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- In what way does the Holy Spirit bring someone to salvation through Jesus Christ? This question has been the subject of intense debate and great division within the church over the centuries. The issue revolves around the theological concept of predestination.
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- The debate began in the fifth century between Pelagius, a British monk in Rome, and Augustine, the famous theologian who was a bishop in North Africa. According to the Pelagian view of salvation —
- Human nature has not been corrupted as a result of the Fall of Adam. There is no inherent moral flaw within people, but Adam only serves as a bad example to humanity.
- Thus, every individual has a will completely free of any bias or tendency toward evil.
- God does not exert any special force on a person to do good. Grace comes through the apprehension of God by reason and the examples of the Law of Moses and the life of Christ, which motivates a free will choice in the believer toward salvation.
- God did not select people for salvation before history began, but predestination merely consists of his foreknowledge of who will choose to be saved.
- According to Augustine’s view of salvation —
- As individual souls are derived from their parents, all humans were one with Adam and participated in his sin at the Fall.
- As a result, the human condition has become marred, and although the image of God is not completely destroyed in a person, the ability not to sin, which Adam knew, has been lost.
- Now, a human being is only free to choose different kinds of sin. However, by God’s grace, in arranging the conditions that affect a person’s life, the choice not to sin and to do good is restored.
- Thus, a person’s ability to do good is accomplished only by the will of God. By predestination God decided to choose certain individuals to receive grace, for reasons known only to him made from eternity, and not on the basis of a person’s good deeds.
- In 431, the Council of Ephesus condemned the view of Pelagius. However, the next view of salvation which became popular was actually a modification of the Augustinian position, set forth by monks of North Africa and southern Gaul. Martin Luther named this view Semi-Pelagian.
- An Augustinian understanding of salvation makes all human effort superfluous, destroying not only freedom of the will but moral responsibility.
- Although divine grace is indispensable to salvation, the
human condition is not marred to the point of completely destroying
freedom of choice or the capacity to take the initiative in finding God.
- The grace of God and the human will work together to bring a person to salvation. (In theology, the cooperative effort toward salvation is called a synergism; while the idea of God working alone to accomplish a person’s faith is referred to as a monergetic act).
- Grace is a divine illumination of the will, not regenerative power, and predestination only consists of God’s foreknowledge of a person’s choice.
- As the Roman Church became more dominant in Europe through an alliance with the empire of Charlemagne, the king and Pope emphasized the significance of sacraments as the way to salvation, (and
as the true unity of the continent’s diverse cultures, as well as the authoritative power of the clergy, the state’s administrators).
- Traditional Roman Catholic theology combines the idea of self-initiative toward salvation with the belief that God’s grace is dispensed through the sacraments of the Church. God is upheld as the Father of salvation, while the Roman Church is portrayed as the mother.
- No one receives salvation without the sacraments, which convey grace as a mystery, when administered by an ordained priest of the mother Church, irrespective of his moral state.
- A sacrament dispenses grace from the work done, or by the act of the ritual. Thus, even infants are baptized, as their proper state of faith and morality will follow naturally through the teachings of the Church and the continuing power of the sacraments.
- [Sacrament is Latin for holy state/condition, a term used by the army of the Roman Empire to refer to the oath of allegiance by a soldier. The official Bible of the Church, a third century Latin translation, changed great is the mystery of godliness at I Timothy 3:16, to great is the sacrament of godliness, to create a reference to Church ritual. At the time, pagan mystery religions were very popular, so called because of the alleged power of secret priestly rituals].
- In the 16th century, social conditions developed that permitted a challenge to the morality, authority, and theology of the Roman Church. The concept of predestination became particularly important, as salvation was held to be completely under the sovereignty of God, and not the Roman Church. John Calvin set forth the definitive statement on this theology. Calvinism maintains —
- Through the sin of Adam, all humankind fell into a depraved moral state, with human nature becoming so corrupted, that no one is capable of doing any good, of avoiding sin, or accepting the truth of God.
- However, by eternal decrees God predestined some people for salvation and others for damnation, according to his sovereignty, and for reasons known only to him. God is blameless in these decrees, as all people willfully have chosen damnation in rejecting the truth.
- By election, and through special favor, some people are chosen to receive understanding of the truth through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, in such a way that accepting the salvation of Christ is irresistible.
- God’s decrees are established from all eternity and are not based on any action by the person saved. On accepting Christ, the believer’s perseverance in salvation is assured. Nevertheless, election does not lead to a careless life but the pursuit of holiness.
- After Calvin’s death, three main views arose on the full implications of his theology on predestination.
- Assuming Calvin’s chair of theology at Geneva University, Theodore Beza taught that God’s decrees of salvation and damnation by logical necessity occurred before the creation of humankind, and therefore, God was the actual cause of sin.
- This position is called Supralapsarian Calvinism (Supra = above: and, lapse = fall), meaning the decrees came before the Fall.
