Faith is A Gift From God – Yet Single-Predestination is True

We are saved by grace through faith.  

John 3:16 – ““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Romans 4:4-5 – “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”

Faith is not our work but the work of the Holy Spirit.

Titus 3:5 – “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

1 Corinthians 12:3 – “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.”

John 1:12-13 – “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 – ““For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Ephesians 2:4-5 – “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”

Romans 9:16 – “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”

John 6:28-29 – “Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

We are incapable of deciding to have faith.

1 Corinthians 12:3 – “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.”


Ephesians 2:1-5 – “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved

John 1:12-13 – “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

John 6:44 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

1 Corinthians 2:14 – “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

Any verse about being born again indicates this also, for what role do we play in our natural birth?  None.

Since faith is purely a gift of God and we play no role in our conversion, then it could be assumed that God then chooses who will be saved, and also chooses who will not be saved. 

This is what scripture teaches in this matter:

God elects/predestines to salvation!

Romans 8:29-30 – “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. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

2 Timothy 1:8-9 – “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”

Ephesians 1:3-13 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”


It is the will of God that no man should perish!

1 Timothy 2:3-4 – “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

2 Peter 3:8-9 – “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

It is never written anywhere in scripture that God predestines people to Hell!  If someone goes to Hell it is because of their sin and their rejection of God.  We do not have the ability to accept God, but we have the ability to reject Him! 

The Following is what we have read in Scripture:

  1. We are saved by grace through faith.
  2. Faith is not our work but the work of the Holy Spirit.
  3. We are incapable of deciding to have faith.
  4. God elects/predestines to salvation (not damnation)!
  5. It is the will of God that no man should perish!

This is a paradox – Single-Predestination (God only elects to salvation!  Damnation is all on us!)

This is monergism – God alone is the one who works conversion.

If we say that faith is not solely a work of the Spirit, but that we play an active role in our conversion we would ignore parts of scripture.  We would ignore points 2, 3, and 4.

If we say that faith in conversion is solely a work of the Holy Spirit and thus God predestines some to heaven and others to hell, we would ignore parts of scripture.
We would ignore points 4 and 5.

To teach that God predestines to both salvation and damnation is called Double-Predestination and it is taught by Calvinists. This teaching is also called monergism.

Five Points of Calvinism

T – otal Depravity
U – nconditional Election
L – imited Atonement
I – irresistible Grace
P – reservation of the Saints

Five Points of Arminianism

  1. Free-will, human-ability
  2. Conditional Election (Election is Foreknowledge)
  3. General Atonement (Objective Justification)
  4. The Holy Spirit can be resisted.
  5. Falling from Grace

Lutheranism Rejects

L, I, and P of Calvinism

And

Points 1 and 2 of Arminianism

Does this matter?

Arminianism – Our works are involved in salvation, which can cast uncertainty on our salvation.  Do I believe enough? Do I have too many doubts?  If one work is involved, the tendency is to insert more required works. 

Calvinism – Jesus didn’t die for everyone.  God doesn’t love everyone.  Apathy towards evangelism. And how do I know that I have faith? I can’t just look to Jesus and know that my sins are forgiven, because didn’t die for everyone. I must look to my own works to see if I am bearing the fruit of repentance, but God is to be the judge of that, not me.

Both of these systems of theology point people inward to their work for justification and not outward to Christ.

Proper Application of Election

  1. For our comfort.
  2. God saves us unconditionally.

You are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, apart from any of your works.

107. Godparents – What Are They For?

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Godparents 2

 

In this specially requested episode, Andy returns from a long hiatus with a Reconnect episode on the role of godparents in baptism and in the life of their godchildren. 

 

 

Show Links

Episode 70: Does Baptism Save You?

Episode 99: Lutheran Theology Part 4

“Does Baptism Save You?” by Andy Wrasman

“Means of Grace Questions” by Andy Wrasman

“What is Baptism?” by Andy Wrasman

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3 Damaging Impacts of the Church’s Neglect of the Doctrine of Creation

The doctrine of creation is crucial for the Christian story in three ways: in the initial creation (God made everything that exists and it was very good), in the liberation of creation (Jesus came to redeem and save the world – that is all of creation that was utterly wrecked by the Fall of Man), and in the restoration/correction of creation at Christ’s return (God is making all things new! – Revelation 21:5).  Creation is a key component in the Christian story in the beginning, middle, and end. 

