Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 2000
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 5: Confrontation with the King
Appendix C: The Protestant Debate over the Extent of the Atonement
Lesson 142 – Protestant Debate over Extent of Atonement
02 Mar 2000
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
[Hopefully] We’re going to finish this appendix, so we can move on to the next event in Christ’s life and finish that this spring, that is, the resurrection. We’ve gone through the birth, the life, and we got into the death of Christ, and tonight we’re going to deal with some of the issues that came out of that. Turn to Appendix C. I want to take you through the history of this. It’s not easy material and there’s a lot of disagreement about this and there’s quite a bit of debate in church history. But it does involve significant items, significant points about church history that explain things about various denominations etc. that you know today. I think as Christians we need to be aware of what has gone on in the past. We’re not the first generation of Christians ever to walk the planet; therefore we probably aren’t the first ones to raise a lot of these questions.
Again I introduce this by saying that church history is a study unto itself. It’s another whole field by itself. But the benefits of studying church history are that as the Holy Spirit has led the church from the day of Pentecost up to the present time, He has evidently forced the church to deal with one doctrine after another. It’s always been …, if you can think of the picture of a flock of sheep, sheep don’t appreciate the shepherd until the wolves bite their flanks. The church has apparently had the propensity; we all do, to learn things the hard way. In the history of the church that’s the way it happened. I can’t think of one doctrinal advance ever made in church history that was made because people sought it. It was always made because heretics came into the church and nearly wrecked it, and then oh, gee, we’ve got to get this straight. Then after that the doctrine settled out and got debated, and got based Scripturally and then everybody moved on to the next crisis, forgot all about everything and then a whole new set of heretics come in, tear the place up, hmm, maybe we ought to do something about this. And that’s how the church has grown; very unflattering for every believer. But hey, that’s a corporate view of us individually.
As we go on through this particular debate I prefaced it last time by saying that chronologically the problem of the atonement really came into Protestantism. That’s because in Catholicism you never really had a clarification of the potency of the cross as a total salvation package. Even to this day, in a Roman Catholic culture if you say that you are saved and you dare claim that you know you’re saved, you’re going to get some pretty interesting glances, because they do not believe, in actual practice, that it’s a question you can know for sure. Assurance is not coupled with faith inside the Roman culture. And it’s not to slight … I mean, hey, I’m not Bob Jones, I could comment on that and will before the evening is over because we will get into what fundamentalism is all about, a very interesting debate about Bob Jones. If you don’t know anything about Bob Jones family you’ll know that they could care less what anybody thinks, they’re going to do their own thing period. As one lady talked to me who has a son down there in his Junior year, they were going to get rid of the dating rule, they couldn’t interracially date, so Bob Jones thought because everybody was making a fuss of it he’ll extend it five more years. So that’s how Bob Jones operates. In other words, they’re not people that are intimidated.
We go on in church history into the extent of the atonement and date wise here is a timeline, and we come to the 1500s with the Protestant Reformation, and this was a major point. Now the average Roman Catholic and average Protestant today doesn’t even know the Reformation existed, but it was a very traumatic time in church history. A lot of things happened here. You had, within the Roman Catholic Church, in its behalf, you had godly people, born-again Christians, the problem was that institutionally corruption had occurred so that things became so manifestly corrupted that something had to be done about it. So not only was there just corruption but you had breakthroughs, new truths or biblical truths fell out of this Protestant Reformation and one of them was justification by faith, that the only way that man can be accepted with God to inherit the righteousness that Jesus Christ generated is by faith and when that faith is exercised, that righteousness is credited completely and fully to the person’s account; that’s justification by faith.
Then after that … after that because we’re justified, now the motive from this point on …, here’s the point of justification when somebody becomes a Christian, from that point on the motive is one of thankful reflection upon what God has done for me. This results in a certain kind of motive which is thankfulness; it also is grounded a tremendous assurance. But that’s missing in the Roman Catholicism of the Middle Ages because, first there wasn’t a motive … there was thankfulness, I mean, Francis of Assisi was thankful, but not like this. This is an order of magnitude different. This is thankfulness for our so great salvation, that I know. It’s not thankful to God for a pretty sky and pretty creation, medieval Roman Catholicism was thankful for that. But this was a different degree, a different magnitude of thankfulness, and it became the ground motive for the Christian life. The Christian life wasn’t seeking to become acceptable with God at the end, it wasn’t seeking to acquire a merit, it was seeking to express a thankful walk because of what had happened in the past.
So there were some fundamental changes that happened here, but because of this emphasis on justification, it turned out that the cross became very much central to the whole issue. Hence after this there came to be tremendous emphasis on what did Christ do? And in the Appendix what I’m trying to do is to show that life with Christology … remember when we dealt with the hypostatic union, Jesus Christ is true humanity undiminished deity united in one person without confusion forever, and we can say that nice and glibly but it took 450 years before we got there. Same thing here, we say Christ died for us, and we say that glibly, but what we want to do tonight is take you on the torturous pathway through all the argumentation that went on about what did Jesus Christ do on the cross. Can you come to a known non-Christian and legitimately say Christ died for you. Can you do that? A good segment of Protestantism to this day does not believe that, that it is not right to say to a non-Christian that Christ died for you; you have no right to say that because you’re not sure that Christ did die for that person. This is fundamental; this is what’s wrapped up in the extent of the atonement. To what extent does the atonement apply?
As with all these great debates in church history you learn to come to Scripture. The end product isn’t just to learn church history. The end product is to appreciate the depths of the Word of God and better minds than us have knocked heads over this issue. We can learn a lot by listening to their dialogue, because they have raised deep questions, and when we capture the essence of these questions, we go back, we open our Bibles and say yeah, I never thought of that question, let’s see what the text says. That’s the proper response to church history. From church history we learn the questions that we use back in our Bible study. One of the questions concerns the area, on pages 1-2, I’ve dealt with four areas of Bible doctrine that are involved with this issue. They all came up together, kind of. One was election, justification, the nature of faith, and sanctification.
I don’t want to mislead you; I’m not saying that the atonement issue was the sole factor in all these. Other issues were going on. It’s just that I’m using the cross and the death of Christ as a foil to bring all this stuff in right now. If you look under the doctrine of election, and justification, faith and sanctification, just look at some of the questions. What I’ve tried to do is paraphrase the questions that believers were debating. Under the doctrine of election, if then God intended, notice the verb, if you’re not afraid to mark up your notes, circle the verb “intend” because it turned out in a lot of the discussions that we really weren’t clear when we asked the question about what we meant by the question. The question is: “If, then, God intended to save all men by having His Son die for their sins, but in the end all are not saved, what does this fact do to our view of His sovereignty?” If God intended to save all men and all men aren’t saved, doesn’t that imply that there’s a force other than God, outside of God, that somehow is thwarting His sovereignty? That’s the issue raised in the Reformation, the second and third generations.
