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Asking “Do I believe?” rather than “Am I elect?” – R Scott Clark

January 12, 2013 Comments off

[W]hat theologians in church history do you recommend reading to better understand the doctrine of election?

Among the Fathers, Augustine’s On the Predestination of the Saints is essential. Gottschalk’s little treatise, On Predestination witnesses to the vitality of doctrine in the early middle ages. Thomas’ discussion in Summa Theologica 1a 23.1 is masterful. My favorites, however, are Calvin’s exegetical treatment in his commentary on Romans (1539, 1551) chapter 9 because of its strong commitment to understanding the passage in its redemptive-historical context and his doctrinal treatment in the 1559 Institutes(3.21-24) because there he helps us address it a posteriori by asking not, ‘Am I elect?’ but rather, ‘Do I believe?’ Herman Witsius’ 1677 treatment of election relative to the covenant of grace (Economy of the Covenants 3.4.) is encouraging as he points to the spiritual benefits the doctrine brings to the believer.

[H]ow might a Reformed understanding of the doctrine of election help the Christian who struggles with issues of assurance of salvation?

One of the more unfortunate facts in the history of Protestant piety is that the doctrines of election, and reprobation (predestination) have sometimes become a source of doubt and spiritual uncertainty. It is unfortunate and perverse because, understood properly, the doctrine of predestination should be a source of comfort and encouragement. Perhaps the single greatest reason that Christians have found the doctrine of predestination spiritually troubling is that they have often asked the wrong question: “Am I elect?” This is the wrong question first because it is not a question that Scripture ever encourages us to ask. It is the wrong question because it seeks to know things in a way that has not been revealed to us. We might call this the medieval question.

One result of asking the question this way is that one could never know with certainty if one is elect and any claim to know, with certainty, that one is elect, would be regarded as presumption. The question that the Scriptures teach us to ask is quite different: “Do I believe?” Let us call this the Protestant question. It is a question that we can answer, and by doing so, find comfort and certainty.

The Apostle Paul used the doctrine of election to encourage the Ephesian church. Writing to them on the basis of their profession of faith in Christ, he explained that the Father has “blessed us in Christ” and “chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world” and that “in love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will… (Eph 1:3–6).

Paul’s point was to remind helpless sinners, whose state, outside of Christ, he described as “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1), of God’s free, unconditional favor in Christ. His reasoning works this way: After the fall, under Adam’s headship (Rom 5:12–21), we are spiritually corrupt and at war with God. We have no inclination to believe. If we believe, it is because “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him…” (Eph 2:4–6).

In other words, God’s free election of his people to spiritual life, true faith, and union with Christ means that salvation and righteousness are his free gifts to his people. They were given unconditionally and they are received, through faith alone (Eph 2:8). If you believe, it is because God loved you, in Christ, and willed from all eternity to bring you to life, to give you the gift of faith and through it all of Christ’s benefits. This way of thinking about God’s election gives us firm, unshakeable ground on which to stand. It means that believers belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to their faithful Savior Jesus and that no one can snatch us out of his hand (John 6:40, 10:28; Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 1). It is not only medieval Christians who have asked the wrong question. Since the Reformation evangelical Christians have often been tempted to ask the medieval question and have reached the same troubling conclusion. As a result they have made uncertainty of the essence of faith. We see none of this, however, in Paul. Even when he thinks about his struggle with sin in the Christian life (Romans 7) he finds certainty on the basis of God’s free, electing grace and promises in Christ (Rom 8-10). Let us follow Paul, and his followers, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and countless other evangelical Protestants before us and do the same.

Believers are what they are by God’s grace and his promise is as sure as God is immoveable and faithful. We should not ask whether we are good enough (we are not) or whether we might fall (we shall) but whether God is faithful (he is) and whether he has sealed his promises with Christ’s obedient life, bloody death, and resurrection (he has), and whether we believe: by God’s grace we do.

Source: Credomag

God is not bound to give an account of his actions to his creatures – Thomas Watson

February 28, 2012 Comments off

“God is not bound to give an account of his actions to his creatures. If none may say to a king, ‘What doest thou?’ Eccles 8:4, much less to God. It is sufficient, God is Lord paramount; he has a sovereign power over his creatures, therefore can do no injustice. ‘Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour?’ Rom 9:21. God has liberty in his own breast, to save one, and not another; and his justice is not at all impeached or blemished. If two men owe you money, you may, without any injustice, remit the debt to one, and exact it of the other. If two malefactors ¹ be condemned to die, the king may pardon the one and not the other: he is not unjust if he lets one suffer, because he offended the law; nor if he save the other, because he will make use of his prerogative as he is king.

Though some are saved and others perish, yet there is no unrighteousness in God; because, whoever perishes, his destruction is of himself. ‘O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself.’ Hos 13:9. God offers grace, and the sinner refuses it. Is God bound to give grace? If a surgeon comes to heal a man’s wound, and he will not be healed, is the surgeon bound to heal him? ‘I have called, and ye refused.’ Prov 1:24. ‘Israel would none of me.’ Psa 81:11: God is not bound to force his mercies upon men. If they wilfully oppose the offer of grace, their sin is to be regarded as the cause of their perishing, and not God’s justice.”

