What Is Arminianism? ~ J. I. Packer

What Is Arminianism?1

Historically, Arminianism has appeared as a reaction against Calvinism, affirming, in the words of W. R. Bagnall, “conditional in opposition to absolute predestination, and general in opposition to particular redemption.”2 This verbal antithesis is not in fact as simple or clear as it looks, for changing the adjective involves redefining the noun. What Bagnall should have said is that Calvinism affirms a concept of predestination from which conditionality is excluded, and a concept of redemption to which particularity is essential, and Arminianism denies both. The difference is this. To Calvinism, predestination means foreordination, whereas to Arminianism it means only foresight of events not foreordained. On the Calvinist view, election, which is a predestinating act on God’s part, means the foreordaining of particular sinners to be saved by Jesus Christ, through faith, and redemption, the first step in working out God’s electing purpose, is an achievement actually securing certain salvation—calling, pardon, adoption, preservation, final glory—for all the elect. On the Arminian view, however, what the death of Christ secured was a possibility of salvation for sinners generally, a possibility which, so far as God is concerned, might never have been actualized in any single case; and the electing of individuals to salvation is no more than God noting in advance who will believe and qualify for glory, as a matter of contingent (not foreordained) fact. Whereas to Calvinism election is God’s resolve to save, and the cross Christ’s act of saving, for Arminianism salvation rests neither on God’s election nor on Christ’s cross, but on a man’s own cooperation with grace, which is something that God does not Himself guarantee.

Drawn from Packer’s excellent introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (first published in 1647). The title to this introduction is simply “Arminianisms.” The work is also found in this collection of Packer’s writings: Puritan Papers – Vol. 5, 1968-1969. We hope to continue to pull some quotations from this work in the next few months, and you will see why in the next paragraph.

This week we will be focusing on some Canons of Dordt items in connection with the 400th anniversary (1618-19/2018-19). There are some new and exciting resources available on the “great Synod” and its work. Watch for these posts in the days to come!

If you wish to continue reading Packer’s essay, visit the link below.

Source: Arminianisms | Monergism

Merry and Blessed Christmas 2018!

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From our home to yours, we wish all our family, friends, and readers a merry and blessed Christmas Day 2018! May the peace and joy of our Savior Jesus Christ be yours today and in the New Year.

In late September we were blessed with grandchild number 12 (Gale Owen, on grandma’s lap). And we are expecting number 13 in late January from our son and daughter-in-law in Arizona. We are thankful for the goodness of God’s covenant and for His mercy to us in all our circumstances.

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Have a beautiful and blessed day celebrating and worshiping the Christ born in Bethlehem, now exalted on high in glory, and soon returning in power with final salvation for all His own.

The Christmas gospel from the perspective of Hebrews 2:

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,

12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.

13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.

14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

An Open Letter to the Depressed Christian at Christmas | Crossway Articles

As difficult as it may be to bring up this time of year, it is a harsh reality that some of God’s children find the end-of-year holidays to be anything but happy and celebratory. Not because they do not rejoice in the first coming of Christ the Savior or lack hope for His second coming, but because the season brings its own share of burdens, reminding these saints of and stirring up special pains that contribute to dark clouds and deep sorrows.

With this in mind, Dr. David Murray (Puritan Reformed Seminary) penned an “open letter to the depressed Christian at Christmas” on the Crossway website. His comments and comfort are timely and necessary for many in this time of year. I pray that it will be helpful to those of you who know such clouds and sorrows in this season.

Here is a portion of Murray’s article; find the full article at the Crossway link below.

Dear Friend,

Depression is tough at the best of times. Perhaps it’s the best of times, such as holiday times, when it’s especially tough. The thought of mixing with happy people fills you with dread. The thought of remembering lost loved ones fills you with gloom. How can people be so happy when you are so sad? How can people celebrate when you are in mourning? It jars your soul and scrapes your tender wounds, doesn’t it?

