Romans 8, pt.2

Tonight we are reading through Romans 8.  Within this chapter, we come across two verses that lie at the crossroads of one of the major theological disputes in the modern Western Church.  The question is whether we have any role in our own salvation, and if not, upon what basis can God condemn.  Early in his letter, Paul reminds us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (3:23) and that the wages of sin is death (6:23). Our only hope is the grace of God.  But if grace is a free undeserving Gift that we cannot acquire on our own merit, then upon what basis does God grant grace to us?  The answer to the question is contained in verses 8:28-29: “For those whom he foreknew, he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son . . . And those who he predestined he also called, and those who he called he also justified, and those who he justified he also glorified.”  

The Reformed/Calvinist tradition teaches that God predestines to election those whom he foreknew at the foundation of the world and positively intervenes in their lives calling them to justification and to be glorified.  For others, he simply withholds his grace giving them over to reprobation and damnation.  As Article XVII of the 39 Articles states: 

Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God’s purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God’s mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.

If God has not chosen to give you his grace from the foundation of the world, too bad. (This is what John Piper and the Gospel Coalition teach.) Fundamentally, this tradition teaches that:

T: Total depravity – Every facet of every person everywhere has been marred by sin.

U: Unconditional election – God chooses those to be saved based solely on His will.

L: Limited atonement – Christ died only for those who are elect.

I: Irresistible grace – The elect cannot resist God’s call to salvation.

P: Perseverance of the saints – The elect cannot lose their salvation.

Alternatively, the Arminian/Wesleyan tradition teaches that God’s “predestination” is based upon God’s foreknowledge of how the individual will respond to God’s grace which is offered to everyone.  In responding to the double predestination found in the Church of England (and particularly Article XVII), John Wesley preached his sermon On Predestination.  Within this sermon, Wesley takes the text of Romans 28-29 to refute the then-prevailing Reformed/Calvinist tradition.  Wesley objects to the Reformed tradition as denying the universal salvation offered by God and by denying our own free will to accept or reject that offer.  Fundamentally, this tradition teaches that:   

D: Diminished depravity – Humanity is depraved, but God uses prevenient grace to restore man’s ability to respond to Him.

A: Abrogated election – God bases His election on His foreknowledge of those who freely choose Him.

I: Impersonal atonement – Christ died for everyone, making salvation possible for everyone.

S: Sedentary grace – God calls everyone to salvation, but many freely reject it.

Y: Yieldable justification – The saved can fall from grace and lose their salvation.

As you prepare for tonight, think through what you believe Paul is saying in these verses.  If our salvation is wholly dependent upon God, is there any room for free will?  Alternatively, if we have a role in our own salvation, even if it is to only “have faith”  is our salvation based upon a “work.”  How much faith do you need to get into heaven? Do you have to have the “right” faith to make the cut? Do both Calvin and Wesley get our ultimate destination wrong?

Dinner is at 6.  The menu is chicken tandoori.  Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.

God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time. 

1Timothy 2:4-6

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