Reformed Theology: God's Grace

JeffLogan's picture

This discussion will be limited to the discussion of God's grace as it pertains to Reformed Theology.

Barry writes,

I would like to suggest that we explore the topic of "God's Grace " as it relates specifically to the process of one's coming to salvation. I personally am particularly interested in the doctrine of "Prevenient Grace", however, at ElderDad's suggestion which points out our primary forum theme, addressing the RT position termed "Irresistible Grace" first is the more appropriate approach.

So, if this approach is acceptable, I would invite someone to begin this thread by first defining the term, then giving a brief re-cap of the history of "TULIP", and concluding with Scriptural references supporting the concept. That should get us rolling.

Barring objections, I would encourage someone in the Reformed camp to please begin.

Grace and peace to all.

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Suggested Structure: (Best if viewing options set: Threaded Collapsed | Oldest First | 200/page |)

(The first 3 headings are reserved for Reformed Theology Adherents ONLY)

Defining the terms (No opposing views here)
     Irresistible Grace
     Prevenient Grace
     etc...
Brief re-cap of the history of "TULIP" (No opposing views here)
     Early History
     Later History
     Unfolding History/Current Understanding
Scriptural references supporting the concept (No opposing views here)
     Irresistible Grace
     Prevenient Grace
     etc...
1st Discussion: Irresistible Grace
2nd Discussion: Prevenient Grace
3rd Discussion: etc...

JeffLogan's picture

re: 'Arminianish' Support (from an Adventist perspective)

A reply to: Looking for 'Arminianish' Support
Submitted by bwarddvm on Fri, 2011-12-02 10:54.

Barry, you like short posts but ask involved questions expecting an answer. So treat this post as if it were three (3) posts and read small portions at a time. :)

Barry, my church (Adventist) sponsored a theological discussion between Calvinism and Arminianism and appeared to defend the Arminian position. So although I am not entirely familiar with either Calvinism or Arminianism I gather from the foregoing that my views are closest to the Arminian view. I just wanted to put that out front so you would know where I was coming from.

Barry writes,

...I would like to make a request of you folks out there who embrace a soteriology (we don't necessarily have to use the label "Arminian") that believes that God gives to all men equally a type of grace that is sufficient for them, even in their fallen state, to still accept the gospel or reject it according to their own free will.

(1) Would you please show your Scriptural support for that position?

Jeff writes,

Scriptural support for the doctrine "that God gives to all men equally a type of grace that is sufficient for them, even in their fallen state, to still accept the gospel or reject it according to their own free will."

"God gives... a type of grace that is sufficient for them, even in their fallen state,"

<< Ephesians 2 >>
New International Version 1984
Made Alive in Christ

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I want to point out a few things with this passage. Verses 1-7 explains that at a time when we were dead in our transgressions and sins God made us alive through Christ Jesus. Not saved by our works but strictly by God's grace. Verses 8-9 explains that we are saved by a gift of grace from God, not by our works, and that it is through believing and placing our trust in God that this takes place. And, that God created us, not for evil, but for good works. This supports the doctrine that "God gives...a type of grace that is sufficient for them...in their fallen state." Now we'll move on.

This next passage includes the word all and it is taken to mean every man not just every saint because it involves salvation and includes the word anthropos, meaning human being, making "all" seem redundant, but possibly emphatic given that repetition is used to stress a point.

"to all men equally"

<< Titus 2 >>
New International Version 1984
What Must Be Taught to Various Groups

11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

That this saving grace teaches men to act in a certain way strongly suggests that a learning process is occurring and as we know learning involves knowledge, comprehension, and homework. And to what end? That the will of man might come into line with God's will. As we strive to be like God from an intelligent appreciation of His character, and determine to be like Him because we love Him, our efforts are not in vain. God works through our will to conform us to His image. Living faith involves both belief and works. Without these works mentioned here in Titus, and again in 2 Peter 1, we would not receive effective benefit from the training. Discipleship involves discipline. Both correction and determined imitation. Like the man who found the buried treasure, we must put effort to obtain that which we recognize as being of great price.

"to still accept the gospel or reject it according to their own free will."

We have presented salvation as a gift of grace through faith and that it appears to all of humanity in an instructive way. It may not be evident that all men have received it for some will reject it and it then is impossible to know whether or not it was presented to them. But Jesus said that before His coming the gospel of the kingdom would be preached throughout the world as a witness to every nation. And, in John we see that some to whom Christ offered this grace rejected it. And those spoken of were considered His Elect, His chosen. His own.

John 1 (NIV)

10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent,c nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Barry continues...

(2) Would you explain how you understand the condition "dead" in Ephesians 2:1 "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins" and also in Colossians 2:13 "And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses" ?

Jeff writes,

Here the word dead first means spiritually dead as is the case with everyone who is not subject to God's law--that is, they are transgressors of God's law. We all start in this condition. Yet, we also learn from the Bible that to be spiritually dead results in physical death. 1 Cor. 15:56 "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law." In other words, sin stings us and the law comes along and condemns us to die because of our sin. "The wages of sin is death." But, remember too, that "the gift of God is eternal life."

