Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Gospel Call

My family and I read about the Gospel call in our after-breakfast Bible reading in the past two days. We read mainly from Chapter 33, “The Gospel Call and Effective Calling,” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). However because I believe that God’s giving people free will allows them to say “Yes” or “No” to His call, I don’t accept the Calvinist concept of effective calling. Thus I substituted a paragraph from Chapter 5, “The Salvation of Man,” of William W. Menzies and Stanley M. Horton’s Bible Doctrines: A Pentecostal Perspective (Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1993) for “Effective Calling,” the first of the three sections in “The Gospel Call and Effective Calling.” The other two sections are “The Elements of the Gospel Call” and “The Importance of the Gospel Call.”

The Calling

Jesus clearly taught that God calls people to Him, telling a crowd, “No man can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV), and his disciples, “When he [the Helper or Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). Paul indicates that the main instrument that God uses in calling people is the Gospel message, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Menzies and Horton comment, “The Holy Spirit does not force his attentions on the individual, but He does call sinners to come to Christ. Sometimes it is called the doctrine of vocation, or calling. Arminians and Calvinists alike are agreed that God takes the first step in the salvation of sinners. He issues the invitation” (page 103).

The Elements of the Gospel Call

God’s invitation uses human preaching of the Gospel. Grudem identifies three important elements of that preaching:

1. An explanation of the facts concerning salvation, which includes at least the following:
a. “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23).
b. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
c. “Christ died for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8) to pay the penalty for our sins.

2. An invitation to respond to Christ by repenting and coming to him in faith. The invitation is expressed thus by Jesus, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Natthew 11:28-30). See my next post on the need for both repentance and faith in responding to the invitation.

3. A promise of forgiveness and eternal life. This is brought out by Peter’s words to people at the temple in Acts 3:19, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out” and of Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, what whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

The Importance of the Gospel Call

The human preaching of the Gospel is so important that Paul says, “How then will they call on him whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching” (Romans 10:14).

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Election

He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:4-5, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).

Yesterday in our after-breakfast Bible reading time my family and I finished reading the article “Election and Predestination” by Donald C. Stamps. I used the article as it appears in The Full Life Study Bible: The New International Version (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), and the rest of the family used the slightly revised version of the article that appears at Arminian Theology. Although the article is short, we spent three days considering it.

Election is selection by God for salvation. In the article Stamps shows how it involves the following truths:

1. Election occurs only in union with Jesus Christ. “He [God] chose us in him [Jesus Christ]” (Ephesians 1:4).

2. Election is grounded in Christ’s death on the cross to save us from our sins. “In him we have redemption through his blood” (Ephesians 1:7).

3. Election is primarily the election of a people, “my church” (Matthew 16:18), and embraces individuals only as they become part of that people. “He [God] put all things under his [Christ’s] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23).

4. Election is certain for the church as a body but conditional for the individuals in it. According to Ephesians 1:4, quoted at the beginning of this post, God’s purpose in election is that we should be holy and blameless in His sight. Fulfilment of this is certain for the church. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her,having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27). However fulfilment of it for individuals is conditional on their continuing in the faith. “He [will] present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard” (Colossians 1:22-23).

5. Election to salvation in Christ is offered to all. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). It becomes actual for individuals if and when they accept it by repenting and having faith. “I testified] both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). On doing so they are incorporated into Christ’s elect body, the church, by the Holy Spirit. “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

Stamp goes on to distinguish between election and predestination, defining election as God’s choice in Christ of a people for Himself and predestination as what will happen to those people. Paul summarizes what will happen to God’s people in Romans 8:29-30, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Stamp points out that, like election, predestination refers primarily to the church and embraces individuals only as they become part of that body.

On my initial reading of “Election and Predestination” sometime after my wife gave me The Full Life Study Bible: The New International Version for my birthday fifteen years ago, I wasn’t fully convinced of the above after reading Stamps’ presentation of it, still thinking of election and predestination as applying directly to individuals. However I was ultimately persuaded by reading and thinking about his closing summary, which follows:

Considering election and predestination, we might use the analogy of a great ship on its way to heaven. The ship (the church) is chosen by God to be his very own vessel. Christ is the Captain and Pilot of this ship. All who desire to be a part of this ship and its Captain can do so through a living faith in Christ, by which they come on board the ship. As long as they are on board the ship, in company with the ship’s Captain, they are among the elect. If they choose to abandon the ship and Captain, they cease to be part of the elect. Election is always in union with the Captain and his ship. Predestination tells us about the ship’s destination and what God has prepared for those remaining on it. God invites everyone to come aboard the elect ship through faith in Jesus Christ. (The Full Life Study Bible: The New International Version, page 1825).

