Posted in doctrines of grace, theology

Does John 3:16 teach that anyone can be saved?

RC Sproul often spoke in defense of the Doctrines of Grace when someone challenged them by quoting John 3:16. Here is one of his responses over the years to that challenge:

By RC Sproul
From “Knowing Scripture

“The principle of literal interpretation gives us another rule, namely that the Bible in one sense is to be read like any other book. Though the Bible is not like any other book in that it carries with it the authority of divine inspiration, nevertheless, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit over a written text does not turn verbs into nouns or nouns into verbs. No special, secret, arcane, esoteric meaning is poured into a text simply because it’s divinely inspired. Nor is there any such mystical ability we call “Holy Ghost Greek.” No, the Bible is to be interpreted according to the ordinary rules of language.”

“Closely related to this point is the principle that the implicit must be interpreted by the explicit, rather than the explicit interpreted by the implicit. This particular rule of interpretation is violated constantly. For example, we read in John 3:16 that “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” and many of us conclude that since the Bible teaches that anyone who believes shall be saved, it therefore implies that anyone can, without the prior regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, exercise belief. That is, since the call to believe is given to everyone, it implies that everyone has the natural ability to fulfill the call. Yet the same gospel writer has Jesus explaining to us three chapters later that no one can come to Jesus unless it is given to him of the Father (6:65). That is, our moral ability to come to Christ is explicitly and specifically taught to be lacking apart from the sovereign grace of God. Therefore, all of the implications that suggest otherwise must be subsumed under the explicit teaching, rather than forcing the explicit teaching into conformity to implications that we draw from the text.”

john 316verse.jpg

Posted in doctrines of grace, encouragement, irresistible grace, salvation

Of Tractor Beams and Irresistible Grace

My walk toward the cross was more like trench warfare. I fought it. During the time of the most pitched spiritual warfare, I created a lot of art in attempts to understand what was going on with me as my spirit fought the Savior but I couldn’t express it in words.

In this piece below I felt intuitively that my spirit was trying to transform but something was holding me down while at the same time something was pulling me up. In the piece below, the butterfly is broken and unable to transform because it is caught in a net as it attempts to fight off whatever has captured it. The poem, which I re-typed in larger font, mentions Strigoi. This is a folk personage who, in Romanian legend, is a kind of vampire. I intuitively felt that a dark force of evil had caught me, so I used the reference to Strigoi.

Strangely (though not so strangely if you understand the Bible) I was trying to get “upward” toward something better, BUT NOT JESUS! Horrors, anything except Jesus! I bought Buddhist books, pagan books, New Age gooks, psychology books, all in vain attempts to stave off the one last resort to try- Jesus. I was vigorous about it.

During that time I felt that the world had two elements to it, good, or love, and evil. I represented that fight in this piece, called ‘Intelligent Design.’

You might notice that same cupola in Intelligent Design that is in the Suspended Transformation piece. It has a sort of evil eye as a wind vane and to me, seemed very demonic. It represented a strong tower or fortress of evil. My mistake then was thinking that good, or love, and evil were equal combatants in this world. Of course I know now that Jesus has overcome everything and evil bows to His will. The battle is not equal. It is not even.

I remember shortly after I was saved, this battle and its exigencies were still fresh in my mind and very palpable. I said to a church friend of the Arminian type, “I was brought to the cross kicking and screaming.” She looked at me and dismissively said, “You were not!” My friend and her circle in which I was involved strongly believed that the believer decides for him or herself to go forward down an aisle and the walk down the aisle is littered with rose petals, dancing unicorns and rainbows. While that may be some people’s experience, my own experience at salvation was one of agony, blood, tears, and resistance. I did not want to go. But I could not resist.

Source The Graphics Fairy

On Star Trek, tractor beams were a beam that emanated from a spaceship and when aimed at a lesser vessel, inexorably drew the then-helpless vessel toward the greater vessel. No matter if the lesser vessel had its shields up, or if its thrusters were in full reverse, or if they attempted to bug out at warp speed, once caught in the Tractor Beam, they could not escape and were pulled to the Vessel. The name ‘tractor beam’ was coined from food chemist and science fiction writer E.E. Smith’s original “Attractor Beam.” I was a Trekkie (original series) and I always liked the tractor beam. I did not know, but God knew, that decades later I would be caught in His tractor beam of grace.

