Category Archives: Soteriology (The Study of Salvation and the Gospel)
By J.D. Greear
If there were a world record for the “number of times asking Jesus into your heart,” I’m pretty sure I would hold it. I’ve probably “prayed the prayer” more than five thousand times. Every time was sincere, but I was never quite sure I had gotten it right. Had I really been sorry enough for my sin that time around? Some wept rivers of tears when they got saved, but I hadn’t done that. Was I really sorry? Was that prayer a moment of total surrender? Did I really “get” grace?
So I would pray the sinner’s prayer again. And again. And again. And maybe get baptized again. Every student camp, every spring revival. Rinse and repeat.
I used to think I was alone in this, that I was just a neurotic oddball. But when I began to talk about this, I would have such a slew of people tell me they had the same experience that I concluded the problem was endemic. Countless people in our churches today are genuinely saved, but they just can’t seem to gain any assurance about their salvation.
The opposite is the case, too. Because of some childhood prayer, tens of thousands of people are absolutely certain of a salvation they do not possess.
Both problems are exacerbated by the clichéd, truncated, and often sloppy ways we present the gospel in shorthand. Now, shorthand is fine insofar as everyone knows what the shorthand refers to. It is obvious, however, that in the case of “the sinner’s prayer,” most people don’t anymore. Surveys show that more than 50 percent of people in the U.S. have prayed a sinner’s prayer and think they’re going to heaven because of it even though there is no detectable difference in their lifestyles from those outside of the church.
On this issue—the most important issue on earth—we have to be absolutely clear. I believe it is time to put the shorthand aside. We need to preach salvation by repentance before God and faith in the finished work of Christ.
This does not mean that we stop pressing for a decision when we preach the gospel. The greatest Reformed evangelists in history—such as George Whitefield, C.H. Spurgeon, and John Bunyan—pressed urgently for immediate decisions and even urged hearers to pray a prayer along with them. Each time the gospel is preached, that invitation ought to be extended and a decision should be called for (Matt. 11:28; John 1:12; Rev. 22:17). In fact, if we do not urge the hearer to respond personally to God’s offer in Christ, we have not fully preached the gospel.
Furthermore, repentance and faith in Christ are in themselves a cry to God for salvation. The sinner’s prayer is not wrong in itself—after all, salvation is essentially a cry for mercy to God: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). In Scripture, those who call on God’s name will be saved. I’m not even categorically opposed to the language of asking Jesus into your heart, because—if understood correctly—it is a biblical concept (Rom. 8:9–11; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:17).
For many, however, the sinner’s prayer has become a Protestant ritual they go through without considering what the prayer is supposed to embody. God doesn’t give salvation in response to mere words; faith is the instrument that lays hold of salvation. You can express faith in a prayer, but it is possible to repent and believe without a formal prayer, and it is possible to pray a sinner’s prayer without repenting and believing.
This finally clicked for me when, almost in desperation, I read Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans. Luther points out that salvation comes by resting on the facts God revealed about the death of Christ. Just as Abraham was counted righteous when he believed that God would keep His promise, we are saved by believing that He has done so in Christ.
The gospel is the declaration that Jesus is Lord and has made an end to our sins. We are saved by submitting to those two truths. Conversion is a posture we take toward the declarations that Scripture makes about Jesus. The point is not how we felt or what we said at the moment of conversion; the point is the posture we are in now.
Think of conversion like sitting down in a chair. If you are seated right now, there was a time at which you transferred the weight of your body from your legs to the chair. You may not remember making that decision, but the fact you are seated now proves that you did. Your decision was necessary, but when trying to discern where your physical trust is— legs or chair—present posture is better proof than past memory.
Does this mean that backsliding Christians are not saved? No, believers can still backslide. Technically, any time you sin you are backsliding. As a believer, you will struggle with indwelling sin for the rest of your life. You will fall often, and sometimes you will fall hard.
But each time you fall, you get up again, looking heavenward. A person in the midst of a backslide may be saved, but assurance is only the possession of those in a present posture of repentance and faith (Heb. 6:9–10).
Ultimately, the world is divided into two categories: many are “standing” in rebellion against the lordship of Jesus, standing in hopes of their own righteousness to merit favor with God; others are “seated” in submission, resting on His finished work. So when it comes to assurance, the only real question is: Where is the weight of your soul resting? Are you still standing in rebellion, or have you sat down in the finished work of Christ?
SOURCE: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/stop-asking-jesus-your-heart/ NOVEMBER, 1, 2013 © Tabletalk magazine
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Dr. J.D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church in Durham,N.C. He is author of the books Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart and Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.
DEFINITE ATONEMENT in HISTORICAL, BIBLICAL, THEOLOGICAL, and PASTORAL PERSPECTIVE
Book Review by David P. Craig
When I was a student in Bible college and in seminary there were many students who called themselves “4-Point Calvinists.” The doctrine they were repulsed by was the “L” in the acronym TULIP standing for “Limited atonement.” As I talked with my comrades in ministry they had a genuine love for the lost and couldn’t reconcile God’s love for the “world” and how Christ’s death on the cross could in any way be “limited” only to the elect. “Sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” was the mantra of many of the “five-pointers.” In discussions with those who hold to unlimited atonement over the years I have found much of the disagreements not so much over doctrine, but over semantics. The reality is very few students of the Scriptures have taken the time to study (outside of John 3:16) what the Bible has to say about the specific intent of Christ’s death on the cross from Genesis to Revelation.
Seldom have I ever read such a balanced treatment on a subject by multiple authors – 23 of them! I learned something new in each chapter, gleaned wise insights, and appreciated the reverence for Christ and the irenic spirit maintained throughout this book. Clear, comprehensive, pastoral, convincing, thought-provoking, and adoration are the words that came to mind frequently in my reading.