Source: A body of divinity, by Thomas Watson

Experimental salvation – AW Pink

December 25, 2011 Comments off

SALVATION may be viewed from many angles and contemplated under various aspects, but from whatever side we look at it we must ever remember that “Salvation is of the Lord.” Salvation was planned by the Father for His elect before the foundation of the world. It was purchased for them by the holy life and vicarious death of His incarnate Son. It is applied to and wrought in them by His Holy Spirit. It is known and enjoyed through the study of the Scriptures, through the exercise of faith, and through communion with the triune Jehovah.

Now it is greatly to be feared that there are multitudes in Christendom who verily imagine and sincerely believe that they are among the saved, yet who are total strangers to a work of divine grace in their hearts. It is one thing to have clear intellectual conceptions of God’s truth, it is quite another matter to have a personal, real heart acquaintance with it. It is one thing to believe that sin is the awful thing that the Bible says it is, but it is quite another matter to have a holy horror and hatred of it in the soul. It is one thing to know that God requires repentance, it is quite another matter to experimentally mourn and groan over our vileness. It is one thing to believe that Christ is the only Savior for sinners, it is quite another matter to really trust Him from the heart. It is one thing to believe that Christ is the Sum of all excellency, it is quite another matter to LOVE Him above all others. It is one thing to believe that God is the great and holy One, it is quite another matter to truly reverence and fear Him. It is one thing to believe that salvation is of the Lord, it is quite another matter to become an actual partaker of it through His gracious workings.

While it is true that Holy Scripture insists on man’s responsibility, and that all through them God deals with the sinner as an accountable being; yet it is also true that the Bible plainly and constantly shows that no son of Adam has ever measured up to his responsibility, that every one has miserably failed to discharge his accountability. It is this which constitutes the deep need for GOD to work in the sinner, and to do for him what he is unable to do for himself. “They that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:8). The sinner is “without strength” (Rom 5:6). Apart from the Lord, we “can do nothing” (John 15:5).

While it is true that the Gospel issues a call and a command to all who hear it, it is also true that ALL disregard that call and disobey that command—”They all with one consent began to make excuse” (Luke 14:18). This is where the sinner commits his greatest sin and most manifests his awful enmity against God and His Christ: that when a Savior, suited to his needs, is presented to him, he “despises and rejects” Him (Isa 53:3).

This is where the sinner shows what an incorrigible rebel he is, and demonstrates that he is deserving only of eternal torments. But it is just at this point that God manifests His sovereign and wondrous GRACE. He not only planned and provided salvation, but he actually bestows it upon those whom He has chosen.

Now this bestowal of salvation is far more than a mere proclamation that salvation is to be found in the Lord Jesus: it is very much more than an invitation for sinners to receive Christ as their Savior. It is God actually saving His people. It is His own sovereignty and all-powerful work of grace toward and in those who are entirely destitute of merit, and who are so depraved in themselves that they will not and cannot take one step to the obtaining of salvation. Those who have been actually saved owe far more to divine grace than most of them realize. It is not only that Christ died to put away their sins, but also the Holy Spirit has wrought a work in them—a work which applies to them the virtues of Christ’s atoning death.

It is just at this point that so many preachers fail in their exposition of the Truth. While many of them affirm that Christ is the only Savior for sinners, they also teach that He actually became ours only by our consent. While they allow that conviction of sin is the Holy Spirit’s work and that He alone shows us our lost condition and need of Christ, yet they also insist that the decisive factor in salvation is man’s own will. But the Holy Scriptures teach that “salvation is of the LORD” (Jonah 2:9), and that nothing of the creature enters into it at any point. Only that can satisfy God which has been produced by God Himself. Though it be true that salvation does not become the personal portion of the sinner until he has, from the heart, believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, yet is that very BELIEVING wrought in him by the Holy Spirit: “By grace are ye saved through faith, and that NOT OF YOURSELVES; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8).

It is exceedingly solemn to discover that there is a “believing” in Christ by the natural man, which is NOT a believing unto salvation. Just as the Buddists believe in Budda, so in Christendom there are multitudes who believe in Christ. And this “believing” is something more than an intellectual one. Often there is much feeling connected with it—the emotions may be deeply stirred. Christ taught in the Parable of the Sower that there is a class of people who hear the Word and with joy receive it, yet have they no root in themselves (Matt 13:20,21). This is fearfully solemn, for it is still occurring daily. Scriptures also tell us that Herod heard John “gladly. ” Thus, the mere fact that the reader of these pages enjoys listening to some sound gospel preacher is no proof at all that he is a regenerated soul. The Lord Jesus said to the Pharisees concerning John the Baptist, “Ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light,” yet the sequel shows clearly that no real work of grace had been wrought in them. And these things are recorded in Scripture as solemn warnings!