Today I understand that God wrote our names down in His Lamb’s Book of Life before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4). The default condition of every person on earth is that we are all sinners all the time and we do not seek God. (Romans 3:10-11).

However, His grace is such that, at the appointed time, God uses His irresistible grace as a tractor beam to draw people to His Son. (John 6:44). Without it, we would never willingly “choose Jesus.” We can’t and if we are drawn, initially we resist. However God is so mighty and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, so no one can resist it forever. Otherwise it would mean that satan and man can frustrate God.

John Murray said of irresistible grace:

The enmity of the human heart is most virulent at the point of the supreme revelation of God’s glory. So deep-seated and persistent is the contradiction that the Saviour as the embodiment of grace is rejected. It is when we recognize this that the need for irresistible grace is perceived.

No one cay say to Him, “Nah, I’m good.” Could Lazarus reply to Jesus in the tomb, “I want to lay here a little longer.” No. The Doctrine of Irresistible grace is the “I” in the TULIP acronym for the Doctrines of Grace. Though personal experience is not the final analysis of anything, I know my salvation walk was fraught with resistance. I dug in my heels.

It is a moral and spiritual impossibility for a person to come to Christ apart from the Father’s drawing. What we find now is that it is a moral and spiritual impossibility for the person given by the Father to the Son not to come. There is by Jesus’ verdict the invariable conjunction of these two diverse kinds of action—“all that the Father giveth me will come to me.” There is invincible efficacy in the Father’s action and this means grace irresistible. (John Murray)

At the time I was revolted by the notion of anything about Jesus, that the something better my heart was wanting was indeed Him. I  now am grateful every day that I know Him and that I can ponder His beauty and wondrous glory at any moment of the day. I can read His word at any time and earn more about Him. I can pray and enter into the throne room. I can see Him in other people of the faith. He is endlessly fascinating to me, to a degree that is as far as the east is from the west as I had found Him revolting before salvation. Only Jesus could turn such a drenched heart of sin and His very name on my tongue made it bitter, to one of cleansed wonder for His glory. Only him. Thank God we cannot resist Him.

For more on Irresistible Grace,

CARM definition and supporting verses

Irresistible Grace is the Power of God

The Doctrine of God’s Effectual Call

Note:
John Murray on Irresistible Grace, From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: http://www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343”

Posted in arminianism, calvinism, charles spurgeon, doctrines of grace, encouragement, reformed

"Calvinism is not new to Baptists", and other Calvinistic thoughts

With the Southern Baptist Convention going on and its recent history of fighting against the doctrines of grace, AND fighting against the people who bring them, it might be good to get a little perspective. Here are two. Thomas Kidd at Desiring God, writes about the doctrines of grace in church history. And S. Lewis Johnson preaches on the inconsistent stance of four-point Calvinists.

For those unfamiliar with the terms, here are some quick definitions first. Calvinism is a position where those who adhere to it have

a very high view of Scripture and seeks to derive its theological formulations based solely on God’s Word. It focuses on God’s sovereignty–stating that God is able and willing by virtue of His omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence to do whatever He desires with His creation. It also maintains that within the Bible are the following teachings: That God, by His sovereign grace, predestines people into salvation and that Jesus died only for those predestined and that God regenerates the individual to where he is then able to and wants to choose God and that it is impossible for those who are redeemed to lose their salvation.

The Arminian’s flower is the Daisy.
“He loves me, He loves me not…” JK!

Arminianism, on the other hand, maintains that God predestined but not in an absolute sense. Rather, He looked into the future to see who would pick him, and then He chose them. Jesus died for all peoples’ sins who have ever lived and ever will live–not just the Christians. Each person is the one who decides if he wants to be saved or not. And finally, it is possible to lose your salvation (some Arminians believe you cannot lose your salvation).

Miracle Max was an Arminian.