- This type of Calvinism became very popular in parts of Europe but caused extreme reactions, as it made God the author of sin and seemingly unjust and unloving.
- Another position that places the decrees after the Fall became known as Infralapsarian Calvinism. In this view, God did not cause sin, but as he chose the people who would receive salvation with foreknowledge, he did predestine part of humanity to damnation.
- Also placing the decrees after the Fall, Sublapsarian Calvinism maintains that both sin and damnation are the choice of all humanity. God provides a way of salvation through Christ for all people, which they willfully reject, except for an elect group, who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to understand and accept the new covenant. The reasons that a chosen people are predestined to receive special favor are known only to God.
- As the debate over the Supralapsarian position became quite heated in the Netherlands, Jacob Arminius, a professor of theology at Leyden University, set forward another view, which quickly acquired popular acclaim.
- The Arminian position asserts that God decreed that Christ should destroy sin by his own death,
- and that those who repent of sin and believe in Christ should receive favor in being saved.
- By grace, God confers the capacity to believe to all humanity, making it possible for everyone either to choose God or to reject him (This process is referred to as prevenient grace, that is a preceding grace that enables freedom of choice, as contrasted to irresistible grace).
- God predestines the saved based on his foreknowledge of who will accept Christ’s atonement.
- To the present day, the lines of division among Protestants are often maintained by a Calvinist verses Arminian debate. However, the arguments must be based entirely on Scripture explaining human experience, rather than subjective perceptions of salvation controlling the meaning of relevant Bible verses.
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- Both sides agree that the Fall of Adam resulted in a totally depraved moral nature for humankind, incapable of seeking God or doing good.
- Romans 3:10–18:…There
is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongue they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. (All citations KJV unless indicated)
- Romans 5:12,17–19: Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:…by one man’s offense death reigned…by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation…by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners….
- Romans 7:21–23: So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. (RSV)
- However, the manner in which the human race became corrupted does not have to depend on the Augustinian view — by receiving our souls from our parents and ultimate ancestors. A second view maintains that because Adam was the first man, he was the natural head of the human race and represents all humankind. Thus, Adam’s guilt is imputed to everyone. All people are understood to have sinned because Adam sinned, just as any other human being in his place would have done. (Academically, this view is referred to as federal headship theology).
- The Calvinist position in particular draws upon the following Bible verses.
- Mark 4:1–20 — Christ explains by the Parable of the Sower what the decision making process entails in choosing salvation. Then, he explains that he teaches by parables as — Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. Thus, Calvinists maintain that God chooses who may understand and accept the way of Christ.
- John 6:37: All that the Father giveth me shall come to me….
- John 6:44: No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him….
- John 15:16: Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you….
- Acts 13:48: And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad…and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed; (ordained = tetagmenoi — a military command).
- Romans 9:13–16: As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
- Romans 9:20,21:…man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto Honour, and another unto dishonour?
- Ephesians 1:4,5: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world…Having predestined us unto the adoption of children….
- Ephesians 2:4,5: But God, who is rich in mercy…Even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ…; (quickened = sunezoopoiesen — made alive together with).
- Arminians quote other Bible verses, which they maintain requires viewing the way of salvation as predestined, rather than the individual person.
- Isaiah 55:1,3: Ho, every one that thirteth, come ye to the waters…Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live….
- Ezekiel 33:11:… As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the of wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die….
- Acts 17:30,31:…But now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness….
- Arminians emphasize that Scripture closely associates foreknowledge with predestination, which refers to God knowing how a person will choose. Peter 1:2: Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…, cf. Romans 8:29.
- II Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
- Revelation 3:20: Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him…, cf. I Timothy 2:3,4.
- Additionally, Arminians hold that Calvinism merely assumes God functions by decrees and that their order can be known. These decrees make the work of Christ secondary or unnecessary, and they make God the author of sin as well as the chief sinner.
- Pentecostals generally avoid being participants in the salvation debate.
- A review of their popular literature following the Azusa Street Revival consistently emphasizes two key Bible verses to explain how salvation occurs.
- Isaiah 55:11: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
- Romans 10:17: So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
- Pentecostals believed that when the Word of God was preached, the power of the Holy Spirit came upon the hearer in such a way that Christ was accepted. Whether it was in an Arminian or Calvinistic way actually was not important. The Word was preached, the Holy Spirit worked, and nothing else mattered.
- Pentecostals emphasize the experience of God in a believer’s life over theology. They teach that only so much of theology can be known, and what is not entirely clear should not be forced into a system, which is creating truth, and which leads to arguments and divisions.
- I Corinthians 13:9,10: For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
- I Corinthians 13:12: For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
- After the great success of the Azusa Street Revival, when Pentecostals began forming churches, their membership came from every imaginable denomination. Various factions within a church often exerted pressure on the leadership to take an Arminian or Calvinist position in the statement of faith. However, this statement usually was worded in such an ambiguous manner that it fit both sides, or if it seemed to favor one, it would be changed a few years later, (with some exceptions, such as The Church of the Four Square Gospel, which is clearly Arminian).
