Ordo Salutis: God’s Call

When I say Gospel Call, what do you think of? You may think of a great Evangelist or maybe an old school altar call. But really the Gospel call goes much, much deeper than just one man preaching truth. The Gospel Call is something that shakes us to the core of our being, and is a call not of man, but of the King of the Universe.

Can I Get An Amen?

I grew up in a Reformed church. Now, while I love my local church and love my Reformed theology, I am fascinated more by Pentecostal services. While I would never fit in at a Pentecostal church, the preaching at these kind of services amaze me. I can almost guarantee that there will be somebody on a piano ready to play when the preacher starts yelling, and the people will rise up and they will all be clapping and shouting “Amen!”. I love these churches because they are so vibrant and alive that you can feel the energy.

A lot of the preachers at these kind of churches are known for something called ‘call and response preaching’. In this they will say things like “Can I get an Amen?” or “Lift your hands to God’s glory!”, and the audience will reply, naturally, with an Amen and lifting their hands. Now, as I was recently watching one of these kind of services online, I began thinking of the Gospel Call. I began thinking of this ‘call and response’ that God gives to us. As I began to workout this analogy I began seeing where it broke down, namely, in the response.

The Missing Link

The main scripture I want to look at today is Romans 8:28-30.

“28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

This passage is very important not only to this one topic, but to this series as a whole. Here we see a Biblical order for how Salvation works out. So when we talk about our Ordo Salutis, I believe all conversations should begin here. Now, also in this passage we see something very important, the call in verse 30. Here Paul says that all who are Predestined, are called. Now we need to remember that we have been Predestined to be objects of God’s saving grace. But how does this work out? How does this theoretical Predestination translate to something that is practical and tangible? The answer, is the call.

Paul says all those who are called, are justified. Eventually we will get to the topic of Justification, where I can give a full explanation of and implication of the topic, but for now I believe a simple definition will suffice. Justification is an act of God where God the Father pardons, accepts, and declares righteous a sinner on behalf of Christ’s righteousness.  So, what Paul says is the link between the Predestining of sinners to be Justified and the actual Justification of the sinners, is the calling of said sinners.

The Tale of Two Calls

Let us pause for a moment and just define what in the world we are talking about. Ok, before I can define what a call is, you need to grab hold of a theological concept, that is the idea of the difference between The Gospel Call and God’s Effective Call.

The Gospel Call is pretty self explanatory. When someone is sharing the Gospel, it should always end in a call. Imagine if an evangelist got up at a revival conference, and he shared the Gospel. He explains God and His holiness, then he shows how man was created in the image of God and how we as a race had committed acts of Cosmic Treason called sin. He preaches the need of humanity for a Savior from our sin, and how God sent his Son to die and rise again for our sin, then the evangelist walked off the stage. The entire message would be almost pointless. Unless the Gospel is accompanied by a call for response then really, what was the point? The Gospel Call is when someone is called by a Preacher to be saved, but God’s Effective Call is above and beyond that.

God’s Effective Call is the call used upon the Elect at the point of salvation, this call that is not only a proposition, but a command. We see this here in Romans 8:30. You will recall that the call is the link between predestination and justification. Here’s what I need you to see: all those who are called are justified. We clearly are talking about God’s effective call here. God is not playing around with this call, this one is used on the elect, those whom God chose. Those who experience God’s Effective Call are those who will be saved. This call is not going to come back void, because it comes from the very throne of the universe.

What’s The Point?

Why should we study this idea of a effectual call? What’s even the point of this post? Let me give you two reasons.

1. It’s in the Bible.

Use this as a general rule: If it’s in the Bible, it’s important. You don’t get to decide what to study and what not to study in the Bible. It’s in there for a reason. I’ve heard some say that on subjects like this that are particularly divisive, we shouldn’t focus too much on them because people can get offended. That is a horrific thing to say! Look, if we took all the offensive stuff out of the Bible there wouldn’t be anything left to read. Also, if it’s a point of confusion among Christians, than all the more reason to study it! So we can help out our brothers and sisters in Christ.

2. Encouragement To Evangelize

There’s a saying I hear all the time, “Work like an Arminian, sleep like a Calvinist”. I think that might be one of the most misinformed things I have ever heard. I hate it because it connotates that Calvinist take it easy on evangelism, which is a particularly heinous thing to say when the truth is the exact opposite. I want to work and sleep like a Calvinist. I want to work so that I know that my work won’t be in vain, and that all those who can be saved will be. It also humbles us in evangelism because we know that it’s not our preaching that convinces people, but God’s call. As Mark Driscoll puts it, “You only have access to people’s ears, but the Holy Spirit has access to people’s hearts.”