It is striking and solemn to mark the exact wording in the last two Scriptures referred to. Note the repeated personal pronoun in Mark 6:20: “For Herod feared John [not ‘God’!], knowing that he as a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.” It was the personality of John which attracted Herod. How often is this the case today! People are charmed by the personality of the preacher: they are carried away by his style and won by his earnestness for souls. But if there is nothing more than this, there will one day be a rude awakening for them. That which is vital is a “love for the truth,” not for the one who presents it. It is this which distinguishes the true people of God from the “mixed multitude” who ever associate with them.

So in John 5:35 Christ said to the Pharisees concerning His forerunner: “Ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light,” not “in the light”! In like manner, there are many today who listen to one whom God enables to open up some of the mysteries and wonders of His Word and they rejoice “in his light” while in the dark themselves, never having personally received “an unction from the Holy One.” Those who do “love the truth” (2 Thess 2:10) are they in whom a divine work of grace has been wrought. They have something more than a clear, intellectual understanding of the Scripture: it is the food of their souls, the joy of their hearts (Jer 15:16). They love the truth, and because they do so, they hate error and shun it as deadly poison. They are jealous for the glory of the Author of the Word, and will not sit under a minister whose teaching dishonors Him; they will not listen to preaching which exalts man into the place of supremacy, so that he is the decider of his own destiny.

“LORD, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us” (Isa 26:12). Here is the heart and unqualified confession of the true people of God. Note the preposition: “Thou also hast wrought all our works in us.” This speaks of a divine work of grace wrought in the heart of the saint. Nor is this text alone. Weigh carefully the following: “It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me” (Gal 1:15,16).

“Unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph 3:20). “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it” (Phil 1:6). “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). “I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” (Heb 10: 16). “Now the God of peace…make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight” (Heb 13:20). Here are seven passages which speak of the inward workings of God’s grace; or in other words of experimental salvation.

“LORD, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us” (Isa 26:12). Is there an echoing response in our heart to this, my reader? Is your repentance something deeper than the remorse and tears of the natural man? Does it have its root in a divine work of grace which the Holy Spirit hath wrought in your soul? Is your believing in Christ something more than an intellectual one? Is your relation to Him something more vital than what some act of yours has brought about, having been made one with Him by the power and operation of the Spirit? Is your love for Christ something more than a pious sentiment, like that of the Romanist who sings of the “gentle” and “sweet” Jesus? Does your love for Him proceed from an altogether new nature, that God has created within you? Can you really say with the Psalmist: “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” Is your profession accompanied by true meekness and lowliness of heart? It is easy to call yourself names, and say, “I am an unworthy and unprofitable creature.” But do you realize yourself to be such? Do you feel yourself to be “less than the least of all saints?” Paul did! If you do not; if instead, you deem yourself superior to the rank and file of Christians, who bemoan their failures, confess their weakness, and cry, “O wretched man that I am!”—there is grave reason to conclude you are a stranger to God!

That which distinguishes genuine godliness from human religiousness is this: the one is external, the other internal. Christ complained of the Pharisees, “Ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess” (Matt 23:25). A carnal religion is all on the surface. It is at the heart God looks and with the heart God deals. Concerning His people He says: “I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” (Heb 10:16).

“Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us.” How humbling is this to the pride of man! It makes everything of God and nothing of the creature!

The tendency of human nature the world over, is to be self-sufficient and self-satisfied; to say with the Laodiceans, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Rev 3:17). But here is something to humble us, and empty us of pride. Since God has wrought all our works in us, then we have no ground for boasting. “What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (I Cor 4:7).

And who are the ones in whom God thus works? From the divine side; His favored, chosen, redeemed people. From the human side: those who, in themselves have no claim whatever on His notice; who are destitute of any merit; who have everything in them to provoke His holy wrath; those who are miserable failures in their lives, and utterly depraved and corrupt in their persons. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, and did for them and in them what they would not and could not do for themselves.

And what is it God “works” in His people?—All their works. First, He quickens them: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63). “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth” (James 1:18). Second, He bestows repentance: “Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel” (Acts 5:31). “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim 2:25). Third, He gives faith: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). “Ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God” (Col 2:12). Fourth, He grants a spiritual understanding:’And we know the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true” (I John 5:20). Fifth, He effectuates our service: “I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Cor 15:10). Sixth, He secures our perseverance: “who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (I Pet 1:5). Seventh, He produces our fruit: “From Me is thy fruit found” (Hosea 14:8). “The fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22). Yes, He has wrought all our works in us.

Why has God thus “wrought all our works in us?” First, because unless He had done so, all had eternally perished (Rom 9:29). We were “without strength,” unable to meet God’s righteous demands. Therefore, in sovereign grace, He did for us what we ought but could not do for ourselves. Second, that all the glory might be His. God is a jealous God. He says so. His honour He will not share with another. By this means He secures all the praise, and we have no ground for boasting. Third, that our salvation might be effectually and securely accomplished. Were any part of our salvation left to us it would be neither effectual nor secure. Whatever man touches he spoils: failure is written across everything he attempts. But what God does is perfect and lasts for ever: “I know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him” (Eccl 3:14).

