Category Archives: Sovereign Grace (the Doctrines of Grace, Calvinism, the TULIP)

Why Election to Salvation, and Why Reprobation to Damnation? Part Two

Peter Ditzel

Green, immature wheat growing in a field. The Bible uses the illustration of wheat and chaff to picture election to salvation and reprobation to damnation.
This picture of immature grain can help us understand God’s love. The leaves, stalks, and husks are necessary to bring the kernels to maturity. God sends rain on all of it, but the goal is to produce the kernels of grain. Once the grain is harvested, the kernels are put into the barn, but the rest of the plant becomes the chaff that is burned. If this is seen as a picture of humanity, does God love everyone?
Image by Matthias Böckel from Pixabay

We left off in Part 1 with the crucial question of how reprobation to damnation can possibly agree with the fact that God is love.

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Why Election to Salvation, and Why Reprobation to Damnation? Part One

Peter Ditzel

The hands of a potter shaping a pot on a potter's wheel. Like a potter, God has control over His creation. Why does God elect some to salvation and reprobate others to damnation?
“Hasn’t the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel for honor, and another for dishonor?” But why does God elect some people to salvation and reprobate other people to damnation? Image by thomasgitarre from Pixabay

Those skeptical of the doctrines of election and reprobation commonly ask questions that go along these lines: “Why would God elect some people to salvation and allow the rest to be damned?” “If God can save the elect, why doesn’t He just save everyone?” “If God is love, how can He have reprobated some to damnation?” These are good questions, and they deserve good answers. Let’s start with answering why God determined to use election to salvation and reprobation to damnation, because if we answer that first, the answers to the others will fall into place.

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Fact Check: God Hates the Sin but Loves the Sinner

Peter Ditzel

If God hates the sin but loves the sinner, why are the goats separated for destruction in the parable of the separation of the sheep and goats? Here, we see the parable as illustrated by Gerard de Jode in Last Judgment with Separation of the Sheep and Goats, ca. 1580 after Maarten de Vos
If God hates only the sin but loves the sinner, why do so many parables picture a separation of the righteous and the sinners, with the sinners pictured as goats, trash fish, chaff, and weeds that will be burned with fire? (Gerard de Jode, Last Judgment with Separation of the Sheep and Goats, ca. 1580 after Maarten de Vos.)

One of the most common maxims in Christianity is, “God hates the sin but He loves the sinner.” Advocates often back this up with the fact that Jesus tells us to love our enemies and says God “makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45). On the other hand, Jesus also said, “Depart from me, you who work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23b). Is this a contradiction? No, the Bible does not contradict itself. So, let’s do a fact check: Is it true that God hates the sin but loves the sinner?

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God Will Never Give You More than You Can Handle: True or False?

Peter Ditzel

Is it true that God will never give you more than you can handle? Illustrated by a woman sitting at a laptop covering her face with her hands while multiple arrows point toward her.
Are we really doing the right thing to comfort people with the idea that God will never give you more than you can handle?
Pixabay

“Don’t worry. God will never give you more than you can handle.” This belief is so common that I’m sure you’ve heard it, and maybe you’ve even comforted other brethren with it. But is it true? Are we really helping others by repeating this idea, or are we spreading a heretical lie?

The concept that God will never give us more than we can handle seems to sound right initially. God loves His people, so He won’t give us more than we can handle. But, if we give it further thought, we find it is a notion that is in direct conflict with the Gospel.

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How Does Election Occur?

by Peter Ditzel

This is part 2 of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Unconditional Election.

A wide-angle view of the Milky Way with a silhouette of a man looking skyward. Does election depend on our works?
The Bible says, “God chose you from the beginning for salvation….” Did He do this by looking ahead to see that we would believe or do good works?
Greg Rakozy / Unsplash

We ended part 1, “Chosen in Him,” with several questions: Is saving belief a work that is a condition to becoming elect? Does election have conditions? Are there good works we must do to remain one of the elect? Is Jesus’ testimony in Matthew 7:21 that “he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” will “enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” a reference to such works?