You may want to run away and hide from the noisy busyness and the social obligations. Or you may want to lash out at the insensitive and uncaring people who exhort you to “Cheer up!” Or maybe you just want to drown your sorrows with binge drinking, binge eating, or binge TV-watching. But none of these options—running out, lashing out, or pigging out—will improve your depression. Indeed, they will only make it worse.

But, of course, the author does not stop here. Listen as he begins to offer the help and hope we need:

Let me propose a better way that will enable you to carefully navigate this holiday season while also contributing to your long-term healing.

Pray

I know prayer is perhaps too obvious, but sometimes we miss the obvious. Bring your burden to the Lord, tell him your fears and dreads, and seek his help to push through these daunting days. Lament by saying “Lord, I don’t want to give thanks, I don’t want to celebrate Christmas, and I don’t want to live through another year.” Admit, saying: “God, I can’t stand happiness right now and I can’t abide people.” Confess: “This is wrong and sinful, but I can’t seem to change.” Plead: “Lord, I am weak, I need your power, I need your patience, I need your joy.” Promise: “I will rely on you alone to carry me and even use this time for my help and healing.”

Share

Not everyone among your family and friends understands depression; but some do, as you know. Give them a call, or, better, meet with them, and talk to them about what you dread during this season. Ask them to pray for you and to support you in the coming days. Ask them to stay by your side in social settings, to protect you from those who don’t understand, to accept your silences, and to help you withdraw quietly when you have reached your limits of socializing.

Source: An Open Letter to the Depressed Christian at Christmas | Crossway Articles

Christ’s Poverty, Our Riches – Rev. M. De Vries

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The idea is, therefore, that Christ was manifesting toward His people a favor completely undeserved when He came into the world and became poor though He had been rich. That appalling poverty characteristic of Christ’s life was something that He willingly took upon Himself because Christ was gracious towards His people. The emphasis falls upon Christ’s perfect obedience and willingness to suffer. It speaks to us of that glorious truth that although it was painful beyond description for Christ to become so poor, nevertheless, He eagerly and anxiously seized upon this poverty because the deepest motives of His heart were for the people whom He loved. No price was too great to pay for them; no humiliation too bitter; no suffering too great; no poverty too lowly.

But what makes this grace appear so wonderful is the fact that He became poor for us because we are so very, very poor! O, not in the material sense. It is true, we may not be materially wealthy; we may have financial struggle. But, for the most part, we have an abundance of material things. Undoubtedly, you will receive many nice material gifts this season. But, remember, material riches mean nothing! Spiritually, we are very poor, by nature. We are poverty-stricken, spiritually bankrupt in ourselves. This poverty is the terrible poverty of sin, of death, of the curse, of hell! It is a poverty far more awful than the worst of material poverty. Do you recognize that poverty as yours? The whole church for which Christ died is poor, spiritually destitute. Think of the corrupt host for which Christ died, of the wretched sinners we all are, even now. If you think of your own terrible poverty, the poverty of a nature completely depraved, then you can see something of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He, being rich, was made poor, on our behalf.

There is no other explanation for it but GRACE – undeserved favor. Christ was under no obligation to come into our poverty. He did not have to come to Bethlehem! He certainly did not have to save you and me! It was grace!

sb-logo-rfpaFound in the Meditation on 2 Cor.8:9 by Rev. Michael DeVries (Kalamazoo PRC) in the December 1, 2018 issue of the Standard Bearer. A fitting reflection for us in this Advent season.

A Great Light in the Deep Darkness – H. C. Hoeksema on Isaiah 9:6

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…Particularly at Isaiah’s time, this [the shining of a great light in darkness, cf. Is.9:2] must have been marvelous to him because of the circumstances of God’s people. The faithful people of God were disheartened; they were inclined to be blackly pessimistic; there did not seem to be much hope for them. Although Isaiah is also in that darkness, he sees a great light arising in far-off Zebulon and Naphtali – tribes that at this time did not even belong to the house of David. He is amazed to see people leaping and dancing for joy as in the day of harvest and rejoicing as those who divide the spoils of battle. They are free from all foreign domination, and they rejoice in a day of great glory.