But how may I be sure that my works have been “wrought in me” by God? Mainly by their effects. If you have been born again, you have a new nature within. This new nature is spiritual and contrary to the flesh—contrary in its desires and aspirations. Because the old and new natures are contrary to each other, there is a continual war between them. Are you conscious of this inward conflict?

If your repentance be a God-wrought one, then you abhor yourself. If your repentance be a genuine and spiritual one, then you marvel that God did not long ago cast you into hell. If your repentance be the gift of Christ, then you daily mourn the wretched return which you make to God’s wondrous grace; you hate sin, you sorrow in secret before God for your manifold transgressions. Not simply do you do so at conversion, but daily do so now.

If your faith be a God-communicated one, it is evidenced by your turning away from all creature confidences, by a renunciation of your own self-righteousness, by a repudiation of all your own works. If your faith be “the faith of God’s elect” (Titus 1:1), then you are resting alone on Christ as the ground of your acceptance before God. If your faith be the result of “the operation of God,” then you implicitly believe His Word, you receive it with meekness, you crucify reason, and accept all He has said with childlike simplicity.

If your love for Christ be the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:25), then it evidences itself by constantly seeking to please Him, and by abstaining from what you know is displeasing to Him: in a word, by an obedient walk. If your love for Christ be the love of “the new man,” then you pant after Him, you yearn for communion with Him above everything else. If your love for Christ be the same m kind (though not in degree) as His love for you, then you are eagerly looking forward to His glorious appearing, when He shall come again to receive His people unto Himself, that they may be forever with the Lord. May the grace of spiritual discernment be given the reader to see whether his Christian profession be real or a sham, whether his hope is built upon the Rock of Ages or the quicksands of human resolutions, efforts, decisions, or feelings; whether, in short, his salvation is “OF THE LORD” or the vain imagination of his own deceitful heart.

Source

Map shewing the order and cause of salvation and damnation – John Bunyan

December 18, 2011 Comments off

Humanist, free-will, Arminian, “Foreseen faith” vs sovereign predestination (divine free-will) – CH Spurgeon

April 3, 2011 Comments off

“But,” say others, “God elected them on the foresight of their faith.” Now, God gives faith, therefore he could not have elected them on account of faith, which he foresaw. There shall be twenty beggars in the street, and I determine to give one of them a shilling; but will any one say that I determined to give that one a shilling, that I elected him to have the shilling, because I foresaw that he would have it? That would be talking nonsense. In like manner to say that God elected men because he foresaw they would have faith, which is salvation in the germ, would be too absurd for us to listen to for a moment.

There was nothing more in Abraham than in any one of us why God should have selected him, for whatever good was in Abraham God put it there. Now, if God put it there, the motive for his putting it there could not be the fact of his putting it there.

If I were to plead that the rose bud were the author of the root, well! I might indeed, be laughed at. But were I to urge that any goodness in man is the ground of God’s choice, I should be foolish indeed.

The love of God therefore existed before there was any good thing in man, and if you tell me that God loved men because of the foresight of some good thing in them, I again reply to that, that the same thing cannot be both cause and effect. Now it is quite certain that any virtue which there may be in any man is the result of God’s grace. Now if it be the result of grace it cannot be the cause of grace. It is utterly impossible that an effect should have existed before a cause; but God’s love existed before man’s goodness, therefore that goodness cannot be a cause.

Some, who know no better, harp upon the foreknowledge of our repentance and faith, and say that, “Election is according to the foreknowledge of God;” a very scriptural statement, but they make a very unscriptural interpretation of it. Advancing by slow degrees, they next assert that God foreknew the faith and the good works of his people. Undoubtedly true, since he foreknew everything; but then comes their groundless inference, namely, that therefore the Lord chose his people because he foreknew them to be believers. It is undoubtedly true that foreknown excellencies are not the causes of election, since I have shown you that the Lord foreknew all our sin: and surely if there were enough virtue in our faith and goodness to constrain him to choose us, there would have been enough demerit in our bad works to have constrained him to reject us; so that if you make foreknowledge to operate in one way, you must also take it in the other, and you will soon perceive that it could not have been from anything good or bad in us that we were chosen, but according to the purpose of his own will, as it is written, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

Recollect also that God himself did not foresee that there would be any love to him in us arising out of ourselves, for there never has been any, and there never will be; he only foresaw that we should believe because he gave us faith, he foresaw that we should repent because his Spirit would work repentance in us, he foresaw that we should love, because he wrought that love within us; and is there anything in the foresight that he means to give us such things that can account for his giving us such things? The case is self-evident—his foresight of what he means to do cannot be his reason for doing it.

You are obliged to confess that it is of grace then, and cast away the thoughts, that it was of your foreseen faith, or of your foreseen good works, that the Lord chose you.

