Sovereignty Series

Dr. Steve Lawson – The Sovereignty of God

Session 1 – Radical Corruption: What Can a Dead Man Do?

Session 2 – Unconditional Election: Who Chose Whom?

Session 3 – Definite Atonement: For Whom Did Christ Die?

Session 4 – Sovereign Regeneration: How is one Born Again?

Sola Scriptura Ministries International – Toronto Conference September 12, 2014 at Markham Chinese Baptist Church

Doctrines of Grace Part 1

Doctrines of Grace Part 2

The Centerpiece of God’s Saving Purpose in the Universe

sun1This excerpt is taken from Foundations of Grace by Steven Lawson

The doctrines of grace are a cohesive system of theology in which the sovereignty of God is clearly displayed in the salvation of elect sinners. Not only is God acknowledged to reign over all of human history, both micro and macro, but He is also seen to be sovereign in the dispensing of His saving grace. From Genesis to Revelation, God is emphatically represented in Scripture as being absolutely determinative in bestowing His mercy. He is shown as choosing before the foundation of the world those whom He will save and then, within time, bringing it to pass.

The Apostle Paul clearly announced God’s sovereign grace in man’s salvation. He wrote that, from eternity, God chose, willed, decided, and planned to save some sinners. To elect is to choose, and God chose who would be saved. Paul wrote: “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Rom. 9:15–16). “This is to say, God decides whom He will save in order to display His glory: “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:4–5); “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you” (1 Thess. 1:4); “God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13); God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim. 1:9); and “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect” (Titus 1:1).

The Apostle Peter and John taught precisely the same supreme authority of God in the salvation of His elect. Peter wrote: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1); and “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). The Apostle John wrote: “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come” (Rev. 17:8).

In this system of theology, the glory of God is central. As every planet revolves around the blazing sun, every truth of sovereign grace rotates around this one fixed point—the glory of God. The unrivaled pre-eminence of God stands at the focal point of this theological universe. That God is to be the chief object of praise in the display of His grace is what energizes this solar system of truth. As the compass always points north, so the doctrines of grace constantly point upward toward the lofty heights of the glory of God.

What is God’s glory? The Bible speaks of God’s glory in two primary ways. First, there is the intrinsic glory of God, which is the sum total of all His divine perfections and attributes. It is who God is—His infinitely vast greatness. Glory in the Old Testament kabod originally meant “heaviness,” “importance,” or “significance.” It came to represent the stunning magnificence of certain objects, such as the blazing sun or the regal majesty displayed by a king. Hence, glory came to be used to describe the magnificent splendor and awesome radiance of God Himself revealed to man. In the New Testament, the word for “glory” is doxa, which means “an opinion” or “an estimate” of something. When used of someone’s reputation, it means “importance,” “greatness,” “renown,” or “significance.” God’s intrinsic glory is the revelation of the greatness of His divine attributes to His creatures. It involves God’s greatness and grandeur being manifested to sinners, especially in the salvation of man from sin. No one can add anything to God’s intrinsic glory. God is who He is, never diminishing, never increasing, forever the same, the sovereign Ruler, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, all-true, all-wise, loving, grace-giving, merciful, righteous, and wrathful. It is this intrinsic glory that God delights in making known to His creatures.

Second, the Bible also speaks of the ascribed glory of God, or the glory that is given to Him. Doxa also has to do with expressing praise to God based upon the revelation of His supreme majesty. The only rightful response to the display of God’s perfections must be to give Him glory. Man must bring the praise due His name. Man must give the worship that belongs exclusively to Him. The display of God’s intrinsic glory causes man to give ascribed glory to God. The more man beholds God’s intrinsic glory in salvation, the more man ascribes glory to God.

This, then, is the centerpiece of God’s saving purpose in the universe—the revelation and magnification of His own glory. This is what is at the very center of God’s being—the passionate pursuit of displaying His own glory for His own glory. This is what should be at the center of every human life—the promotion of the glory of God, that is, beholding and adoring His glory. This is what is primary in the salvation of every lost sinner—the revealing of the glory of God so that sinners might rejoice in the glory of God. No wonder Paul writes: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).

The Design and Scope of the Atonement

sproul78Article by Dr. R. C. Sproul.