In the center of this picture is the son, the child [Is.9:6]. The prophet beholds him in a blaze of light. The government – the rule, the dominion, the prerogative to rule – is upon his shoulder. His is the right, his is the calling, and his is the power and wisdom to rule over God’s people. He sits as the everlasting king upon David’s throne. He is Christ, who from eternity was ordained of God the Father and who in his exaltation received all power in heaven and on earth to rule forever over all things in the name of God. That son, who sits on the everlasting throne of David, is the reason and the cause of this leaping and dancing and rejoicing.

The darkness is a figure. Surely the domination of the Assyrians was a historic reality, but only as Assyria was the representative of the great antichristian world power that will dominate God’s people at the end of time. As dominated by the great power of the world and by the prince of darkness, they are by nature in darkness and in the shadow of death – not in physical darkness, but in the darkness of sin and guilt and death and misery, for they are in the might and the power of Satan and of hell.

In that night Jesus kindles the light. No, he is the light! He comes with royal might; he fights and overcomes in his suffering and his atoning death; he fights and overcomes in his resurrection and exaltation; he has the victory in his return by his Spirit and word, and he shall have the victory in everlasting perfection and fullness when he returns for judgment. He is the one who actually delivers his people from all earthly and spiritual bondage and dominion, who gives them the victory, and who causes them to rejoice and to divide the spoils of battle.

redeemed-judgment-HCH-2007Taken from Redeemed with Judgment: Sermons on Isaiah (Vol.1) by Homer C. Hoeksema (ed. by Mark H. Hoeksema; Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2007), pp.149-50.

This is part of the fifteenth sermon, “The Royal Son of the Dawn” based on Isaiah 9:6.

Local Gospel Proclamation: “Worshiping Witnesses”

Back in October, our Faith PRC did a congregational “workshop” on personal evangelism. It was well attended and very profitable. And it generated some good discussion that night and afterwards.

I was thinking of it again today when I came across again today a helpful perspective on the role of the local congregation in evangelism I read recently in the November issue of Tabletalk.

The author, Lowell Levy, is a Presbyterian church-planter, and in his article (linked below) he approaches the subject from the viewpoint that evangelism has as its purpose not only to see sinners saved but also to see a body of worshipers formed. That leads him to point to the local church’s calling to be “worshiping witnesses” as disciples of Christ.

I will let Levy speak for himself on this idea, as he develops it at the end of the article. Good food for thought on this Sunday after we have been in God’s house of worship.

So, how do we proclaim Christ and the gospel as His worshiping witnesses?

We recognize that gospel proclamation begins in the local church. It begins with our faithful, enthusiastic participation in the body of Christ. We make public worship our highest priority in life. Remember, we are proclaiming Christ. But unless we proclaim Him as worthy of the highest place in our lives—the place of worship—our words will not penetrate jaded postmodern ears.

We commit ourselves to earnest and fervent prayer. As John Bunyan said so memorably, “We can do many things after we pray, but we can do nothing until we have prayed.” We pray for the preaching of the Word on the Lord’s Day. We pray that the Word would bear fruit in the hearts and lives of all who hear it. We pray that the Word would bear fruit in our own hearts and lives, making us more effective witnesses of Christ. We pray for opportunities to proclaim the gospel in the regular routines of daily life.

We love our neighbors as ourselves. We consider what God has done for us in Christ. We consider God’s love in causing us to hear the gospel when we were dead in our sin. And we respond to that love. We overcome the fear of man by faith. We love those in our little mission fields with the love of Jesus Christ. We invest time in them. We invite them into our homes. We invite them to church. We love them enough to speak to them of Christ.