Whether you have wrestled with the atonement (limited vs. unlimited) for years, have landed on a position, or are undecided – this book is definitely worth wrestling with – primarily because it’s teaching is so biblically saturated and cogently argued. All of the author’s have done their homework – their pens ooze theology and adoration.
This is the new go-to work covering all the various aspects of the atonement – historical, exegetical, theological, pastoral, and evangelistic. This massive work by some of Christianity’s finest historians, biblical scholars, theologians, and pastors is a veritable feast for the mind and heart. Those who take the time to read carefully and prayerfully through this meticulous work will (no matter whether you agree or disagree with the argumentation) be drawn to adoringly reflect on Jesus for what he achieved in his atoning death.
I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s sumptuous theological food for the soul of those who glory in the Person and work of our Lord and Savior who sought and bought us with his precious blood.
AN OUTLINE TO HAVE IN MIND WHEN SHARING THE GOSPEL
MANY CHRISTIANS THINK THEY CANNOT ADEQUATELY SHARE THE gospel unless they’ve had formal training in evangelism. I’m for evangelism training, but training is not necessary before you can tell someone about Jesus and give your own testimony about how you came to know Him. In John 9 we read of a man born blind who, within an hour after his conversion, is witnessing to Ph.D.s in religion (the Pharisees). Obviously, he’d had no evangelism training, but he was able to talk about Jesus and his own conversion. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones used to say, after being saved and after hearing countless presentations of the gospel in sermons, if Christians still believe they cannot evangelize without massive amounts of training, then either they’ve heard very poor preaching or they’ve been very poor listeners. However, it does boost one’s confidence in sharing the gospel to know a general outline of what to say and to have some appropriate verses of Scripture committed to memory. Several years ago I developed an outline to hang my thoughts on, along with at least two key verses for each section. I don’t follow it woodenly in every situation, for each evangelistic encounter is unique. And sometimes I condense it a bit. But having a full presentation of the gospel ready on my lips does give me a sense of direction and a feeling of preparedness. You’re welcome to adapt the outline for use in your own personal evangelism.
1. There is one God, He is the Creator, He is holy, and He is worth knowing. See Deuteronomy 4:39; Isaiah 46:9; Genesis 1: 1; 1 Peter 1: 16. Such a God is worthy of our pursuit!
2. Everyone is a sinner separated from God. See Romans 3:23; Isaiah 59:2. We have no idea how unholy we are in comparison to God.
3. There is a penalty for sin. See Romans 6:23; Hebrews 9:27; Romans 14:10; Matthew 25:46. The penalty is judgment and Hell.
4. Jesus paid that penalty for all who believe. See Romans 5:8; I Peter 3:18. Jesus took God’s judgment so believers could have mercy.
5. No one can earn God’s forgiveness and favor. See Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5. We’re not saved by our works, but by faith in Jesus’ work.
6. We should respond with repentance and faith. See Mark 1:15; John 3:16. We should turn from sin and turn to Jesus for forgiveness.
7. We can have assurance of eternal life with God. See 1 John 5:13. Jesus’ resurrection and God’s Word assure believers of forgiveness.
Responding to this great message from the Bible
A. It is not only right for you to live for the God who created you and owns you, but you will find your greatest fulfillment only when you fulfill the purpose for which you were made, and that is to know God and live for Him.
B. Do you believe this great message of the Bible? Genuine belief in its truth is demonstrated by turning from living for yourself and believing that because of His death and resurrection Jesus Christ can make you right with God.
C. Are you willing to express repentance and faith in prayer to God right now?
*SOURCE: Donald S. Whitney. Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Disciplines for the Overwhelmed. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2003.
ABOUT DONALD S. WHITNEY
Since 2005, Don Whitney has been Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he also serves as Senior Associate Dean. Before that, he held a similar position (the first such position in the six Southern Baptist seminaries) at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, for ten years. He is the founder and president of The Center for Biblical Spirituality.
Don grew up in Osceola, Arkansas, where he came to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He was active in sports throughout high school and college, and worked in the radio station his dad managed.
After graduating from Arkansas State University, Don planned to finish law school and pursue a career in sportscasting. While at the University of Arkansas School of Law, he sensed God’s call to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He then enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree in 1979. In 1987, Don completed a Doctor of Ministry degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Currently, he is completing his Doctor of Theology with Specialization in Christian Spirituality at the University of South Africa.
Prior to his ministry as a seminary professor, Don was pastor of Glenfield Baptist Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), for almost fifteen years. Altogether, he has served local churches in pastoral ministry for twenty-four years. His books include: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life; Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health; How Can I Be Sure I’m a Christian?; and Spiritual Disciplines within the Church.
GOD’S GENUINE DESIRE AND OFFER FOR ALL TO BE SAVED
Book Review By David P. Craig
John Piper states his purpose for writing this book as follows, “My aim in this short book is to show from Scripture that the simultaneous existence of God’s will for all people to be saved and his will to choose some people for salvation unconditionally before creation is not a sign of divine schizophrenia or exegetical confusion. A corresponding aim is to show that unconditional election therefore does not contradict biblical expressions of God’s compassion for all people and does not rule out sincere offers of salvation to all who are lost among the peoples of the world.”
In Chapter One Piper acknowledges and addresses some of the more perplexing texts that are cited to show that God’s will is for all people to be saved: 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:23; and Matthew 23:37. Piper concludes his examination of these passages by stating that the only conclusion we can arrive at is that the Scriptures show that God has two wills: “willing something in one sense that he disapproves in another sense.”
In Chapter Two Piper illustrates God’s “two wills” by examining five explicit examples of this from the Scriptures: (a) In the death of Christ (Acts 2:23); (b) In the war against the Son of God (Rev. 17:16-17); (c) In the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus); (d) In the restraint of a King’s evil (Proverbs); (e) In not delighting in the punishment of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23).
