Appointed to Obtain Salvation

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ
–1 Thessalonians 5:9

Speaking verses we ignore because they freak people out. . .

This verse is troubling for several doctrines.

First, we deal with the word “appointed.” This word means, “to set, place, or put as a passive object.” If I set a book on the table, I am the active agent and the book is passive. The book gets put there by me. It can’t put itself there.

God has not put us in a place where we passively must accept wrath. This undermines the Calvinist idea that some are created by God specifically for the purpose of suffering His wrath in hell.

Second, we deal with the word “obtain.” In the context we are obtaining salvation. To obtain means, “redemption which will give possession. Acquire, purchase, win.”

Ellicott’s commentaty says this about obtaining salvation, “Means more than “obtain;” the Greek means “acquire” by one’s own efforts;” earn and make our own.”

Flipped out yet? Theologically triggered?

God has not put us in a passive position to have to take His wrath. Rather, He placed us as human beings, people who had no say in being born, as passive objects, in this world, a place where we don’t have to get God’s wrath; we can obtain, purchase, or get salvation.

He placed us in a place where we can do something to escape wrath and be saved.

This is where the church has overblown grace. We’ve been told that if there’s something you do to get, purchase, or obtain salvation that this is contrary to grace.

But it’s not. We can meet a condition that obtains salvation. We don’t earn it by works, or by works of the law, or by being impressive to God enough so He saves us. We obtain it through Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ opened a way of salvation through His Gospel, which we can use to obtain salvation. God gives grace to the humble. Being humble is not a work; being humble is the condition to receive grace. You are capable of being humble. Do so and you’ll obtain grace.

There are two ways people could be saved:

  1. completely God’s work, or
  2. we have something to do with it

Calvinism says it’s all God. If it’s all God then we are passive objects being moved by God alone. But Paul says God has not placed us as passive objects to obtain wrath, but placed us in a place where there’s something we can do to obtain salvation.

Therefore, there sure seems to be something I can do to be saved. A response we are capable of making. We respond by faith to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not as a passive object, but as an active object that can acquire salvation.

Much of our Christian doctrine is an oversimplification based on a handful of verses rather than what the Bible says in whole.

I’ll let you hash out the implications of this verse and you can figure out what you want to do with it and why I’m an idiot for interpreting it the way I did.

That’s fine. The verse remains. Do something with it.

Humility Is Not A Work

God gives grace to the humble.

That bothers a lot of people, because they think there is nothing you can do to get grace. The following verse is trotted out as proof text:

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
–Romans 11:6

This passage, in its context, is talking about the choosing of the nation of Israel for the Messiah to come through. The choosing of the nation that all nations would be blessed by. Salvation is of the Jews.

The Messiah was one Man and could be related to one race of people. That people was/is Israel. Romans 9-11 explains God’s plan of redemption and the interaction between Jews and Gentiles in the revealing of that plan.

I don’t think this verse has anything to do with how people receive salvation by grace.

Another verse quoted is Romans 4:4

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

Paul’s point is that salvation is not achieved by works of the law, by circumcision, and keeping the old covenant law.

The context flows back into Romans 3, which is all about the Jews and their law. They thought doing Old Covenant law is what saved them. But never once did God ever tell anyone that keeping the Old Covenant law would save them. It was a covenant to stay in the Promised Land.

Abraham was before the law, therefore salvation, which was around in Abraham’s day, couldn’t be by the law. Romans 4 goes on to quote David, who lived under the law, also saying that salvation is not something you work your way into.

Therefore, if the Bible says there are things we do to get grace, and it does, then clearly those things cannot be the work Paul refers to in Romans.

The only way it could be is if the Bible is massively inconsistent on this issue, which some have staked their doctrine to such a claim. Not a good idea, but at least they are being more honest then most!

We are saved by grace through faith. Grace is what God provides; faith is how we respond. Faith is humble.

Every single human being knows they are bad. We have a conscience. A conscience is not proof of spiritual life; it’s proof that you are human. We all feel guilt. Yes, the conscience can be hardened, but it’s still there.

Knowing we are wrong wears a person out. We will seek mind altering chemicals to drown it out, or entertainment and distraction to get it to shut up, or sometimes even suicide.