How is any of this possible? Because Christ Himself is with us locally by His Word and Spirit: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

Source: Local Gospel Proclamation

The Perfect Wisdom of Our God

At the “Evening of Praise” program tonight at Grandville High School Auditorium (an annual fundraiser for Heritage Christian School Foundation) we were privileged to hear a variety of vocal and instrumental music again. From piano duets to strings to voices in trios and groups, young and old joined in praise to God.

One of the numbers the Daling Family Trio sang was a song written by Stuart Townend and composed by the Gettys (Keith and Kristyn). The title is “The Perfect Wisdom of Our God,” (from their album “Hymns for the Christian Life”) and is based on a variety of Bible passages that speak of God’s wisdom , especially Rom.11:33.

Here are the beautiful lyrics to the song:

The perfect wisdom of our God
Revealed in all the universe:
All things created by His hand
And held together at His command.
He knows the mysteries of the seas,
The secrets of the stars are His;
He guides the planets on their way
And turns the earth through another day.

The matchless wisdom of His ways
That mark the path of righteousness;
His word a lamp unto my feet,
His Spirit teaching and guiding me.
And O the mystery of the cross,
That God should suffer for the lost,
So that the fool might shame the wise,
And all the glory might go to Christ!

O grant me wisdom from above,
To pray for peace and cling to love,
And teach me humbly to receive
The sun and rain of Your sovereignty.
Each strand of sorrow has a place
Within this tapestry of grace;
So through the trials I choose to say:
“Your perfect will in Your perfect way.”

The video below records Kristyn singing the song and shows the lyrics.

It was a good night for leading us into the worship of the day of our risen Lord tomorrow.

The Question of True Thanksgiving

“What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of

salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.”

Psalm 116:12, 13

It is the question concerning true thanksgiving!

What shall I render unto the Lord?

But what does the psalmist mean? Does he have in mind to somehow reimburse the Lord for His goodness? Is the psalmist reasoning thus: that whereas the Lord has been so gracious to him that now he would do something for the Lord in return? God forbid! Nay, rather, the question implies a negative answer. He realizes that he is wholly impotent to bring anything to the Lord. How could finite man ever reward the Infinite? Is He not the All-Sufficient One in Himself? What is there that could make Him richer or more glorious than He is? And what can the creatures bestow on the Creator which He does not already possess? Is there anything in the world that is not His? Reward the Lord? You? I? Are not all the cattle on a thousand hills, and all the gold and silver His? Nowhere is there anything that I could bring to Him that He does not already claim as His own. What then?

The answer to the question is: NOTHING!

God-glorifying answer!

The sinner who thinks he can repay the Lord, does not know Him! The sinner who is crushed, overwhelmed by Jehovah’s goodness, knows he can bring nothing. He knows that his God has given him all these benefits in such a way that he could never give anything in return, in order that God alone would receive all the glory.

Is there no way then in which the child of God can give expression to the thanksgiving which overwhelms his heart?

O, indeed, there is! Let the psalmist show you!

I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord!

The cup of salvation!

The cup is a figure of what is allotted to one, what one receives—whether good or bad. Scripture speaks of the cup in several different ways: cup of blessing, cup of iniquity, cup of wrath, etc. Here it is the cup of salvation, that is, the salvation allotted to me in God’s favor. Symbol of Jehovah’s great deeds in effecting our salvation.

That cup the psalmist resolves not only to take, but to lift up! He will hold it high, as before the face of His God, and in the sight of all men. He would have it to be known what has made him to rejoice and for which he is so thankful; namely, that all of Jehovah’s benefits which flowed to him in such abundance came to him from the God of his salvation. All of these benefits were with the divine intention to save him. He was lost in sin and misery, he was undone, and utterly unable to save himself. Jehovah delivered him from the sorrows of death. Jehovah dried up all his tears, and kept his feet from falling. In Christ Jesus he now is righteous before God, and counted worthy of eternal life and glory.

And lifting up the cup of salvation, he will call upon the name of the Lord!