GotQuestions has a good overview. Here is an excerpt-

The five points of Calvinism can be summarized by the acronym TULIP. T stands for total depravity, U for unconditional election, L for limited atonement, I for irresistible grace, and P for perseverance of the saints.

Other terms for Calvinism are Reformed Theology or Doctrines of Grace.

SBC logo

Irrespective of any activity at the Southern Baptist Convention, Thomas Kidd asks, Did you know Calvinism is not new to Baptists?

Calvinists once dominated Baptist church life in America. In a 1793 survey, early Baptist historian John Asplund estimated that there were 1,032 Baptist churches in America. Out of those, 956 were Calvinist congregations. These were “Particular Baptists,” for they believed in a definite atonement (or “particular redemption”), that Christ had died to save the elect decisively.

This was maintained until well into the nineteenth century. Then Kidd asks,

How did Calvinism lose its dominant position among Baptists? The American Revolution, with its focus on liberty, gave new life to “free will” theology in traditionally Calvinist denominations. But Calvinism remained ascendant among Baptists well into the nineteenth century. As Baptist churches spread into America’s frontier, they took Calvinist commitments with them. The newly-formed Elkhorn Baptist Association of Kentucky, for example, decided in 1785 to require assent to the Philadelphia Baptist confession of faith, which closely followed the 1689 London Baptist confession. Among other points, the Elkhorn Association affirmed that “by the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are pre-destinated, or fore-ordinated to eternal life, through Jesus Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice.”

By the 1830s, the stage was set for the slow weakening of Calvinism among mainstream Baptists. But Arminian theology would never become as dominant among Baptists as Calvinism once was. When groups such as Desiring God and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary began to reinvigorate Calvinist theology for Baptists and other evangelicals in the late twentieth century, some Arminian Baptists insisted that free will and general atonement were the “traditional” Baptist positions on those issues. A deeper historical look, however, reveals the overwhelmingly Calvinist convictions of early America’s Baptists

Tulip. Source- Graphics Fairy

It is a really good essay, thorough without being too long. It’s not that I always adhered to the doctrines of grace. It took a bit of time to study and for the Spirit to cement these things in my mind and heart. One video that went a long way to opening my eyes was a Paul Washer segment. I’ll post that below. I understand that the doctrine is difficult for people to accept, and many don’t or won’t believe it.

Therefore, if anyone has any questions concerning these doctrines of grace please don’t hesitate to ask. If anyone has a problem with what is being said or written please don’t be afraid to speak up. I believe what Paul Washer is saying is biblically true. Understanding the doctrines of grace/election/Calvinism is vital in understanding God’s work in regards to salvation. It’s like this-

Picture Jesus as the Living Water. There are urns of fresh, holy, heavenly, pure water. There are two methods. One drinks the water as it is given out. Or one can put one’s hand in the water to test its temperature, leaving behind oil from one’s hand, and dirt from one’s fingernails, before choosing to scoop some into one’s hand and drink. But now the water is no longer pure. Man added something to it. The second scenario is man’s participation in his salvation, by “deciding” to drink the Living Water and “accepting Christ”. But it’s polluted, even one drop from man pollutes it and it is no longer pure (grace).

In studying Galatians 1 and the importance of pure grace (unmixed with Legalism or any other man-made invention), John MacArthur says in his Commentary on Galatians,

Paul would not tolerate one drop of legalism being mixed with God’s pure grace. To turn away from any part of the grace of Christ is to turn away from God to that of human effort. … A single drop of poison in a large container can make all the water lethal. And a single false idea that in any way undercuts God’s grace poisons the whole system of belief.

So…no, we don’t “decide for Christ”. We don’t “accept Christ”. We have no part in our salvation. Why? We’re dead. God makes salvation possible by sending the spirit of understanding, the spirit of repentance … He initiates it all. (Ephesians 1:4, Philippians 1:6, Hebrews 12:2). As Paul explained the extent of our participation in salvation, in 1 Corinthians 3:6,

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

Or as Miracle Max explains,

There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all-dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all-dead, well, with all-dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.
Inigo Montoya: What’s that?
Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

A Calvinist believes we are all-dead.

