This is part of a series in which I will be critiquing my old book, “Calvinist Verses? Responding to the Errors of Calvinism.” When I began writing that book at the beginning of 2012 I was an Open Theist and began to lean towards the Classical Arminian position some time during that year.
In my last post I began to interact with my old post discussing Calvinism’s understanding of the biblical phrase, “dead in sin.” This post was originally posted on January 18, 2012. My critique of the original post will be in bold.
God, like the father of the prodigal, does not want people to be lost. He wants all men to come to repentance. For this reason he sends both his Spirit and his Church to testify to the world of the salvation that is in Christ Jesus (John 15:26-27). The Spirit’s work is to “convict the world” about its sin (John 16:8-11). Note that the scripture says that the Spirit convicts “the world,” not people who have already been born again, but those who are dead in their sins. And by the power of the Spirit we are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). Through us God cries out to the world, “Be reconciled to me.” God reaches out to the world and convicts them of their sins, pleading with them to come home. Those that receive His Son through Spirit inspired faith will be given the right to become children of God (John 1:12-13).
The lost are spiritually dead in the sense that they are relationally separated from God. Those dead in sin have no power to “come to their senses” if they are left alone in their sin. But God does not leave them alone. God desires to be reconciled to them so he sent Jesus to die for them. And now he sends the Church to preach the good news of God’s desire for reconciliation; and he sends the Spirit to convict them of their sins. Those that respond to this gracious work of conviction with Spirit inspired faith and repentance will be reconciled to God and adopted as his children (i.e. spiritually resurrected).
In this last section of the post I see some previous presuppositions I had that do not really make any sense to me any longer. I agree that God does not desire for anyone to perish but desires all men to come to repentance. The Scripture is clear that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. God has compassion on all men. That is, for their sakes, He would be pleased if they would turn from their rebellion and be saved from His eternal wrath.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you, how often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not!
But on the other hand, we must not imagine that God will be weeping for all eternity over rebellious men who hated Him and spurned His generous offer of eternal life through the blood of His only begotten Son. God will be glorified as He manifests His just wrath on rebels for all eternity. For their sakes He desires for them to repent and be saved, but His glory is not diminished in the least by their damnation.
A third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out in full strength into the cup of His anger. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. The smoke of their torment will ascend forever and ever. They have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image and whoever receives the mark of his name.
Does the potter not have power over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, willing to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He previously prepared for glory, even us, whom He has called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles?
Mankind is not unable to come to Christ for salvation, they are unwilling! God sends His Gospel to all men with a sincere offer of peace if they will only forsake their sins and accept the sacrifice of Christ that is sufficient to wash away the sins of every individual. He does send His Spirit to confirm His message by convicting them of sins. The problem is that they hate Him, His Spirit and the Gospel of His Son. So instead of repenting they gnash their teeth in anger and wish they could crucify Christ all over again.
In the section above I can see that I imagined I had defended the honor of God by insinuating that He tries His very best to bring all men to saving faith, but I believe I did not fully understand what I was so confidently affirming. I do still believe that the Gospel is offered to all, and God would be delighted for all to accept it. But He knew from all eternity that sending His Son to die for His enemies, sending His offer of peace to them in the proclamation of the Gospel and even confirming the truth of His message by His Spirit would avail nothing to the wicked and rebellious hearts of men. But God’s determination to have a Bride for His exalted Son would not be thwarted, so He predestined to call a particular people out by His almighty persuading grace.
God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah? How he pleads with God against Israel, saying, “Lord, they have killed Your prophets and destroyed Your altars. I alone am left, and they seek my life”? But what is the divine reply to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So then at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
For we know, beloved brothers, your election by God. For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance…. For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ…
1 Thessalonians 1:4-5, 5:9
For observe your calling, brothers. Among you, not many wise men according to the flesh, not many mighty men, and not many noble men were called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. And God has chosen the base things of the world and things which are despised. Yes, and He chose things which did not exist to bring to nothing things that do, so that no flesh should boast in His presence. But because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, whom God made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
1 Corinthians 1:26-30
The Bible is clear that men are rebellious creatures that are hostile to God. It is also clear that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but would rather they come to repentance and escape His wrath. Nevertheless, He knows they will never come even when He offers them peace at the cost of His Son’s blood. This does not mean His plan to glorify His Son and magnify His grace with be thwarted, or that God will be weeping over the death of His enemies for all eternity. No, God will rejoice to see His Son on the throne next to His Son’s perfected Bride. And He will rejoice to see His justice and power poured out for all eternity on those who not only rebelled against His commands, but also killed His Son and arrogantly rejected His costly offer of mercy.
I am afraid that I did not understand in the past that the Bible, and the Gospel, is not primarily about the salvation of sinners. God’s primary concern is not saving as many hell-deserving rebels as He can. His primary purpose in the creation of the world is to glorify His one and only Son. He does this by calling out a people who would never come on their own, turning their rebellious hearts into hearts that love Christ and obey His commands and ultimately displaying them as objects of grace for all eternity.
…making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself, as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Christ, which are in heaven and on earth… so that in the coming ages He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 1:9-10, 2:7