You see, the name of Jehovah is upon each benefit which is in the cup of salvation. As the psalmist lifts up the cup and beholds all the benefits of salvation it contains, he sees also written upon each one the name of Jehovah his God. And seeing the name of Jehovah emblazoned on each benefit, he calls out that name.

He cannot keep this wonderful observation to himself. He must call out loudly, so that all may hear him.

This is true thanksgiving!

The only thanksgiving pleasing to God!

For you see, in that cup of salvation which the psalmist lifts up, and which each child of God should lift up, is revealed the God of his salvation in all the work of His saving grace, saving us unto the uttermost. In that cup of salvation he sees the God of his salvation coming down to him in the Person of His Son and uniting Himself to our nature, in order that in that nature He could assume our guilt and pollution, so as to remove it. In that cup he sees the Son of God in our nature and in our stead, hanging on the accursed tree, under the vials of divine wrath, satisfying God’s justice for our sins. In that cup he sees his Savior suffering, dying, and rising again from the dead as a testimony of our justification. In that cup he sees the Captain of his salvation lifted up into the highest heavens to God’s right hand, where He receives power over all things to overcome the devil and his hosts, and to apply His salvation to our hearts. In that cup he sees the God of his salvation through the Spirit of Christ sanctifying and delivering His own from sin’s corruption, renewing their hearts, and making them in principle new creatures, transforming them into the image of His Son. In that cup of salvation he sees also all the graces of Christ as they have been made to dwell in his own heart: love, joy, peace, and thanksgiving, etc. O, yes, also thanksgiving. That, too, has the name of Jehovah his God attached to it. So that when he thanks God for His great salvation and for all things, he is doing nothing more than reflecting the name of the God of his salvation. It is never so that God saves us, and we thank Him. But it is always so, that we must thank Him that we may thank Him; for also thanksgiving, true thanksgiving, is the fruit of His saving grace.

So, in the entire matter of our salvation, God, and God alone is the Author and the Finisher from beginning to end, in order that His also may be all the praise and thanksgiving.

What then shall the children of God render unto God for all His benefits toward them? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!

All they can do, yea, must do, and forever will do by His sovereign grace, is lift up the cup of salvation which contains all the benefits of salvation meted out to them, and on which is emblazoned the name of Jehovah their God—and then call out so that all may hear it—the Name of Jehovah, their God.

This is the thanksgiving that is pleasing to Him!

Source: The Question of True Thanksgiving

Adoption Isn’t Charity—It’s War – R. Moore

A little while ago while sorting through today’s emails, I learned it is National Adoption Day. It was Crossway publishers who pointed me to that fact, in an email highlighting some new articles published on it’s website.

Perhaps, like me (ordinarily), you might be tempted to pass over a highlighted article on adoption, and just delete the email and move on to the next. But if you have an adopted child in your immediate family (as we do), you stop and pay attention. Because you realize how significant one adoption is. And how special one adopted grandson is.

The same is true if there is an adoption in your broader family (as there is in ours and will be soon again), in your church family (as there is in ours at Faith PRC), and among your friends (as we too have). And when you hear the testimony of an adopted son about his Christian father and the influence he had on this son throughout his life (as we heard from a dear cousin last night at a very special family reunion), then you realize the power and blessedness of earthly adoption by Christian couples and families.

A gift from God our Father to His children. A means of grace. Yes, in the life of one lost soul. Multiplied thousands of times, one soul at a time, from all over the world, including nearby neighborhoods. Taken in by love, surrounded by love, raised in love, and pointed to true love. God’s, in Jesus. So that that adopted child comes to know and embrace and confess that divine love. And rejoices (glories!) in what God has done. For him! For her! And believing parents and siblings cry with joy, and treasure God’s work.

And then you better understand the picture of a higher, greater, deeper reality – what the Sovereign of salvation has done for you (for me!), another lost orphan in this cruel world of sin and darkness. You see, you and I were abandoned by the Prince of this world (a pretentious but pernicious father!) who promised us everything but left us nothing – destitute, deserted – in reality, dead.