Here is that Paul Washer video I promised. A young seminarian approached Washer at the 2009 Deeper Conference and asked about election. He asked also about God choosing some people to salvation and others He says ‘you, you, you, send to hell’. This is a common question. Washer answers brilliantly.

There are helpful captions so you can read along with what Washer is saying. It’s worth listening to. I love the part when he takes off his glasses and looks like he is settling in for a good discussion, lol.

Just as grace is unmixed with any man’s “decision” or any man’s “works” in his own salvific rebirth, any less than the total TULIP and you have a deformed flower. Yet some say they believe the biblical verses relating to T-U-I-P but not L, limited atonement, This is where they say that God died for all people, not just a few chosen, or elect. 4-Pointers believe that His blood was not limited to those whose names were written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life since before the foundation of the world.

Here is S. Lewis Johnson in preaching Galatians 1:4, The Great Emancipation, side-tracking a bit to the inconsistent stance of 4-point Calvinists.

There are individuals who say, “I am a Calvinist, but I am a four-point Calvinist.” Now, I respect an individual who says this. I think, however, that it is a very inconsistent position. Richard Watson, probably the greatest of the Arminian theologians said, “It is perhaps the most inconsistent theory to which the varied attempts to modify Calvinism have given rise. Here are individuals who claim to believe in total depravity, unconditional election, invincible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. But they do not believe that Jesus Christ came to die for his own, but rather for every one.”

Now, let me ask you to look at this text. If we say that Jesus Christ intended to die for all men, then his intention was frustrated, because both of us will grant that not all people are saved. I think, of course, what happened is the best judge of what God intended. In other words, the result will tell us what he intended to do. But if Christ intended to die for all men, if we say that he gave himself for everyone, then his intention was frustrated. The frustration of his intention is offensive, in my eyes; I say it in love, to the perfections of the Son of God. To think that the intention of his is frustrated, to me, limits our understanding of the Son of God.

Furthermore, if we say that died in order to save all, we cannot speak then of a substitution that was effectual. The substitution was ineffectual. It was not really a substitution at all. For, even though he has done what he has done, it is possible for heaven to have further claims against individuals who are not saved. So the substitution was not really a substitution, the work was not really done. The purchase did not secure salvation for all for whom he made it. Heaven’s claims are not really met. It is not then a finished work, logically.

Now, what is this? This is dishonoring to the work of our adorable substitute. So the idea that Jesus Christ could die for all men and yet not be effective in his intention is dishonoring to the Son of God, dishonoring to his perfections, dishonoring to his work as substitute. And furthermore, if you reflect about it for a moment, it should shatter your confidence and assurance, because if it is possible for God to be frustrated in one of his great works, the work of the atonement, how do you know that he cannot be frustrated in the other promises the has given us? Is it really true then that he does all of his pleasure, as the word of God tells us? You can see that this then would be most damaging to my assurance and hope that he will really save me, who has believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, I say that in love, I say that because I would like to recover some for an understanding of the gospel of the grace of God that will most honor and glorify our great God. If you shall happen to be of the contrary option, I hope that you will not be upset by that. There are probably other things that we disagree about. And it is possible, of course, that I am wrong in two or three other things. Though I think I am right in this one thing, you understand. You still may be right in more things than I, but I hope we remain friends. But we understand each other I hope.

He was such a humble man! Though this three-segment essay that included definitions, a history of Calvinism in Baptist church history, and 4-point Calvinism’s illogic has been long, I hope that it brought some kind of truth and honorable reason to the concept. One last comment, this one on free will. I read the following comment from a man named Chancellor (Buddy) Roberts about free will,

Free will (which Arminians insist God gave us) necessitates not merely the capacity to choose but also having the right to choose. If man has free will, then he must necessarily have the right to choose whatever he wants and, therefore, God has no right to punish him for how he exercises that free will. Having the right to choose removes any culpability for choices made because it is presumed that God has given man the right to make those choices.