Chapter Three is an exposition of the Sovereign will of God. Piper’s thesis is that “behind the complex relationship of the two wills of God is the foundational biblical premise that God is sovereign in a way that makes him ruler of all actions.” Piper examines various passages of Scripture and concludes, “Terms such as ‘will of decree’ and ‘will of command,’ or ‘sovereign will’ and ‘moral will,’ is not an artificial distinction demanded by Reformed theology. The terms are an effort to describe the whole of biblical revelation. They are an effort to say yes to all of the Bible and not silence any of it. They are a way to say yes to the universal will of Ezekiel 18:23 and Matthew 23:37, and yes to the individual, unconditional election of Romans 9:6-23.”
In the final Chapter Piper ties his argument together by discussing how God does not sin in willing that sin takes place. He answers the question: “What keeps God from saving whom he desires to save? And he goes into a lengthy discussion of the question “What is free will?” In the process he comes back to 1 Timothy 2:4 and gives an exegetical and philosophical argument from some of the great theologians of the Church: John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Stephen Charnock, Robert L. Dabney and a wonderful illustration from the life of George Washington.
In the final analysis Piper arrives at 3 concluding statements about the universal love of God and the offer of Christ’s salvation to everyone in the world: “(1) Christ really is the all-powerful, all-wise, all-satisfying Son of God offered in the gospel; (2) by his death and resurrection, he has acted out God’s discriminating, definite electing, regenerating, faith-creating, every-promise-guaranteeing new-covenant love, and thus purchased and secured irreversibly for his elect everything needed to bring them from deadness in sin to everlasting, glorified life and joy in the presence of God; and (3) everyone without any exception, who receives Christ as supreme treasure–who believes in his name–will be united to Christ in the embrace of this electing love and enjoy him and his gifts forever.”
John Piper has done a beautiful job of explaining the mysteries of God’s sovereign will, the offer of salvation, and shown clearly that the Bible teaches that we believe in and practice both – that He is sovereign in His election of those He will save, and that we have a responsibility to declare the gospel to all of humanity because He desires their salvation. I recommend this book to help you understand the depths of God’s sovereign plan, love, and activity in carrying out His redemptive purposes until Christ returns again.
In Luke 11, Jesus is instructing his followers on the subject of prayer, and in the midst of it he says, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children…” (Luke 11:13).
This off-handed reference to his own disciples as “evil” reveals an astounding (to modern readers) assumption by Jesus; namely, that even the best human beings are so radically corrupt that they can be referred to as evil persons. Nevertheless, in spite of calling them evil, Jesus obviously loves his disciples with the utmost tenderness and even delight, and he is willing to pay the ultimate price for them (John 13; 17:20–26).
This view differs totally from the view of sin and evil prevalent in the world today. No one, apart from those who hold Jesus’ view of sin, can look at friends and family, take genuine delight in them, and say, “I love them—but they have lots of evil in them! And so do I!”
What then is the biblical view of sin? Sin is a distortion and dislocation of the heart from its true center in God (Romans 1:21–25). This distortion is expressed as a basic motive for all human life—the heart desire of every person to be his or her own savior and lord (the serpent’s original temptation in Genesis 3:5 was “you will be like God”).
Søren Kierkegaard used very modern terms when he defined sin as building your identity on anything besides God (See Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death, 1849). That definition is just another way to convey the old biblical themes of idolatry, self-justification, and self-glorification.
Sin, therefore, is something that everyone is doing all the time (see Romans 1:18–3:20, with the summary in 3:20). People who flout God’s moral law are doing this overtly, of course, but even moral, religious people are trying to be their own saviors by earning salvation and being good. It is just as possible to avoid Jesus as Savior (to be your own savior) by keeping God’s law as by breaking it. Everyone is separated from God equally—regardless of the external form of behavior.
The fundamental motives of self-justification and self-glorification are what distort our lives and alienate us from God. Unless a person is converted, these mo- tives operate as the main driver for everything we do. This situation is true of every culture and class of people. In the ultimate sense, then, everyone is equally a sinner in need of Jesus’ salvation by grace alone.
Once this radical view of sin is grasped, it revolutionizes the believer’s attitude toward others who do not share his or her beliefs. Here are two ways it changes you in this regard.
First, it means you sense more than ever a common humanity with others. The biblical view significantly changes in Christians the natural and traditional human attitudes toward those who behave in ways that they do not approve. It is normal for human beings (whose hearts are always seeking to justify themselves and who are always trying to make the case that they are one of the “good guys”) to divide the world into the good and the bad. If, however, everyone is naturally alienated from God and therefore “evil,” then that goes for everyone from murderers to ministers.
The biblical teaching on sin shows us the complete pervasiveness of sin and the ultimate impossibility of dividing the world neatly into sinful people and good people. It eliminates our attitudes of superiority toward others and our practices of shunning or excluding those with whom we differ.
Second, it means you expect to be constantly misunderstood—especially about sin! The gospel message is that we are saved by Christ’s work, not by our work. But everyone else (even most people in church) believes that Christianity is just another form of religion, which operates on the principle that you are saved if you live a good life and avoid sin. Therefore, when others hear a Christian call something “sin,” they believe you are saying, “These are bad people (and I am good). These are people who should be shunned, excluded (and I should be welcomed). These are people whom God condemns because of this behavior (but I am accepted by God because I don’t do that).”
You may not mean that by the term “sin” at all, but you must realize and expect that others will hear what you are saying that way. They have to. Until they grasp the profound difference between religion and the Christian faith, they will probably understand your invoking of the word “sin” as self-righteous condemnation—no matter what your disclaimers.
