Monthly Archives: October 2008

The Wesley Study Bible

The Wesley Study Bible is scheduled to be released in the spring of 2009. It is being published by Abingdon Press. The text version is the NRSV. Abingdon has a sample available here, which includes the book of James.

The General Editors are Joel B. Green and William H. Willimon. Green is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary. Willimon is Resident Bishop of the Birmingham Area of The United Methodist Church.

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God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Free Will

I found these illustrations helpful. They explain two different ways of understanding God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. The illustrations and quotes come from the book Foundations of Wesleyan-Arminian Theology, by Mildred Bangs Wynkoop. Illustration “A” represents the Calvinist / Reformed view. With this view, any genuine freedom that man has takes away from God’s sovereignty. Therefore, free will must be rejected in order to protect God. Illustration “B” represents the Wesleyan / Arminian view. With this view, man has genuine (though limited) freedom. Man’s freedom is not a threat to the sovereignty of God.

“When a problem is encountered relative to God’s sovereignty and man’s will, it probably lies in thinking of man’s will as standing over against God’s will, challenging and defying God so as to constitute a threat to God’s will and purpose in His creation. No evangelical Christian would tolerate such an idea. And yet both the full measure of God’s sovereignty and a genuine moral responsibility in man must be accounted for and included in one system without absurd reasoning to explain it.”

“The unsatisfactory concept of man’s freedom in relation to God’s sovereignty could be likened to a set of balancing scales with the weights set against each other. In this view, God’s will is thwarted by man’s will or mans will is thwarted by God’s will. In either case, one of the two is victor, the other vanquished.”

“It seems to be more in keeping with biblical teaching to illustrate the proper relationship by a large circle typifying God’s sovereign will. The small square contained within the circle is the real though limited freedom which God has given to the man He created. In God’s sovereign love He has created morally responsible beings. But man’s freedom is strictly limited by God. God makes the rules. Man is
genuinely free within the limits set by God. God controls nature, the universe, the major lines of history. The natural order is absolute (God is Creator). But there is a vastly different kind of order in back of the natural order, namely the moral order-and the rules are moral rules. God has given man the power of discrimination and the ability to make decisions between alternatives. God’s will and mercy sustain moral freedom in man. In fact, God has made man in such a way the he is under constant necessity of making decisions. He is not free not to make constant moral decisions.”

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Never Really Saved to Begin With?

Ben over at Arminian Perspectives has a good post on “eternal security” and how this doctrine does violence to the plain reading of numerous passages of scripture. Check it out.

Never Really Saved to Begin With

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More than Dreams (Islam)

I recently had the pleasure of seeing a new believer get baptized. This young person came from an Islamic background. His testimony brought tears to my eyes. It is such a joy to hear the life story of a new follower of Christ. It is particularly amazing when the testimony comes from someone who risks everything to follow Him.

Here is a site with video testimonies from former Muslims who have become Christians. These are professionally done reenactments telling the story of these individuals, and how they came to know Isa (Jesus). They are spoken in the native languages (Arabic, Farsi, etc) of the believers. There are English subtitles also.

More than Dreams

These particular testimonies have several things in common:

  • All were seeking to know Allah better.
  • All had visions and dreams about Isa.
  • All sacrificed much to follow Isa.

Our Savior is moving in the Islamic world He is making his name known among the nations. May the Lord give strength to Christians in Islamic countries. And may I learn from the example of these belivers who give up everything to follow Jesus.

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Romans 11

Recap
In the previous posts (1, 2, 3) we looked at Romans 9 and 10. The focus throughout the passage is the nation of Israel. Has God broken his promises to the Jewish people? No, he has not.

We noted the following: The election described in Romans 9 is for the human ancestry of Christ (9:5). Jacob and Esau are nations (9:11-13). Pharaoh is a parallel to the nation of Israel (9:14-17). Pharaoh was used by God to proclaim his name to the world (9:17). Israel depended on their works instead of believing in Jesus (10:1-4). Anyone can be saved by confessing and believing that Jesus is Lord (10:9-13). God genuinely desired to save Israel, yet they resisted his grace (10:16-21).

Romans 11
In the opening of Romans 11 we see that God still loves Israel, even though they have been disobedient. In addition, not all of Israel has turned away from God. Some have remained faithful. Others have become faithful. Paul gives himself as an example (11:1-6).