Another question, “Are His intentions,” if you don’t believe that, “in conflict with His sovereign choice? And how can He remain sovereign if men’s decisions to accept or reject the Cross in the end control the extent of the atonement?” Do you see what they’re getting at? Who’s finally controlling this thing? “If we say that He elected upon the basis of His foreknowledge of men’s response to the Cross, isn’t this saying the same thing—that men initiate the action and God ‘seconds’ it? Suppose we take the other approach and postulate that the atonement is limited to only the elect. Then, the preaching of the Cross to those who reject, to the non-elect, cannot be a valid ‘call.’ As a strong Reformed theology professor acquaintance of mine once said,” this is by a well-known exegete of the Scriptures, and here’s what he actually said, I’ve got it in his notes, “‘if I knew who the non-elect were, I wouldn’t bother to preach to them.’ Obviously, the extent of the atonement is closely linked to the truths of election.”
Let’s go to justification. These are interesting questions that were raised. “If justification is somehow based upon the atonement and it is not sufficient to remove all my sin when I initially believe in Christ, isn’t the atonement in some fashion limited in my life?” In other words, if I have to confess my sins in order to be forgiven, isn’t that an added action that happens; is that added action not included in the original atonement? These are the questions that were being raised. Here’s a good one: “If we die physically after being justified, aren’t we still under the Edenic death sentence for sin?” In other words, how does justification work when it doesn’t remove the sentence of death on my body, an interesting question? These weren’t light-heartedly raised questions. “If we all have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ in the future, aren’t we still, in some way, identified with sin? If the atonement is thus limited in those who believe and apparently only partially effective, how can we ever be sure we are wholly justified before God?” This is a whole segment of people that raised this question.
Now, the doctrine of faith. “If the atonement is limited and saving for the elect, what role does faith play in appropriating salvation? Is it necessary? Or, from our human perspective how do we know that we are of the elect? If false faith of mere ‘professing’ Christians exists, how is genuine faith to be distinguished from the false? If, to answer this question, I must ponder my faithfulness, then what role does the cross play as an object of faith? On the other hand, if the atonement is unlimited but ineffective without faith, then isn’t faith again the center of action rather than the cross? In this case, doesn’t faith somehow become a meritorious good work?” to be added to the cross, to make the cross effective.
Finally, the doctrine of sanctification. “Are post-salvation sins covered in the atonement, or is it limited in this respect? If the benefits of the atonement must be appropriated by faith, what happens when this faith fails? Do these benefits fluctuate with the ups and downs in the Christian life? If, however, the atonement is not so limited, why must we forgive in order to be forgiven, confess our sins, repent, and be disciplined when we sin?”
All these were issues that were raised, so you see, these guys … there’s a whole slug of stuff here. Today, 300, 400, 500 years later, 450 years later we’ve answered some of these questions because of more Bible study, and finally we see our way clear in some of these things. But they didn’t, this was new stuff here, they were coming out of all this. So that’s the background.
If you turn to page 3 there’s some “Preliminary Considerations.” Bear with me tonight, this is tough material and there’s some considerations that I want you to be aware of. Even if you don’t grab and follow all these, just grab the idea that before you go into these discussions you’ve got to think through the old question that we asked. When you ask a question you are already taking a position. Most of the time you can’t avoid that, but what you can avoid is being ignorant that you’re doing that. So when you think about these questions, remember that the questions themselves contain baggage; just accept that, that’s a fact of life and conversation. So when questions arise, don’t answer them too fast; answer them reflectively thinking about what does the question bring onto the table. In particular I want you to look at this, so if you’ll just follow these three paragraphs. This is actually a review of stuff we covered back when we dealt with Gen. 1-3.
“With a Satisfactory Atonement alongside the obvious continuation of evil in history, the Protestant mentality centered upon the plan behind the atonement. A plan involves the choice of the planner. In this case, God’s sovereignty came to the fore.” What they were trying to do, if you raised the question what is the plan of salvation, if it’s not Rome with indulgences, and it’s not paying money to the Pope, if it’s not going to Mother Church, if it’s not crucifying Christ anew in the mass, if it’s not any of these things, then what is the plan of salvation? When you start asking, “What is the plan?” you come to the Planner. What was the Planner’s intention, what was on His mind? The Protestants began to think about what did God have on His mind when He did all this, because if we could find out what He had on His mind we could define [can’t understand word/s] trust in the Lord, what did Jesus do on the cross, and all that. So it went back and focused on the Planner, which was great. In this case, the sovereignty of God came to the fore. “How is this sovereign attribute to be viewed? Do we think of it abstractly, as a prime quality ‘cleansed’ from all historical connotation?”
In other words, do we think of this cause, Aristotle was great on the many different kinds of causes. So have this big universal cause, and we’re asking is God’s sovereignty a big universal cause. Did you hear what I just said? I’ve already led you down a trap. This is where Protestantism … Is God’s sovereignty like that Aristotelian category of universal cause? Ooh, see what was happening? The guys had intellectual tools that they inherited through scholasticism and Aristotle, Plato and Greek philosophy. They picked up these ideas and began to manipulate Bible doctrine in the light of the tools that Aristotle and Aquinas had given to the church, Aristotle didn’t give to the church, but Aquinas brought in a lot of the tools and some of them were great tools. It’s just that they were unrefined and not subject to Scripture.
Remember the verse that we’ve looked at several times, Colossians 2:8. Here’s an example of how serious that verse is, because we’re going to go through some agonizing church history which I believe could largely have been avoided if people had understood what Paul wanted us to do in Colossians 2:8, “See that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” We said that the word translated “elementary principles” is the Greek word stoicheia, and stoicheia if you look it up in a Greek dictionary and find out how it’s used, it is used by the Greek philosophers to refer to earth, fire, water, air, all the basic categories. See what stoicheia means—basic categories.
Paul says when you start to go in and you have these basic categories and you begin to frame Scripture in the light of those basic categories, you’ve got a problem. Right now you’re taken captive by the tradition of men, because our education is tradition. Very little of what we learn in school is original thought. Think about it. When you learned in biology, as an example, evolution, did you do the experiments? Did you do Spallanzani’s experiment with the maggots and the meat? Most of us didn’t, we just read about it. Did we ever dig fossils and actually go out into a fossil field and find fossils when we were talking about fossils in biology? Or did we just read about it in a book and the teacher told us that? Tradition of men. It’s not the tradition that’s necessarily wrong; we have to learn by tradition. Training is largely tradition. That’s a method of teaching. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Paul says when that’s your basic, when that’s your starting point, you’ve got a problem.
