From the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter VII, Sections V & VI:
I honestly haven’t been impacted by a sermon like this in a while. Justin Taylor has already blogged about this, but I think it’s worth repeating. God’s Outrageous Love is a sermon R.W. Glenn gave at John Piper’s church, Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN a couple of weeks ago. It’s a message on Jonah 4 and how outrageous it is that God loves any of us. Here is a quote: “Until you’re outraged by God’s love, you’ll never think it’s outrageous; until you’re offended by God’s love, you’ll never be overwhelmed by it.” This was really convicting and yet at the same time pointing to the greatness of the mercy of Christ. Highly recommended!
If you really want to dive deep into the implications and ramifications of God’s grace and mercy to us in Christ, you really need to take the time to listen to this series of sermons on Romans 9 by John Piper. It is unfortunate these passages get skimmed over, ignored or nuanced to such a great degree there is nothing left but hollow theology. There is gold here if you will spend the time with it. Romans 9 answers these questions (though Romans 10-11 continues the answers as well):
- “If God has made such great promises to us in Christ that will NEVER fail (as explained in Romans 8), why is it that a majority of Israel rejected Christ, the only One who could save them?”
- “If all of Israel is not saved, and God’s promises have failed them, what are we to make of the promises of God given to us in Romans 8?”
- “Is God required to show mercy to everyone?”
- “Is God free to show mercy to whom He pleases?”
- “Is God bound by what the creature does or doesn’t do, or is He free to do as He pleases, to His own glory and for His own purposes?”
- “From where did our faith come from?”
As I have been reading through Genesis the past couple of weeks, something has become clear to me as the story line has progressed. We all know the story of Jacob and Esau, well, at least some of you reading might. As Paul says and properly interprets of this story in the latter part of Genesis, particularly as he says it in Romans 9:10-13, “When Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'”
Now of course everyone’s first immediate reaction to Romans 9 on election in particular is that this story of Jacob and Esau Paul cites is talking about God electing their temporal lots in life, not their eternal lots. And even then, the election spoken of, so goes the popular thought, is one of groups of people, not individual people, that is the election of Israel instead of Edom, as opposed to Jacob and Esau. That is at least how most people immediately interpret it nowadays, so as to lighten the hardness of the verses that come after these later in Romans 9.
“To suppose that we are delivered from the law in the sense of such obligation would bring contradiction into the design of Christ’s work. It would contradict the very nature of God to think that any person can ever be relieved of the necessity to love God with the whole heart and to obey his commandments.” – John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, pg.44
Many would seem to suppose we are freed from the obligation of the law of God as a result of the reconciliation provided through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. However, as Paul points out in Romans 3:31, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” Not on the basis of yourself, but on the basis of the reconciliation you’ve experienced in Christ, and His fulfillment of the law, by his power, now obey it. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1) As John Owen says, “To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect.” We are reconciled to God in order that we may now freely obey Him from the heart, in order that we may glorify Him with our lives. We have been enabled, by His power to now gladly submit to His law. So indeed, the law absolutely has a place in the life of the believer. Tim Keller puts this very succinctly, “The gospel is ‘I am accepted through Christ, therefore I obey’ while every other religion operates on the principle of ‘I obey, therefore I am accepted.'” The difference is vital to see.
“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 2:8-9
“Christian! The only thing that makes you differ from the vilest being that pollutes the earth, or from the darkest fiend that gnaws his chains in hell, is the free grace of God!”
– Octavious Winslow
“This [conversion of the will], I maintain is wholly the work of God, because, as the Apostle testifies, we are not ‘sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves,’ (2 Cor. 3: 5.) Accordingly, he elsewhere says, not merely that God assists the weak or corrects the depraved will, but that he worketh in us to will, (Philip. 2: 13.) From this it is easily inferred, as I have said, that everything good in the will is entirely the result of grace.”
– Calvin, Institutes, II.VI
“Christ has conquered all in his own person first, and he is ‘over all, God blessed for ever’ (Rom. 9:5), and therefore over sin, death, hell, Satan and the world. And, as he has overcome them in himself, so he overcomes them in our hearts and consciences. We commonly say that conscience makes a man kingly or contemptible, because it is planted in us to judge for God, either with us or against us. Now if natural conscience be so forcible, what will it be when, besides its own light, it has the light of divine truth put into it? It will undoubtedly prevail, either to make us hold up our heads with boldness, or abase us beneath ourselves. If it subjects itself, by grace, to Christ’s truth, then it boldly faces death, hell, judgment and all spiritual enemies, because then Christ sets up his kingdom in the conscience and makes it a kind of paradise. The sharpest conflict which the soul has is between the conscience and God’s justice. Now if the conscience, sprinkled with the blood of Christ, has prevailed over assaults fetched from the justice of God, now satisfied by Christ, it will prevail over all other opposition whatsoever.”
– Richard Sibbes
“I know that through grace you are saved, not of works, but by the will of God, through Jesus Christ.”
“Now, the wonder of wonders is, that we are proved guilty, and yet we are justified: the verdict has been brought in against us, guilty; and yet, notwithstanding, we are justified. Can any earthly tribunal do that? No; it remained for the ransom of Christ to effect that which is an impossibility to any tribunal upon earth. We are all guilty. Read the 23rd verse, immediately preceding the text—’For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.’ There the verdict of guilty is brought in, and yet we are immediately afterwards said to be justified freely by his grace.”