Source

Predestination of the Elect of God by Dr. Francis Turretin

June 22, 2010 Comments off

Predestination of the Elect of God by Dr. Francis Turretin

Ought predestination to be publicly taught and preached? We affirm. Some of the brethren of France in the time of Augustine started this question. Since, in his books against the Pelagians, he had inserted and inculcated many things concerning predestination, so as in this way to defend the truth against their impious doctrines, many were disturbed by it (as appears from the two letters of Prosper, a disciple of Augustine, and of Hilary, the presbyter*; cf.”Letters 225 and 226 to Augustine” [FC 32:119-29 and 129-391). The reason was not that they judged it to be at all false, but because they thought the preaching of it was dangerous and invidious, better to be suppressed than brought into prominence. There are some of the same opinion at the present day. Wearied with the contentions arising from this doctrine in almost every age, they think that it is best for the peace of the church and the tranquility of conscience to let these questions alone (since by them scruples are suggested and doubts generated which are calculated to weaken the faith of the weak and to drive men to desperation or into carnal security). But this opinion is more honest than true and cannot be readily received by those who have known the richest fruits of consolation and sanctification to redound to believers from this doctrine properly understood. Hence we think that this doctrine should be neither wholly suppressed from a preposterous modesty nor curiously pried into by a rash presumption. Rather it should be taught soberly and prudently from the word of God so that two dangerous rocks may be avoided: on the one hand, that of “affected ignorance” which wishes to see nothing and blinds itself purposely in things revealed; on the other hand, that of “unwarrantable curiosity” which busies itself to see and understand everything even in mysteries. They strike upon the first who (sinning in defect) think that we should abstain from the proposition of this doctrine; and upon the latter who (sinning in excess) wish to make everything in this mystery scrupulously accurate (exonychizein) and hold that nothing should be left undiscovered (anexereunifton) in it. Against both, we maintain (with the orthodox) that predestination can be taught with profit, provided this is done soberly from the word of God. The reasons are

(1) Christ and the apostles frequently taught it (as appears from the Gospel, Matthew 11:20, 25; 13:11; 25:34; Luke 10:20; 12:32; John 8:47; 15:16 and in other places; and from the epistles of Paul (the whole of Rom. 9 and Rom. 8:29, 30; Eph. 1:4, 5; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1Thess. 5:9; 2 Thess. 2:13). Nor otherwise do Peter, James and John express themselves who speak repeatedly of this mystery whenever occasion offered. Now if it was proper for them to teach it, why is it not proper for us to learn it? Why should God teach what would have been better (arrifton) unspoken (ameinon)? Why did he wish to proclaim those things which it would bebetter not to know? Do we wish to be more prudent than God or to prescribe rules to him?

(2)It is one of the primary gospel doctrines a foundations of our faith. It cannot be ignored without great injury to the church and to believers. For it is the fountain of our gratitude to God, the root of humility, the foundation and most firm anchor of confidence in all temptations, the fulcrum of the sweetest consolation and the most powerful spur (incitamentum) to piety and holiness.

(3) The importunity of the adversaries (who have corrupted this primary head of faith by deadly errors and infamous calumnies which they are accustomed to heap upon our doctrine) imposes upon us the necessity of handling it so that the truth may be fairly exhibited and freed from the most false and iniquitous criminations of evilly disposed men. As if we introduced a fatal and Stoical necessity; as if we would extinguish all religion in the minds of men by it, to soothe them on the bed of security and profanity or hurl them into the abyss of despair; as if we made God cruel, hypocritical and the author of sin-I shudder to relate it. Now as all these things are perfectly false, they ought unquestionably to be refuted by a sober and healthy exhibition doctrine from theword of God. Although wicked men often abuse this doctrine (improperly understood), its lawful use towards the pious ought not therefore to be denied (unless we wish to have more regard for wicked men than believers).

(2) If, on account of the abuse of some persons, we should abstain from the proposition of this mystery, we must equally abstain from most of the mysteries of the Christian religion which the wicked abuse or laugh at and satirize (such as the mystery of the Trinity, the incarnation, the resurrection and the like).

(3) The calumnies launched against the doctrine of Paul by the false apostles could not cause him to suppress it; yea, he thoroughly discussed it in his inspired way so that he might shut the mouths of adversaries. Why then should we refrain from its presentation? Let us only follow in the footsteps of Paul and, with him, speak and be silent.

If some abuse this doctrine either to licentiousness or to desperation, this happens not per se from the doctrine itself, but accidentally, from the vice of men who most wickedly wrest it to their own destruction. Indeed there is no doctrine from which more powerful incitements to piety can be drawn and richer streams of confidence and consolation flow (as will be seen in the proper place).

The mystery of predestination is too sublime to be comprehended by us as to the why (to diod) (as he is rash who would attempt to find out or to assign the reasons and the causes of it). But this does not hinder it from being taught in Scripture as to the fact (to hoti) and from being firmly held by us. To things therefore must be distinguished here: the one, what God has revealed in his word; the other, what he has concealed. The former we cannot despise (unless rashly). “The secret things,’ says Scripture, ‘belong unto God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children’ (Dr. 29:29). To neglect things revealed argues ingratitude, but to search into I things concealed argues pride. “We must not therefore deny what is plain because we cannot comprehend what is hidden,” as Augustine expresses it (On the Gift of Perseverance 37 [NPNF1, 5:540; PL 45.10161).