For example, if most people hear you saying, “People who have sex outside of marriage are sinning,” they will immediately believe you look down on them, that you think they are lost because of that behavior, that you are one of the “good people” who don’t do things like that, and so on. If people hear a Christian say, “Well, these people are sinning, but I don’t think of myself as any better than they are—we are all sinners needing grace,” they will think you have spoken nonsense. They have a completely different grid or paradigm in their minds about how anyone can approach and relate to God, and they are hearing the word “sin” through that grid.
This reality is why wise Christians will in general try to avoid public pronouncements on particular behaviors as sinful. Rather, they will try to help people hear the radical message of the Bible about the true inward nature of sin, its universality, and salvation by grace. They will try to explain that people are ultimately lost only if they are too proud to see they are lost and in need of a Savior who saves by sheer grace, just as a drowning person offered a life preserver will only die if he won’t admit he needs it.
Christians must talk to their friends about sin to explain our need for Jesus and for God’s grace, but we must do so in a way that quickly puts the term in context—the context of the full message of Jesus’ salvation.
Copyright © 2011 by Timothy Keller, Redeemer City to City. This article first appeared in the Redeemer Report in January 2003.
We encourage you to use and share this material freely—but please don’t charge money for it, change the wording, or remove the copyright information.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
In 1989 Dr. Timothy J. Keller, his wife and three young sons moved to New York City to begin Redeemer Presbyterian Church. In 20 years it has grown to meeting for five services at three sites with a weekly attendance of over 5,000. Redeemer is notable not only for winning skeptical New Yorkers to faith, but also for partnering with other churches to do both mercy ministry and church planting. Redeemer City to City is working to help establish hundreds of new multi-ethnic congregations throughout the city and other global cities in the next decades.
Dr. Tim Keller is the author of several phenomenal Christo-centric books including:
Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It (co-authored with Greg Forster and Collin Hanson (February or March, 2014).
Encounters with Jesus:Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions. New York, Dutton (November 2013).
Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. New York, Dutton (October 2013).
Judges For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (August 6, 2013).
Galatians For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (February 11, 2013).
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World. New York, Penguin Publishing, November, 2012.
Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, September, 2012.
The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. New York: 10 Publishing, April 2012.
Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. New York: Riverhead Trade, August, 2012.
The Gospel As Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices (editor and contributor). Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York, Dutton, 2011.
King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (Retitled: Jesus the KIng: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God). New York, Dutton, 2011.
Gospel in Life Study Guide: Grace Changes Everything. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2010.
The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York, Dutton, 2009.
Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Priorities of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. New York, Riverhead Trade, 2009.
Heralds of the King: Christ Centered Sermons in the Tradition of Edmund P. Clowney (contributor). Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009.
The Prodigal God. New York, Dutton, 2008.
Worship By The Book (contributor). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.
Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1997.
Series: Gospel Presentations #7
“SAVED BY GOD, FROM GOD, FOR GOD”
Christians are notorious for using a vocabulary that is not always understood by those around them. There’s no doubt that we have our own lingo and jargon.
One such word is the word “saved.” Often, Christians ask unsuspecting neighbors, colleagues and friends the question, “are you saved?” and usually receive only puzzled expressions in response. These folk are desperately trying to understand the question, but have no reference point whatsoever from which to make an assessment of how to answer. The Christian, on the other hand, seeing this as a wonderful opportunity to evangelize, usually pounces on this hesitation, though just how much is communicated in such times is open to debate. Though the Christian is usually sincere in desiring to share his faith, he needs to provide some foundation for the person to understand what he is seeking to communicate.
Yet in saying this, the word “saved” is very much a biblical word. The scripture says, “whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
But what exactly is this referring to? What is it that those who call on the name of the Lord are saved from?
Well let’s take a look at the word “saved.” It is a word we use quite often, especially in the world of sports. We talk of a goalkeeper making a great “save,” or a boxer being “saved” by the bell. When used in this context, the word “saved” does not have any eternal significance to it whatsoever, but refers instead to a present day deliverance or rescue from calamity. The goalkeeper doesn’t provide eternal life for his team mates when he makes a save, but merely prevents a calamity – conceding a goal to the opposing team. The boxer doesn’t gain heavenly bliss because the bell rings, but the sounding of the bell signalled the end of a round when it looked certain that the fighter was about to lose the fight. Again, the word saved refers to being rescued from a calamity.
So what exactly does the Bible mean then when it talks of our need to be saved? What is the calamity from which we need to be rescued?
The Bible’s answer is a very clear one. God is holy and He is just. That’s not good news if we happen to be sinners, which the Bible declares that we are. “All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23). But thank God, that’s not the end of the story. But it gets a lot worse before it gets better!
God is good. God is also just. God is therefore a good judge and must punish sin. God’s justice will be meted out precisely as justice demands it – which when you think about it, is the worst of all possible news for us. We won’t be able to get away with anything – all the secrets of our hearts will be exposed, and we will be called to give an account of our lives. What is worse is that the sins we have committed are so grievous to Him that the punishment for sin is eternal in duration. In fact, rather than the judgment we will face being merely being left or abandoned by God, God is actually active in pouring out His wrath against our sin.
So what exactly does the Bible mean by the phrase, “the wrath of God?”
Well one thing we notice very clearly when we study the Bible on this issue is that wrath is not an isolated concept made up by merely one “out of sorts and grumpy prophet.” There are in fact over 600 references to God’s wrath in the Old Testament alone.
Two incidents in Exodus will help our understanding at this point. In Exodus 22:22-24, God says, “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.”