Revelation 21-5

I think this doctrine is neglected the most within the Church in our teachings concerning the final act of Christ’s full restoration of creation in which all things will be made new.  Having this doctrine intact radically changes the “salvation package.”  Often times because of the neglect of this doctrine in this key part of the Christian story of salvation, the presentation of the Christian message is relegated to the two-fold imputation of justification – the teaching so excellently explained in Bill Bright’s Four Spiritual Laws:

1.) God loves you and created you to know Him personally; 2.) Man is sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know Him personally or experience His love; 3.) Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through Him alone we can know God personally and experience God’s love; and 4.) We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience His love.

As a Lutheran, I recognize that the individual reception of Christ is done through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 John 1:12-13), but other than that distinction, these “Four Spiritual Laws” pretty well summarize the way I have presented the Gospel to people – and as many other Lutherans I know have done as well – except that we, as well as many other Protestants, would add some little tidbit about when we die we’ll be with the Lord forever! End of story.  Yet the resurrection of the dead and the restoration of all creation at Christ’s return is the true end (or do I say beginning?) of the complete and final hope Christ has in-store for us! 

The neglect of not having a fully developed endgame of Christ’s return in view is damaging in three ways: it makes us think death is a good thing for the Christian, it leads Christians to function as Gnostics, and it diminishes the hope we have in Christ. 

First, it makes us think of death as our friend.  Even my four-year old daughter has picked up on this false-narrative.  She recently heard that someone’s grandmother died, and she immediately said, “Well death is good, because then we get to see Jesus.”  It’s true that we get to be with Christ when we die in faith, but that death is not good!  I’ve even emphasized the resurrection of the dead at Christ’s return with my young daughter, but she’s still picked up on this placating view of death.  Our spirit would be with Christ at death, but that’s not who we really are – we are body and spirit – and even at that moment of being with Christ though disembodied – much more is still wrong in the world that is not yet restored to its sinless glory.

Two – focusing almost exclusively on the salvation of the spirit, and not the full humanity of spirit and body, has in some ways led Christians to function as Gnostics – valuing the spiritual over and above the physical.  Obesity runs supreme in the Church (at least in some states or regions) and no one bats an eye about it – while we keep offering donuts as the “snack” at Church.  Online churches are now a thing – along with a special designated pastor who is called the Online Pastor.  We likely don’t think so much about the care of God’s creation either – one example – the number of chickens slammed into a shed with artificial light stacked on top of each other in in cages crapping on the ones below, getting vaccinated relentlessly against the new diseases that emerge from their environment, and if the chickens get to walk out on a concrete patio for some sparse minutes each day, they can be labeled as “free-range.”  Probably not the best stewardship of chickens and our source of eggs – in fact I know it is not, but I don’t really care, because I can get my eggs cheap!

Third, and finally, maybe most devastating is that we have lost sight of the greatness of the hope that we have in Christ, a full and total restoration of creation, a making of all things new again.  The good gifts of God in this life should be expected to be present in the world to come.  The things we love to do in this life that are good, we should expect to partake of them in some way in the life to come (most of them at least).  We’re going to be stewards of God’s re-creation – the new creation at Christ’s return that will be without sin, without curse, and with God visible and in direct relationship with us while we tend to what he has made.  What Jesus has in store for us at his return is so much more to live for than that cheap image of floating on a cloud with a harp or singing praise songs forever and a day in an eternal worships service that is so often pitched to us due to the woeful neglect of the doctrine of creation in our Christian story.


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The Sacraments are Signs

One of your elders comes to you with a question about the Apology of the Augsburg Confession.  “It says in Apology 13 that the sacraments are ‘signs and testimonies of God’s will towards us’ (AP 13.1).  My Baptist friends say that the sacraments are symbols too.  How is this any different?”