The fathers before Augustine spoke more sparingly concerning this mystery not because they judged it best to ignore it, but because there was no occasion presented for discussing it more largely (the Pelagian heresy not having as yet sprung up). Indeed it is true that they sometimes expressed themselves without sufficient caution. Nevertheless Augustine (On the Gift of Perseverance) proves that they did not pass over this truth in utter silence (for who could be ignorant of that which is so clearly set forth in sacred Scriptures?) –the testimony of Abrose,Cyprian and Gregory Nazianzus being adduced for this purpose.

While we think that predestination should be taught, we do not further suppose that human curiosity should be enlarged, but believe there is need here of be taught, but believe there is a need here for great sobriety and prudence; both that we may remain within the bounds prescribed by Scripture, not endeavoring to be wise beyond what is written (par’ho geg-raptai), and that we may prudently have a regard for the persons, places and times to regulate the proposition of it.

For it ought not to be delivered immediately and in the first instance, but gradually and slowly. Nor ought it to be delivered equally as to all its parts, for some ought to be more frequently inculcated as more useful and better suited to the consolation of the pious (as the doctrine of election), but others ought to be handled more sparingly (as reprobation). Nor ought it to be set forth so much to the people in the church as to the initiated (tois mystais) in the school. Again, predestination must be considered not so much a priori as a posteriori. Not that we may descend from causes to effects, but ascend from effects to causes. Not that we should curiously unroll “the book of life” in order to see if our names are written therein (which is forbidden to us), but that we should diligently consult “the book of conscience” which we are not only permitted, but also commanded to do, that we may know whether the seal of God is stamped upon our hearts and whether the fruits of election (viz., faith and repentance) may be found in us (which is the safest way of proceeding to the saving knowledge of that doctrine). In one word, all curious and fruitless questions must be avoided here, and what Paul calls ‘foolish and unlearned questions’ (apaideutous zetesis kai aperantous, 2 Tim. 2:23)-which usually engender strifes and contentions. Our only object should be to increase our faith, not to feed curiosity; to labor for edification, not to strive for our glory.

Question: In what sense are the words ‘predestination,’ prognseos, ekloges and protheseos used in this mystery?

Since the Scriptures (whose genuine signification throws great light upon the knowledge of the thing itself) use various words in explaining this mystery, we must premise certain things concerning them.

First the word “predestination’ occurs here, and it must not be passed over lightly. For although the word proorismou does not exist in the Scriptures, yet the verb from which it comes is often read (Acts 4:28; Rom. 8:29, 30 Ephesians 1:5) Moreover to predestinate (or proorizein from the force of the verb) signifies to determine something concerning things before they take place and to direct them to a certain end.

However, it is understood by authors in three ways.

(1) More widely for every decree of God about creatures and most especially about intelligent creatures in order to their ultimate end. Thus it is frequently employed by the fathers for providence itself.

(2) More specially for the counsel of God concerning men as fallen either to be saved by grace or to be damned by justice (which is commonly called “election’ and “reprobation’).

(3) Most specially for the decree of election, which is called “the predestination of the saints.’ Again according to the latter, it can be taken in two senses (schesin): not only for the destination to the end, but particularly for the “destination to the means” (in which sense it is used by Paul when he says that God predestinated those whom he foreknew to be “conformed to the image of his Son,’ Rom. 8:29,30). Here it is plain that predestination is distinguished from foreknowledge and refers most especially to the end. Thus after saying that God hath chosen us in Christ, the having predestinated us unto the adoption of children’ (proorisas ian, Eph. 1:5) to mark the destination of means ordained for obtaining the salvation destined by election.

About this word, moreover, it is asked whether it is to be referred only to election or whether it embraces reprobation also. This controversy was formerly vehemently urged in the matter of Gottschalk in the ninth century, John Erigena Scotus maintaining that it suited election alone (De Divina Praedestinatione liber* [PL 122.355,4401). On the other hand, Gottschalk, the Lyonians and Remigius, the bishop (in their name), extended it to reprobation. The same question now lies between us and the papists. For the papists (to whom the term reprobation is hateful) contend that it must be used in the first sense. Hence they are accustomed to call reprobates not predestinated, but “foreknown”; and do not subordinate but oppose reprobation to predestination (as Bellarmine, Gregory de Valentia and Pighius, De libero hominis arbitrio 8.2 [1642], p. 137).

With them even some of the orthodox appear to agree, though not with the same object in view.

But we (although willing to confess that the term predestination is according to Scripture usage often restricted to election; yet not only from the proper signification of the word but also from Scripture usage and received custom) that think it is rightly extended to reprobation so as to embrace both parts of the divine counsel (election and reprobation), in which sense it is taken by us here.