Also discussed is the election and hardening of Israel:

What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened…
(11:7)

The “hardening” here is not by arbitrary decree. Rather, Israel has been hardened by God because of their disobedience. The hardening is also not without purpose. Through it the Gentiles have been shown mercy. Importantly for Israel, the hardening is not a permanent condition. Salvation is available for them too. They have not stumbled beyond recovery.

Romans 11:11-12
Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!

Ingrafted Branches
In Romans 11:13 Paul makes a transition from Israel to addressing Gentiles. He gives an analogy of some branches being cut off and other branches being grafted in. Salvation is now available to the non-Jew. Israel has been “cut off” due to their disobedience, and the Gentiles have been “grafted in” as a result. Importantly to Arminians, Paul makes it clear that we can lose our salvation through unbelief. We should not take our current standing for granted. Just as Israel was cut off, so we can be too.

Romans 11:17-21 (bold and parenthesis mine)
If some of the branches have been broken off (Israel), and you (gentiles), though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 1do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they (Israel) were broken off because of unbelief, and you (gentiles) stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

There is still good news for Israel. If they do not persist in disbelief, they can be grafted back into a relationship with God. Since they are the original branches, it is more all the more natural for them.

Romans 11:22-24
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

Mercy for All
Paul closes his argument in Romans 11:28-32. He concludes that Israel will be saved in the end, because God is faithful to keep his promises. God has mercy on all of us! This conclusion is the opposite of what Calvinism teaches.

Romans 11:28-32 (bold mine)
As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”

Romans 9-11 is very unfriendly to Calvinism when read in context. Consider the following:

  • God wants everyone to know who he is (9:17).
  • Anyone can be saved (10:9-13).
  • Grace is resistible (10:16-21).
  • Hardening is not arbitrary, it is a punishment for transgression (11:11).
  • The accepted can become rejected (11:22).
  • The rejected can become accepted (11:23)
  • God has mercy on all (11:32).

Conclusion
Isn’t it interesting that Paul concludes his argument by stating that God has mercy on us all? The whole point of Paul’s argument throughout Romans 9-11 is that our God is faithful! He is good. He is genuine. He keeps his promises. He is merciful to Israel. He is merciful all. Amen to that!

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The Life of John Wesley

YouTube has a three part video series about the life of John Wesley. It is well worth the watch. Run time is about 3 minutes per clip. (HT: Arminian Today)

The author Chris Denne has done some other interesting series as well (William J Seymour for example)

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Romans 10

Recap of Romans 9
In the previous two posts (1,2) we looked at the context of Romans 9. It addresses the question: Has God broken his promises to the Jewish people? We noted that Jacob and Esau (9:11-13) were nations, and that the election described was for the human ancestry of Christ (9:5). We observed that both Pharaoh and Israel were chosen by God to proclaim his name to the world, and that God showed mercy to Pharaoh (Exodus 9:13-16).

More to the story: Romans 10 and 11
Typically, Calvinists are only interested in a portion of Romans 9. However, Romans 9, 10, and 11 are one argument. Romans 10 and 11 teach a very non-Calvinistic view of faith.

The opening of Romans 10 shows that Paul still has Israel in mind. We now learn why not all of Abraham’s descendants are God’s children (first addressed in Romans 9:6). It is because Israel is depending on its own works, instead of the righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus. God offers salvation to everyone who has faith in Jesus and calls on his name.

Romans 10:1-4
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

How are we saved?
Salvation and justification are presented in Romans 10:9-13. To be saved one must confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. Importantly, anyone can be saved.

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Amen! No wonder the Calvinists never go on to read Romans 10. There is nothing here about “secret decrees” or the elect being zapped with faith. Instead we see that it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Irresistible Grace Refuted?
In Romans 10:16-21 the Calvinistic teaching of “Irresistible Grace” is contradicted by the word of God. God genuinely desired to save Israel. Not only that, Israel heard and understood the message of Christ. Yet they still resisted.

Romans 10:16-21: But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:
“Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” And Isaiah boldly says,
“I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”

God desired for Israel to accept Christ. In fact it states that God was holding out his hands to them all day long. Israel heard the good news, and they understood the message. If “Irresistible Grace” was true they would have been saved. But Israel did resist. They remained disobedient and obstinate.

Next up: Romans 11.

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