But that Father on the heavenly throne looked on you and me with the eyes of love (because His heart was so full of it for you!), took us up His arms and placed us in His only-begotten, beloved Son, through Whom He bought us and took us home (O, what a family He has!). And then He took the Spirit of His Son and sent Him to change us from dead sinners into living children of the Father, from utterly destitute into the richest sons and daughters in the world, and in the world to come.

Deserted no more, we have fellowship with the Father, in the Son, through the Spirit, and belong to the biggest and best family in the world (the church of Jesus Christ)! It is the grandest adoption of all! If you doubt it, read Ephesians 1-3 again. And fall to the ground in praise of that glorious grace.

And then think about what that earthly picture can mean in a Christian family and church family. And ponder its implications for us.

Russell Moore has some things for us to think about in that Crossway article for National Adoption Day. Yes, he may write from a theological perspective different from our Reformed, covenantal perspective. But he writes as a Christian man and as a saved-by-grace sinner who knows what earthly adoption means because of his heavenly one. So, listen and learn from what he says. He don’t have to agree with everything. Just take the heart of it. Because that comes from the heart of our Father above.

Here is part of what Moore writes; find the rest at the link below.

The gospel of Jesus Christ means our families and churches ought to be at the forefront of the adoption of orphans close to home and around the world. As we become more attuned to the gospel, we’ll have more of a burden for orphans. As we become more adoption friendly, we’ll be better able to understand the gospel. We are being called to look forward to an adoptive missional church. I want to call us all to consider how encouraging adoption—whether we adopt or whether we help others adopt—can help us peer into the ancient mystery of our faith in Christ and can help us restore the fracturing unity and the atrophied mission of our congregations.

It is one thing when the culture doesn’t “get” adoption. What else could one expect when all of life is seen as the quest of “selfish genes” for survival? It is one thing when the culture doesn’t “get” adoption and so speaks of buying a cat as “adopting” a pet. But when those who follow Christ think the same way, we betray that we miss something crucial about our own salvation.

Adoption is not just about couples who want children—or who want more children. Adoption is about an entire culture within our churches, a culture that sees adoption as part of our Great Commission mandate and as a sign of the gospel itself.

Source: Adoption Isn’t Charity—It’s War | Crossway Articles

The Psalms and Christians’ End: Life in Fellowship with God

The hope of Christians is directed to the return of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead. In the Psalter [book of Psalms] this hope is not expressed literally. [One could argue with the author on this point, shewing that certain Psalms speak quite directly to this hope. For Bonhoeffer goes on to say] …Life in fellowship with the God of revelation, the final victory of God in the world, and the setting up of the messianic kingdom are objects of prayer in the psalms.

The Old Testament is not different from the New in this respect. To be sure, the psalms request fellowship with God in earthly life, but they know that this fellowship is not completed in earthly life but continues beyond it, even stands in opposition to it (Psalm 17:14f.). So life in fellowship with God is always already on the other side of death. Death is, to be sure, the irrevocable bitter end for body and soul. It is the wages of sin, and the remembrance of it is necessary (Psalms 39 and 90). On the other side of death, however, is the eternal God (Psalms 90 and 102). Therefore not death but life will triumph in the power of God (Psalms 16:19ff.; 49:15; 56:13; 73:24; 118:15 ff.). We find this life in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and we ask for it in this life and in that to come.

The psalms of the final victory of God and of his Messiah (2, 96. 97, 98, 110, 148-150) leads us in praise, thanksgiving, and petition to the end of all things, when all the world will give God the honor, when the redeemed people of God will reign with him eternally, when the powers of evil will fall and God alone will rule.

Psalms-prayer-book-BonhoefferQuoted in Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Augsburg, 1974), a translation of Das Gebetbuch der Bibel (the 8th ed. published in Germany in 1966). These thoughts are found in the sixteenth section, “The End” (pp.61-62), where the author continues to treat the Psalter according to classification by subject.