Trigger Warning

Elder John, I am glad that you are reading the confessions and mulling over their meaning. This is a very good question.  I tend to forget the wording of that passage of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession.  When a Baptist calls the sacraments signs, he means that the Body of Christ and the Blood of Christ are not actually present in communion, and that baptism does not forgive one’s sins or unite one to Christ or gives one new life and an adoption into the Kingdom of God.

I’m actually surprised that you’ve encountered Baptist friends who would even call baptism and communion as sacraments.  They usually refer to the sacraments as ordinances, meaning that they are being obedient to Christ’s commands when they are baptized or take communion.  When you ask a Baptist what baptism is the typical answer is that baptism is “his public commitment to be a follower of Christ.”  When you ask a Baptist what communion is the typical answer is that communion is “a remembrance meal in which he remembers Christ’s suffering for him.”  You can notice by these short explanations of what baptism and communion are to the Baptist that he views them as acts that he does, and he does them because Christ tells him to – hence the Baptists call them ordinances.

Lutherans however view the sacraments quite differently.  We agree with the Baptists that they are instituted by Jesus.  However, we see that they also have the promises of forgiveness of sins attached to them in Scripture – hence we call baptism and communion means of grace.  They are ways in which God has promised to deliver grace to us.  They are the promises of the Gospel connected to or with a visible and external element – in baptism it is the Word with the water and in communion the Word with the bread and wine.  Because we have not striped the promises of God’s forgiveness and grace from the sacraments we trust that in baptism we are united with Christ in his death and resurrection and that in communion we are drinking not just bread and wine but also the very body and blood of Jesus Christ, literally tasting the forgiveness of sins as we eat and drink.

The confessions refer to the sacraments as signs, because of the promises God has given to us in the gracious gifts of baptism and communion.  The physical elements and the words that accompany them are signs and witnesses of God’s will towards us.  We know that is his will that no man perishes, but that all come to repentance and be saved.  We see that in the waters of baptism that wash away our sins and unite us in Christ’s death and resurrection.  We see that in the meal in which we eat his body broken for us and drink his blood shed for the forgiveness of all our sins.  We believe these gifts are actually present and active in the sacraments trusting that the Holy Spirit is working through them to strengthen and preserve our faith and give us the assurance that we are saved.

The assurance that we have of salvation in the sacraments comes from the promises of the Word of God that accompanies the water, bread, and wine.  Yet, the assurance also comes from the external and physical nature in which these promises come to us.  We are physical people.  Jesus came to save us physically. The Word became physical flesh. We are saved by the shedding of his physical blood. We are saved by his physical death and resurrection. God still comes to us today physically.  He comes to us through physical water with the Word.  He comes to us with physical bread and physical wine with the Word. It’s assuring to hear our sins are forgiven in the Gospel proclamation, but it’s also assuring to have our sins physically washed away and to be able to physically touch, taste, and smell the forgiveness of our sins.

We should feel sorrow for our Baptists brothers who have turned the gifts and gracious promises from Christ to his Church into works of the law and thus works of men.  We should feel sorrow for them that they have nothing external that is from God to look to and to touch and to feel to know that they are forgiven.  Because Baptists have denied monergism (that God alone works in salvation), they have involved their work in salvation – even if it is just the work of faith; it is a work that casts doubt on their assurance and certainty of salvation.  Since faith is the work of men in Baptist’s theology, Baptists can be plagued with the questions: “Have I believed enough?” and “Do I have too many doubts to be saved?”  To answer these internal questions, they have nowhere to look outside themselves for assurance of God’s “signs and testimonies of God’s will towards us.”  So typically, they look to their external works for that assurance of faith, since Scripture promises that we will bear fruit in Christ… but we’re still sinners and we cannot accurately make such judgments without falling into self-righteousness or despair.  Again, I say we should feel sorrow for our Baptist friends who have turned God’s gracious gifts in the sacraments into ordinances (commands that we must obey). 