He says instead of that, in verse 8, “according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ,” and he takes this word, Christos, and he pits that against stoicheia. What do we know about Christos? We know that He is God and man. We know the hypostatic union. We know the Creator/creature distinction. We know all these things, we know that God is holy, He’s love, He’s immutable, He’s eternal, He’s omniscient, omnipresent, He has all these attributes, the essence of God, the Creator/creature distinction, the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of man over against God and the incarnation, all this is wrapped up in Christos. That’s where you start, Paul says. You don’t start with Aristotle, you don’t start with fire and earth; you start with the fundamental categories that Scripture gives you … that Scripture gives you.
Going back to page 3, “If we think of sovereignty as an abstract property or a universal classification that belongs to both God and the creation, then we haven’t broken with Aristotelian logic.” All I’m saying is this, if you diagram what the philosophers try to do, they try to come up to this point where they can classify everything, and included underneath their categories is God, man, plus nature, etc. In other words, put God and man alongside of each other in this classification system. But the classification system is higher than them, it looks down and says God is this way, man is this way, etc. What you’ve done, this is nothing more than the Continuity of Being, it’s all one level of existence, there’s no Creator/creature distinction, it’s all erased. So “if we think of sovereignty as an abstract property or a universal classification that belongs to both God and the creation, then we haven’t broken with Aristotelian logic. We are still enmeshed in the pagan idea of the Continuity of Being wherein both God and man are on the same level of existence. Immediately, we find ourselves with an internal logical contradiction: two beings on the same level cannot have total sovereignty.”
Hence, the tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s sovereignty and man’s choice and God’s choice, they become billiard balls banging against each other because they’re in the same box down here, when the Bible says wait a minute, there’s two boxes, there’s the Creator and the creature, they’re not the same. Man’s choice is an altogether different kind of existence than God’s sovereignty. They can’t come into collision because they’re structured not to. Man is but a finite replica of God, he has this thing called choice or free will down here and God has sovereignty up here, and choice is a finite analogue to God’s sovereignty. It’s an analogue; it’s not on the same level. So it’s ridiculous to think they can ever be in conflict once you seriously come to grips with Creator/creature distinction. But that wasn’t done, unfortunately. What had happened was the scholastic categories took over, these were the intellectual tools that these guys knew at the time, and they did their best utilizing those tools.
Now if you’ll follow the debate. There’s an interesting thing here about church history. “In Luther and Calvin (1509-1564),” notice the date of Calvin, because most of this is not on the Lutheran side of the Reformation, most of this happened on the Calvinist side of the Reformation, “In Luther and Calvin,” Calvin dating from “(1509-1564)” he died a young man. By the way, his life was amazing. Do you know how old he was when he wrote the Institutes of the Christian Religion that was the textbook for Protestant theology for the last 500 years? Twenty-one. He didn’t go to American Public Schools. “… there is little or no evidence of the limited atonement idea.” When you read Calvin and Luther you don’t come across any idea of the atonement being limited, even though Reform theologians keep talking to us about the limited atonement. It’s not in Calvin and Luther, they didn’t discuss that issue.
“Their focus,” that is Luther’s focus and Calvin’s’ focus, “is upon Christ as the believer’s savior and” underline this one, “source of assurance, viz., that Christ died for him,” that is for the believer. “Wrote Calvin:” follow this quote, this is a quote directly from Calvin, at the end of the notes you’ll see the reference, “‘if we have been chosen in Him, we shall not find assurance of our election in ourselves . . . ,” let me read that sentence very slowly a second time, because subsequent Reformed theologians don’t believe that and they rejected that. So let’s get it straight from what Calvin originally taught, “‘if we have been chosen in Him, we shall not find assurance of our election in ourselves. . . . Christ [Himself] is the mirror wherein we must . . .contemplate our election’.”
In other words, what Calvin was saying is how do I know I’m accepted with God? Because I look at Jesus Christ. It’s the same thing Luther discovered, I’m looking at Christ, I’m not looking here, I’m not looking at all my warts, I’m not looking at my personal sins, I’m not measuring how good I’m rating, I’m not doing a fruit inspection of my life, I’m looking at Him. I’m acceptable before God because of Him. Luther and Calvin looked up, not in; two different prepositions. Up and out rather than down and in, totally different ways. And the first guys out of the block in the Protestant Reformation weren’t looking in, they were looking outwardly because they knew they were sinners, they knew they never could have enough evidence in their heart to convince them that they were saved, they all knew that Jesus Christ paid for the sins and that therefore He was their Savior. And their assurance was that.
“Thus each person at the point of saving faith knows without doubt that Christ died for him or her.” That is fundamental, underline that, that’s fundamental! That’s what saving faith is according to the first generation out. Faith, in other words, to Calvin and to Luther, faith is assurance. You don’t seek to be assured that you really believed. You believed because you’re assured you’re saved. What does Hebrews say? Faith is what? The evidence, the assurance of things hoped for. That was the magic power, and I want to emphasize that because that was what created a problem for the Protestants. This is where the Protestants drew like a lightning rod the attack of Rome. Rome came in on the Protestants and the new small Protestant movement like crazy over this point. I’m going to show you how. “The elect are those creatures who come to this faith in post-fall history. However God in eternity past viewed His plan, He viewed it as involving real history in which there was a fall.”
“Following Calvin a number of Reformers, such as Theodore Beza (1519-1605)” notice the dates, very close to Calvin, “entertained an abstract approach to God’s sovereignty,” here we go, now the heat’s off a little bit and these guys are trying to systemize the Reformation, he “entertained an abstract approach to God’s sovereignty that led to the limited atonement doctrine. Their reasoning was simple. God from all eternity had a plan expressed in His ‘eternal decrees.’ Since only the elect are saved, it must be that the atonement was designed only for them. In essence, their argument was a straightforward reasoning from effect to cause. This approach, however, quickly affected faith and assurance. If Christ died only for the elect, then how can I know He died for me? I can’t know that He died for me directly—that would require omniscience—so my assurance must come from inspecting my ‘fruit’, the evidences of the Holy Spirit’s work in my heart.”
“Luther and Calvin had argued earlier that looking inwardly at my fallen nature only leads to anxiety so that one must look outwardly to the Cross of Christ instead! The ‘second generation’ Reformers coming after Luther and Calvin, because of their system, had to look inwardly for assurance. Thus the limited atonement doctrine effectively divorced faith and assurance. In the days of Luther and Calvin, faith was assurance that Christ died for me; in the later days of the Reformers assurance could only follow and reinforce faith—to show evidence of election and the coverage of my sin by the atonement. Assurance thus became for them ‘faith in faith’ or persevering faith evidenced by the fruit in one’s life.”