- Each side takes different positions on whether believers can lose their salvation after accepting Christ, which is referred to as the perseverance or eternal security of the believer.
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- The Calvinists hold — once saved, always saved.
- John 6:37,39: All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out…And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
- John 10:28,29: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
- Philippians 1:6: Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ, cf. II Timothy 1:12.
- The Arminians maintain that the believer has freedom of choice to turn from salvation.
- Hebrews 6:4–6: For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
- II Peter 2:1,20,21: But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction…For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of The Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
- The seeming contradictions of the Arminian and Calvinist positions on eternal security may be resolved, by noting that those who fall away actually never were genuine Christians.
- I John 2:19: They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
- Matthew 13:20–23: But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit….
- Eventually, believers become certain of their salvation through the witness of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:16,38,39: The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God…For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, cf. I John 5:13.
- Believers know they are true Christians by experiencing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
- Romans 8:9: But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his, cf. I Corinthians 12:3.
- Believers discern the indwelling by the power of the Holy Spirit working within them. Titus 2:11,12: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. (In formal theology, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is referred to as regeneration unto new life). [See What Is Holiness? and What Is The Law Of The Spirit Of Life In Christ Jesus?].
- Is Jesus Christ the only way to salvation?
- Throughout history, the Christian church always has maintained that a person only can come to God through Christ.
- John 3:16–18: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: But he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
- John 14:6: Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
- Acts 4:12: Neither is there Salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among man, whereby we must be saved.
- Roman 3:21,22: But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested…Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe….
- I Timothy 2:5: For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
- From the beginning Scripture has condemned other religions. Exodus 20:3: Thou shalt have no other gods before me, cf. Deuteronomy 28:14; Galatians 1:6–8; I Timothy 6:3–5.
- If Christ came to die to atone for the sins of humankind, because only he could be offered as a sacrifice, how can any other way be possible?
- However, some theologians maintain that only Christ’s atonement is necessary for salvation, not personal knowledge of his sacrifice.
- In this view, evangelism becomes an explanation of what God is doing in bringing salvation to the world, rather than an invitation to accept the righteousness of Christ.
- Romans 10:14,15: How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?….
- Matthew 28:18,19: And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
- This position has tremendous emotional appeal, but it is based only on limited passages of Scripture. It makes human opinion the ultimate truth and creates a new Gospel, one usually based on pious works and not faith, cf. Isaiah 26:2; Acts 17:29–31; I John 2:2.
- However, if salvation depends on knowledge and repentance in choosing a blood covenant with Christ, how can there be any chance of salvation for the mentally incompetent, or infants who have died at birth? Does salvation depend merely on the chances of time and geography?
- As quoted at II. D. 3. a., b. (pages 108,109), for now we know in part…for now we see through a glass, darkly…, I Corinthians 13:9,12. God has not provided a complete systematic theology in Scripture to give humanity every answer about his ways, but on some matters we must live simply by faith, trusting him.
- However, no one should force an answer to a theological question as a matter of convenience and either limit God, Matthew 19:26, or go beyond the Word, I Corinthians 4:6
- The author of this outline is intrigued by the salvation story of the apostle Paul, which occurred through a personal appearance of Christ, Acts 9:1–9; 22:5–11; 26:12–20; and which conceivably could happen to anyone at any time, even at the last hour of life, as the thief on the cross found such an encounter, Luke 24:39–43. However, Scripture does not uphold an appearance of Christ as the way of salvation, nor does history provide much personal testimony for these occurrences.
However, in the end and when final understanding comes, no one will be able to complain. Romans 9:14: What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
This outline constitutes a chapter from Only The Essentials: Clear and Simple Outlines on Complex Theology. Copyright 2001 by Montgomery Paul Webb. All rights reserved. However, permission is granted solely to private individuals to make ten copies of any disc containing this book, to include whatever other publications are available therein from the Church of the Love of Christ, for distribution to friends and acquaintances, on the conditions — 1. that the entirety of the contents of the disc is copied;— 2. and that absolutely no change, addition, or omission is made.
From printed material, photocopies only of any chapter can be made privately by individuals for distribution to friends and acquaintances, on the conditions — 1. that the entirety of the chapter is copied and distributed, including the pages of the chapter rendering the name The Church of the Love of Christ, the author’s name, and the copyright notice; — 2. and that absolutely no change, addition, or omission is made.
Chapter outlines include — What Is the Bible? | Can God Be Known? | Who Is Jesus Christ? | Who Is the Holy Spirit? | What Is the Trinity? | What Is the Kingdom Of God? | What Is Faith? | What Is Holiness? and What Is the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus? | What Is the Church? | New Testament Giving and Prosperity. | What Is Spiritual Warfare? | Can Anyone Understand Predestination?
Additional chapters include — A Second Call to Reform and the Philosophy of the Church of the Love of Christ. | The Constitution of the Church of the Love of Christ.
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