Thursday, September 14, 2006

Salvation for the world!

A study on some of the universalistic passages of salvation

"I want to say to you that it is God's desire and commitment to save all people. If you've been into hyper-calvinism, about Oh, some are elected and some aren't and now you don't know who is elected and who is selected and who is protected and whatever and so how can you pray with confidence if you're a hyper-calvinist that said that only some people are chosen to be saved."

These are the words spoken by the head pastor of our church in his sermon this last Sunday morning (Text summary, audio, video). What am I still doing in an Arminian church? Long story!

He attributed the beliefs of normal Calvinism to hyper-Calvinism. This happens all too often when people who have no clue about true Calvinism, especially those who believe in the synergistic Arminianism, try to make definitive statements about Calvinism! My bet is that he has never completely read through a true book on Calvinistic doctrines written by a Calvinist, but rather has made his comments on caricatures by other Arminians! Oh, what a shame! Once a person understands these doctrines and the grace bestowed by God, how can you ridicule it unless blindness has set in? True grace is unaccomplished grace, not grace by the effort of free will!

To prove his point he used what I would call "seemingly universalistic" verses from the Bible. They are Rom 10:13 , 1 Tim 2:4 and 2 Pet 3:9. We will look at them shortly.

Before I was convinced of the doctrines of Grace, the Reformed position, which is also sometimes referred to as TULIP, I used to read the universalistic passages of salvation very glibly, thinking, "God wants us all saved, and that is why He sent Jesus to die for us." This way, a plan of salvation was created and all we had to do was sign up for the plan, and... voila, we were saved! WRONG! God's plan was to send Jesus to die for us, not to set up a plan that we had to sign up for, in order for certain people to be saved. There is a great difference here! Jesus died to save certain people, not just to make a plan of salvation available for those willing. In the one scenario, a definite group of people are saved; in the other, the possibility exists that no one would be saved and the death of Jesus was in vain.

Man's religion is a synergestic religion. It is a religion in which God cannot save anyone, unless that person also works with God to save himself. It is a religion in which man is exalted with an "almighty" free will. Even the sovereign God cannot go against this "almighty" free will. In effect, man's free will has been exalted above God, making God a slave to man's will! In this synergestic two way street of compromises between "god" and "Man," "god" has to serve "Man," because "Man" does as he wants, and so "god" has to play the game according to the rules set up by the free will of man. This religion of man is completely humanistic, in which "Man" has become the god of this world and touching his "precious" free will is a violation of his rights of being that god. With his free will intact, man has made the death of Christ worthless and of no effect. The death of Christ accomplished nothing, because "man" and his free will brought it to no effect!.

Biblical religion is monergistic. God can and does save. He is not restricted by anyone and He does not have to save anyone. Yet, in the good pleasure of His infinite wisdom He has chosen some to be saved, but they cannot do it out of themselves. All, even those who have been chosen, are unable to make a positive step toward God and to please Him. Sin, which brought spiritual death and complete separation from God, has so marred man that He cannot make a choice contrary to that nature of sin to which he is in bondage. Yes, he is free, but his freedom is restricted to that nature which he received upon the advent of sin, and so, can only make decisions that are formed by that nature. It is because of this that God had to do the work of salvation for us. Electing those He did not have to save, He sent Jesus to die in their stead, and by His death He actually saved them. In this way the death of Christ was effective to save the elect and certainly accomplished what it was meant to do.

Is God's intention for everybody, the whole world, to accept the call of the gospel, or did He only have the elect in mind for salvation?

Rom 10:13

[1] Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. [2] I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. [3] For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. [4] For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. [5] For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. [6] But the righteousness based on faith says, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) [7] or "'Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). [8] But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); [9] because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. [10] For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. [11] For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." [12] For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. [13] For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." [14] But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? [15] And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" [16] But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" [17] So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. [18] But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for "Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world." [19] But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, "I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry." [20] Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, "I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me." [21] But of Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people." (Rom 10:1-21 ESV)

Verse 13 says that "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." That is indeed true! The question, however, is "who does call on the name of the Lord?"

Let us first look at what is being said by Paul here. It is so easy to simply pull a verse out of the hat that says "everyone" or "whoever" while dismissing the context it is found in.