The reasons are:

(1) the Scripture extends the word proorizein to the wicked acts of those reprobates who procured the crucifixion of Christ-“the son of man goeth kata to horismenon” (Luke 22:22; Acts 4:28) Herod and Pontius Pilate did nothing but what the hand of God prooriseto be done.” Nor ought the objection to be made that it does not treat of their reprobation, but of the ordination of the crucifixion to a good end. These things are not to be opposed, but composed. The crucifixion of Christ (which is to us the means of salvation) was to the crucifiers the means of damnation (which depended on the most just decree of God).

Second, the Scripture uses equivalent phrases when it says that certain persons are appointed to wrath (1 Thess. 5:9; 1 Peter 2:8), fitted to destruction (Rom. 9:22), ordained to condemnation (Jude 4), made unto dishonor (Romans 9:21) and for the day of evil (Proverbs 16:4). If reprobation is described in these phrases, why can it not be expressed by the word “predestination”?

Third, because the definition of predestination (viz., the ordination of a thing to its end by means before it comes to pass) is no less suitable to reprobation than to election.

Fourth, the fathers frequently thus speak: “We confess the elect to life and the predestination of the wicked to death” (Council of Valence, Mansi, 15:4). “He fulfills what he wills, properly using even evil things as if the very best to the damnation of those whom he has justly predestinated to punishment’ (Augustine, Enchiridion 26 [100] [FC 3:454; PL 40.2791; cf. also his “Treatise on theMerits and the Forgiveness of Sins,’ 2.26 [171 [NPNFI, 5:551; CG 21.24 [FC 24:387-941;Fulgentius, Ad Monimum I [PL 65.153-781). “Predestination is twofold: either of the elect to rest or of the reprobate to death’ (Isidore of Seville, Sententiarum Libri tres 2.6 [PL 83.6061).

Although in truth predestination is sometimes taken strictly in the Scriptures for the predestination of saints or the election to life, it does not follow that it cannot be used more broadly. Nor if the objects of reprobation and election are opposite are the acts themselves, therefore (on the part of God), mutually opposed to one another. Indeed, they can proceed from the same course acting most freely.

The second word which occurs more frequently is prognosis. Paul speaks of it more than once: “whom he did foreknow” (hous proegno), Rom. 8:29); “he hath not cast away his people which proegna” (Rom. 11:2); and they are called elect “according to foreknowledge” (kata prognosin, 1Peter 1:2). Because the ancient and more modern Pelagians falsely abuse this word to establish the foresight of faith and works, we must observe that prognosin can be taken in two ways: either theoretically or practically. In the former way, it is taken for God’s simple knowledge of future things, which is called prescience and belongs to the intellect. In the latter, it is taken for the practical love and decree which God formed concerning the salvation of particular persons and pertains to the will. In this sense, knowledge is often put for delight and approbation (Psalm 1:6); John 10:14; 2 Timothy 2:19). Thus ginoskein signifies not only to know but also to know and to judge concerning a thing (as the Plebiscitum is not the knowledge of the people, but the sentence-from the verb scisco, which means “to decree and determine”). Therefore when the Scripture uses the word prognoseos in the doctrine of predestination, it is not in the former sense for the bare foreknowledge of God by which he foresaw the faith or works of men.

(1) Because by that, He foreknew those also whom he reprobated, while here it treats of the foreknowledge proper to the effect.

(2) Bare foreknowledge is not the cause of things, nor does it impose method or order upon them, but finds it out (as happens here in the chain of salvation).

(3) Because nothing could be foreseen by God but what he himself had granted and which would so follow predestination as the effect, not indeed precede it as a cause, as will be proved hereafter. But it is taken in the latter sense for “practical foreknowledge” (i.e., the love and election of God) that we may not suppose it to be without reason (alogon), although the reasons of his wisdom may escape us (in which manner Christ is said to have been foreknown [proegnsmenos], i.e.,foreordained by God “before the foundation of the world,’ 1 Pet. 1:20).

Again, in that benevolence and practical foreknowledge of God we distinguish:

(1) the love and benevolence with which he pursues us;

(2) the decree itself by which he determined to unfold his love to us by the communication of salvation. Hence it happens that prognosis is at one timetaken broader for both (viz., love and election, as in Rom. 8:29 and Rom. 11:2); at another, more strictly for love and favor which is the fountain and foundation of election. Thus Peter speaks of it when he says that believers are “elect according to the foreknowledge” (kata prognosin), i.e. the love of God (1 Peter 1:2).