Chosen in Him

by Peter Ditzel

This is part 1 of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Unconditional Election. It answers the question, What must I do to be saved?

A blue sky with white clouds and a big hand coming out of a cloud with the index finger pointing at the viewer. What must you do to be saved?
Contrary to popular opinion about free will and choice, the Bible tells us that God chose us before the foundation of the world. Adapted from Pixabay

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ; even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and without defect before him in love; having predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his desire, to the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he freely gave us favour in the Beloved, in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

In the above passage, found in Ephesians 1:3–7, the apostle Paul declares that God the Father has “predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to himself.” As we will see, the implications of this passage answer the question that so many people have, “What must I do to be saved?” Since Paul and the Christian Ephesians were faithful saints—that is, true Christians (see Ephesians 1:1)—the “us” in the passage refers to true Christians. So, what Paul appears to be saying is that God has predestinated Christians (pre-chosen their destiny) to be His children through Jesus Christ. In other words, Christians (who are the children of God by Jesus Christ) are Christians because God predestinated them to be so, not by any choice of their own.

Some Important Points Concerning Regeneration*

Peter Ditzel

A lamb turned to the camera as if speaking. Regeneration is being born again.
“Most certainly, I tell you, unless one is born anew, he can’t see God’s Kingdom.”
John 3:3
Pixabay

 

1. It is expressed as being born or begotten again (John 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:3, 23).

2. It is called being born from above (the phrase “born again” in John 3:3 and 7 may be rendered “born from above”; see the marginal rendering in many Bibles).

3. Those who are regenerated or born again the Bible calls newborn babes (1 Peter 2:2).

4. Regeneration is expressed as being quickened (made alive) (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13).

5. Regeneration is signified by Christ being formed in the heart (Galatians 2:20; 4:6, 19; Colossians 3:10).

6. Regeneration is said to be a partaking of the divine nature (not of the essential nature of God, but a resemblance to the divine nature in spirituality, holiness, goodness, kindness, etc.) (2 Peter 1:4).

7. Depraved, unregenerate man cannot regenerate himself (Romans 8:5–9; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13).

8. Man cannot regenerate himself because regeneration is a creation and, therefore, not in the power of men to do it (2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 1:16).

9. Regeneration is expressly denied to be of men (John 1:12–13).

10. The efficient cause of regeneration is God only (John 1:12–13; 1 John 3:1–2, 9; 5:1)

God the Father (John 6:44, 65; James 1:17–18; 1 Peter 1:3)

God the Son (Galatians 4:6–7; 1 John 2:28–29)

God the Holy Spirit (John 3:5–6; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Titus 3:5).

11. The impulsive, or moving cause, of regeneration is the free grace, love, and mercy of God (Ephesians 2:4–5; James 1:17–18; 1 Peter 1:3).

12. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is the virtual or procuring cause of regeneration (1 Peter 1:3).

13. The instrumental cause of regeneration is the Word of God (Romans 10:13–21; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23–25).

14. Regenerate ones have the grace of life given them; they live a new life, and walk in newness of life; where before their understanding was darkened, they now are enlightened by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of divine things (Romans 6:4; Ephesians 4:24; 5:8; Colossians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:4–5; 1 Peter 2:9; 3:7).

15. Knowledge and actual enjoyment of the several blessings of grace follow upon regeneration (Ephesians 3:16–19).

16. Regenerate ones are made fit and capable for the performance of good works (Ephesians 2:10; 2 Timothy 2:21; Philippians 2:13; 4:13).

17. Regenerate ones are made fit for the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5).

18. Humans are passive in regeneration (John 1:13; Romans 9:16).

19. Regeneration is of the will of God and cannot be resisted (John 6:37; Romans 8:29–30; 2 Timothy 1:9).

20. Regeneration is an act that is instantaneously done—there is never a middle state between life and death; regeneration is perfect—one can be partly regenerate no more than one can be partly dead and partly alive; yet regeneration always results in spiritual warfare between the old and new man with the new man winning in the end (Romans 6–8; 1 John 5:4).