See what happened here, there’s a shift here and it looks kind of vague and subtle, but it has very powerful implications. How many people have heard of the Puritans? Everybody’s heard of the Puritans. What is your image of the Puritans? Very sober, very legalistic, etc., some of that is a lot of bologna, if we dared sing some of the hymns they sand in their wedding services it’d be rated “R.” The Puritans, by the way, were brilliant. They were excellent soldiers.
In fact there was one English non-Christian historian who said you know we can laugh at the Puritans, the way they whine with their silly little music, because they got rid of all the accompaniment, etc. a lot of it was a cappella, and he says we laugh at their drawn faces, their seriousness, the way they dress, etc., etc., etc., but he says you know what, if you ever meet a Puritan on the battlefield or in the hall of debate you’d stop your laughing. They were tough people, and the reason they are so maligned a lot of times is because little people always have to chew down big people, just like dogs, you know the yip yap dogs are always the little ones, the big dog doesn’t have to yip yap, it’s always the little ones that yip yap. That’s the same problem in history, it’s always some little yip yap college professor that barely got his PhD who is knocking people like George Washington and other people, the great people of history. It’s always the same way.
Now in church history the problem the Puritans had, and they had some problems, was they didn’t reproduce themselves very well. By the second and third generation there was no evangelism, there was no winning of the next generation to Christ. There’s something wrong here. The Puritans were fine in some areas but they had some failings. Why weren’t they able to reproduce their society? Why, after one or two generations, did it go boom, it disappeared. What happened? There was something defective. You go back and you read Puritan authors. I don’t know how many people have read Owens and some of the Puritan writers, you can find books “that” thick written by those Puritans that talk about godliness and whether I’m saved … whether I’m saved, because they conducted an inspection campaign all their life to try to detect the operation of saving faith in their heart. It’s a morbid thing. In fact there’s a term that scholars use for those books, it’s called conversion morphology, it’s the form of conversion, the form that conversion takes, are you really saved, am I really saved, well I’m not sure that I’m saved.
One of the great economists of history pointed out that a fruitful result of the unfruitful theology was the industrial revolution. You say what did the industrial revolution have to do with the Puritans? The industrial revolution couldn’t happen without capital money because the industrial revolution had to invest in machines. Where do you suppose the money came from that was saved, stored up, and invested to finance the industrial revolution. [can’t understand name] book on economics traces it back to a Puritan belief that a sign of your election was that you would be economically blessed, and they worked hard, and that work ethic that you heard about that was so fundamental in our country, the work ethic actually in some cases can be shown to have grown out of this Puritan morbid introspection that I’ve got to work hard to give God a chance to show that I’m the elect by blessing me. It was connected to this; there are lots of historical ramifications to this. This is not some little theological point in a closet somewhere. This spilled out, it affected the economy of Europe, it affected us as a country, etc.
But one of the problems in Puritanism was the fact that here’s Mr. Christian, but he’s not quite sure that he’s a Christian, because he’s heard all this story about election and predestination and he’s not sure he’s part of the elect because he says, and this was one of the problems that Calvin had. He said it’s possible for there to be pretentious believers, i.e. believers who have a false faith, and the false faith dissipates finally, and that proves the person never had the true faith to start with. And the problem is that if this person became a Christian at age 7, and he dies at 77, and he’s got 70 years of Christian life, how does he know whether he’s a saint or not until he gets to his 77th year and drops dead believing. See what happens? If you don’t have assurance at the beginning you can’t have assurance at any other point. There’s always the danger that you’re going to fall away. So the problem of the falling away, and it was built on an exegesis of the book of Hebrews, actually, this problem of falling away began to act subtlety to separate faith and assurance. And whatever this faith was, un-assuring faith doesn’t sound right. But that plagued the Puritans; that was their dilemma, they weren’t really sure that they were of the elect unless it was so manifestly obvious of the Holy Spirit’s works in their life. So there began to be this emphasis of splitting away of faith and salvation.
After the limited atonement became dominant in Reform circles, because it is widely considered by the first hundred years in Reform circles that Christ died only for the elect, He didn’t die for the non-elect. If that’s so, now keep in mind what I warned you about, I’m leading you down a path here, remember when someone asks you a question they bring baggage to the table, so be cautious.
“Soon after limited atonement had become dominant in Reformed circles, one of the Reformers, Jacob Arminius (1559-1609), rejected limited atonement and taught: ‘that . . . Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption and the forgiveness of sin; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer, according to the word of the gospel of John iii.16: ‘God so loved the world. . .’ And in the First Epistle of John ii.2: ‘And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world.’” Remember I told you,
1 John 2:2 played a role, here it is, and I’m quoting right from the creed, this was Arminius’ own position.
“The unlimited atonement, according to Arminius, is for all men potentially, but not actually. What makes it actually apply to me is my act of faith. God chose the elect, in this view, upon the basis of foreseen persevering faith” Let me read that again, Arminius was a student of the Reformers, he was a solid Reformed guy, he was in Holland. And what he argued was that the cross of Christ applied for all. It’s like a big package, and you come up and you claim your piece of it, by your faith. Oh, and by the way, he added, you’ve got to keep believing it, because if you don’t keep believing it, you lose it, and that’s where loss of salvation arose, the idea that you could lose your salvation. That’s why we call that Arminianism as distinguished from Calvinism because the package, your claim on this package was contingent … contingent upon your faith.
“Arminius then added that one could lose this faith, in which case it would be shown that he did not have true persevering faith and was not of the elect.” Do you notice something similar about Arminius and Calvin, second generation reformers? What are they both saying? That the Christian, a genuine Christian, can never fail, that every true Christian will have persevering faith. What do you do about Solomon? What do you do about the people in Corinth? What do you do about the failures in the New Testament? What do you do with that passage in Peter “denying the Lord that bought them?” Oh-oh, now we’ve got a problem. All this theological argument, just like it is today, the people that get involved in these theological controversies spend so much time getting involved in the theological controversy they never study the text. What does the text say, yoo-hoo, you know, text, what does the text say? So Arminius, to his credit, at least he smelled something wrong, because Arminius did try to do some exegesis, and he did look at 1 John 2:2 and he says something doesn’t fit here, no matter what you guys are doing you can’t make the word “world” in 1 John 2:2 be just the world of the elect, that’s not how John uses the word. So we’ve got a rat in the house somewhere here.
