In today’s pulpits we hear preachers say things like:
- “God is pleading with you to come to Jesus; the decision to come is yours, and yours alone.”
- “When you choose Jesus, God will choose you.”
- “When you repent and believe, God will give you the new birth.”
- “God has given you free-will; you may come to Jesus whenever you like.”
- “Jesus died for everyone equally; what makes the difference between heaven and hell is your faith.”
- “God may save you, but you can take yourself out of his salvation.”
- “God’s plans will fail if we are not obedient.”
These statements reflect what is now mainstream evangelical belief.
However, the question is not whether this is common teaching, but whether it is biblical, and whether it is the teaching of historic Christianity, or is relatively new?
150 years ago, C H Spurgeon rejected preaching like this, and preached what are called “the doctrines of grace”. When he was accused of departing from historic Christianity, he wrote:
It is no novelty, then, that I am preaching; no new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines that are called by nickname Calvinism, but which are truly and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. By this truth I make my pilgrimage into the past, and as I go, I see father after father, confessor after confessor, martyr after martyr, standing up to shake hands with me . . . Taking these things to be the standard of my faith, I see the land of the ancients peopled with my brethren; I behold multitudes who confess the same as I do, and acknowledge that this is the religion of God's own church. (C.H. Spurgeon)
More recently, J I Packer wrote this:
“All the leading Protestant theologians of the first epoch of the Reformation, stood on precisely the same ground here. On other points they had their differences; but in asserting the helplessness of man in sin and the sovereignty of God in grace, they were entirely at one. To all of them, these doctrines were the very lifeblood of the Christian faith … To the Reformers, the crucial question was not simply, whether God justifies believers without works of the law. It was the broader question, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ’s sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith. Here was the crucial issue: whether God is the author, not merely of justification, but also of faith; whether in the last analysis, Christianity is a religion of utter reliance on God for salvation and all things necessary to it, or to self-reliance and self-effort.”
These studies will make the biblical case for the doctrines of grace. By the grace of God, let’s aim to be as biblical as we can be in belief, affection and practice, placing evangelical tradition in second place.
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