Third, we must explain the word ekloges (“election”) which now and then occurs, but not always with the same signification. Sometimes it denotes a call to some political or sacred office (as Saul is “elected” [1 Samuel 10:24]; Judas “elected”, viz., to the Apostleship, John 6:70). Sometimes it designates an external election and separation of a certain people to the covenant of God (in which sense the people of Israel are said to be elected of God, Deut. 4:37). But here it is taken objectively for the elect themselves (as ekloge epetychen- “the election” [i.e., the elect] “hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded,” Romans 11:7); or formally for the act of God electing (which is called ekloge charitos, Romans 9:11). Again the latter may be considered either in the antecedent decree (as it were from eternity) or in the subsequent execution (as it takes place onlyin time by calling). Christ refers to this in John 15:16: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you”; and “Ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world’ (v. 19). Augustine joins both forms (schesin): “We are elected before the foundation of the world by that predestination in which God foresaw his future things would take place; we are chosen out of the world however by that calling by which God fulfills what he has predestinated” (On the Predestination of the Saints).

Election then by the force of the word is stricter than predestination. For all can be predestined, but all cannot be elected because he who elects does not take all, but chooses some out of many.

The election of some necessarily implies the passing and rejecting of others: “Many are called,” said Christ, “but few chosen” (Matthew 20:16); and Paul, “The election hath obtained, and therest were blinded” (Romans 11:7). Hence Paul uses the verb heilto to designate election, which implies the separation of some from others: “God from the beginning heilto, i.e., hath taken out and separated you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth: (2 Thess.2:13).

Fourth, prothesis is often used by Paul in the matter of election to denote that this counsel of God is not an empty and inefficacious act of willing, but the constant, determined and immutable purpose of God (Romans 8:28; 9:11; Ephesians 1:11). For the word is of the highest efficacy (as the old grammarians tell us) and is called distinctly by Paul prothesis tou ta energountos—”the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11).

Sometimes it is applied to election as prothesis kat’ eklogen—”the purpose of God according toelection” (Romans 9:11); and we are said “to be predestinated” (kata prothesin, Ephesians 1:11).

Sometimes it is joined with calling—”who are the called according to his purpose” (tois kata prosthesin kletois, Romans 8:28). For both election and calling depend and are built upon this purpose of God.

Now although these words are often employed promiscuously, yet they are frequently distinguished; not without reason are they used by the Holy Spirit to denote the various conditions (scheseis) of that decree which could not so fitly be explained by a single word. For the decree can be conceived in relation to the principle from which it arises, or to the object about which it is concerned, or to the means by which it is fulfilled. With regard to the former, protheseos oreudokias (which denotes the counsel and good pleasure of God) is mentioned as the first cause of that work. With regard to the next, it is called prognosis or ekloge (which is occupied with the separation of certain persons from others unto salvation). With regard to the last, the word proorismou is used according to which God prepared the means necessary to the obtainment of salvation. Prothesis refers to the end; prognesis refers to the objects; proorismos to the means; prodiesis to the certainty of the event; prognosis and ekloge to the singleness and distinction of persons; proorismos to the order of means. Thus election is certain and immutable by prothesin; determinate and definite by prognosin; and ordinate by proorismon.

These three degrees (if we may so speak to answer to three acts in the temporal execution: for as we will be glorified with the Father, redeemed by the Son and called through the Holy Spirit, so the Father determined from eternity to glorify us with himself. This is prothesis. He elected us in his Son. This is prognosis. He predestinated us to grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit (who seals the image of the Son in us through his holiness and the suffering on the cross). This is proorismos. For as the Father sends the Son, the Son with the Father sends the Holy Spirit. And vice versa, the Holy Spirit leads us to the Son, and the Son at length conducts us to the Father.

The words by which the predestination of the members is described are employed also to express the predestination of the head. For concerning him equally prothesis is predicated when Paul says hon proetheto hilastion (Rom. 3:25); prognosis where we have proegnesmenos (1 Pet.1:20); and proorismos, not only when he is said to be horistheis to be the Son of God (Rom. 1:4), but also when his death is said to have happened by the determinate counsel of God and by his predestination, who proorise to be done whatever was done by Herod and Pontius Pilate (Acts 2:23).

Proofs of election – Arthur Pink

May 19, 2010 Comments off

How may a real believer ascertain that he is one of God’s elect? Why, the very fact he is a genuine Christian evidences it, for a believing into Christ is the sure consequence of God’s having ordained him to eternal life (Acts. 13:48). But to be more specific. How may I know my election? First, by the Word of God, having come in Divine power to the soul, so that my self-complacency is shattered and my self-righteousness renounced. Second, by the Spirit’s having convicted me to my woeful, guilty, and lost condition. Third, by having had revealed to me the suitability and sufficiency of Christ to meet my desperate case, and by a divinely given faith causing me to lay hold of and rest upon Him as my only hope. Fourth, by the marks of the new nature within me: a love for God, an appetite for spiritual things, a longing for holiness, a seeking after conformity to Christ. Fifth, by the resistance which the new nature makes to the old, causing me to hate sin and loathe myself for it. Sixth, by sedulously avoiding everything which is condemned by God’s Word, and by sincerely repenting of and humbly confessing every transgression thereof. Failure at this point will most surely and quickly bring a dark cloud over our assurance, causing the Spirit to withhold His witness. Seventh, by giving all diligence to cultivate the Christian graces, and using all legitimate means to this end. Thus, knowledge of election is cumulative.