We only have free will in the capacity in which we are limited by our nature. Can a fox choose to write Shakespeare? Can a lion choose to be a vegetarian? No, they can only do things according to their nature. Likewise we as totally depraved humans cannot choose Good. We hate God and He is dead to us. Since we are totally sinful through and through, (“all-dead”) the only free will we have is to choose to sin. Therefore we cannot “choose God” or “decide for Jesus.” Jesus has to do it for us, and blessedly, He has.

“I would rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than a universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of men be added to it.” (Spurgeon Sermons, Vol. 4, p. 70).

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Further reading

Essay- Phil Johnson: The Hall of Church History: The Arminians

Sermon by Jeff Noblit from Ephesians, (the one Paul Washer recommends in the above video clip):
Election Pure and Simple 

Essay- John MacArthur, What is the Doctrine of Election?

10-minute video- John MacArthur on the Doctrine of Election

9-minute video- John Piper on the Doctrine of Election

Posted in arminianism, calvinism, doctrines of grace, easter, resurrection

Understanding the Doctrines of grace in the face of the death, burial, & resurrection of Christ

This Holy weekend we focus on the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I offer these thoughts and this sermon by Phil Johnson which is actually a brief overview of church history with a focus on the doctrines of grace, which most people know as ‘Calvinism’. Initially one may wonder how these two streams of thought are intertwined, but as you will see, they are intertwined so tightly that a clearer understanding of Jesus and the faith he secured for us through His death, burial, and resurrection will be made manifest.

Perceiving that Christ is in total control of each and every salvation, through understanding these biblical doctrines, will hopefully do several things in the reader’s and listener’s heart. One, is that the dear reader will never, ever again use the terrible phrase, “decisions for Christ.” We do not decide to become a Christian. The author and finisher of our faith is Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 12:2).

Secondly, on this most precious of weekends, understanding the biblical doctrines of grace will offer a clearer view of Jesus and His love for humanity. Here is a very good teaching by Phil Johnson. He gives an overview of church history which illustrates when the eruption between the two camps originated. It was 410AD. The two camps are: we decide for Jesus vs. God’s sovereignty in salvation AKA Pelagianism vs. Calvinism. Hopefully, you will understand that the opposite camp, Pelagianism, minimizes the seriousness of sin and nullifies the need for Divine grace. This weekend is about grace!

Pelagianism was declared heresy in 430 AD. Yet its ideas remained, modified somewhat, and then was called Semi-Pelaginaism. This also was declared heresy in 529 at the Council of Orange. Still not firmly stamped out, strains of Semi-Pelagianism ideas advanced and nowadays modern Arminianism is the result of those debates from earlier centuries. If you hear the phrases walk the aisle, pray a prayer and decide for Christ, it’s from Arminianism.

The synopsis of Johnson’s teaching is below. I’m sorry, I was not able to find a transcript. It is audio only with powerpoint slides.

I want to emphasize, WE DO NOT DECIDE FOR CHRIST. On this most important of weekends, understand who Jesus is and what His death, burial and resurrection means, by understanding the full expression of His work in authoring and finishing our faith. Phil Johnson biblically lays this out.

Calvinism is not some quirky anomaly in the history of Christianity. It is not a recent departure from  the mainstream that is headed off in some bizarre direction. The truth is these ideas have always belonged to the mainstream of sound theology throughout church history. It is one of the distinctive doctrines of Christianity itself. It is the anchor of sound doctrine that our faith is the result and not the cause of God’s work in our hearts. ~Phil Johnson

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Synopsis of the teaching-sermon: The Christian doctrine of ‘Election’ has caused more difficulties to believers than any other. It is indeed one of the most frequently misunderstood of all Biblical teachings. Many have been distressed by what they think this teaching means. But rather than causing Christians concern, this doctrine is actually one that should fill believers with comfort and a much better grasp of the great and sovereign God that they serve. … a very helpful overview of Calvinism and its history, which actually sets the doctrine of election in the context of the Biblical teaching with which it is most commonly associated. Once correctly understood, election is seen to be actually a demonstration of the Lord’s love for his people. These two recordings will be a great help to those who are struggling to understand this most difficult, yet wonderful, doctrine.