Then later on when the children of Israel make for themselves a golden calf to worship, the scripture records God as saying, “Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.” (Exodus 32:10-12)
Regarding this, Dr. James Montgomery Boice writes, “it is evident in this passage that Moses’ appeal to God is not based either on imagined innocence of the people (they were not innocent, and Moses knew it), nor on the thought that wrath was unworthy of God. Moses appeals only on the basis of God’s name and how his acts would be misconstrued by the heathen. No doubt is expressed that wrath is a proper reaction of God’s holy character against sin.” Dr. Boice goes on to say, “God’s wrath is not arbitrary, as if God for some minor matter or according to his own caprice simply turns against those whom he formerly loved and favored. On the contrary, wrath is God’s consistent and unyielding resistance to sin and evil. In the first passage it is wrath brought on by sin against others, widows and orphans. In the second passage it is wrath brought on by sins against God.” (Foundations of the Christian Faith, p. 248)
Nahum 1:2-3, 6-8 declares, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness.”
Again, many more scriptures would verify the reality and nature of the wrath of Almighty God. Psalm 2:5-9 says, “Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
In the New Testament, the wrath of God is also clearly seen. Two main words for wrath are used. The first, thymos (in Greek) means “to rush along fiercely,” “to be in the heat of violence,” or “to breath violently.” It refers to a panting rage.
The second Greek word, orge, means “to grow ripe for something” with the noun form revealing that this wrath has been slowly building over a long space of time. It is a gradually building anger that rises in intensity, and therefore is not so much a sudden flare up of hostility, which is soon over, but rather as Leon Morris defines it, “a strong and settled opposition to all that is evil arising out of God’s very nature” (Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross).
Romans 1:18-20 reveals the present day reality of this wrath. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
Romans 2:5 “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”
Are we all feeling the weight of this bad news yet? I don’t believe we will appreciate the amazing good news of the Gospel until we do.
Jesus is also coming back to rule and reign. When He does so, it will not be like His first coming when He came as a humble baby, born in a manger, but He’s coming back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, to enforce His rule in our world.
Revelation 19:15 declares, “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.”
Although this refers to a future event, the scripture reveals that the wrath of God is a present reality, as we’ve already seen through Romans 1:18. The scripture also says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36)
I can’t think of a worse calamity than this one – facing the full fury of the wrath of God against our sin.
But is it just for God to punish sinners for eternity?
Let me respond with a quote from the great theologian, Jonathan Edwards, “Our obligation to love, honor, and obey any being, is in proportion to his loveliness, honorableness, and authority; for that is the very meaning of the words. When we say any one is very lovely, it is the same as to say, that he is one very much to be loved. Or if we say such a one is more honorable than another, the meaning of the words is, that he is one that we are more obliged to honor. If we say any one has great authority over us, it is the same as to say, that he has great right to our subjection and obedience. But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he has infinite excellency and beauty. To have infinite excellency and beauty, is the same thing as to have infinite loveliness. He is a being of infinite greatness, majesty, and glory; and therefore he is infinitely honorable. He is infinitely exalted above the greatest potentates of the earth, and highest angels in heaven; and therefore he is infinitely more honorable than they. His authority over us is infinite; and the ground of his right to our obedience is infinitely strong; for he is infinitely worthy to be obeyed himself, and we have an absolute, universal, and infinite dependence upon him. So that sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving of infinite punishment. The eternity of the punishment of ungodly men renders it infinite” (THE JUSTICE OF GOD IN THE DAMNATION OF SINNERS, Works, vol. 1; 669).
In light of this, it is merely the pleasure of God Himself that His wrath did not fall on us last night, or last week, or last year. In fact, it is very evident that God has been remarkably patient with us all.
So then, if facing the full brunt of the wrath of God for all eternity is the worst possible calamity, then the greatest deliverance becomes immediately clear. To be saved, is to be rescued from the wrath of Almighty God.
In His love, God sent His Son to deliver us or rescue us from His eternally fierce wrath against our sin. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 declares, “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
Romans 5:6-9 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”
Question: Whose love is it?
Question: Whose wrath is it?
It was God’s idea to save all who believe in Christ from the ultimate calamity, the fierceness of the wrath of God.
What a deliverance! What a rescue! God sent His Son to save us from His wrath. To put it in clear terms – we are saved by God, from God, for God!
On the cross, Jesus bore our sin, and God poured out His wrath on Him, in our place. He took the punishment we deserved as He bore our sins in His body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus bore the wrath of God on behalf of His people. All who believe in Him as Savior and Lord are forever rescued from this wrath. But for those who do not receive the Son of God, God’s wrath is being revealed (Romans 1:18) and the full brunt of that wrath will be meted out in judgement.
To these, Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:12-13)
The scripture declares, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3) The answer to this rhetorical question is clear. If we neglect this great salvation, there will be no escape. Indeed, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)
So again, here’s the good news: “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13
Call out to Him now.
A SUMMARY OF THE GOSPEL
Man was created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
“Worthy are you, our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things.” (Rev 4:11) “Do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).
Man has failed to glorify God and is under His just condemnation.
“For all have sinned…” (Rom 3:23). “The wages of sin is death…” (Rom 6:23). “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction” (2 Thes 1:9).
Jesus fully bore the wrath and suffered the punishment sinners deserve. Not wishing that sinners perish forever, God determined to save a people for Himself in the Eternal Son who became a man and lived the life we should have lived and died the death we justly deserve. God loves sinners and sent His Son to be the wrath absorbing sacrifice for their sin. (1 John 4:10; John 6:37) He gave His life “as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45) and “rose again” from the dead (2 Cor 5:15) on their behalf.
All who, by the grace of God, turn to Jesus in repentant submissive faith are forgiven and begin a life-changing, eternally satisfying relationship with God! “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mk 1:5). “in Your presence is fullness of joy” (Ps 16:11).
