am now in part three of my series of rebuttals on predestination in the Gospel of John. Calvinists Robert Peterson and Michael Williams get themselves caught in a rut this time with John 15.

Contrary to what most believe, I agree with Peterson and Williams on the statement capitalized above: the Lord does speak of election here. However, Calvinists and Arminians, while both affirming election, do not affirm them in the same manner. Peterson and Williams don’t do enough here to let the reader know which side they’re on. As Calvinists, they are gonna say that John 15 refers to the idea of UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION, which states that God chooses some and damns others. Arminians on the other hand, will affirm CONDITIONAL ELECTION, which says that the choosing will be confirmed by the person’s faith in Christ and a lifestyle consistent with faith.

I do believe that the passage is referring to election: but I also believe that the passage is referring to CONDITIONAL ELECTION, or election by faith, and not unconditional election.

The language of John 15 just floods with the concept of conditional election. First, in verse 2 Jesus says, “Every branch IN ME that DOES NOT BEAR FRUIT, He takes away;” (NASB). Here we find that the person must be IN CHRIST, which indicates election; however, if the one IN CHRIST DOES NOT BEAR FRUIT, meaning the person that doesn’t live a life consistent with God’s Word, that person is the branch that is taken away. Being in Christ (election) is not unconditional, neither does it indicate unconditional perseverance. Rather, Christ’s election of a people (the church) unto Himself shows us God’s grace—but it also shows us God’s justice. And God will not keep around “branches” that are unfruitful: “every branch that bears fruit, HE PRUNES IT so that it may bear more fruit” (Jn. 15:2b, NASB).

Verse 6 is the warning to those who do not remain in Christ: “If anyone DOES NOT ABIDE in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” The fact that the Lord talks about those who DO NOT ABIDE, indicates that a person can be in Christ for a time and yet, not REMAIN in Him. For those who remain in Christ for a short time only, the Lord promised that the unfruitful believer would be “thrown away,” “cast into the fire and burned.” Such conditions when it comes to theology!

Verse 8 stomps at the heart of Calvinist doctrine: “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and SO PROVE TO BE MY DISCIPLES.” The Calvinist says that God is glorified by UNCONDITIONALLY ELECTING some to salvation (and consequently, others to damnation); but that is not what Christ says here. What Christ says here is that, the way to bring glory to the Father is to live a life consistent with your election. The Father is most glorified in fruit, in abundance of harvest, in a multiplication of growth and progress in the Christian life. By bearing fruit, a person will “so prove to be My disciples,” meaning that your life will testify to the fact that you no longer belong to the world, but to Jesus. Here you have CONDITIONAL ELECTION (election by faith) and CONDITIONAL PERSEVERANCE (perseverance, or endurance, is the responsibility of the believer, not God).

In verse 10, the key to “abiding” in Christ’s love is to keep His commandments. It is then in verse 12, where Christ gives a commandment: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you” (Jn. 15:12, NASB).

Verse 16 is where Peterson and Williams take us in John 15. However, they both confirm what I’ve already established here: conditional election and conditional perseverance:

“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that YOU WOULD GO AND BEAR FRUIT, AND THAT YOUR FRUIT WOULD REMAIN, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you” (John 15:16, NASB).

Yes, the fact that the Lord says, “I chose you,” indicates an election. However, only context will clarify what kind of an election this is. I agree with Peterson and Williams—John 15:16 refers to service. The words of Christ here are echoed by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians:

“For we are HIS WORKMANSHIP, created IN CHRIST JESUS FOR GOOD WORKS, WHICH GOD PREPARED BEFOREHAND so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB).

Look at this verse. First off, notice that the “good works” are that which is “prepared beforehand,” NOT the believers! Secondly, as His [Christ’s] workmanship, or workers, we are created as such IN CHRIST, by virtue of our union with Christ. Last but not least, the good works were prepared “so that we would walk in them.” The standard is to walk in good works because to do so is to follow the words of Jesus in John 15: to PROVE to be Christ’s disciples!

With John 15:19, I would say that, yes, these words refer to an election. I’ll place them here:

“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world. But I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:19, NASB).