21. The grace of regeneration can never be lost; one who is born in a spiritual sense can never be unborn (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:38-39; Philippians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:3).

*Adapted from John Gill, A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity (1809; reprint, Paris, Ark.: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1995), 528–538.

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You may want to read our article, “The New Birth.”

Some Important Points Concerning Total Depravity*

Peter Ditzel

A picture of a sheep facing the camera. What is total depravity?
“All we like sheep have gone astray. Everyone has turned to his own way….” Isaiah 53:6a. Pixabay

 

1. The “total” in total depravity does not mean that everyone is as corrupt as possible or that everyone is destitute of all moral virtues. It means that sin affects all of our thought, faculties, and activities to some extent so that no one is pure or righteous in anything (Genesis 6:5; Matthew 15:19).

2. Total depravity began when Adam and Eve sinned; it can be seen in their changed nature—e.g., blaming others for their sin, deteriorating from friend of God to hiding from Him, and deviating from innocence regarding their nakedness to shame (Genesis 3:6–13); and it has been conveyed to all of their descendants (Job 15:14; Psalm 51:5; Ecclesiastes 9:3; Isaiah 53:6).

3. Total depravity is seen in the prevalence of every kind of sin in the world (Galatians 5:17–21).

4. Total depravity is seen in the early manifestation of sin in children (Genesis 8:21; Psalm 58:3; Proverbs 22:15).

5. Total depravity is evidenced by unregenerate humanity’s total and universal disregard for God’s claims on everyone’s supreme reverence, love, and obedience (Romans 1:18–32; 8:5–8).

6. Total depravity is seen in humanity’s general rejection of Jesus Christ (John 1:11; Isaiah 53:3).

7. Depravity is incurable by man, and it leaves him completely dependent on God’s grace for salvation (Isaiah 64:6–7; Jeremiah 17:9; John 3:3; Romans 1:17; 3:23–24; Galatians 2:21; Ephesians 2:4–9).

8. God’s people in every age have given witness to their own depravity (Job 40:4; 42:6; Psalm 51:5; Isaiah 6:5; Romans 7:23–24; Ephesians 2:3; 1 Timothy 1:15).

*Adapted from various sources, especially Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1993), 2:233–238.

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You may want to also read the article “No One Is Good.”

The New Birth

by Peter Ditzel

This is the second and last part of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Total Depravity.

A close-up picture of John 3:5 from a print Bible. Being born again is the new birth or regeneration.
The Bible tells us that no human is naturally good. But there is hope. Jesus teaches that we must be born again, born of the Spirit.
Burst

Election and Calling

We’re going to talk about the new birth or regeneration called being born again. In the article, “No One Is Good” (which is part 1 of this series on Total Depravity), I asked, “If no one can choose Jesus Christ as Savior, how does He become one’s Savior?” Briefly, the answer is, we don’t choose Him, He chooses us.

We have no part in this choosing or election. It does not depend on our goodness, our cooperation, or our faith. In Romans 9, Paul is writing of God’s calling or choosing or election of Jacob and rejecting of Esau before they were even born: “For being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him who calls” (verse 11).

No One Is Good

by Peter Ditzel

This is part 1 of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Total Depravity.

In this article: Total depravity explained. An artist's rough sketch of a person sitting and holding his head in his hands dejectedly.
Jesus said no one is good but God (Matthew 19:17). Other Scriptures back this up. Why is this so, and what can be done about it? Pixabay
The LORD looked down from heaven on the children of men, to see if there were any who understood, who sought after God. They have all gone aside. They have together become corrupt. There is no one who does good, no, not one.

These two sentences, penned by David in Psalm 14:2–3, contain some powerful ideas. They say that none of the “children of men”—no one in all of humanity—does good, not even one. Now, if you read or watch the news you might be willing to admit that there are some bad characters in the world. But can it possibly be that no one does good? that everyone has “together become corrupt”? If this is true, if additional Scriptures support it, it might revolutionize your understanding of sin and salvation and even your entire worldview! In this article, you will find total depravity explained.