A repeat in a nutshell.

<< Romans 6 >>
New International Version 1984
Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ

    1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

    5If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with,a that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

    8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

    11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

    Slaves to Righteousness

    15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

    19I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life inb Christ Jesus our Lord.

Notice that the apostles is calling them to believe and then act on it. He uses phrases like, "count, or consider, yourself dead to sin but alive unto God in Christ Jesus." This is not simply mind over matter. It's belief and trust in God's promise. Whether one believes in Election or free will it still requires faith. Election requires faith to consider oneself elected. And here we find that Paul is calling them to have faith in God's word and reckon themselves dead to sin. It is those, I believe, who have faith that make up the Elect.

Barry continues...

(3) If one is spiritually dead, how can he come to spiritual life so that he becomes able to exercise saving faith?
Obviously one who is spiritually dead cannot possibly have an ability that takes a spark of spiritual life to possess that ability. That spark of life is termed spiritual "rebirth" or "regeneration" or being "born again". If that is the universal result of prevenient grace, then are we to understand that all men are regenerate but only some choose to repent in faith and accept the gospel?

Jeff writes,

I am not sure how you can be confused on this point when you clearly understand that God can make this happen for His elect. It is all of God. But in my view God does not force His will upon us but He reasons with us presenting life and death. One of sound reasoning would always choose life and that is the opening wedge by which Christ gains entrance into the heart. When the human opens the door, God's spirit begins an inner work. That does not mark new birth nor does it indicate that a new birth has already occurred. That spark is merely an attraction at this point which causes man to look more closely at this things he has encountered which entices his curiosity and appears to answer a deep inner desire.

Take a crude analogy. Every month you receive many credit card offers. You throw them in the trash because you see no value in them. Then one day your attitude changes because conditions change and suddenly you begin to consider those credit card offers. Then one day you open one up and read a little about it but still toss it out. Yet later another offer comes in the mail with additional information printed on the front which says 0% interest for 12 months. Suddenly, something which only a few weeks ago was trash starts to take on value and you find yourself thinking about calling on the offer. This isn't grace but it represents how relentless God is in pursing us. And yet while His offer is of the utmost importance to us, we so often discard it because we don't take the time to consider its worth to us personally. But God never gives up as long as we feel the least bit of dissatisfaction with our current situation. Maybe we come fact to face with our mortality through some close-call, an illness, or a death which causes us pause. And even more persistent than the pesky credit card offers, there is God with His offer of eternal life.

The short answer is that God is standing by to offer us help when we feel our need. But if we don't ask, then we won't receive. Revelation 3 talks about a group of people who don't feel any need. They feel that they are in "need of nothing" but don't realize they are blind, naked, and poor. God counsels them to buy of Him. We must always feel our need and then ask before God can bestow His blessings in their fullest. When it comes to grace, the Bible says that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Pride feels no need and so it doesn't ask God for anything. We have just such an example in the Bible. Jesus tells the story of the Pharisee which prayed a most prideful, boastful, prayer. In effect he was saying to God that he had it all together and had no need of anything. And so he went home empty. But the publican who felt poor in spirit cried for God's mercy and he went home justified. In happens in all faith to all walks of people. So we must be careful that by calling ourselves Elect we do not forget to humble ourselves continually before God so that we feel our need to ask Him for more grace--that is, a fresh supply daily. And that is one of my primary concerns with teaching Predestination and Election. If it's not taught carefully it will lead some to come to the point where they feel no need of anything and this attitude will shut them out from receiving anything because they don't ask.

But I fully believe John Calvin was a man of God, called of God, to do a work of God and preach present truth. It was a special message for a special time and he joined the ranks of men like Martin Luther who "taught that salvation is not earned by good deeds but received only as a free gift of God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin. His theology challenged the authority of the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge[2] and opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood.[3]" --"Luther", WikiPedia.org, 12/3/2011. During this time, "Johann Tetzel, a Dominican friar and papal commissioner for indulgences, was sent to Germany by the Roman Catholic Church to sell indulgences to raise money to rebuild St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.[26] Roman Catholic theology stated that faith alone, whether fiduciary or dogmatic, cannot justify man;[27] justification rather depends only on such faith as is active in charity and good works (fides caritate formata) can justify man.[28] The benefits of good works could be obtained by donating money to the church." -- "Luther," Wikipedia.org, 12/3/2011.

So the Reformation message was that men do not earn salvation by good works, something Paul also opposed, but that it was strictly up to God to elect His own. John Calvin's gospel was very powerful in conveying the message that it was all within God's power to bestow grace upon whom He chose and that God was neither a respecter of persons nor obliged to man in any way. But while I feel it was the right message for the time I also feel it is not the right message for our time. Just like the Reformation theology pressed beyond the current accepted orthodoxy, so too the gospel message has continued to press onward enveloping purer truth and rejecting false notions.


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“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you."




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