As I said before, this does refer to an election—but, from the context, it seems to be referring to a CONDITIONAL election, an election by grace through faith (what I have been calling “an election by faith”).

If you look back at the beginning of John 15, Jesus says these words:

“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3, NASB).

I took a look at the word “clean” in this verse in my NASB text, and it states that the word “clean” here refers to being “PRUNED like a branch.” So when Jesus talks about the branches that are pruned to bear more fruit (end of verse 2), His follow-up words to the disciples in verse 3 tells the reader that these men have bore fruit—and that the Lord has pruned them so that they would have the potential to bear future fruit…and thus, glorify God the Father by proving to be the Lord’s disciples (Jn. 15:8).

It seems as if John 15 was all too easy of a text by which to refute the Calvinist. It was. I applaud Peterson and Williams for tackling this passage; however, just because it signifies “election” doesn’t mean that it automatically refers to unconditional election. I will explore more of John tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Election of the Gospel of John-- Part II

“John 10:26-30. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, says to his hearers who reject him despite his miracles, ‘You do not believe because you are not my sheep.’ By contrast, ‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow Me’ (John 10:25-27).
Jesus’ words divide his hearers into two categories: sheep and those who are not sheep (we’ll call them goats). People have one of these two identities, and Jesus implies that they are sheep or goats BEFORE they respond to him. Their response of belief or unbelief doesn’t cause them to become either sheep or goats. Instead, their responses REVEAL their prior identities…Jesus does not say that they are goats because they don’t believe, but the opposite: they don’t believe because they are goats. JESUS HERE TEACHES PREDESTINATION: PEOPLE ARE SHEEP OR GOATS BEFORE THEY BELIEVE OR REJECT JESUS, AND THEIR FAITH OR UNBELIEF MANIFESTS THEIR PRIOR IDENTITY”
(Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams, “Why I Am Not An Arminian,” page 50).

Today’s post will tackle another of Robert Peterson’s and Michael Williams’ interpretations of the issue of “election” in John’s Gospel. We’re here with John 10:26-30. I’ll print the text here so everyone can read it:

26"But you do not believe because (A)you are not of My sheep.
27"My sheep (B)hear My voice, and (C)I know them, and they follow Me;
28and I give (D)eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and (E)no one will snatch them out of My hand.
29"[a]My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
30"(F)I and the Father are one." (John 10:26-30, NASB)

Jesus often makes statements in John like these that Calvinists attempt to use to argue for predestination. But the truth is that to understand context, is to crumble the Calvinist argument.

Our context involves Jesus in a discourse with the Pharisees. At the end of chapter 9, after Christ heals the man born blind from his birth, Jesus says these words:
“For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that THOSE WHO SEE MAY BECOME BLIND” (John 9:39, NASB).

The Pharisees question him about their being blind, and Jesus responds,

“If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ YOUR SIN REMAINS” (John 9:41, NASB).

The Pharisees don’t care to understand their spiritual blindness. Meanwhile, the man born blind from birth is able to teach them (John 9:30-33), and has not only his eyes opened, but also his heart. He becomes a follower of Jesus (John 9:37-38).
Dealing with the hostile Pharisees, Jesus is very blunt with them. But to read verses 26-30 without any immediate context is not wise. Look at the immediate verses above our featured text:

“The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, AND YOU DO NOT BELIEVE; the works that I do in My Father’s name, THESE TESTIFY OF ME. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep” (John 10:24-26, NASB).

So right before our featured passage, Jesus has told them that He has given them signs to show who He is—but they still refuse to believe. All along, they have seen Him prove Himself again and again, but they don’t care to accept Christ. They’ve rejected Him because they choose to.

Look back at John 8. Here we find Christ in dialogue with the Pharisees:

“I speak the things which I have seen from My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.’
They answered and said to Him, ‘ABRAHAM IS OUR FATHER.’
Jesus said to them, ‘IF YOU ARE ABRAHAM’S CHILDREN, DO THE DEEDS OF ABRAHAM. But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. You are doing the deeds of your father. They said to Him, ‘We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father, the devil, and YOU WANT TO DO THE DESIRES OF YOUR FATHER. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:38-44, NASB).