So Arminius, again using the tools available to him intellectually, bound up with the idea of faith, etc. what he did is he opened the door to what church theologians call the Pelagianism, which is the belief in the strong will of man and that God cooperates so that the will of God and the will of man are kind of the same thing, they’re on the same team … [blank spot]
“Arminius’ teachings were rejected because they seemed to depose” so there was a Calvinist reaction to Arminius, and this thing ripped up Europe, people said oh, see how the Christians fight, no peace in the church. At least they were talking about something with five syllable words in it. At least they were debating about something worth debating, eternal salvation. Today it’s just shallow and boring compared to this stuff. “Arminius’ teachings were rejected because they seemed to depose God from His sovereignty and replace Him with man’s choice. At the Synod of Dort (1619) it was stated over against Arminius that,” what’s happening to the church now? People are hardening their positions, no third way now, everybody’s in one camp or the other, got to harden up, throw rocks at each other, build thicker castle walls. So by 1619 Dort said this:
“‘It was by the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross . . . should effectively redeem . . . all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation . . . ; that he should confer upon them faith,” which is another thing that comes up now, faith becomes a gift possible only through God, “… faith which, together with all other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death.’ ” Look at the logic in that sentence, it’s very carefully structured. These guys could make our lawyers look sick. Look at the grammar in that sentence and how carefully it’s stated. What do you notice it says? “That He should confer upon them faith,” and then there’s a whole set of clauses that describe this faith thing, and it’s called a saving gift of the Holy Spirit, which is fine, and what does it say about those gifts? They were purchased for them by Christ’s death. What is purchased for them by Christ’s death? Faith. Well then how can the non-elect believe? If the non-elect never had faith purchased for them, were they ever offered salvation? That’s the problem Arminius saw.
So now you have these two camps in the church. Historically they come down today, although they’re blurred in most churches today because nobody knows what their own church believes, let alone what somebody else believes. Arminianism and Calvinism come down in church history like this: Calvinism dominates the Presbyterian circles; largely Presbyterian and Congregational circles tend to historically inherit the Calvinist way of thinking. Of course liberalism has come in and wiped out most of the theology so again I say this is history, this is the genealogy but it doesn’t apply, you can walk into a Presbyterian [Church] and they wouldn’t know what you’re talking about, even if you were talking about Calvin, some of them. Things have deteriorated in our time. But this is the lineage, Presbyterianism and Congregationalism. Arminianism came down through John Wesley into the Methodist Church, and out of the Methodist Church at the turn of the century came the Pentecostals. And out of this movement came your Charismatics. This begins to explain some of these divisions we see.
Completely independent of this the Lutherans are sitting over here; they’ve had their own relatively unscathed history from all this controversy. You have the Episcopalian Church that like the Lutheran Church tried to preserve a lot of the rituals of the Catholic Church, and the Lutherans and the Episcopalians had their own lineage. Except the Episcopalians, the King of England decided he needed some theology teachers, so he sent down to Geneva and he brought some Reform people into the Episcopalian Church. These are the ebbs and the flows.
As I said, don’t go out and say that this is true today, because it isn’t necessarily true today because nobody knows what they believe. They go to the church with the largest youth group, the biggest basketball game or something. But originally you could see the lines of this theology, you could go to these kinds of churches and if you listened carefully to the men in those churches that do know their own denominational teachings, you will hear Jacob Arminius, you will hear you’d better watch out Christian, you can lose your salvation. You come over here and you can hear those second-generation Reformers saying are you really of the elect, are you really a believer, examine your heart, etc., etc., etc. So those are the two cultural streams that have come down to us in our own time.
Page 5, that wasn’t the end of the controversy by any order. “All Calvinists were not happy with the Dort statement against Arminianism. They were troubled by the texts Arminius had used which did emphasize the atonement’s application to all men (e.g., John 3:16; 4:42; Romans 5:15-18; 2 Corinthians 5:14-20; 1 Timothy 2:4-6; 2 Peter 2:1; 3:9; 1 John 2:2). One of these people was Moise Amyraut (1596-1664) who taught theology at Saumer, France. Although his teachings were called heretical in Holland, they were accepted by Calvinists in France. His position was this: ‘God wills all men to be saved, on condition they believe—a condition in which they could well fulfill in the abstract, but which, in fact, owing to inherited corruption, they stubbornly reject, so that this universal will for salvation actually saves no one.’ ”
Then he goes on and develops it. This was the source, by the way, of what we call Four-point Calvinism. Five-point Calvinism is TULIP, (T)otal depravity, (U)nconditional election, (L)imited atonement, (I)rresistable grace, and (P)erseverence of faith. Now you can go and impress your Reformed friends, you can say I know what TULIP means, it’s not grown in the garden in the spring, it’s something else. What Amyraut did is he questioned this (L), and hence there arose this label that you sometimes hear people talk about, Five-point Calvinism and Four-point Calvinism. That’s where it started, right there.
“In the centuries since the Reformation, Protestantism has been divided over this issue. Until modern liberalism destroyed orthodoxy in most denominations, Arminianism prevailed in Methodist and Pentecostal circles while Calvinism in Presbyterian and Reformed circles. Since present day ‘Bible fundamentalism’ is largely dispensational which originated in the Calvinist camp (broadly speaking), it tends to follow a mild version of Calvinism,” and you can’t predict what you run into, but generally speaking that’s what happens.
Now the discussion; I’ve already given you, basically, much of the discussion. I attribute this to a failure of the Reformation to really mine the depths of Scripture on this Creator/creature distinction. We come on page 6 to a very interesting quote. I said that the result of all this was that the later Reformers consciously rebelled against Calvin. Why did they do so?
“The later Reformers” began “to alter Luther and Calvin’s teachings on faith. Catholicism counter-attacked the original teaching of Luther and Calvin (that faith was assurance)” how do you think the Catholics attacked? Think about this, it’s very easy to see. You are a Catholic theologian and want to stop this Protestant movement. You want to nail it before it gets started. What can you do to appeal to the most godly element in the church that these people are heretics? You can’t talk about the reforms, you don’t discuss that because the godly people in the church would agree with the Protestants, yeah, throw the corrupt guys out, so that wasn’t the tactic. The tactic was to come around and say you know, we really love the Lord, and this Protestant doctrine of assurance of salvation, if you really believe that you’re saved, you can go out and raise hell. It would lead to loose, licentious living. That was the attack, a brilliant stroke.
They argued that assurance would lead to loose living. So now the Protestants, instead of thinking it through, going back to the Scripture, now they’re reeling politically from this assault, and they’re saying what are we going to do about this. So their answer was to say, you know, we got to build safeguards to this justification doctrine, we’ve got to kind of cool things down here a little bit. So watch what they did.