– C.H. Spurgeon
“Is the Will Free by Nature or By Grace?” – John Hendryx (personal commentary below)
It’s very important to define the term Free Will. Many will discuss this and get into arguments with others over whether it does or doesn’t exist, when really there needs to be some more explaining to do on both ends. But because emotions run high, and because terms are not defined from the beginning, arguments get out of hand and both parties sin as a result in treating their brother in Christ wrongfully, or at the very least walk away completely misunderstood.
Free Will can essentially be defined as this: choosing what we desire most. That’s really all there is to it. I don’t think either a Calvinist or an Arminian can disagree with that. I have a choice presented to me to eat either pizza or tacos. At a given moment I may desire tacos more than pizza and therefore I choose tacos. We choose what we desire most. So I have the ability as a free agent to make choices based on what I want. So how does Free Will fit into this? What is it that I want apart from the grace of God stepping in to change me? Well, it’s very clear from Romans 8:7-8, Romans 3:9-18, and many other places, that our wills and our desires, including every other facet of our existence, is bound up in sin, slaves to sin. Sin is our master apart from the work of God to incline us to Himself. So apart from the intervening work of the Holy Spirit, what is it that we desire most? Sin, wickedness, trampling on the glory of God; anything but the living God. Even the benevolent things done to others that are done without giving glory to God, done without faith, is sin (Romans 14:23).
Therefore, as a result, though we are free to make choices and are responsible for those choices, our very choices are always bent toward sin and rejecting Christ and will never choose Christ, apart from being regenerated first by the Holy Spirit in order that we irresistibly desire Christ and as a result choose Him. God must first choose to regenerate us to even be able to want Christ (1 John 4:19). So yes in one sense, Free Will doesn’t exist because apart from an inward change by the work of the cross, we will always choose sin because that’s what we desire most, and so we are enslaved to sin. But in another sense we have the ability to choose one thing over another and are responsible for that choice. But our desires are corrupted by sin and we therefore choose sin and are unable to submit to the law of God and the Gospel. I write all this to point out that we must define our terms when debating with those in disagreement with our position, and more than anything be loving to them, just as Christ has loved us and gave Himself up for us.
So what is our hope, if we are bound in sin, unable to submit to the law of God and the Gospel? What can we do? By the power of the cross of Christ alone, believe in the name of Jesus and you will be saved. For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Not only does God provide the answer in Christ, but He also graciously provides the means to attain to that grace, namely the gift of faith and repentance. What God demands of us He freely gives us in Christ. “To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect.” – John Owen.
Our hope lies not with our abilities, our will, our strength, our moral resolution to attain to God’s good favor, but with God alone and His power, appropriated through the cross of Christ. He must first regenerate us and as a result He will give rise to our faith. Just as in creation, He creates light in the darkness, from the void brings forth life. It is the same in salvation. And this work by God was made possible by the cross of Christ and His resurrection from death. Not only has He bought the salvation of some for sure through His work, but He also bought everything necessary in order for us to believe, purchasing even the gifts of faith and repentance (Ephesians 2:8, 2 Timothy 2:25). Therefore, if you know Him, cry out in gratitude that He looked upon you in the condition of bondage to sin and fall at His feet in worship. And if you don’t know Him but see Him as good and yourself as dreadfully sinful and beyond your own repair, throw yourself at His feet and cry out to Him to have mercy on You in your sinfulness and wickedness, granting you the gifts of repentance and faith. Cry out as the man in Mark 9:24, “I believe; help my unbelief!” The Lord is ready and willing.
To read more on this, you definitely have to read J.I. Packer’s very short section on free will in his book Concise Theology. In addition, check out the entire section on Free Will at Monergism.com. (both below)
I was just considering what a great and wonderful God we serve (we who believe in Christ that is). Words cannot sum up how wonderful He is. First of all, He secured our eternal destinies by His blood out of pure love, from no other motivation other than to glorify Himself and show His immmense love toward us. By making a sacrifice at great expense to Himself, He secured our salvation so that we could spend eternity with Him, forever enjoying His presense, the way it was designed to be before the fall. I am so amazingly grateful not so much for material blessings (though I am greatly thankful for that), but more, I am so grateful that Christ purchased me on the cross with His blood. I would be totally lost, a ship without a rudder had it not been for His eternal sacrifice paid for by Christ bearing the wrath of God in Himself. He is so wonderful, majestic, creative, beautiful, glorious, powerful, sovereign, loving, kind, just, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, omnivorous (jk), patient, kind; He is everything I am not. Jesus Christ is what makes me whole. I praise God that He chose to save sinful, loathsome me from an eternity without Him. He is my all in all, my great Comforter. He is pure and holy, beyond expression. Praise God that Jesus Christ didn’t simply die but that He also rose from the grave by the power of God! With this wonderful hope in Christ, we will be raised to kingship to reign with Him for all eternity, forever glorifying the God of grace. And not only do we receive all of these eternal blessings (many not yet experienced to their fullest), but we get to experience them now (to a degree)! That is just wonderful and drives me to the cross to constantly experience His forgiveness and pardon based upon His finished work. Thank You, Father, that You did not abandon me to my sin, allowing me to pursue the desires of my heart to their fullest, thus hardening me to a life of sin and eternal damnation. Praise You God that You sought me and changed me when I was not seeking You. Praise You that You are the almighty King that for whatever reason (pure love) You decided to rescue me from my sin, myself, and the result of that life, hell. Jesus You are everything to me, and I pray You would pour out Your Holy Spirit in me that I may show you to all I come into contact with, that all may see and know that You are Lord, the Sovereign King, through which the whole world came into being. I love You. God is so amazingly gracious …