And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:2
The essence of the nature of a debate between believers is that you are contending for the truth of the Scriptures. And while this is a noble endeavor and should be engaged in by every believer for the edification of the church (in love), what is ignoble in this task is letting such things divide and stifle fellowship between genuine believers who both love Christ. To Arminians I disagree with on such points as regeneration, atonement, and election, I can agree and stand with them on about 95% of other theological points, and should do so. No genuine believer wants to take credit for their salvation. And so we unite together under the person and work of Christ on our behalf in His life, death, and resurrection, through faith. And while I believe that an issue such as regeneration affects all other points of salvation and is vitally important to Gospel preaching, I believe that if God has granted me a greater knowledge in this particular area of Scripture, it is no credit to me at all, but to God’s gracious and merciful hand giving me a greater vision of man’s plight in sin and what lengths Christ really had to go to in order to make us willing to go to Him for salvation. And so if I have a greater knowledge of the work of Christ and salvation, 1) I believe I am tasked to share it, but 2) I am to share it humbly, with love and brotherly affection! If I do not share in brotherly affection (as I have been prone to do in the past), what good is that to my brother or sister in Christ whom I want to impart truth that has radically changed my vision of God? How am I going to convince an Arminian of total depravity, unconditional election, Christ’s definite atonement, His irresistible grace at the time of belief, and Christ’s preservation unto final salvation, if I am a jerk to them about it? And has it truly affected my heart the way it should if I do not approach others humbly concerning these things? And how can I not be patient with others who are struggling with these difficult topics after having seen the extreme and infinite patience of Christ in the cross?
And really if anyone thinks they have a greater grasp on Biblical things than someone else (Calvinist or Arminian), if it does not humble them or bring about the fruits of the Spirit in their life (Gal. 5:22-23), what glory is that to God? Is our final end not to bring about the glory of the grace of God in Christ (Rev. 13:8)? How do fellowship divisions with other believers bring about glory to God? If anyone loves Christ, they have been called into fellowship with God and one another, even though there may be points of contention. This is how John Wesley and George Whitefield preached together, they were united in the cause of Christ, the preaching of the Gospel. Christ purchased this gift of fellowship through His blood on the cross. How wonderful!
Now there are some points that we cannot move on such as the full humanity and full deity of Christ, the fact that all men are sinners, deserving of eternal wrath from the hand of God, sacrifical atonement through the blood of Christ, justification, the resurrection, virgin birth, etc, that if we dismiss these, we will lose the Gospel entirely which is no hope to the world at all. And I personally believe Calvinism is a point I cannot move on as well, but I must be loving and patient and kind with believers who disagree. True? There are points of theology I have strong convictions about and will disagree all day long with an Arminian on concerning the nature of salvation, because I believe these things really do affect the effectiveness of the preaching and application of the Gospel to both the unbeliever (unto salvation) and believer (in sanctification and spiritual growth). However, I do not believe these things should be ground for breaking fellowship with them because I believe both genuinely preach the Gospel, and both love and desire to honor Christ; and neither is better spiritually than the other just because one may have a greater grasp on knowledge of the Gospel the other may not. The one with the greater knowledge should be more humbled! Understanding a certain point of theology does not gain us any greater acceptance before the Father, and this goes for both the Calvinist and the Arminian. We are saved by sheer grace through the cross. What a wonderful banner to stand under together, the crucified and risen Jesus Christ!
I really like what Charles Simeon had to say to John Wesley when they met together; however understand that while Simeon could unite on things they agreed on, he was not afraid to call error out when he saw it, just keep that in mind:
Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?
Yes, I do indeed.
And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?
Yes, solely through Christ.
But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?
No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.
Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?
What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?
And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?
Yes, I have no hope but in Him.
Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree. (Moule, 79f)
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