The Order of Salvation

Yesterday in our after-breakfast Bible reading time my family and I read the introduction to “Chapter 32: Election and Reprobation” in Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). Central to it is a list of the events in which salvation is applied to us called “The Order of Salvation.” Explaining that Grudem’s list and his consideration of the events included in it are based on the Calvinistic viewpoint, I passed out a sheet listing the events in the order in which we’ll consider them and telling what we’ll read about each event. Here is a copy of the sheet:

1. Election. The Full Life Study Bible, New International Version, “Election and Predestination,” pages 1824-25, instead of the rest of Grudem, Chapter 32.

2. The Gospel Call. Bible Doctrines: A Pentecostal Perspective, pages 102-03, the paragraph beginning “Several crucial,” instead of Grudem, Chapter 33, Part A, and Grudem, Chapter 33, Parts B and C.

3. Conversion. Grudem, Chapter 35.

4. Regeneration, Grudem, Chapter 34, introduction and Parts A (first four paragraphs), B, and D.

5. Justification, Grudem, Chapter 36.

6. Adoption, Grudem, Chapter 37.

7. Sanctification, Grudem, Chapter 38.

8. Perseverance. The Full Life Study Bible, New International Version, “Assurance of Salvation,” page 1982, instead of Grudem, Chapter 40.

9. Death. Grudem, Chapter 41.

10. Glorification. Grudem, Chapter 42.

Books from which we’ll be reading on the events in which salvation is applied to us besides Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology are:
The Full Life Study Bible, New International Version, edited by Donald C. Stamps and J. Wesley Adams. Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1992.
Bible Doctrines: A Pentecostal Perspective, written by William W. Menzies and Stanley M. Horton. Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1993.

Common Grace

Common grace is God’s grace, His free and undeserved blessing on humanity, that is common to all people. For the past week my family and I have been considering it by reading “Chapter 31: Common Grace” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994) in our after-breakfast Bible reading time. Here I’ll share from what we read examples of common grace from the physical, intellectual, moral, creative, societal, and religious realms; reasons given by Grudem for common grace; and suggestions by him on how we should respond to common grace. Although the chapter is consistent with the book’s Calvinistic perspective, it includes a helpful note on how an Arminian viewpoint would differ and I’ve tried to make my presentation consistent with that viewpoint.

Examples of Common Grace

God’s common grace is shown in the physical realm by the ground’s providing us with food and with materials for clothing and shelter despite God’s having cursed it because of Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:17-19). Paul told the people of Lystra, “In past generations he [God] allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:16-17, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV). It is also shown by the pleasure that nature’s beauty gives us.

God’s common grace is shown in the intellectual realm by His causing all people to have a sense of His existence. Paul says, “What can be known about God is plain to them [unrighteous men], because God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:19). It is also shown by the incredible discoveries and inventions made by non-Christians as well as by Christians.

God’s common grace is shown in the moral realm by His giving people a sense of conscience that causes them to live in ways that conform with the moral standards of the Bible. Paul says, “When Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:14-15). It is also shown by God’s ordering the world so that living by His moral standards brings rewards and violating them brings harm, thus serving as a warning of the judgment to come.

God’s common grace is shown in the creative realm by His allowing special abilities in artistic, musical, and other areas. It is also shown by His giving us an ability to appreciate creations in those areas.

God’s common grace is shown in the societal realm by the existence of various organizations in human society. Adam and Eve remained married and had children after their Fall, and the human family remains an institution for all people. Other organizations in human society include human government, educational institutions, businesses, and voluntary associations.

God’s common grace is shown in the religious realm by our being told to pray for unbelievers. Jesus told his disciples, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). It is also shown by God’s sometimes answering the prayers of unbelievers (as in Matthew 7:22).