“Catholicism counter-attacked the original teaching of Luther and Calvin (that faith was assurance) as an incentive to loose living. To defend Protestantism, the later Reformers began to argue that we cannot be assured that we have believed unto salvation unless there are evidences of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.” Nobody’s denying there are evidences of the saving faith in life, but the argument was that you didn’t have assurance until you saw those evidences; that’s the argument. “The famous Civil War era” one of the great Reformed theologians in the south, Andrew Jackson’s theological mentor was Robert Dabney who taught in Union Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, a great southern gentleman, “Southern Reformed theologian, Robert Dabney pointed out that later Reformers separated faith and assurance.”
Here’s Dabney’s own quote, he was in the Reformed tradition, and here’s what he says: “[The first Reformers] defined saving faith as a belief that ‘Christ saved me,’ making the assurance of hope of its necessary essence. Now, the later Reformers, and those learned, holy and modest teachers of the Reformed churches. . .have subjected this view to searching examination, and rejected it (as does the Westminster Assembly) on scriptural grounds.’ Christ, in this view, died only for the elect, and neither you nor I can be sure we are of the elect company until we can experientially prove out in our lives that we have ‘persevering faith’, i.e., faith that never fails until we die.”
Here you have the guy admit it; there was a shift from Calvin and Luther to the next generation. And the shift was caused as a political/theological response to the forces of Rome that wanted to brand Protestantism as a dangerous gospel that gave too much power, it gave too much privilege to the individual person, and it could be misused. It reminds you of the gun control lobby. Got to watch out, those guns all by themselves go out and shoot people. Same thing, don’t trust somebody with something, they might misuse it. The totalitarians always think this way; don’t ever empower anybody to do anything because you might lose control of them if you do that, that’s dangerous stuff to do that. So people were held, just as they were held by the indulgences in Rome, now they are held with a threat that if you have failure in your Christian life you’re not a Christian. It was felt that this threatening atmosphere was necessary to discipline the church to live righteously.
The Scriptures do threaten. The question is, do the Scriptures threaten loss of salvation or do the Scriptures threaten discipline upon God’s children, spanking of those in His family, not an abolition of the family unit but a severe form of discipline. Every communion service we read 1 Corinthians 11 and I’ll bet there aren’t 3 people in 10 that listen to 1 Corinthians 11 when it’s read. What is one of the things that’s threatened every time we take communion? We’re threatened with physical death. What are those threats for? To keep the church in line, but those threats don’t underline assurance of your saving faith, they are appealing to it, because you are saved, because you are in God’s family. Hebrews says that if you don’t get chastised when you sin, you’re a bastard; you’re not even in the family. So the appeal and the warning passages of Scripture is precisely because we are in the family of God with a holy Father, and He’s not going to let us get away with loose living, He’s going to take His action. But the action He takes isn’t saying ha-ha, I’m going to hold your salvation hostage. That’s not the way it operates in the New Testament.
So here’s the problem, and the limited atonement fell in the middle of the whole thing because does the atonement cover these things or doesn’t it? If I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, what happens? I am forgiven of all my sins, past, present and future. If I’m not forgiven of my sins for the future, then doesn’t that imply that I can lose my salvation, I’ve got to be re-forgiven every time… it’s not that. Does it mean that I can get away in my Father’s house with whatever I want to do? No it doesn’t, He’s got a big stick, He can take care of things. So there are two levels that we now see. We can say if we were only there in the Reformation we would have straightened them all out, of course. But we’re 300-400 years later and we begin to see, oh yeah, there’s two parts to this thing, there’s entering the kingdom at the point of regeneration and joining the family of God and then there’s internal to that family a disciplinary procedure. Oh, now we can deal with the warning passages of Scripture.
In a nutshell we’ve gone through this argument. We haven’t got into some of the things on pages 6 and 7, we’ve run out of time, next week we’ll clean that up and move on to the resurrection and some of the passages.
Don’t be discouraged if parts of this are very challenging. It’s a classic example that you can literally believe two sentences that on the surface look totally contradictory, but because you load the words in one sentence with one set of meanings and load the words in the other sentence with another set of meanings, you can literally believe the two sides. In one sense the atonement is limited because in eternity what happens? People wind up in hell. But the thing is that the people who wind up in hell wind up there now because of another reason. Originally, if Christ had not died, it would be I am in hell because I am part of the fallen human race and I have sinned, it’s because of my sins. But on another level now, with Christ having died, I wound up in hell unnecessarily because I didn’t have to be here, I had a (quote) “second chance” if you can express it that way, because Christ died for me. He died to handle the holy righteous sentence of God upon me. That could have been avoided, and I’m here because I rejected it. I basically thumbed my nose at God again, and turned away from the pardon that He offered me. It was a genuine pardon that was offered.
So there’s some fundamental truths here and next week we’ll point out those same four things that we did in the fourth chapter, because what we’re struggling with here is we want to preserve the pieces of truth we know from Scripture, even though we can’t formulate it in a nice coherent logical system. This is a classic instance where the Scriptures defy you to create a 100% logical structure. It’s not that it’s contradictory, it’s that you take the pieces …, imagine a jigsaw puzzle on your living room table, it’s not the case that you’ve got all the pieces here and they don’t fit, it’s rather the case that you don’t have all the pieces. So no matter how you do it, there will be pieces in that puzzle that you really don’t know how they work, but they’re legitimate, they’re part of the puzzle, it’s just that you don’t have enough of the pieces together to see how it fits. That’s different from saying this piece doesn’t belong to the puzzle and it’s logically contradictory. That’s what I’m trying to say.
But isn’t that in the end what we’re confessing as creatures, that we’re not the Creator, and that He is ultimately incomprehensible, and you can relax in that, and you have to relax in that. The dilemma always is we’re hurting, we have a trial, a crisis in our lives, we always want to know, well now why did that happen, and we get the answer so many times that Job got, you just look at Me. Well I know, God, you’re a great God, but I would still like to know what you had in mind with that. And He says look at Me. But I know, I’m looking at You, but I still want to know. Look at Me! And the answer keeps going back to that; we’ve all had that experience. We never get the answer, but yet our hearts finally find peace. How do our hearts find peace, finally? Because they come to a rest in the character of our God, not all the details in His mind, because we don’t know all the details in His mind, we just come to a rest and we know, I’m satisfied, I have a deep enough confidence that God loves me, that He cares for me, and I just have to trust that character quality in our God, that in this hurt, and all the pain I’m facing, and all the trouble I have, that deep down underneath it’s okay. That’s what we all wind up with.