All our desires of the flesh exist to quiet guilt. Yet the more we use the flesh to quiet guilt, the more guilty we become. It’s hopeless.

When the light of the Gospel shines in and a hopeless, guilt-ridden person hears that God loves them and wants to set them free from sin and guilt through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, some grab onto that message with humble dependence.

When a person comes to the end, when hopelessness and guilt have trounced their soul, they respond to the Gospel.

This is not trying to fix the flesh, impress God, or in any way purchasing our own salvation. This is an admission that we got nothing and Christ is all.

I fail to see how this is pride and fleshly works.

Humility, love, and faith are exactly what the Gospel draws out of a person who seeks deliverance from themselves.

This is how the Bible speaks of how salvation happens. Any other theory plays fast and loose with Scripture and makes much of it false. Don’t do that. Be humble! Hear God’s Word and respond accordingly.

Getting Grace and Monergism

Many believe there is nothing you can do to get grace. That if you had to do something to get it; it wouldn’t be grace.

The question then is: OK, so how does one get grace?

If there is nothing I can do to get grace, then either

1) I can’t get grace, or
2) Something else must do everything with grace and me getting it without me doing anything.

Every believer knows some people get grace, so option 1 can’t be the answer. Therefore, we are left with option 2.

Option 2 is officially called “Monergism.” Here is a definition of Monergism accepted by Monergists:

“In theology, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration – that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration.”

Humans cannot respond to God. Everything is done by the Holy Spirit. Once a person is regenerated, then they can believe the Gospel.

Regeneration before believing is nowhere stated in the Bible and often said in the opposite way, such as, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

Nowhere are we told, “Be saved and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Monergism is completely contrary to Scripture. Sure, you can bend a handful of verses to seem like they are saying this, but no, this is not how the Scripture speaks of salvation.

So neither option answers our dilemma of how we can get grace by doing nothing.

Therefore, the only logical conclusion is to assume there must be something we can do to get grace, and this thing we do to get grace, does not mean I earned it or worked for it. It means I met a condition.

This simple understanding seems to fit quite nicely with Scripture.

“God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble,” the Bible says several times. If you’re not humble then you don’t get grace. How does this fit with Monergism?

Monergism would say, “Well yeah, God makes you humble so you get grace.” OK, well, wouldn’t God making me humble while I was not humble be a gracious thing? If so, then God does give grace to non-humble people.

Monergism is held true as long as you’re cool with making Scripture false.

Don’t let your doctrine get carried away and make you call the Scriptures a liar. Stick with the Scripture. Line your doctrine up with it.

How to Get Grace

There are some who read that title and are already ticked off!

“There’s nothing you do to get grace! Grace is God’s undeserved favor. If you did something to get it; then it wouldn’t be grace!”

This is the view of Calvinism and the “I” of their TULIP–Irresistible Grace.

Irresistible Grace says the only way you get grace is if God chooses you to get it. If you win the luck of the draw, God will shove His grace down your throat whether you want it or not.

OK, that was my cynical and not very complimentary definition of Irresistible Grace. It is, however, in essence what it is, just without the theological politeness!

Clearly I do not believe in Irresistible Grace. Grace can be resisted; that’s why there are people in hell.

Saying there is something you do to get grace does not mean we earn grace, merit grace, nor that we worked for grace.

Doing something to get grace merely means we met the conditions upon which grace is granted.

There are several conditions the Bible says we meet to get grace.

First, is faith. We are saved by grace through faith. We believe the Gospel, we believe that Jesus Christ is the only one able to save us. When we believe this, we receive the benefits of God’s grace.

Second, is humility. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Being humble is not a work of the flesh. Humility is knowing your flesh can’t work anything to save itself.

Third, is love. Here I will quote a little quoted verse, Ephesians 6:24, “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” If you don’t love Jesus Christ sincerely; no grace for you!

None of this says we earn grace or worked for it. Grace is a beautiful thing. God, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, provides everything we need for salvation. This is offered by His grace.

Our response is a faithful, humble, love that is drawn to the humble love Christ demonstrated on the cross. It’s grabbing on to Jesus Christ for salvation in love and faith, completely appreciating and being humbled by His salvation.

This is not a fleshly work that puffs up the fleshly nature. This is simply a realization of who we are and who Christ is, and our desperate need for Him.