Reasons for Common Grace

Grudem gives these reasons for common grace:
1. to allow sinners time and opportunity to be saved.
2. to demonstrate God’s goodness and mercy.
3. to demonstrate God’s justice.
4. to demonstrate God’s glory.
If you want an explanation of any of them, please ask for it in a comment to this post.

Even more important than any of those reasons is that common grace enables and even influences unbelievers to turn to God in faith and repentance.

Responding to Common Grace

Grudem suggests keeping these points in mind when thinking about the goodness in the lives of unbelievers because of God’s common grace:
1. Being recipients of common grace doesn’t mean that people will be saved.
2. We shouldn’t reject as totally evil the good things done by unbelievers.
3. We should be increasingly thankful to God as we see the blessings resulting from His grace to unbelievers.
Again, if you want an explanation of any of them, please ask for it in a comment to this post.

Jesus’ Teaching on Prayer – PS

A longtime friend of mine (a note about her is at the end of this post) told me that she would have liked to have heard the answers to the questions about Jesus’ teaching on prayer that our Life group discussed. Below are answers to the questions that I included in yesterday’s post.

Opening
What standard prayer(s) did you recite as a child?

Thank you for the world so sweet;
Thank you for the food we eat;
Thank you for the birds that sing;
Thank you, God, for everything.

Now I lay me down to sleep;
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Matthew 6:5-8
In Matthew 6:1-18 Jesus warns his disciples against hypocrisy (pretending to be what one isn’t) in giving to the needy, in prayer, and in fasting.
1. How does their hypocrisy affect the way that hypocrites pray?
2. How does it affect their reward?

1. Hypocrites pray where they can be seen by others.
2. Their reward is that they are seen by others instead of that God rewards them. God’s reward could include answering their prayers.

Matthew 6:9-13
As you know, this prayer is generally called The Lord’s Prayer. Luke 11:1-4 records a shorter version of it which Jesus gave on another occasion in response to one of his disciples asking him to teach them how to pray.
1. What concerns related to God come first?
2. What personal concerns follow?
3. How are forgiveness and prayer related? See also Matthew 6:14-15.

1, The concerns related to God which come first are that He be glorifed, that His kingdom come, and that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
2. The personal concerns which follow are that God will meet our needs, that He will forgive us our sins, and that He will protect us from temptation.
3. God’s answering our prayers to Him depends on our forgiving others for what they have done to us.

Luke 11:5-13
Jesus records Jesus as following his teaching of the Lord’s Prayer with a parable (11:5-8) and some comments (11:9-13) on prayer. The comments are also recorded in Matthew 6:7-11.
1. What does the parable in Luke 11:5-8 teach about prayer?
2. How does Luke 11:9-13 relate to the parable?

1. The parable in Luke 11:5-8 teaches that we should be persistent in our prayers to God. One of the group members, Pat Peddle, suggested the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) as another parable with the same lesson.
2. Luke 11:9-13 says that God will give us good things in answer to our prayers just as a father gives good things to his children in answer to their requests to him. Other group members (others present were our host, Roland; my wife, Leonora; and Eugene Champion) reminded us that God doesn’t always answer our prayers with a “Yes”; sometimes He answers with a “Later” or “No.” However we know that however He answers our prayers, He will work things out for good (Romans 8:28).

My “longtime friend” (Rose Harmer) and I attended the same Pentecostal church in northern Ontario when we were adolescents. Several years ago she and her husband, Bob, visited our family here in Newfoundland. Like me, she has a blog at WordPress. Listeningtohear is a devotional blog, and I enjoy reading Rose’s weekly posts and often comment on them.

Spiritual Gifts – The Gifts of 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 – Part 4

8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
(1 Corinthians 12:8-10, KJV)

My family and I have just finished reading about the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 guided mainly by “Chapter 53: Gifts of the Holy Spirit (2): Specific Gifts” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994) in our after-breakfast Bible reading time. In this post I’ll report on our reading about the gifts of tongues and interpretation of tongues.

The Greek word glossa can mean either “tongue” or “language,” and the NLT calls the two gifts “the ability to speak in unknown languages” and “the ability to interpret what is said.” Although those names may describe the gifts better than the names in the KJV and most other versions, the names used in the latter are too well established to be replaced.

