Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Faith: The Birthright to the Inheritance of Salvation

“I subjoin, that there is a vast difference between the enunciation of these two sentences: (1) ‘It is possible for believers to decline from the FAITH;’ and (2) ‘It is possible for believers to decline from SALVATION.’ For the latter, when rigidly and accurately examined, CAN SCARCELY BE ADMITTED;---It being impossible for believers, AS LONG AS THEY REMAIN BELIEVERS, to decline from salvation. Because, were this possible, THAT POWER OF GOD WOULD BE CONQUERED WHICH HE HAS DETERMINED TO EMPLOY IN SAVING BELIEVERS. On the other hand, IF BELIEVERS FALL AWAY FROM THE FAITH AND BECOME UNBELIEVERS, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR THEM TO DO OTHERWISE THAN DECLINE FROM SALVATION,---that is, PROVIDED THEY STILL CONTINUE UNBELIEVERS” (James Arminius, Works 1:741-742).

In my last post, I shared Arminius’s view on Losing Faith and Losing Salvation with you. I took you through some of the text of Hebrews 12 and showed that just as Esau could sell his birthright, we are “firstborn of God whose names are registered in heaven,” and thus, can sell our spiritual birthright, our claim to the spiritual inheritance.

In this post, I wanna deal with the inheritance as well as the birthright to the inheritance itself. My goal is to show you both of these things in Scripture, and thereby, prepare you for those who will be (or already are) skeptical of what Classical Arminians believe.

What is the inheritance? The inheritance is salvation itself.

“Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for THOSE WHO WILL INHERIT SALVATION?” (Hebrews 1:14, NKJV)

“For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any INHERITANCE IN THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST AND GOD” (Ephesians 5:5).

“because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which YOU HEARD BEFORE IN THE WORD OF THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL...” (Colossians 1:5)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an INHERITANCE incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4).

Salvation, then, is the inheritance. But what about the birthright? To answer this question, we have the following:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave THE RIGHT TO BECOME CHILDREN OF GOD, to those who BELIEVE ON HIS NAME; WHO WERE BORN...of God” (John 1:12-13).

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is BORN OF water and THE SPIRIT, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (linking new birth with salvation, John 3:5).

“who [you] are kept by the power of God THROUGH FAITH FOR SALVATION ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).

“receiving the END [GOAL] of your faith---THE SALVATION OF YOUR SOULS” (1 Peter 1:9).

1 Peter 1:5,9 are the most revealing verses with regard to the issue of faith and salvation (or spiritual birthright and spiritual inheritance). 1 Peter 1:5 tells us that faith is what “keeps” us “for salvation”; in other words, “faith” is the source by which salvation comes. In the birthright-inheritance analogy, faith is the “birthright,” the claim to salvation itself. In 1 Peter 1:9, the believers “are receiving the end” of their faith, which is salvation. The word here for “end” is “telos,” meaning “goal” or “result”. So, faith leads to final salvation. The goal of the birthright is to receive the inheritance, as we talked about with Hebrews 12. Because Esau sold the birthright, he couldn’t inherit the blessing. Notice how the writer further discusses the issue of sonship in Hebrews 12:7-8---

“If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons” (Heb. 12:7-8, NKJV).

The writer separates “illegitimate” children from “sons.” Why? because illegitimate sons do not get the inheritance...only the legitimate sons do. Like Ishmael (Abraham’s illegitimate son), Esau became illegitimate when he gave up his birthright. By so doing, he took off his “legitimate” sonship to Isaac. Like Ishmael, Esau still had material wealth---but he did not inherit the blessing of his father or of the nation of Israel. Jacob inherited a name change to “Israel” as well as blessings for the nation itself (which would come through him by his twelve sons).

The question that remains is, “Was Arminius an orthodox theologian or a heretical one? From the above Scriptural support, it seems that Arminius was more orthodox than he has been shown to be. If you take nothing else away from this post, take away from this the moral of the story: “Do not judge someone’s theology until you examine it first.” Had Arminius’s theology been properly studied by his Calvinist opponents, Arminianism wouldn’t be the laughingstock of the theological world today.

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