So when the Lord tells the Jews that they do not believe because they are not His sheep, He is not saying that they don’t believe because they were predestined not to believe. He’s saying that they don’t believe because they CHOOSE not to believe: “I told you, and YOU DO NOT BELIEVE;” (John 10:25, NASB)

Then in verse 27, the Lord tells us something about His sheep: “My sheep HEAR MY VOICE, and I know them, AND THEY FOLLOW ME;” (John 10:27, NASB) The Lord’s sheep OBEY HIM, they seek Him, they pursue Him, they willingly follow Him. Not only do they follow Him, but they HEAR HIS VOICE and they listen to Him.

Notice that after Jesus’ words to them,

“The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him” (John 10:31, NASB).

Clearly Jesus’ message to them hit them hard. They don’t respond by saying something like, “Lord, but you made us this way,” or “Lord, it’s not our fault.” They clearly saw Jesus’ works, which validated His Deity; yet, they chose not to believe. They were not of Christ’s sheep, but that was not because God made them “goats” before, or God declared them “goats” before time began. The Lord knew their hearts, but they still bore a responsibility to believe like everyone else: “But I say these things so that you MAY BE SAVED” (Jn. 5:34b); “I am the door; if ANYONE enters through Me, HE WILL BE SAVED, and will go in and out and find pasture” (Jn. 10:9, NASB).

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Election of the Gospel of John-- Part I

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.’ Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down out of heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’? Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me” (John 6:35-45,NASB).

In this post, I’m tackling another key passage quoted by authors Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams in their book, “Why I Am Not An Arminian.” The Calvinist authors spend a great deal of time focusing on what they take to be “election” passages from the Gospel of John. This is what they say regarding John 6 above:

“The Father’s giving people to the Son is s picture of election. In addition, the Father’s giving people to the Son PRECEDES their believing in Him for salvation. Election is not based on foreseen faith; it precedes faith and results in faith” (Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams, “Why I Am Not An Arminian,” page 50).

This is the Arminian response to the Calvinist claim:

“…the Calvinist reading likewise fails to account fully for the context. Jesus is locked in strenuous debate with religious leaders who claim special knowledge of and standing with God. From this privileged position, they seek to discredit Jesus completely. Their implied charge essentially involves an attempt to SEVER JESUS FROM GOD, AFFIRMING THE LATTER WHILE REJECTING THE FORMER. In doing this, they wish to establish the right to claim, ‘We know God intimately, but you are utterly alien to us! We stand in right relationship to God, but we completely reject you” (Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell, “Why I Am Not a Calvinist,” page 74).

Prior to this quote, Walls and Dongell demonstrate that when Jesus said that no one could come unless the Father drew him, He was saying that the Jews couldn’t come because the Father wasn’t drawing them! However, Christ was not affirming some arbitrary election of those who would come to faith. We’ll get into that for a minute…

Walls and Dongell above tell us that the Pharisees claimed to know God and believe in Him, but rejected Jesus (who also is God). Scripture confirms this:

“For this reason, the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But He answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.’
For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also WAS CALLING GOD HIS OWN FATHER, MAKING HIMSELF EQUAL WITH GOD” (John 5:16-18, NASB).

It is because they refuse to believe Jesus that Christ also said these words: “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He HAS GIVEN ALL JUDGMENT TO THE SON, so that ALL WILL HONOR THE SON EVEN AS THEY HONOR THE FATHER. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (Jn. 5:22-23, NASB). Christ was saying that if they honored the Father, then they would honor the Son, because the Father sent the Son. Jesus also goes on to tell the Jews, “And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me…YOU DO NOT HAVE HIS WORD ABIDING IN YOU, for you do not believe Him WHOM HE SENT” (Jn. 5:37-38, NASB). Not only do they not honor the Father, they don’t have the Father’s words inside of them, remaining with them. The Father’s words have not taken root in their heart, because they refuse to believe on the One that the Father has sent to testify of Himself.

In John 5:39-40, the Lord tells the Jews,

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; IT IS THESE THAT TESTIFY ABOUT ME; AND YOU ARE UNWILLING TO COME TO ME SO THAT YOU MAY HAVE LIFE.”