Tongues

Grudem defines the gift of tongues as “prayer or praise spoken in syllables not understood by the speaker” (page 1070), indicating that it is (1) primarily prayer or praise directed to God (2) given in a language unknown to the speaker. In support of his definition he cites 1 Corinthians 14:2, “[1] For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; [2] for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (ESV; all Biblical quotations except the opening one are from the ESV). Although the speaking in tongues on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11) was in languages known by others present, 1 Corinthians 14 indicates that speaking in tongues is generally in languages unknown by those present and 1 Corinthians 13:1 suggests that it may even be in an angelic rather than in a human language.

Some points that Grudem makes about the gift of tongues are:
– It is prayer with the spirit, not with the mind. “If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also” (i Corinthians 14:14-15).
– It is not ecstatic but self-controlled. “If any speak in a tongue, let there be only one or two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each one of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God” (1 Corinthians 14:27-28).
– It should not be used in church unless someone known to have the gift of interpretation of tongues is present. 1 Corinthians 14:27-28 (quoted above). However it can (and should) be used in private without interpretation. “The one who speaks in a tongue edifies himself…Now I want you all to speak in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:4-5).
– With interpretation, it is as valuable to the church as prophecy and edifies the church. “The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up” (1 Corinthians 14:5). However it serves a different function than prophecy, its generally being communication from humans to God whereas prophesy is communication from God to humans.

Interpretation of Tongues

This is the gift of giving the meaning of a message in tongues and may be given to the person who gives the message in tongues or to someone else. Those who give messages in tongues are encouraged to pray for the gift of interpretation. “One who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret” (1 Corinthians 14:13). As noted above, messages in tongues should not be given in church unless someone known to have the gift of interpretation is present.

Interpretation of tongues is required only for communications made in tongues by exercising the gift of tongues. It is not required for speaking in tongues as the initial sign of the baptism in the Holy Spirit or for speaking in tongues in one’s private devotions. See my April 23 post, “Baptism in the Holy Spirit – Speaking in Tongues,” on the three functions of speaking in tongues.

Jesus’ Teaching on Prayer

Yesterday (Thursday) evening I attended the weekly meeting of our church’s Life group hosted by Roland and Sherry Loder. Five attended, and we studied Jesus’ teaching on prayer.

We spent the first half of our study time discussing the following questions:

Opening
What standard prayer(s) did you recite as a child?

Matthew 6:5-8
In Matthew 6:1-18 Jesus warns his disciples against hypocrisy (pretending to be what one isn’t) in giving to the needy, in prayer, and in fasting.
1. How does their hypocrisy affect the way that hypocrites pray?
2. How does it affect their reward?

Matthew 6:9-13
As you know, this prayer is generally called The Lord’s Prayer. Luke 11:1-4 records a shorter version of it which Jesus gave on another occasion in response to one of his disciples asking him to teach them how to pray.
1. What concerns related to God come first?
2. What personal concerns follow?
3. How are forgiveness and prayer related? See also Matthew 6:14-15.

Luke 11:5-13
Jesus records Jesus as following his teaching of the Lord’s Prayer with a parable (11:5-8) and some comments (11:9-13) on prayer. The comments are also recorded in Matthew 6:7-11.
1. What does the parable in Luke 11:5-8 teach about prayer?
2. How does Luke 11:9-13 relate to the parable?

We spent the other half of our study time discussing the REFLECT questions on Luke 11:1-13 in The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988, page 1357). I had permission from Serendipity House, Inc., to provide copies of the questions to the group. However I don’t have permission to copy them here and so am not doing so. Sorry. I heartily recommend both the book and the set of questions to readers of this post.

Next week our Life group will hold its last meeting of the 2013-14 church year, a social, and the group may not resume meetings in the fall. Thus this may be the last weekly Friday post at Open Theism.

Open Theism contains four earlier articles on prayer: “Open Theism Encourages Prayer,” March 23, 2013 (part of my opening series of articles on open theism); “Prayer,” May 17, 2013 (part of our Life group study of Ephesians 6:10-20); “Prayer,” December 10, 2013 (part of my current series of reports on my family’s reading of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology in our daily Bible reading); and “Prayer in Daniel,” May 9, 2014 (part of our Life group study of prayer).