Chapter 9 of Romans ends with Paul showing that the Gentiles have attained a righteousness, by faith, which they did not pursue. Yet, Israel did not attain any righteousness, since they pursued a righteousness that is based on the law through works. As a result, they stumbled over the stumbling stone. "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." (Rom 9:33)

Paul continues in chapter 10 expressing his desire for the salvation of his fellow Israelites. The Israelites did not submit to God's righteousness which is found in Christ. If a person wants to find righteousness by following the commandments, he must live with that. However, Paul here assumes that the Israelites understood that living by the commandments would simply bring condemnation upon them since no one could live by them without breaking the law. Once a person breaks the law, he becomes a law breaker which condemns him before God.

However, the righteousness that is by faith makes salvation reliant on Christ. Those who attempt a righteousness by the law will be put to shame (9:32-33), but "everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." 

The Judaizers, those who believed that salvation came through Christ and the Law, tried to get the Gentiles to follow the law for their salvation. However, Paul made it clear that the Gentiles attained righteousness without seeking it, even while they did not attempt living by the law. All this while the Israelites tried to attain a righteousness by following the law.

"No!", says Paul. Righteousness comes by faith in Christ and no other way, even excluding the law. Paul is setting up a contrast here. The contrast is law vs. faith. Instead of everyone having to follow the law in order to attain righteousness, everyone has to believe in Christ alone to attain righteousness. It is in this context that we find verse 13 (and for that matter verse 11 too). Instead of the emphasis on the "everyone" in verse 13, the emphasis is on calling "on the name of the Lord" for salvation. So, instead of reading the verse as

For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved"

it should be read as

For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved"

So, Paul is telling them that God's salvation is not

For "everyone who follows the commandments will be saved"

but rather that

For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

What is the point then? Paul is not saying here that everyone in the whole world individually calling on the name of the Lord will be saved. He is telling his readers that everyone, no matter who they are needs to call on the name of the Lord for salvation and not rely on following the law for salvation. No group, incuding the Israelites, may rely on living by the law. Everyone needs to believe in Christ in order to attain righteousness.

1 Timothy 2:4

[1] First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, [2] for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. [3] This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, [4] who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. [5] For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, [6] who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Tim. 2:1-6 ESV)

In verse 4 Paul writes that God "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." Many would say "all" means "all." Sure "all" means "all." Yet, only as related to the context in which it is used can we find the scope of "all." When Jesus told Paul "for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard." (Ac 22:15 - The NASB uses 'all' instead of 'everyone'), did Jesus mean Paul was going to be a witness to every single individual, or to all kinds of men? When Paul was accused of preaching to "everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place" (Ac 21:28 - NIV uses 'all men' instead of 'everyone'), did the crowd mean that he was preaching to every single individual in this world, or to all kinds of people? Paul sets up this generic use of "all" elsewhere too.

"Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all." (Col. 3:11) Is Christ indeed in "all" men?

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)

It is consistent with the context of Paul's writings to recognize this use of "all." This is Paul's way of including all kinds of people. "All" in the above two passages cannot mean every individual, but all kinds or groups of people!

Coming back to 1 Timothy 2, knowing how Paul sometimes used the word "all," we need to have another look to see what Paul meant in verse 4 when he used "all people." In order to find this out we need to look at the context. In verse 1 Paul tells Timothy that we should be praying for "all people." Does he mean here every individual everywhere? I contend that he does not! Although the Bible tells us to pray for all people everywhere, I do not believe that Paul is telling us to pray for every individual everywhere in this verse. The meaning of "all people" in verse 1 is unambiguous. Paul sets up the scope of the meaning of "all people" in the very next phrase from verse 2: "for kings and all who are in high positions."

[1] First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, [2] for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Tim 2:1-2).

We have to remember the reason Paul wrote this. It was at this time that Nero blamed the Christians for the burning of Rome. It was a time of intense persecution for Christians, and not very long after this Nero had Paul and Peter executed. Paul reveals to us why we need to pray for "all [these] people:"... "that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." It would be the "kings and all who are in high positions" who would be able to ensure the peace of all in the land apart from God as its first cause. Paul was trying to make a point here. "Even pray for those in authority who seems to have your future in their hands. God even wants to save those types!" These "kings and all who are in high positions" are represented as classes of men. Now, having seen Paul's use of "everyone" or "all men," we can come to some conclusion about the phrase "who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim 2:4 NASB). God desires all kinds of people to be saved.