“”Saved by God, from God, For God” by Pastor John Samson of King’s Church in Phoenix, AZ – http://www.kingschurchaz.com/Gospel.html
Lecture #3 Delivered at Toronto Baptist Seminary and Bible College — March 1988
Introduction. One of the memorable things uttered by Abraham Booth (1734-1806) in his useful book, The Reign of Grace, is this one, “The indelible motto inscribed by the hand of Jehovah on all the blessings of the unchangeable covenant, is, to the praise of the glory of His grace.”1 The question that is before us in this lecture is, “Preaching the Grace of the Spirit’s Calling,” and it, too, has the indelible motto of to the praise of the glory of His grace inscribed upon it. It has its origin in the absolutely free favour of God.
In simple terms the question is, “How and why do we come to Christ?” There are two sides to the matter, but in this lecture we are concerned only with one. From the human side it is plain to evangelical readers of God’s Word that we come to the Son of God by the instrumentality of faith (cf. Rom. 3:21–26; Eph. 2:8–10).
From the divine side of the matter many and different answers have been given. Pelagians have said, “I came by myself,” denying grace altogether. Semi-Pelagians have said, “I wanted to come, and God helped me,” denying prevenient grace, but admitting cooperative grace, if man first chooses to come. Arminians of evangelical stripe have said, “God gave me sufficient grace to come, because Christ died, and I cooperated, admitting total inability, but claiming sufficient grace becomes efficient when we cooperate.” Lutherans have answered, “God brought me, and I did not resist,” reserving for man only the power of resisting grace. Calvinists, those who believe in sovereign grace, have answered simply, “God brought me to Christ” (cf. Gal. 4:9, “are known”).
It is difficult to understand why the Arminians are attracted to sufficient grace. Sufficient grace of itself enables a sinner, not to believe, but to be morally responsible to believe. Without sufficient grace Arminians believe the sinner, dead in sins, is not responsible for a condition in which he does not have the ability to extricate himself. To free man from his natural inability of will and make him responsible is the reason for the invention of the doctrine. It is, of course, not taught by any text of the Bible.
However, since it does not have the power to save without the exercise of man’s free will, how does this help matters? The individual with sufficient grace is now responsible by the Arminian doctrine, but in himself he is still without the power to turn to God, for evangelical Arminians believe in man’s total inability as Wesley did. If, however, the man who was totally unable to turn to God is not responsible without sufficient grace, but now with sufficient is responsible, although still totally unable of Himself to turn to God, how is this bestowal of sufficient grace an act of divine grace? Would it not be better to not have sufficient grace, for then men would not be responsible and, thus, assured to God’s salvation? God, to be most gracious, ought to give no grace! To illustrate, let us suppose a convicted murderer awaiting execution in jail contracts tuberculosis. His constant coughing convinces his prison doctor that he will cough himself to death before the day of his execution. The doctor comes to him and says, “I am pained that you are suffering so. I am giving you some medicine to take. It will not cure you, but it will strengthen you and keep you alive until you can be hanged”! Sufficient grace is similar. It gives men strength of will sufficient to make them responsible and thus to justify God in sending them to perdition. I fail to see the grace that the doctrine conveys. In fact, it seems clearly to underline the fact that by this system man is only saved by his own free will act. In other words, God can do nothing for a man until that man does something for himself. The ground of God’s salvation is shared by man with God. Is that New Testament teaching?
The teaching of both John and Paul makes distinct contributions to the debate over calling (cf. John 6:37, 43–45, 65; Rom. 8:30; I Cor. 12:3; 2 Thess. 2:13–15), and we turn now to the Scriptures.
I. THE THEOLOGICAL BACKGROUND OF EFFICACIOUS GRACE
External calling and internal calling. External calling, also called General Calling, is the declaration of the plan of salvation, with its command to repent, its appeal to motivations (such as fear, hope, gratitude), and its promise of acceptance through faith.
Internal calling is the effectual work of the Spirit, by which men are savingly influenced to salvation. Grace is the initiation of the work; calling is the result of the action of grace. The calling comes from the Spirit, as distinguished from the Word (cf. John 3:27; 6:37, 45, 64–65; I Thess. 1:5–6)). The Bible teaches the two calls. Of the objects of the one it is said, “Many are called, but few are chosen,” but of the other it is said, “whom he called, them he also justified “ (cf. Prov. 1:24 [1st]; John 6:45 [2nd]; Rom. 8:29–30).
The description of efficacious grace. Efficacious grace, which secures the saving internal call, is a divine influence on the human spirit. The Apostle Peter refers to efficacious grace when he writes of the scattered saints, describing them as “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood” (I Pet. 1:1–2). The sanctifying work of the Spirit that precedes the obedience and sprinkling of the blood, as the order of the words indicates, is the work of the Spirit that sets apart the elect to faith and salvation. Our Lord speaks of this work as the drawing of the Father, who does the work through the Spirit (cf. John 6:44).
The term “draw” in John 6:44 is a key-word in the doctrine, being, in fact, the biblical word for the work of efficacious grace. Bernard’s comments are excellent. “elknein is used in the LXX of Jer. 31:3 of the Divine attraction: ‘With lovingkindness have I drawn thee.’ It is used of the attractive power of Christ Crucified in Jn. 12:32, occurring elsewhere in the N. T. only at Jn. 18:10 (of drawing a sword), Jn. 21:6, 11 (of dragging a net ashore), and Acts 16:19 (of dragging Paul and Silas to the magistrates). It seems generally to connote a certain resistance on the part of that which is ‘dragged’ or ‘drawn,’ and this may be involved in its use in the present verse (but cf. Cant. 1:4).”2 Astoundingly, William Barclay, after giving all of this data from Bernard, comments, “Always there is this idea of resistance. God can and does draw men, but man’s resistance can defeat the pull of God.”3 Not one of the uses of the verb suggests this.4 Calvin’s comment is clarifying, “As far as the manner of the hearing goes, it is not violent so as to compel men by an external force; but yet it is an effectual movement of the Holy Spirit, turning men from being unwilling and reluctant into willing.”5
As Donald Grey Barnhouse used to say, “If you have made a decision of the will that is according to God’s will, it is because God has first jiggled your willer! “
The words, “the Father who sent me,” in verse forty-four should be noted. “The correlation between the subject: He who sent me, and the verb draw should be observed,” Godet says, “the same God who sends Jesus for souls, draws each soul to Jesus.”6 Should He have waited until asked to come? The final clause, “and I will raise him up on the last day,” refers to the consummation of the process that the Father’s drawing began. Between the two events lies the growth and development of the believer’s spiritual experience.