There is a reason why some get God’s grace for salvation and some don’t. It’s not luck of the draw either. It’s based on your humble, faithful, and loving reaction to the grace and love of God.

Go get some grace! You need it!

R C Sproul’s Calvinism is Mind-boggling

Here are two quotes from RC Sproul. These are not obscure quotes. These are oft repeated quotes from him.

If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.

This quote says that every single piece of creation is doing exactly what God tells it to do. “Sovereignty,” for Sproul, means God is in meticulous control of everything. Being in charge means dictating absolutely everything that everything does. If God is not dictating every element of creation, then God is not sovereign.

So now, the exact same man says this quote:

Every sin is an act of cosmic treason, a futile attempt to dethrone God in His sovereign authority.

Every sin is going against God’s sovereign authority. Sin is cosmic treason.

I don’t get it.

I know this is where the Calvinist chalks things up to “mystery.” But no, this isn’t a mystery, one of the two has to be false.

If every molecule is doing what God tells it to do, then how can molecules join together to commit cosmic treason?

The best solution to the contradiction is not chalking it up to mystery, and it certainly isn’t deciding that nothing is really sin, but admitting his understanding of sovereignty is wrong.

God is sovereign. Sovereign does not mean making every part of creation do what He wants it to do.

God establishes boundaries. Creation is free inside those boundaries. God is in control to restrict any violation of the boundaries. Nothing is out of His reach to intervene.

I do believe sin is cosmic treason. I’ll take that quote over his molecule quote, that one is just nuts.

Don’t get carried away in your theological ideas. Pretty soon you don’t make sense. Incoherence isn’t proof of mystery; it’s proof your theology has derailed.

How To Define Doctrine

I’ve been riffing about this quote the last few days:

A rejection of penal substitutionary atonement is a rejection of the gospel. Either you’re saved through the work of Christ on the Cross, or you’re not saved at all.

This quote makes it sound as if penal substitutionary atonement is the Gospel. Salvation would then be pinned upon believing penal substitutionary atonement.

I believe penal substitutionary atonement is a man-made doctrine, a result of Calvinistic philosophy, and is not inherently Biblical.

“Penal substitutionary atonement” is mentioned zero times in the New Testament, written after there was a revealed and understood Gospel.

Now, I know, “Trinity isn’t in the Bible either, yet you believe in that.” True. The concept is there and the doctrine of the trinity is the best explanation I’ve heard of how the Bible speaks of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Penal substitutionary atonement is not, in my opinion, the best explanation of the Gospel.

Furthermore, having an unorthodox doctrine of the trinity (one that does not measure up to the man-made definition of what the trinity is), does not disqualify you from salvation.

However, I have heard proponents of the trinity say that if you reject their notion of the trinity you can’t be saved. I’m not sure about that.

I do think wrong views of who God is will impact your doctrine on many levels and it is a vital doctrine, but can anyone fully explain it?

The Trinity is never explicitly explained in Scripture, whereas the Gospel is repeatedly explained. The Trinity is a pretty good attempt to draw together hints in the Scripture about God. Penal Substitutionary Atonement is not a very good summation of all the Bible clearly and repeatedly says about the Gospel.

The fact that we have definitions that we like and agree upon does not mean we actually understand it correctly. In other words, just because you think you’re right doesn’t necessarily mean you are right!

Making people believe your idea, no matter how orthodox (accepted) it may be, is still not a basis of salvation.

Back to penal substitutionary atonement. If penal substitutionary atonement is equal to the Gospel, and must be believed to be saved, shouldn’t these concepts be explicitly stated?

Yet the word “penal,” “penalty,” “penalize,” or any other word with “penal” in it is never once used in relationship to the Gospel in the New Testament.

The word “substitute,” “substitution,” “substitutionary,” or any other word with “substitute” in it is never used in the New Testament in relationship to the Gospel.

Allow me to really shock you and say that the word “atone,” “atoned,” “atonement,” or any other word including the root “atone” is never used in the New Testament in relation to the Gospel (“Atonement” is used one time in the KJV when they mistranslated a Greek word).

It seems weird to me that believing penal substitutionary atonement is required in order to believe the Gospel when none of these words is ever used in relation to the Gospel.