To find out more about Paul's meaning of "all" we need to also look at verse 5-6. For what reason do we need to pray for "all men" to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth? Verses 5-6 tell us this reason. There is only one way of salvation without which no one can be saved. Now, let us get back to Paul's meaning of "all." First, if in verse 4 we take "all men" to mean "all men individually," then the conclusion here in verse 5 has to be that Christ must be mediator for "all men" individually. If Christ then mediates for every individual, then He fails as mediator everytime an individual denies Christ as Lord and Saviour by his almighty free-will. It is absurd to assert that Christ mediates for "all," but fails to save "all." Second, the ransom - His own sacrifice - that Christ gives in verse 6 is either a saving ransom or not a saving ransom. If that ransom is a saving ransom, and it is made in behalf of "all men", then "all men" would be saved. Is the intention of the ransom for "all men" to be saved? Then the ransom has failed miserably when the result is compared to the intention.

2 Peter 3:9

[3] knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. [4] They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." [5] For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, [6] and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. [7] But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. [8] But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. [9] The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. [10] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. [11] Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, [12] waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! [13] But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:3-13 ESV)

Once again the context of our verse is important. We have to realize the topic of this passage is not salvation, but the second coming of Christ! It mentions mockers questioning the promise of the coming of Christ. Peter tells them that the coming of Christ will be like a thief, and at God's own time. By the time Peter comes to verse 9 he merely mentions it in passing! However, there is a clear identification of the recipients and audience of this passage. When Peter refers to the mockers, he refers to them as "their," and "they." By verse 8 Peter's audience changes to the "beloved," "you" and finally "we" in verse 13 where Peter includes himself in this group. When Arminians read this passage, they assume the "you" in verse 9 - "but is patient toward you" - refers to everyone individually. Similarly, it is assumed that the "any" and "all" refer to every individual everywhere. However, the audience here is specific. The intended readers are the "you" and so the meaning of "all" and "any" are limited by the "you..." the intended readers:

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: (2 Peter 1:1)

So, Peter is writing to a specific group here, not every single individual, and verse 9 is intended for this group. A group that has already "obtained a faith of equal standing with [Peter and other Christians]." Therefore, the context of verse 9 is limited to the saved. Who, therefore, is the Lord patient toward? The "you." The "elect" (2 Pet 1:3). Peter is obviously writing directly to his audience here and that audience is the elect. Thus, the "not wishing that any should perish" group, and the "all should reach repentance" group must then be the same as the "patient toward you" group. The elect! Why did Peter say this, then? Peter is saying that the coming of Christ has been delayed to ensure the in-gathering of all the elect!

So, the "you" in verse 9 is not aimed at every individual on this planet as the Arminian claims at all!

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved

To understand Rom 10:13, we have to go back a while in time. In fact, we have to go right back to the fall of man.

We have to ask ourselves if man is dead in his sin, or is he just drowning? For the Arminian, man is in the sea drowning, and simply needs to grab hold of the lifesaver's rope in order to be pulled out of the water. The drowning person can then decide whether to drown or to live. On the other hand, the Calvinist believes that man has already drowned and the lifesaver has to literally pull the corpse out of the water. The corpse, as the word implies, is dead! It cannot decide what should happen to it! The Arminian wants Dr. Frankenstein's monster to bring itself to life!

In my post called Who's Free? God or Man? A study on the "choices" of man in salvation I deal with the issue of our free will and show why it isn't free in the sense that people believe. I point to the fact that man's will is enslaved to sin, and as a result cannot in his own strength driven by his free will call upon the name of the Lord!

The end result? On the issue of who calls upon God or who seeks for Him, Scripture is clear:

[10] "None is righteous, no, not one; [11] no one understands; no one seeks for God. [12] All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." (Rom 3:10-12 ESV)

Without God's intervention to bring a sinner to life, no-one will call upon the name of the Lord.

Just thinking...

 

2 comments:

Paul said...

Jesus is indeed the Savior of all men, and especially those that believe. Command and teach these things. - 1 Timothy 4:9-11

These apostles weren't being martyred because they were teaching some new religion, they were being martyred because they were setting people free of their desires to justify themselves.

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn. - 1 Corinthians 15:22-23

Jesus is victorious, once He died everyone became justified, but that was just one part of His mission. He also made this promise:

But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. - John 12:32-33

We can bank on our God's promises everytime. When we keep thinking we have to justify ourselves and in fact crucify Jesus all over again, we are setting ourselves up for the very punishment we are trying to avoid. And even yet, that punishment is for an age, as correctly translated in the greek.

So even though you may not be getting in the 1000 year reign because of your unbelief in His justification for all mankind, when death and hades raise you back up from punishment, He will be once and for all getting rid of death and satan and all that is evil. He will not be raising the dead just to make them dead again.

We do not serve a failure, He will finish His promise. He has justified the wicked at the cross and He will draw all men unto Himself.

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