Sunday, April 11, 2010

Granting Repentance

“Fourth, he [Lloyd-Jones] is concerned that the public invitation implies that sinners have an inherent power to come to Christ, which they do not. He argues against ‘self-conversion,’ noting that those dead in trespasses and sins are unable to respond to the invitation (1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1).

‘If anyone feels that he cannot give an invitation for a sinner to come to Christ, because of man’s inability, let him remember that Jesus invited a man whose hand was paralyzed to do what he could not do! “...Stretch out your hand...” Jesus commanded (Matthew 12:13), and the man obeyed the command and did what he would not do! Let him remember also that Jesus told a dead man to do something he could not do---to live! “...Lazarus, come forth,” He commanded (John 11:43), and Lazarus obeyed the voice of Jesus and did what he could not do”
(R. Alan Streett, “The Public Invitation and Calvinism,” from “Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism.” Nashville: B&H, 2010, page 248).

In my last post, I attacked James White’s view of total depravity, where he says that God must regenerate a person before he or she professes faith in Christ. To make his case, he quoted John 6:43-44, where Jesus says that no one can come to faith unless the Spirit draws him. White used this to argue regeneration preceding faith; however, I made the case that John 6 argues the need of the Spirit in the process, that the Spirit must initiate the God-human relationship. However, this doesn’t eliminate man’s responsibility to come to Christ (as shown in Acts 7:51).

White’s argument of regeneration preceding faith actually makes God’s sovereignty trump human responsibility...or, something unthinkable is created--- God must change our nature before we can have “responsibility.” If this is the case, though, then why does Genesis show us God punishing humanity because of their unbelief with regard to Noah’s message of a worldwide flood??? White argues that human responsibility only comes through regeneration; but this can’t be true! If White is right, then Cain’s deeds are the result of his depravity...and God had no right to punish him, whatsoever! You cannot take away responsibility before regeneration and then make someone responsible for the deeds they do. If a person cannot come to faith until regeneration, then it’s God’s responsibility for the lost souls in the world. Those who never come to Christ have no responsibility for living their lives in unbelief. And all this craziness is based on the fact that for White, regeneration precedes faith.

Of the passages quoted by R. Alan Streett, I’m only gonna deal with one verse: Acts 11:18---

“When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has ALSO GRANTED to the Gentiles repentance to life’” (Acts 11:18, NKJV).

In the context of Acts 11, Peter is explaining to the Jews at Jerusalem why he was seen associating with the uncircumcised Gentiles. In verse 17, Peter asks,

“If therefore God GAVE THEM THE SAME GIFT as He gave us WHEN WE BELIEVED ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, who was I that I could withstand God?”

Notice that the gift being spoken of here is the Holy Spirit, mentioned in verses 15 and 16.

So we see that when they believed on the Lord, they then received the Spirit. They did not receive the Spirit BEFORE they believed; NO---they received the Spirit AFTER BELIEVING. The word in the Greek for “when we believed” is “pisteusasin.” The word “pisteusasin” is an aorist verb, and an aorist verb is one that shows past action. So, when a person is granted the Holy Spirit, that person has already believed: repentance and belief PRECEDE regeneration by the Spirit, not FOLLOW it.

And R. Alan Streett was trying to make the same point about Martin Lloyd-Jones in the above quote. Jones believes that man cannot even make one step in professing faith in Christ because he is “dead in trespasses and sins.” The problem with Lloyd-Jones’s analysis is that he forgets some seemingly little words that make all the difference in the world: “in trespasses and sins.” This is the LOCATION of the “deadness”: in our sins! We are dead in sins, but we are not physically dead---and, as a result, there are many things we are capable of doing! Calvinists also commit a serious blunder when they quote Ephesians 1:4---

“just as He chose us IN HIM before the foundation of the world. That we should be holy and without blame before Him in love...” (Eph. 1:4, NKJV)

Calvinists often focus upon the words “He chose us”; but they overlook the words “in Him.” The words “in Him” are extremely important. If they never existed in the verse, then God would just choose those He wanted. And when Calvinists advocate unconditional election, they strip Ephesians 1:4 of its power and rob God’s people of proper understanding of the Scriptures. If God chose believers “in Him,” then that means that Christ is the “realm” or “sphere” in which God chooses people.

Therefore, God chooses BELIEVERS, those who confess and believe on the Lord Jesus (Rom. 10:9; Jn. 3:16). Notice that the “in Him” language used in Ephesians 1:4 is the same language used in John 3:16. Those who believe IN CHRIST are the ones who are given eternal life. And believing in Christ is the condition for eternal life, as John 3:16 demonstrates. So there are conditions to be fulfilled in order for a person to receive eternal life (such exegesis, though, undermines the Calvinist advocacy of “unconditional election”).

God must grant repentance, for without it, man cannot and will not believe. However, the fact that God gives it explains why God can require man to exercise it. God gives repentance, and man exercises his God-given faith by believing on the name of the Lord Jesus. Such is the message of the Scriptures.

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