Efficacious grace operates immediately upon the human spirit, although usually in the context of the consideration of the Word of God (cf. I Cor. 2:12–15). It is supernatural, an overcoming of man’s deadness, blindness, deafness, and hardness of heart.
Some years ago when I was giving a series of lectures in Believers Chapel in Dallas, Texas, on soteriology, one of the members of the class, a young woman, came to me after the meeting and asked a number of questions that indicated that she did not understand very well the lesson that evening, which happened to be on efficacious grace. She spoke of “a very good man” she knew, a Roman Catholic, who “had everything going for him.” She went on to tell me how difficult she was finding it to reach him for the Lord. And then she said, “The only thing that will move him is a bolt from the blue.” I replied, “Kris, that is efficacious grace!” I tried to encourage her to wait for God’s necessary “jiggling” of his will.7
The infallibility of efficacious grace. The elect is subject to moral and mediate influences upon the will, common to him and to the unconverted, which he may and does resist because of sin. He is also subject to a special influence from the Spirit within the will, which is neither resistible nor irresistible, according to Hodge, because it acts from within and carries the will spontaneously with it. For this reason Hodge prefers the term, “effectual grace.8
II THE NEW TESTAMENT TEACHING ON EFFICACIOUS GRACE
The Johannine teaching. One of the important sources of the Johannine teaching, to which we have already made reference in discussing the use of the word draw, is found in John six. The Jews were murmuring over the great revelation concerning the Bread of Life who had come down from heaven (cf. John 6:38, 42). The Lord does not answer their objection, based upon His known parentage, but goes right to the heart of the matter. They must be “taught of God” to respond to His teaching on His heavenly origin.9 Whispering will not help; teaching from God will.
The forty-fifth verse spells it all out, it is repeated in verse sixty-five. “Here is a fundamental doctrine of the Fourth Gospel,” Bernard points out, “viz. that the approach of the soul to God or Christ is not initiated by the man himself, but by a movement of Divine grace.”10 The truth is adumbrated in 4:23, where the Father is said to seek His true worshippers (cf. 12:39: the dark side of predestination). The impossibility of anyone coming to Christ without the Father’s drawing was implied in the statement of verse thirty-seven, but it is stated in the forty-fourth verse. We will not go over again the plain statement of the necessity of the Father’s drawing for salvation, except to reiterate that the drawing is an effectual drawing in which the Father turns men from unwillingness to willingness.
The significance of the forty-fifth verse is sometimes overlooked. There a citation from Isaiah 54:13 is found, and it serves to explain that the drawing is scriptural teaching. In context the text refers to the messianic covenant community of Israel, the recipients of the covenantal blessings. They who belong to the Messiah need no instruction from men; they carry within themselves the effects of the divine instruction. The “all” must be understood in the context of the prophet. It is the “all” of the messianic community. The following “everyone who has heard” simply individualizes the specific “all.” Our Lord, then, makes an application of a timeless principle in the divine dealing with men. To be taught of God is to be drawn by God (cf. I Cor. 2:13; Phil. 3:15).
The Father’s drawing involves three steps, the next sentence affirms: (a) hearing; (2) learning; (3) coming. The Father takes the initiative and teaches. Everyone who listens and learns will come. The hymn, “0 Happy Day,” has at least one stanza that I like,
“Tis done: the great transactions’s done, I am my Lord’s, and He is mine; He drew me, and I followed on, Charmed to confess the voice divine”
It is Calvin’s contention that verse forty-five overthrows free will, for he comments, “The whole faculty of free will which the Papists (and Arminians, we might add) dream about is utterly overthrown by these two clauses. For if we begin to come to Christ only when the Father has drawn us, neither the beginning of faith, nor any preparation for it, lies in us. On the other hand, if all come whom the Father has taught, He gives them not only the freedom to believe but faith itself. When therefore we willingly obey the Spirit’s guiding, it is a part, as it were, sealing, of grace. For God would not draw us if He only stretched out His hand and left our will in a state of suspense. But He is properly said to draw us when He extends the power of His Spirit to the full completing of faith. They are said to hear God who willingly submit to God when He speaks within them, because the Spirit reigns in their hearts.”11
The Pauline teaching. In Romans 8:30 two points may be made that apply to the matter in hand. First of all, in the order of the steps in the divine continuing providential purpose it is important to notice that calling is given a place before justification, effectively indicating its place in time as a pre-salvation work.
And second, it should be remembered that the root, kaleo, meaning to call, in the epistles of Paul always refers to an effectual call (cf. I Cor. 1:1, 2, 26; Gal. 1:16; 2 Tim. 1:9–10). The aorist tenses look at the actions as complete and, thus certain, without reference to time.
An important passage for the subject of efficacious grace is 2 Thessalonians 2:13–14, concerning which James Denney has said, “The thirteenth and fourteenth verses of this chapter are a system of theology in miniature.”12 In the main that is correct. The thanksgiving is meant to encourage the Thessalonians, especially those agitated by the reports mentioned in 2:1–2.13 The verb heilato (NASB, “has chosen“) is used nowhere else in the New Testament of the doctrine of election, although it is so used in the Old Testament (cf. Deut. 6:18; 7:6–7; 10:15; cf. Phil. 1:22). Normally in its New Testament uses it refers to man’s choosing, not God’s (cf. Phil. 1:22; Heb. 11:25). If the reading ap’arches is genuine (NASB, “from the beginning”), then it refers clearly to eternal election here.14 The tense and voice of the verb lay stress on the choice as an event (in the past here) in which God has a personal interest. He chose us for Himself.15
The choice is from eternity, not from the time the gospel was preached in Thessalonica, as some would have it. Cf. I John 2:13; Matt. 19:4; Eph. 1:4.