And in John 5:45-47?

“Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; THE ONE WHO ACCUSES YOU IS MOSES, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, FOR HE WROTE ABOUT ME. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Look at John 5:47—

“But if you do not believe his [Moses] writings, how will you believe My words?”

Regarding this verse, Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell write:

“In this question posed by Jesus we discover the key principle: REJECTING GOD’S FIRST OFFERINGS OF TRUTH WILL UTTERLY BLOCK FURTHER ILLUMINATION. God will not offer more truth or manifest his full glory (the eternal Son) while light at hand is being spurned. In other words, we can’t actively reject the Father and at the same time have any chance of accepting the Son…the Jewish opponents’ inability to come to Jesus did not lie, then, in the hidden, eternal plan of God but IN THEIR OWN TRACK RECORD OF TRAMPLING PRIOR LIGHT, OF HAVING ALREADY DENIED GOD HIMSELF AND SPURNED GOD’S CORRECTIVE PUNISHMENT. Had they received Moses fully, thereby coming to know the Father to the degree possible at that time, they would already have belonged to the Father’s flock…since they did not belong to the Father’s own flock, THEY WOULDN’T BE PART OF THE TRANSFER OF SHEEP ALREADY TRUSTING THE FATHER INTO THE FOLD OF THE SON (Jn. 6:37, 39)” (“Why I Am Not A Calvinist,” pages 74-75).

John chapter 5 shows all the witnesses to Christ’s deity: John (vv.33-35), Christ’s own works (v.36), the Father’s Word (vv.37-38), and Moses’ writings (vv.45-47). And Jesus tells us the problem with the Jews in John chapter 6:

“It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me” (John 6:45, NASB).

Why does the Lord begin the end of His speech to the Jews in this manner? Because He was trying to let them know that the Father’s words through John the Baptist, and the Law of Moses should have been enough to open their understandings. However, “You do not have His [Father] word abiding in you, FOR YOU DO NOT BELIEVE HIM whom He sent” (Jn. 5:38, NASB). If the Father’s words were truly in the Jews, they would have believed the One the Father sent to tell of Himself. However, instead of believing Christ, the Jews rejected Him at every turn and even rejected His Godhood.

The Jews lacked understanding in the same way that Nicodemus did in his encounter with Jesus by night (John 3). Jesus uses the Old Testament with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and “ruler of the Jews” (Jn. 3:1)—

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life” (John 3:14-15, NASB).

This reference comes from Numbers 21, which gives detail into the journey of the Israelites in the wilderness. In the Old Testament passage, the children of Israel had openly opposed God—and He caused serpents to come upon them and kill some of the nation. In response, they go to Moses and ask him to pray for them, that God would remove the serpents. Moses goes to God, and God tells him to make a bronze serpent to set on a pole; and all who looked at that bronze serpent would live. The people looked on the serpent and were healed.

Jesus was saying to Nicodemus that He, like that bronze serpent, must be lifted up for all to see—so that those who see Him and BELIEVE will live. How would He be “lifted up” for all to see? He would soon be crucified, and He would hang there on that cross at Calvary for all to see. He would be publicly shamed—in order that mankind would be redeemed. In John 3, unlike John 6, the Lord explains to Nicodemus that He is the summation of everything Moses wrote in the Law as well as John’s testimony.

John also served as a witness to Christ:

“For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:34-36, NASB).

John here testifies to the fact that the Son (Jesus) has been verified by the Father Himself (the Father has given everything over to Him, including eternal life). Consequently, to not believe in Him is to forfeit life eternal. Funny—this is what the Pharisees believed—that they could reject the Son and have eternal life!!

The interpretation of Walls and Dongell holds firm. The Jews had rejected the words of John and the Old Testament writings—so what else was there for them? Nothing. If they didn’t believe these things, as Jesus asked, how would they believe Him?
In contrast to the Jews, however, the Samaritan woman understood Scripture:

“The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.’

Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He’” (John 4:25-26, NASB).
All Jesus had to do was tell the woman He was the Messiah, and this was her response:

“So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men, ‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?’” (John 4:28-29, NASB)

When Calvinist exegetes attempt to twist Scripture, it’s a sad affair. We’ll tackle more on the issue of election in John in the coming days.

The Election of Jacob

“In response to Isaac’s prayer, the Lord gave twins to him and his wife Rebekah (Gen. 25:21-22). When the babies moved violently within her womb, she asked the Lord for an explanation. He replied: ‘Two NATIONS are in your womb, and two PEOPLES within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger’ (Gen. 25:23)” (Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams, “Why I Am Not An Arminian,” pages 43-44).

In today’s post I am discussing Jacob’s “election.” Robert Peterson is at it again in his book “Why I Am Not An Arminian,” and his evidence (first coming from Abraham) now includes Jacob being chosen over his twin brother, Esau. But look back at the reference from Genesis 25:23. Rebekah knew that she was pregnant with two babies (maybe not twins), but she wondered why the children were fighting so if she was to have children. It seemed to Rebekah that the odds were against her having children if they were fighting. But after consulting the Lord, He told her that the two children represented two NATIONS, two PEOPLES within her. He also tells her that the two nations will differ in strength.

However, he mentions something else: “and the older will serve the younger.” The context of Genesis 25 concerns the two children becoming two nations (two peoples). Here, the Lord has mentioned nothing of the individuals themselves—but what they represent!

But the following lines from Peterson are disturbing:

“Jacob and Esau represented NATIONS, even while within their mother’s womb, as the citation of Genesis 25:23 confirms. But God also dealt with the twins as INDIVIDUALS, as Paul explains:
‘ Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—IN ORDER THAT GOD’S PURPOSE IN ELECTION MIGHT STAND: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’ (Rom. 9:10-13, italics added)
God dealt with Jacob and Esau BOTH as INDIVIDUALS and as NATIONS. He chose Jacob as an individual to be a special recipient of his love AND to be heir of the covenant promises to the nation” (44).

Peterson does not elaborate here on the Jacob (as an individual) being elected by God. Clearly, we have seen the corporate election of a people coming from the loins of Jacob—but we haven’t seen where Jacob is elected SOLELY on the basis of Jacob’s life or Jacob’s walk with the Lord. He hints at this possibility when he quotes from Romans 9 where it says “the older will serve the younger,” but he appears to be wrong about this as well. The reference refers to more than just Esau serving Jacob:
“But Isaac replied to Esau, ‘Behold, I have made him your master, AND ALL HIS RELATIVES I HAVE GIVEN TO HIM AS SERVANTS…’” (Gen. 27:37, NASB).

To see this in even more detail, look back at Isaac’s words in his blessing to Jacob:
“May PEOPLES serve you, and NATIONS bow down to you; BE MASTER OF YOUR BROTHERS, and may your MOTHER’S SONS bow down to you” (Gen. 27:29, NASB).

Notice that Isaac tells Jacob, “Be master OF YOUR BROTHERS.” If this were just referring to Jacob and Esau, then Isaac would have said “be master of your BROTHER” (brother being singular, not plural), for Jacob and Esau were the only children born to Isaac and Rebekah. But for Isaac to tell him to rule over his BROTHERS implied that the nations that would come forth from Jacob and Esau would be in relationship with one another, even after the death of Isaac. The line of Jacob, Jacob’s sons becoming the twelve tribes, would rule over ALL their relatives, not just Edom, but the other countries maintain blood ties to the Israelites. Once again, the blessing is CORPORATE, or national, not individual.

This might not seem to be conclusive evidence. Someone might say, “Well, what’s all this talk about the two sons becoming two nations? Can it really be that the blessing conferred on Jacob was not so much about him as it was descendants of Abraham?" Yes.

My proof? Look at Genesis 25:30—

“and Esau said to Jacob, ‘please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.’ THEREFORE HIS NAME WAS CALLED EDOM.” (Gen. 25:30, NASB)
Esau became known as “Edom,” which means “red,” because he asked for some of Jacob’s lentil stew. Look with me further in Genesis:

“Now these are the records of the generations of Esau (THAT IS, EDOM)” (Gen. 36:1, NASB).