Theologically that’s what we wind up with. Theology isn’t any different from every day Christian life. It’s just that some theologians act like we act, and they want to ram it and cram it and I want an answer and I want it now and I want it published in 215 pages so I can get it copyrighted. It doesn’t work that way. Well, I’m going to call a conference and we’re going to have 55 theologians here and we’re going to come out at the end of that meeting with a mutually agreed upon creed. Well, you can schedule it but God isn’t necessarily going to attend. That’s what’s happened down through history. And I’m not … don’t get me wrong, I am not slighting those efforts to pull doctrine together and clarify issues. We need to do that, but there’s a limit to what we can clarify and we have to know that too.
Tonight was a classic case of a very, very difficult thing; there are some areas where the atonement is limited, but even this you’ll see, hopefully when we talk about Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit to the church and the so-called exchanged life, that the cross doesn’t deal, is limited and doesn’t really nullify the things we inherit from Adam. That’s why the Christian life starts all over in Christ, because something new has started; we are a new creature in Christ, so yeah, we die, we still bear the Edenic curse, they’re right, the atonement hasn’t done away with the Edenic curse. What the atonement has done is provide a transfer mode, a protocol of transfer so I can transfer out of Adam and into Christ. That’s what the atonement has accomplished, but it has not … it has not done away with the Edenic curse; we all die. It substitutes something neat, the resurrection of the saints in Christ Jesus, but it has not nullified it. So in that sense, yeah, the atonement is limited.
And ultimately isn’t the atonement limited to, in its saving eternal benefits to just those who believe. We know that, so in that sense yeah, it’s limited. The problem is how you say it. Remember when we were talking about impeccability, we had a discussion, the question was brought out when we were talking about posse non peccare, peccare non posse, He is able not to sin and not able to sin, you brought out a very good point when you said saying it that way, not able to sin, sounds wrong, something to that effect, and you were right, there’s a way of saying it and it’s hard to say what we’re trying to say there, that it was impossible that Jesus Christ could sin, but you can say it in such a way that it sounds like it was programmed in or you can say it in such a way that it’s softer, it fits the Scripture. That’s the trouble we have…
[someone says something about a father is able to hurt that child but his love for that child prevents him from…] yeah, built into the character of God and that’s what we find with the unlimited atonement, limited atonement issue. The people who are for unlimited atonement simply are reflecting the truth of 1 John 2:2, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” It means that the atonement frees up a holy God could do what He wants to in the way of pardoning to anybody, it frees Him. It’s like a judge who has the legal authority to pardon, except in Christ’s case he died for us to get that power. He can apply the pardon pretty much how he wants to if he has the authority. God now has the authority to apply the pardon wherever and however He wishes, compatible with His character of course. But the cross gives Him that. So in that sense that’s why the cross is for all men, it permits God to come to all men that way, and it permits you, in your witnessing, to say after this person understands something of the holiness of God and His responsibility to a God who is holy, after he perceives that, because if you do it too fast it just becomes a premature throwing your pearls before swine. If, after the person has some sense of responsibility and sin before God, then to say that a full pardon is here for you, you can say that. You can say that because Christ is the propitiation for that person as well as for you, for me, for everybody else.
Where Arminians went wrong and where that tradition got a little hung up on was they recognized correctly the necessity of faith, and frankly in Reform circles sometimes that isn’t made clear. The Bible doesn’t say hope and be saved, it doesn’t say love and be saved, it doesn’t say walk obediently and be saved, it says believe and be saved. There’s something unique about believe and faith. That segment of Christendom correctly saw that, but then they began to define it and began to alter the whole doctrine of election so that God was really electing after men responded. So you put God like He’s seconding the motion, I raise my hand, I make the motion, God seconds it. Wait a minute, no, no, something’s wrong there. But that something that’s wrong wouldn’t have happened if they had had a firm Creator/creature distinction all along, because if you get that distinction in mind, this creature down here every moment, everything that he does is dependent on who? Who’s sustaining the creature? The Creator. So that dependency is never lost, and it softens.
When I start talking about free will, gosh, you say that in some Reform circles you get crucified, and it’s too bad because it’s true, that has been illegitimately used by pagan philosophers and they’re sensitive to that and they should be. On the other hand there is that thing we mean by human choice, but it’s creature choice, and it’s sustained, even in the choosing it’s sustained by the Creator. The Creator never stops being the Creator and the Sustainer. So it’s helped me in working with this, I’ve just noticed in my own life that the stronger I appreciate the Creator/ creature distinction the easier it is for me to come to these verses without feeling like oh-oh, that guy conflicts with that guy. That’s just my experience.
Question asked: Clough replies: The question is when I said justification was new in the Reformation what I really meant was it was clarified as it hadn’t been clarified before because obviously no one could have believed all the way back to Abraham and beyond if they weren’t justified by faith, because Paul tells us that. So justification was operating all that time period, it’s just that frankly it wasn’t appreciated. Just like the deity of Christ wasn’t appreciated. You read some of the church fathers in the first and second century, holy mackerel, they were having a problem with who Jesus was, and yet you know that they were genuine born again, you can sense that in their writings, they loved the Lord, they were just kind of fumbling around trying to understand Him. That’s where we are, we’re still fumbling around trying to understand Him, but it’s just that was a step forward in clarifying a truth that was going on before.
Someone says something about when you were talking Abraham and then you got into the Reformation and you talked about what Luther and Calvin got in trouble for was because … vs. the Catholic belief that it was a grace regeneration from within and then righteousness … Are we using terms very loosely in Christian circles when we talk about saving grace, saved by grace, is that incorrect phraseology to say that we’re saved by grace? Clough replies: Oh no, that’s fine. [same person says, so this faith that we’re talking about here is what Luther was saying that faith … assurance, but the regeneration is the salvation portion … Clough: Are you talking about the sequence in which they happened? [same person says I guess the sequence and the function]
Clough says: Okay, there are different words and they have different emphases, but if you ask me which comes first, the chicken or the egg, [can’t understand word/s] debate about that one too, it happens in such a microsecond that it’s hard to separate it, but the point I was making back in the Abraham issue was because I wanted to clarify this righteousness issue, where’s this righteousness coming from, and Rome, true to its position, insisted that the Protestants were wrong in talking endlessly about this substitutionary death that generated this righteousness that wasn’t ours. They said how can you take a righteousness that you don’t possess, it’s Christ’s, not yours, it’s Christ’s, not Charles’s, and this other righteousness, it’s not yours, it’s not Charles’s, and yet you and Charles enjoy this righteousness, it’s a foreign righteousness. So this didn’t set with them and they wanted to say you come to God because of what grace works in your heart, the righteous fruit that comes in; the righteous fruit is clearly your righteous fruit, it’s clearly Charles’s righteous fruit, in the sense well it’s not … they’re willing to grant that it’s Holy Spirit motivated, they’re not saying it’s energy of the flesh, but they have to so identify the righteousness as coming from the individual, rather than being legally transferred from Christ. They saw that as a tremendous threat.