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine. (Original source it seems almost suicidal, like facing the open floodgates riding a raft made of balsa wood, to appeal to a seventeenth-century theologian to address a pressing theological issue. Nothing evokes more snorts from the snouts of anti-rational zealots than appeals to sages from the era of Protestant Scholasticism.

“Scholasticism” is the pejorative term applied by so-called “Neo-Orthodox” (better spelled without the “e” in Neo), or “progressive” Reformed thinkers who embrace the “Spirit” of the Reformation while eschewing its “letter” to the seventeenth-century Reformed thinkers who codified the insights of their sixteenth-century magisterial forebears. To the scoffers of this present age, Protestant Scholasticism is seen as a reification or calcification of the dynamic and liquid forms of earlier Reformed insight. It is viewed as a deformation from the lively, sanguine rediscovery of biblical thought to a deadly capitulation to the “Age of Reason,” whereby the vibrant truths of redemption were reduced to logical propositions and encrusted in dry theological tomes and arid creedal formulations such as the Westminster Confession of Faith.

The besetting sin of men like Francis Turretin and John Owen was their penchant for precision and clarity in doctrinal statements. As J. I. Packer observed in his introduction of John Owen’s classic work, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ:

“Those who see no need for doctrinal exactness and have no time for theological debates which show up divisions between so-called Evangelicals may well regret its reappearance … . Owen’s work is a constructive broad-based biblical analysis of the heart of the gospel, and must be taken seriously as such … . Nobody has the right to dismiss the doctrine of the limitedness of the atonement as a monstrosity of Calvinistic logic until he has refuted Owen’s proof that it is part of the uniform biblical presentation of redemption, clearly taught in plain text after plain text.”

The “monster” created by Calvinistic logic to which Packer refers is the doctrine of limited atonement. The so-called “Five points of Calvinism” (growing out of a dispute with Remonstrants (Arminians) in Holland in the early seventeenth century) have been popularized by the acrostic T-U-L-I-P, spelling out the finest flower in God’s garden:

T — Total Depravity
U — Unconditional Election
L — Limited Atonement
I — Irresistible Grace
P — Perseverance of the Saints.

Many who embrace a view of God’s sovereign grace in election are willing to embrace the Tulip if one of its five petals is lopped off. Those calling themselves “four-point Calvinists” desire to knock the “L” out of Tulip.

On the surface, it seems that of the “five points” of Tulip, the doctrine of limited atonement presents the most difficulties. Does not the Bible teach over and over that Jesus died for the whole world? Is not the scope of the atonement worldwide? The most basic affirmation the Evangelical recites is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world … .”

On the other hand, it seems to me that the easiest of the five points to defend is limited atonement. But this facility must get under the surface to be manifested. The deepest penetration under that surface is the one provided by Owen in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

First, we ask if the atonement of Christ was a real atonement? Did Jesus really, or only potentially, satisfy the demands of God’s justice? If indeed Christ provided a propitiation and expiation for all human beings and for all their sins, then, clearly, all persons would be saved. Universal atonement, if it is actual, and not merely potential, means universal salvation. Continue reading

Total Depravity and Evangelism

1. Total Depravity and Evangelism – What we believe about the nature of man affects how we evangelize, as Dr. James White explains:

2. Defending the Faith against the works-righteousness cults:

3. Justification by Faith Alone

The Doctrines of Grace Series

Here’s my friend, Pastor Jeff Durbin is currently teaching a series on the doctrines of grace (with Dr. James White presenting message number 6):

Message 1: God’s Sovereignty:

Message 2: Total Depravity

Message 3: Unconditional Election

Message 4: Romans 9

Message 5: Limited Atonement

Did Jesus die to make people savable? Or did Christ die to actually exhaust the wrath of God (making a full-payment) in the place of His people? Did Jesus death on the cross purchase people and present a perfect atonement? Or was His death for sins something that could end up not being beneficial for some people?

Message 6: Irresistible Grace

Dr. James White, of Alpha and Omega Ministries (aomin.org): Is salvation ultimately dependent upon man or God? Who receives the glory for salvation? If God wills to save someone from their sin, are they able to thwart His purposes and refuse His power to raise the spiritually dead?