There are, no doubt, verses that people can list that hint at these words (Isaiah 53 being the closest to the idea), there may be concepts that are similar, but alas, none of these words is ever used.

I do not have to believe your doctrine in order to believe the Gospel. I do not have to use your non-biblical words. In fact, I prefer not using the word “trinity” simply because it’s not a biblical word. I prefer “godhead” much better, because there is at least biblical precedent for using such a word.

When we explain to people what we believe, what our doctrine is, it is always best to quote Scripture. It is better to say it the way the Bible says it than to quote what people said.

I, in no way, think doctrine is unimportant. On the contrary, I think doctrine is so important that we should be very careful in what we say it is and how we define it. Instead of using our words, ideas, and concepts, it seems better to quote Scripture.

If a person were to ask me, “Hey, Jeff, what is the Gospel?”

I would not answer by quoting the definition of penal substitutionary atonement. I would instead quote 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

I can rest on that. I’d rather rest on the foundation of Scripture than on the teetering, fallible doctrines of men. If someone has a problem with my defining biblical quote, then I end up defending the Bible, which is way better than defending what some guys said.

If your doctrine uses non-biblical words, I am immediately skeptical. I assume human philosophy has entered your doctrine. I also wonder how well you know the Scripture. Is this unfair judgment on my part? Maybe, then again, the Bible tells me to test the spirits and I don’t mess around with that.

Doctrine is important. The Gospel is important. So important that we should be very careful in how we define it, explain it, and defend it. You can’t go wrong quoting the Bible. Do so.

Two Problems With Substitutionary Atonement

Yesterday I did a post on the following quote:

A rejection of penal substitutionary atonement is a rejection of the gospel. Either you’re saved through the work of Christ on the Cross, or you’re not saved at all.

The gist of the quote is that if you don’t believe in Substitutionary Atonement (to be called SA from now on cuz it’s hard to type!) then you aren’t saved.

This is a rather silly position to take. SA is Calvinism. What the author of the quote is saying is that if you’re not Calvinist you don’t believe the Gospel and thus are not saved.

In his quote, only Calvinists are saved. These are the same people who fought against the Catholic Church for saying only Catholics are saved!

I believe it is entirely possible to not believe in SA and still believe the Gospel, because SA is not the Gospel. SA is an attempt to summarize and explain the Gospel.

It gets some things right and presses other things out of measure.

I know it is possible to not accept SA and yet still believe the Gospel, because I do.

Here are my two main reasons for rejecting SA:

1. SA says that Christ died as your substitute. He died in your place. You were supposed to die, but instead Christ did. Although this sounds good and there are a couple verses you can misinterpret to make it sound like that’s what the Bible says, this isn’t right.

If Christ specifically died in the exact place of every believer, then He did not die in the exact place of every non-believer. This leads to Limited Atonement, the L of the Calvinist TULIP. This is, by far, their weakest point. It is refuted by many Scriptures. Limited Atonement is wrong. Anyone can come to Christ for salvation. He died for the sins of the whole world.

Limited Atonement rejects that idea because Limited Atonement is not based on Scripture; it’s based on the Calvinist philosophy of SA.

2. SA says that Christ died instead of you. He was your exact substitute, doing something you don’t have to do now because He did it for you.

This obviously isn’t true because everyone dies! This is also not true from a Gospel standpoint because, according to Romans 6 and many other passages, Christ didn’t just die for you, He wasn’t just some man who did some thing a long time ago for you. By faith you were crucified with Him, buried with Him, and raised up with Him to newness of life. I am crucified with Christ. The old man is crucified with its affections and lusts.

SA is all about Christ dying, not me. The New Testament clearly shows that we die with Christ and are raised up with Christ to newness of life. By faith, anyone can identify themselves with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s not instead of or in the place of; it’s with.

SA is wrong. It ignores lots of Scripture. SA is Calvinism. Heaven contains non-Calvinists. You do not have to believe in SA to be saved. Rejecting SA is not rejecting the Gospel.

Rejecting SA is rejecting a human attempt to explain the Gospel, an attempt that fails in several ways.

Hold fast to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word; hold loosely the ideas and philosophies of people. We’re saved by faith in Jesus Christ, not by faith in John Calvin, Augustine, or anyone else. Please don’t forget that.