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Guest introduction by R. Craig Fulford:

Given it is Easter weekend you might expect me to post a tremendously dynamic sermon on the resurrection. But I’m not!

Instead I have chosen to share with all of you a sermon delivered by Phil Johnson entitled “The Story of Calvinism”. Now before you run screaming for the exits, allow me to explain.

For the most part, in today’s Church environment, any mention of the term Calvinism is met with an almost automatic response of “thrown up hands” and criticism. And that has been the result of many years in Biblical doctrine being compromised in favor of the belief that somehow man is in control and can make his own decision about whether or not he will accept God’s grace and His gift of salvation. The belief that a lost and spiritually dead man somehow has the “free will” to control his own salvation is now epidemic.

Phil does a tremendously effective job of diffusing the animus which exists between those who adopt the Arminian (Synergistic) view and those who are committed to the Monergistic (Reformed) view. Or at least he makes a strong attempt in trying to accomplish that goal without sacrificing Biblical truth.

Monergism says that the Holy Ghost acts independently of the human “will” in the work of regeneration. Monergism is the position in Christian theology that God, through the Holy Spirit, works to bring about the salvation of individuals through spiritual regeneration without any cooperation (interference) from the individual.

Synergism is the position of those who hold that salvation involves some form of cooperation between divine grace and human “free will”. Synergism is upheld by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches and by the Methodist, Episcopal, Charismatic and Pentecostal traditions of Protestantism. It is an integral part of Arminian theology and is simply the belief that the human can and might choose to cooperate (influence) with the Holy Ghost in His “work” of regeneration.

It’s important to note that “free will” is never once mentioned in Scripture nor is the concept. I know, neither is the “Trinity” but the truth of that concept is unmistakably taught.

So, you must be asking yourself, are there born again believers in churches that have adopted the Arminian doctrine? And if God has already pre-destined those who will be born again, why should Christians ever bother to witness? I mean, “What difference does it really make”?

Listen to Phil’s message and see the slides to have these kind of very serious questions answered! It only seems appropriate, while our minds are on His resurrection this weekend, to examine what it means to us as sinners in need of a Savior. It is too important that we understand what His sacrifice and victory over death represents to get it wrong!

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Particular atonement: Christ’s death had a particular purpose, and a special reference for the elect, so that God’s design was first of all to save them, and Christ’s death secured the guarantee of their salvation. Christ’s death accomplished everything God designed it to accomplish. ~Phil Johnson

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Further Reading:

Altar Calls: Why You Should Refuse to Walk the Aisle part 1, and 2, and 3.

What is ‘decisional regeneration?’

A holy Saturday

Posted in arminianism, calvinism, doctrines of grace, limited atonement, tulip

Doctrines of Grace: Explaining Limited Atonement

I was listening to RC Sproul on RefNet this weekend. He was preaching John 17, the High Priestly prayer where Jesus asks to be glorified.

I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. (John 17:6)

Pastor Sproul went backwards for a moment to relate another verse in John, No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)

free photos

Sproul briefly explained that their church (St. Andrews Chapel) was Reformed, noting the citation on the back of their church bulletin. He said that for those who were visiting or who had not gone to the new members class yet, he outlined the Reformation in a few sentences and quickly stated the five doctrines of grace that the Reformers (beginning with Martin Luther) had stood upon. It is widely known as an acrostic that spells the name of a familiar flower T – U – L – I – P.

T — total depravity. This doesn’t mean people are as bad as they can be. It means that sin is in every part of one’s being, including the mind and will, so that a man cannot save himself.

U — unconditional election. God chooses to save people unconditionally; that is, they are not chosen on the basis of their own merit.

L — limited atonement. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was for the purpose of saving the elect.

I — irresistible grace. When God has chosen to save someone, He will.