The soterian, the purpose of the choice, is in this context final salvation, inclusive, of course, of the initial salvation from the penalty of sin. The method of accomplishment is important for the subject of efficacious grace, or effectual calling, and here Paul says that the salvation is “through (lit., in) sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (NASB). The sanctification is pre-salvation sanctification, or effectual calling, as the order of words suggests. The same order we have seen in I Peter 1:2. The “Spirit” is the Holy Spirit. Paul, then, as John insists on a pre-salvation gracious work of the Spirit before salvation. One does not come to our Lord or to salvation apart from it.
Two passages from I Corinthians complete our brief survey of Pauline teaching. The first is I Corinthians 8:3, where we read, “But if any one loves God, he is known by Him.” The construction of the original text is such that God’s knowing of the one who loves Him precedes the believer’s love of Him.16
The second passage is I Corinthians 12:3, and the important clause for our purposes is the final one, “except by the Holy Spirit.” Lenski comments, “Whoever confesses Jesus as ‘Lord’ has the Holy Spirit in his heart.”17 Calvin follows along the same line, saying that all things pertaining to the knowledge of God are gifts of the Holy Spirit, and then, “Hence, too we perceive how great our weakness is, as we cannot so much as move our tongue for the celebration of God’s praise, unless it be governed by his Spirit.”18 Unless He opens our mouths, we are not fit to be the heralds of His praise (cf. Isa. 6:5, “man of unclean lips”). Cf. Jer. 20:7.
Commenting on John 6:45, Berkouwer says, “This absoluteness of giving, drawing, and learning we meet not only in John, but also in the radical and exclusive testimony of Paul when he says, for instance, that ‘no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit’” (I Cor. 12:3). The message of Scripture repeatedly accentuates that human inability. The impotence of man is not something pessimism has discovered; it is most literally described in Scripture (cf. John 3:27, I Cor. 2:14, Rom. 8:5, 6, 7, 8.”19
There are many illustrations in Scripture of the working of efficacious grace, but two stand out, one in the Gospel of Luke (14:16–23) and the other in the Acts of the Apostles (16:11–15), the latter incident in which the Lord “opened” Lydia’s heart to the things spoken by Paul being an almost perfect illustration of the truth. We do not have space in this paper to expound the texts.
III THE PRACTICAL EFFECTS OF EFFICACIOUS GRACE
The magnification of the divine purpose. Salvation is the work of God. It, therefore, is not hurried along, or effectuated, by stronger appeals, mightier arguments, more sparkling personalities, more telling illustrations, longer invitations, keener psychological insight, better eye-catching pedagogical helps or methods, and we must not forget it. On the other hand, we do not contend that it is helped by insipid thinking, windowless sermons, shunning of aids in teaching that the Spirit lays before our eyes. Salvation is the work of God, and His purpose shall be accomplished in His time (cf. John 6:39–40).
The senselessness of discouragement. The sense of discouragement, so frequently felt when the response is slight, is often a form of self-centeredness ultimately. Our need is faithfulness in our faith in His Word. May the Lord enable us to persevere in it.
Abraham Booth, The Reign of Grace (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949 [reprint of 16th London ed.]), pp. 47–48. H. Bernard, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St.John, ed. by A. H. McNeile (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark,1928), I, 204.
William Barclay, The Gospel of John (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1955), I, 226.
Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), p. 371.
John Calvin, The Gospel According to St John: 1-10, ed. by David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance, trans. by T. H. L. Parker (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959), I, 164.
Godet, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, trans. by M. D. Cusin and S. Taylor (3rd. ed; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1887), II 238. Believers Chapel, Dallas, Texas, March 24, 1970. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972 [orig. enlarged ed., 1879]), pp. 449–53. Bernard, I, 203.
Ibid., I, 204.
Calvin, I, 165.
James Denney, “The Epistles to the Thessalonians,” The Expositor’s Bible, p. 342.
James Everett Frame, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), p. 276.
George Milligan, St Paul’s Epistle to the Thessalonians (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1908), p. 106. Other recent commentators, such as Marshall and Morris favor “from the beginning,” arguing that, in spite of several things that may be said for “as a firstfruits,” it is difficult to make good sense of it here. The ap_arxhs is probably the correct reading (AV; NASB, “from the beginning”), since Paul never uses it elsewhere, and it has good manuscript support. WH accepts it, but the Aland text has aparxhn, largely because ap_ arxhs occurs nowhere else in the Pauline corpus and, when arxh does, it usually has a different sense, and aparxh occurs six other times in Paul. Cf. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London: United Bible Societies, 1971), p–p. 636–67. The decision in this instance is not an easy one.
One would expect the middle voice of the verb to be prominent from the verbal idea of election itself. Cf. Eph. 1:4 (also a verb in the middle voice).
The tense of the verb “loves” is a present tense, while that of the verb “is known” is a perfect passive, clearly showing that the knowing by God precedes our loving of Him. “The sense rather is, If a man loves God, this is a sign that God has taken the initiative,” Barrett says (C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians [New York and Evanston: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1968], p. 190).
C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians (Columbus: Wartburg Press, 1946), p. 494.
John Calvin, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1960), p. Cf. Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987), “As in 2:10–13, only one who has the Spirit can truly make such a confession because only the Spirit can reveal its reality” (p. 582).
C. Berkouwer, Divine Election, trans. by Hugo Bekker (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1960), p. 49.