Irresistible?

The obvious question with the idea of God’s Effective Call is this: Does man have a choice? Is there even an option on refusing God’s call? Refusing God’s grace? And if they can’t, wouldn’t that make people just puppets, with no real love at all?

An answer is needed and will be given. That is what I endeavor to answer with my post on Regeneration next week.

-The Ransomed Sinner

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Why We Hold To Calvinism: Understanding Total Depravity (Part 1)

This first point of the acronym is really essential to understanding the entire system. It has been said that Calvinism really stands upon each prior point as they build a systematic approach of looking at the Bible soteriologically. That is to say that the logic of the system stands or falls as a whole. If Total Depravity is not how the Bible describes the condition of man then there is no reason for Unconditional Election or any other part of the TULIP  to follow. What is necessary to begin our discussion with then is a biblical survey of the will of man.

A Definition of Freedom: 

What needs to be stated right from the start is that at no point historically has Calvinism (or Reformed Theology) ever claimed that man does not have a will.  This is an unfortunate misrepresentation of the view by Dave Hunt, Norman Geisler, Chuck Smith, and many others who claim otherwise.  From Augustine,  to Luther, Calvin, and Edwards there has always been a vital discussion of how the will of man relates to the will of our sovereign God. Explanations and defenses of their views may be offered elsewhere but for now allow a straightforward examination of some biblical passages to form our view.

Proverbs 4:23 says “Above all else guard your heart for from it flow the well springs of life”. Luke 6:45 says “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Furthermore, Ezekiel states that the reason Israel is going to turn back to God from their rebellion is because He will give them a new heart. Ezekiel 36:26 says “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” This theme can be found in numerous places through the book of Ezekiel alone (11:19, 18:31,). Take even a cursory reading of Ezekiel 28 and you will find that the very reason Satan (described as the King of Tyre) is shown to be in rebellion against God is because of his heart. Ten times this is is repeated in the chapter alone! Strongs concordance here says that the hebrew word for “heart” which is “leb” (and comes from the word lebab) can also be described as ones ” inner man, mind, will”. What we find then is that the Bible says that it is the heart that ultimately decides which decision a person will be inclined to follow. Even the word “inclined” however implies nothing more then a mere preference. Perhaps a stronger word is in order. The desires of the heart are what a person will end up acting out. More could be said on this, but for now allow this to be our definition of freedom as described by the Bible.

Freewill: “A free act is one in which a person acts in accordance with the desires of his heart”.

With this groundwork laid on what true free will is the next logical step to take is to ask the question “How does the Bible describe the heart of man?”

The Condition of Man’s Heart:

Lets start at the beginning in Genesis. Genesis 6:5 “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Every intention of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually. Now I grew up with the view somehow formed that this was only a pre flood condition and after Noah survived the flood somehow all of mankind was more like him. Genesis 8:21 laid this view to rest though when it stated after the flood that “when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.”  Consider the consequence of this. The reason God gives for not wiping out the world again is because even though He had done so once mankind could not change.  Of course this wasn’t new to God, but it does provide us with a powerful example of how mankind is described in its natural state. Notice this condition is both universal as it is internal.

The next text to examine is Ephesians chapter 4. Here you will find Paul exhorting the Christians at the church in Ephesus to walk together in unity as members of the Body of Christ. His argument for this is that we have found a new life in Christ that leads us to act and live differently then the way we were before. In verse 17 he compares this against the way the Gentiles act which is in “the futility of their minds” against the Lord. Why is this the case? Because of their hearts. Verse 18 says “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” Once again we find the the Greek word for “heart” used here, which is kardia, is identified by Strongs concordance to be “2588 kardía – heart; “the affective center of our being” and the capacity of moral preference”.

Allow one more example before we conclude this brief study. Take a look at Matthew 12:34-35. It says “How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” Once again, we see Jesus himself clearly state that the sin of a man arises straight out of the heart itself. What can be concluded from this is that the natural man will act in accordance with “the abundance of the heart”. See Mark 7:21 and Matthew 5:19 for the same argument.

In summary:

First of all realize that this is nothing near the scope of verses or depth that could have been used. Rather this post was used for a rather particular purpose of making two points. Defining the biblical view of mans free will and explaining how the Bible shows this view to be one in which mankind always chooses sin. In summary then we can see two points.

1. The Bible says that it is the heart of man that make his decisions.
2. It also says that every thought and intention in the natural mans heart is evil.

Conclusion? Man will always “freely” choose sin.

Alternately, it could be stated as follows:

P1. If the heart of man is the source of man’s choices then man’s free choice will be one in which they act in accordance with their hearts desires
P2. Man’s heart desires sin alone and continually.
C. Man’s heart will never choose God.