Comfort For The Called

jerome-zanchius_0 (1)Jerome Zanchius, 1516-1590: Comfort For Those Who are Called According to His Purpose

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, what is ed to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son!” Romans 8:28-29

The sovereignty of God is a comfort for suffering saints, acting to remove anxiety. How sweet must the following considerations be to a distressed believer!

1. There most certainly exists an almighty, all-wise and infinitely gracious God (Hebrews 11:6).

2. His love for His elect people is immutable; He never repents of it nor withdraws it (Jeremiah 31:3).

3. Whatever comes to pass in time, is the result of His sovereign will from everlasting (1 Corinthians 8:6).

4. Consequently my afflictions are a part of His sovereign will, and are all ordered in number, weight, and measure (Psalm 22:24).

5. The very hairs of my head (every one) are counted by Him; nor can a single hair fall to the ground but in consequence of His wise determination (Luke 12:7).

6. Hence my afflictions and distresses are not the result of chance, accident, or a fortuitous combination of circumstances (Psalm 56:8).

7. They are the providential accomplishment of God’s eternal purpose (Romans 8:28), and are designed to answer some wise and gracious ends (James 5:10-11).

8. Nor shall my affliction continue a moment longer than God sees fit (2 Corinthians 7:6-7).

9. He who brought the affliction to me — has promised to support me under it and to carry me through it (Psalm 34:15-17).

10. All shall, most assuredly, work together for His glory and my good.

11. Therefore, “Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?” (John 18:11).

However keenly afflictions might wound us on their first access — yet, under the impression of such animating views, we should quickly come to ourselves again, and the arrows of affliction, would, in great measure lose their sharpness.

Christians need nothing but absolute resignation to God’s wise and gracious Providence, to render them perfectly happy in every possible circumstance. And absolute resignation can only flow from an absolute belief of, and an absolute acquiescence in, God’s absolute Providence, founded on His absolute predestination (1 Thessalonians 1:2-4).

HT: John Hendryx

John 15 – The Vine and the Branches

stormsDr. Sam Storms: Article – The Vine, the Branches and Christian Perseverance (original source here)

A lot of people struggle with John 15:1-11 and our Lord’s teaching on the vine and the branches. This week I’ve been looking at the question of the relationship between professed faith in Christ and consistent obedience to his commands. This passage speaks directly to the issue. Let’s look closely at it.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:1-11)

Here we read that God, as the Vinedresser, lovingly “prunes” believers (v. 2), i.e., cleanses, purges, and purifies them of whatever does not contribute to their spiritual maturity (or fruitfulness). This might occur in any number of ways: discipline, teaching, testing, etc. The debate centers on what God does with the fruitless branches, and what the latter represent. There have generally been three views of this passage.

One popular view is that the “fruitless branches” are genuine Christians who, because of their fruitlessness, or because of their failure to persevere in holiness of life, lose their salvation. When Jesus says these branches will be “thrown into the fire, and burned” (v. 6b), he is referring to eternal punishment in hell. Continue reading

Effectual Calling

In this excerpt from the Ligonier 2010 National Conference, Albert Mohler dispels two common caricatures of the doctrine of effectual calling.

Transcript

Does human responsibility eliminate irresistible grace? Who would like that one?

Well, let me just say—let’s admit that irresistible grace is not the way we would chose to express this. Effectual calling is a far more biblical way to express this because irresistible grace sounds like a cartoon setup in which there’s someone saying, ‘I do not want to be regenerated, I do not want to be born again, I do not want to love Christ.’ And yet they’re being overruled to such that it’s against their will. What kind of love is capable of being constructed out of being overruled with one’s will.

No. It’s effectual calling that reminds us that what God begins, in terms of the order of salvation, He always finishes. And when that work of genuine faith begins in the believer—the work of God—He will bring it to full fruition. And you’re going to see it when grace becomes—the operations of grace—becomes evident in the individual because they do love Christ and they do desire the things of Christ—they desire salvation. And so we just need to get rid of the straw man—they’re two horrific cartoonish straw men we need to be rid of. The first is the righteous sinner who desires to be saved but just can’t because he’s righteous and desiring salvation because he’s not among the elect. And the other is the person who desperately does not want to be among the elect but has been elected anyway. Neither of those persons is found within the Scriptures.