Roman Catholicism on Justification by Grace Alone

A friend of yours who is a Roman Catholic asks you the following question: “When I hear descriptions of the Reformation, I usually hear that the distinctive feature of Lutheran theology is that we are justified by grace alone.  But my church also teaches that we are justified by grace alone.  So is there any real difference between us on this part?”

To be clear the Reformation distinction is more nuanced than just saying we are justified by grace alone.  The distinction is that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and that we know all of this by Scripture alone.  The Calvinist reformers typically add that all of this is to the glory of God alone.  The word alone is spoken in all of these prepositional phrases to stress that our individual works, or merits, are completely void in our salvation.  Grace does not involve our works.  Faith is not our work.  Christ’s work alone is where our faith clings for salvation.

This is not what Rome means when Roman Catholics speak of being saved by grace alone.  For Rome, our works are still involved in our justification.

To demonstrate this point directly, one can look at the Council of Trent’s Cannons on Justification:

If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).

And…

“If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema” (Canon 14).

Anathema is a very strong word.  It means accursed or eternally condemned.

Such statements reject the Reformation teaching that justification is completely void of our works.  A rewording of Canon 9 from the negative stance to the positive would state that “something else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that this is in every way necessary.”  To my knowledge Rome never states directly that we are justified by grace and works, but such statements push one to such a conclusion.  To demonstrate in more detail how Rome teaches that our works are involved in justification, one only needs to look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching on this doctrine:

Justification includes the remission of sins, sanctification, and the renewal of the inner man” (CCC, par. 2019).

“No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods” (CCC, par. 2027)

In the first quote from the CCC, it is plainly stated that justification includes not just the remission of sins, but also sanctification and the renewal of the inner man.  This definition of justification points us not to the work of Christ alone for our justification, but instead it turns us inward on ourselves.  How am I doing?  Am I progressing enough in sanctification?  Am I experiencing this inner renewal day by day?  When we are honest with ourselves and uphold the full instruction of God’s commands and demands for us, such an inner turn for our justification can only lead to despair.  Since in Rome’s definition of justification, the work of Christ alone and his righteousness are not the sole means by which we are justified, we lose all assurance, confidence, and certainty of salvation.  The second quote I provided from the CCC details this further with the clear words that “we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life.”  Merit by definition involves my works, and according to Rome, I am even capable of working to merit the graces necessary for the eternal life of others too!

These graces that I can merit are found in the seven Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. Concerning the graces of these sacraments, the CCC states:

“The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions” (CCC, par. 1131).

Here the CCC stresses that to receive the graces proper to each sacrament one must receive them with the required dispositions – this again involves our merit, our work.

In Reformation theology, justification is the work of God alone.  Our work, or merit, or required disposition, is not a qualifier for our justification at all.  In Reformation theology, justification is instantaneous – at the moment of faith – a person is declared justified, declared righteous in God’s sight on account of Christ’s righteousness, though we are still sinful.  Sanctification in Reformation theology, unlike in Roman Catholic theology, is distinct from justification; in Reformation theology, it is not part of justification, but in Roman Catholic theology it is, as was previously quoted from the CCC.  Sanctification is a process, a life-long process of becoming less and less sinful, more and more like Christ and his image of perfect righteousness.  This process is not always a constant upward motion of increased holiness.  There are dips and valleys in this life-long process of sanctification, which is in Reformation theology is viewed as the process of becoming what we were already declared to be in justification.  This process is never complete this side of heaven.

This proper distinction of justification and sanctification in Reformation theology gives the person who has received God’s grace through faith the assurance and confidence that his or her sins are forgiven, because on account of Christ’s innocent, bitter suffering and death, that person is truly forgiven – instantly at the moment of faith.  In Roman Catholic theology, because there is no proper distinction between justification and sanctification, one cannot look to Christ’s saving work through his death and resurrection alone.  The person must look at their process of growing in holiness as the gauge of their justification.  Since the person will always have sin in his or her life and since God alone is the true judge of righteousness, the Roman Catholic who believes the doctrines of the papacy will have no assurance, no comfort, and no confidence of his or her eternal salvation.  This wreckage to our certainty of salvation is what inserting our work into justification always produces.