Why I’m saying this over and over, that they feel threatened by that, because the conclusion might be that you would say well, it’s not my righteousness, it’s Christ’s, so I can sit here and do what I want. Why I’m saying this then and why I’m saying it tonight is because you’ll see the same thing happening in our own evangelical circles right now. We deal in a godless generation, we have flake-outs all over the church, and the diagnosis that’s being promulgated in our own evangelical circles by certain teachers is that basically of Rome, namely that if you witness to your neighbor and your neighbor trusts the Lord and you’ve told your neighbor that Christ died for him, and he sits there and he believes on your witness, that Christ died for him and he’s perfectly justified, what control do you have on how he’s going to live? Can’t he take what you just told him and go out and live any way he wants to. Well there’s an answer to that. I don’t know why the Protestant Reformers didn’t come up with this answer.
The answer is, first of all, is there false faith? We all agree, yes, there can be false faith, but what is the nature of false faith? Isn’t it rather that they never perceived what Christ did for them rightly and correctly anyway? In other words, they were never born again in the first place. We agree to that, that’s a false faith, but it’s false not because they didn’t try, it’s because they didn’t perceive. For example, let me give a case, I’ve met people who had the most agonizing apparent conversion you can imagine, tears, emotions, the whole nine-yards, vowed great things for God and three and a half years later there’s not a sign of it in their life and poof, it’s a disaster. Now can I be sure that they never were born again? No, I can’t be, I can’t be sure; I’m only an external observer. The Holy Spirit knows. These kinds of things, but my point is if it turns out they never believed, it was because at that point when we thought they believed, they never really understood the gospel. That’s the problem, it was a lack of a response in their heart to the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, in contrast to saying well, they really understood the issue and it’s just that they didn’t dedicate their life to Christ, they didn’t vow great things for Jesus, they didn’t come vowing that they would do this and they would do that for the Lord. No, that’s not what He asked us to do, He says Come, and drink of the waters freely.
So there’s a subtlety at the point of witnessing, at the point of a person trusting the Lord. It’s the overwhelming truth dawning in our hearts and us trusting in the Lord at that point. We come to Him with empty hands. The God that called Adam and Eve out of the bushes isn’t impressed… because we’re seeking you God, I mean, gee we’ve looked all over the garden for You. No you didn’t, you were hiding behind the bushes. Who are you trying to kid? The only reason you got saved is because I called for you. See, it’s the power of that initial transaction, and yes, once we trust the Lord at a point in time, once the Holy Spirit illuminates our heart, can we turn away? We can try. Can we do a pretty good job of it? Didn’t the Corinthians? Didn’t some of those people at the tail end of the gospels, so and so has denied the faith and has given me a hard time and everybody’s abandoned me, you know all the New Testament references. Yes, it was all over the first century church. Did Paul go up and say are you real believers? Or rather did he say I turn Such and Such over to Satan that he may learn not to blaspheme? Wasn’t the way the Apostles handled the problem? Wasn’t that the threat that we read in the communion service in 1 Corinthians 11. Yeah, the church had discipline, but they never disciplined you out of your salvation. There’s the difference.
And you can’t hold to Calvin’s original concept, which I think is the Scriptures, that when I believe that is assurance that Christ has died for me. Why else would you believe? If you perceive that God is holy and righteous, why are you going to keep looking at Him unless you’re assured you’re going to be forgiven? Doesn’t the light blind you? Isn’t the light so terrible, so hot, so intense that it would turn us from Him if we didn’t know that He is shining in our life through the cross of Christ to bless us.
Question asked, something about negative one zero and positive one where forgiveness got you to zero …: Clough replies: Imputed righteousness got you to plus one.
[blank spot] … but in the scheme of the stories his life is an illustration of something. David’s life is an illustration, they played different places on the team, they may be on the same team but they’re playing a theological drama here, God plays with their lives and illustrates through them. Saul certainly was an example of the conditional kingship spawned by men, the Spirit left him and people used that to say ooh, you can lose your salvation and all the rest of it. But keep in mind when it says in the Old Testament the Spirit comes upon a person that often does not refer to a spiritual thing like in the New Testament. It often refers to what we would say … here’s an example, when the tabernacle was made in Exodus it says the spirit came upon the carpenters and they got carpenter skills. Huh? You know, this strikes us as funny because we’re so used to reading the New Testament, the Holy Spirit comes and we think of Christ’s life, the ethical and moral dimension, but when the Spirit came upon men in the Old Testament He often had a very non-spiritual physical, social thing.
For example, Samson is out of it, and the Spirit of God comes upon him and what does he do? It gives him the ability to kill people. Now I don’t know whether he’s in fellowship or out of fellowship when it happened, but it sure worked. I mean, he pulled the whole temple of Dagon down, wiped out a whole bunch of people. So the Spirit of God coming upon Samson, the Spirit of God coming on Saul, he prophesied … I have often taken Saul as a believer, but when you read the Old Testament story I’m not looking at that issue when I’m looking at Saul. That’s how I resolve it. These guys may very well have been believers, but they’re used, their life stories are used as illustrations of different things.
Question asked: Clough replies: That’s a good point, God, if He’s going to do something He’ll find another way to do it, and in His mind there are thousands of ways that fit His promises. An example of that in the New Testament, here’s a strange one, in the New Testament Jesus comes up with a very mysterious thing. He says if you had received John the Baptist, he would have been Elijah. Try that one on for size. What does He mean by that, because if the people had accepted the message of John the Baptist as a nation, the millennial kingdom would have happened and the prophecy of Elijah coming before the Millennial Kingdom would have had to have happened. So now you’ve got John the Baptist being Elijah all of a sudden, or the spirit of Elijah.
So you get into these “what ifs.” Jesus says later, when He’s going to die on the cross and His disciples are worried about Him, and He says I could ask My Father and there’d be 10,000 angels here right now, legions of angels. Now what if He had? If the angels had come and defended Jesus then He wouldn’t have died on the cross and if He didn’t die on the cross we wouldn’t have our salvation. This is what happens when you get into the realm of history and that’s why the only way to do it is go back and say well, what did God promise? And we have to trust Him with how He’s going to fulfill a promise, because He has a million ways of doing it.
You’re right. If He had not gone up on the roof then somehow or other there would be one of his children who would still go on to be king.