“So Esau lived in the hill country of Seir; ESAU IS EDOM” (Gen. 36:8, NASB).

Esau, then, becomes known as “Edom.” He is not singled out with just his original name; he goes on to become the head of a nation of people (Gen. 36:9). The same happens with Jacob:

“God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; YOU SHALL NO LONGER BE CALLED JACOB, but ISRAEL SHALL BE YOUR NAME” (Gen. 35:10, NASB).

When the Lord enters this covenant with Jacob, He tells him the following:

“I am God Almighty; Be fruitful and multiply; A NATION AND A COMPANY OF NATIONS shall come forth from you…” (Gen. 35:11, NASB).

Not only will the Israelites come forth from Jacob, but other separate nations as well. As we can see, when Isaac blessed Jacob, he was telling Jacob that Israel would rule over “his mother’s sons,” that being all the descendants of Esau (the Edomites), as well as the other nations that would come from the loins of Jacob and Esau. It was always the corporate election that the Lord had in mind, NEVER an individual election. This is why with Abraham, the Lord told him to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 17:6); with Isaac the Lord told him that He would multiply Isaac’s seed (Gen. 26:24); and with Jacob, as we saw a minute ago, the Lord told him the same thing (Gen. 35:11). The goal was always to bring forth the nations of the earth, NEVER to elect one nation as the only nation to receive salvation—or even a few individuals.

Now look at Romans 9. The idea asserted by Peterson is that people are elected on the basis of God’s random decision to do so. However, to interpret Romans 9 (vv.10-13 above) the way he does is to take the passage out of context. Why? because here’s what Paul writes after his argument in chapters 9 and 10:

“What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened;…” (Romans 11:7, NASB).

Israel was the chosen seed, right? Yes—the nation itself was elected. Paul tells us the corporate blessings of the nation:

“who are Israelites, to whom belongs THE ADOPTION AS SONS, and the GLORY and the COVENANTS and the GIVING OF THE LAW and the TEMPLE SERVICE and THE PROMISES, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. But it is not as though the word of God has failed. FOR THEY ARE NOT ALL ISRAEL WHO ARE DESCENDED FROM ISRAEL;” (Rom. 9:4-7, NASB)

In verse 4, we see that Israel has received a ton of material blessings along with the promises. However, she has not obtained the promises for herself—why? because she has not come to Christ by faith:

“What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, PURSUING A LW OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, DID NOT ARRIVE AT THAT LAW. Why? Because they DID NOT PURSUE IT BY FAITH, BUT AS THOUGH IT WERE BY WORKS” (Rom. 9:30-32, NASB).

So, back to Romans 9:10-13… what does Paul mean when he quotes the Lord telling Rebekah that “the older will serve the younger”? here, Paul is saying that when the Lord told her this, He was going against the Jewish way of thinking. As written above, in Romans 9 Paul expounds all the blessings of the Israelites. Nevertheless, Israel has not obtained the promises because of works. So, Esau represents the Law; the Law promised Esau, by virtue of being the oldest, that he would receive the inheritance (concept of primogeniture). However, the Lord tells Rebekah that her youngest son (Jacob) would receive the inheritance; and this was a test of faith because the youngest receiving the inheritance was not found in the Law. It was APART FROM THE LAW (Romans 3:21-22).

The same thing can be said for Romans 9:7-8. Isaac was the promised son, although the second-born (Abraham and Hagar conceived Ishmael). Ishmael as the oldest of Abraham’s sons, represented the Law. The Law also entitled Ishmael to the inheritance; but God, while promising to bless Ishmael because he was Abraham’s son, DID NOT choose Ishmael, but stuck with His original promise—that Isaac would be the chosen (Genesis 17:18-21).

Peterson and those who would seek to look at arbitrary election of persons disregard context. If they looked at the end of Romans 9 and not just pick out a few verses, they would see that the Gentiles receive faith APART FROM THE LAW. Despite the blessings of Israel, despite the fact that she is “first” (Romans 1:16), she has not received it because of unbelief. Jacob’s election then, instead of Isaac’s, is to show that those who believe are made righteous by faith, over those who still seek righteousness by the Law (Israel).