Why spend so much time on this? The deeper understanding we have of the depths of our own depravity the greater we can see the beauty of God’s power in saving us from our state.  God’s glory is magnified by the miraculous saving of sinners that never would have come to him on their own. His power is the reason we believe and His power is the only reason we have been changed. This will be explored more in the next post.

-praisethekingofglory

Why We Hold To Calvinism: Understanding TULIP

In the next few weeks I’d like to lay down the biblical foundation for, although it is only one component of “Reformed Theology”, what is commonly referred to as Calvinism. This issue is of paramount importance to address in an appropriate depth and comprehensiveness for two reasons:

1. The very word Calvinism is fraught with misconceptions and often comes as a “loaded term” relative to who your talking to.

2. Here at Proclaiming His Glory we strive to magnify God in every way possible and we are convinced that if we are to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) then we must clarify and explain why we view God the way we do.

Therefore, in the course of this post I will explain how Proclaiming His Glory views the above two statements.

Allow me to begin with a word on definitions. Often times, in both my own personal communication and review of others, I have heard a concerned expressed over the very meaning of what Calvinism is. Does it express an agreement or indicate a follower of the teachings of John Calvin? Or does it simply refer to the “predestination, free will” talk that always gets thrown around with reference to its name? In its most literal sense it would seem to imply that Calvinists are followers of the teachings of John Calvin! John Calvin

This is precisely why I either don’t call myself a Calvinist or immediately explain what I mean when I do so. It normally depends entirely on whom I’m talking to. As much as I would like to say I am a Calvinist in the literal sense of the word the problem is, I haven’t read any of his works or really extensively studied his views on every subject. Not only did the man write exhaustively on a wide breadth of doctrines, but I must be honest when I say that I haven’t taken the time to read any of his works! Oh sure, I’ve read a few quotes and excerpts here and there but I can’t possibly be honest and say, in the strictest sense possible, that I am a “Calvinist”. Starting to see some of the baggage that comes with the term?

Hold on a minute though! You may say, “Isn’t the very title of this post about why you do hold to Calvinism?” and of course this would be true. How does one resolve this dilemma? Enter TULIP.

Before I explain it allow me to give you a bit of important history first.TULIP, was a mnemonic formulated in the early 20th century which attempted to easily summarize the result of what came out of the main controversy that took place four centuries early at the Canons of Dort in 1618. Now its important to note that John Calvin himself died in 1564 and his most famous student Jacobus Arminius (surprised?) died in 1609. Therefore, it was Arminius’s followers that formulated the original five articles of the Remonstrance which demonstrated a departure from Calvin’s teachings on the will of man, election, predestination etc. At the Canons of Dort in 1618 Calvin’s followers developed and summarized their specific responses to the five articles of the Remonstrance.  These responses were then organized and first described in print in a 1932 work on the reformed doctrine of predestination.

So why is it important to know that history? What I want you to remember is that the purpose of TULIP was not to describe the totality of what John Calvin, or Reformed Theology for that matter, teaches. Historically, the purpose was to easily identify the differences with the Arminian viewpoint. Now unfortunately that is not the way it is viewed today. Therefore, for the purposes of conversation in today’s common understanding of Calvinism (which is strictly an adherence to TULIP) I will, and the other authors on this blog, readily identify myself as such.

So what is this TULIP I have keep referring to? Now that we understand the way that I will using the word “Calvinism” I would say that TULIP is the best way to remember the tenets of Calvinism. They are the following:

TULIP

 Total Depravity

Unconditional Election

Limited Atonement

Irresistible Grace

Perseverance of the Saints

 

I will be the first to admit those titles can be misleading and slightly confusing as to what they are intended to represent specifically. Nonetheless, it will be my intent to clearly elucidate what we mean by them and why we hold to them.

Let me close this post on an important note. The question may arise “why would you claim to be a Calvinist when you haven’t read much, if any, of John Calvin’s work?”. The reason I haven’t read much of Calvin is because I don’t rest my belief in Calvinism on his shoulders. They stand 100% on scripture. Although I would never deny that I have been influenced by theologians I read, I must make clear that my adherence to Calvinism was formed before I had ever read a word written by the man. Therefore, it is essential when discussing these issues to primarily rest our discussions and debate over what the word of God says in its contents.

Additionally, please don’t view these posts like they are, as my favorite rapper would say “controversy for the sake of controversy or theological nitpicking”.  A.W. Tozer once said “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” What the Bible says on topic like Calvinism will profoundly affect how you view God and therefore it is essential to study carefully. That’s how we “rightly handle the word of truth” and by doing so we Proclaim His Glory

-praisethekingofglory