P — perseverance of the saints. Those people God chooses cannot lose their salvation; they will continue to believe. If they fall away, it will be only for a time. (source)

A fuller explanation of unconditional election from the same source is as follows:

The second point inescapably follows from the first: since one is born totally depraved and enslaved to sin, one’s ELECTION cannot be dependent or CONTINGENT on any spiritually worthy actions one commits. According to this point, God predestines or chooses to soften the hard, sin-enslaved hearts of certain fallen individuals and liberate them from their death not because of any merit they have but despite their demerits–i.e., He ELECTS to change their hearts (and thereby join them to Christ and His saving work) DESPITE the fact that they hate God and oppose Him and have hard hearts, not soft hearts, and have sin-enslaved wills, not free wills. Thus, believers have no reason to boast about themselves or their own actions: the only thing that differentiates them from Judas, Esau, or others who never respond in faith is that God gave them grace that He withheld from such reprobates (Calvinists cite, e.g., Ezek. 11:19-20; 36:26-27; Rom. 9:11-18; 1 Cor. 4:7; Eph. 2:8-10; cf. Jn. 1:13; 15:16; Acts 13:48; 16:14; 18:27; Phil. 2:13).

In a Q&A on RefNet after the sermon, Pastor Sproul was asked if it was “fair” that God chooses to elect some to salvation and not all.

What is “fair” is that we all deserve hell for our sins against God. Fair (justice) would be that all sinners would go to hell.

Alternately, taking the “fairness” issue to the extreme other end of the spectrum, what if God chose to elect all human beings to heaven, and none to hell? Is it fair that all humans who sinned receive a pardon? Where is the display of His justice? His wrath? His hatred of sin?

The middle road is that He elects some to heaven and some He leaves in their state of sin. Sproul posed the following question back, and I’ll paraphrase:

If God decided to save all people, pardoning all sins for all people for all time, and leaving the person himself to decide whether to ‘accept Jesus’ or not, would that include the sin of unbelief? Yes, it would. So if the sin of unbelief has been paid for by Jesus, and a person dies without having believed, is it fair to punish them in hell for their sin that Jesus paid for?

Robin Schumacher wrote an essay titled, “Unlimited or Limited Atonement?” Schumacher said, “John Owen wrote what is perhaps the most definitive work on Christ’s atonement in “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ”,

“God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved.

… If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first, why then are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, ‘Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.’ But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it?

If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will.” (page 61).

So once again, if God leaves salvation up to the individual’s choice, and they do not choose Jesus, then Jesus paid for their sins for naught, and they are paid for twice. Yet…nothing God does is imprecise. Not a drop of blood that Jesus spilled is wasted. Not a moment of punishment in hell for the unbeliever is unwarranted. God is precise, fair, and just.

Not only is God fair, because God does it, it is fair. He is the very definition of fairness, the epitome of justice.

Schumacher concludes his essay this way,

>Dr. James White speaks to the simplicity and beauty of limited atonement when he says, “In its simplest terms the Reformed belief is this: Christ’s death saves sinners. It does not make the salvation of sinners a mere possibility. It does not provide a theoretical atonement…Christ’s death saves every single person that it was intended to save.”

Calvin’s doctrines of grace are in fact an answer to Jacobus Arminius, for whom the opposing viewpoint is named, Arminianism. In Arminianism, one can lose their salvation it is not secure.

Some Arminians, however, believe that mankind has so much influence in their own salvation that their actions can cause God to revoke it. They believe we must continually reject sin and live a godly life in order to maintain our position with God. (source)

Hence RC Sproul’s wit regarding the daisy. He said,

“If you went to the new member class, you’ll know the Reformed view. But if you don’t, the acrostic flower stands for, Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the saints”. This flower differs from the Arminian flower, the DAISY. Which is, ‘He loves me, He loves me not…”

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Dear friends, if you are saved, it was not your choice, but Father God through Jesus. He saved you through no merit of your own, but to glorify Jesus. No one can snatch you from His hand, and your salvation is securely sealed within you, the Spirit being the deposit of this guarantee, until the Day. Our sovereign and merciful God is the author and finisher of our faith, and He keeps us in it until the time when all men are glorified in heaven. Then as Jesus prayed in His high priestly prayer,

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)

O, Jesus, we long to be with You, our High Priest, too!
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Further reading:

FMI: Calvinist Corner

Why I am a Calvinist, Part 1 (of 5)

What is Calvinism? Is Calvinism biblical?