“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.
This is part 2 of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Unconditional Election.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
This is the second and last part of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Total Depravity.
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).
This is part 1 of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Total Depravity.
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.
We sometimes hear both Christians and non-Christians use the expression, “fallen from grace.” Occasionally, they use it to refer to Adam and Eve’s Fall in the Garden of Eden. At times, the media use the term to refer to someone—often a prominent Christian—who has had some secret sin, such as adultery, publicly exposed. Certain denominations frequently use the idiom to describe Christians who have so sinned that they have, according to their theology, lost their salvation (at least until they respond to another altar call). “Fallen from grace” is a biblical term with a specific meaning that matches none of the ways it is commonly used. Unfortunately, this confusion obscures the Gospel. In this article, I’d like to explain what the Bible really means by “fallen from grace.”
A. This seeming contradiction has caused no end of controversy. How can God be wrathful toward the disobedient if He has reconciled the entire world to Himself through Christ’s atonement? Colossians 1:20 sounds like a universal atonement, but John 3:36 seems to name the disobedient as an exception to it. On top of that, the exception sounds like it is based on works—disobedience or obedience. Does this mean that obedience (works) saves people from God’s wrath and reconciles them?
A. In 1 Timothy 1:18-19, Paul wrote to Timothy, “This instruction I commit to you, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies which led the way to you, that by them you may wage the good warfare; holding faith and a good conscience; which some having thrust away made a shipwreck concerning the faith.” How can some have thrust away their faith and good conscience to become shipwrecks at the same time that God is making sure that they persevere? Is the perseverance of the saints an unbiblical doctrine that gives us false hope?