Here at Fellowship, I recently taught on Romans 9 (we drew straws and mine was the shortest). I taught for about 30 minutes, which, as you can guess, isn’t nearly enough time to answer the many questions this chapter poses. I hope to use this post to help further your study in this area and address some of those unanswered questions
The debate surrounding the topic of free will and predestination will happen long after I am gone and people will still be trying to make their point. I am not merely trying to make a point, but rather hoping to make a difference. My first goal is to help become critical thinkers. Many people would rather be told WHAT to think rather than HOW to think. I hope this helps in that area.
1 Peter 3:15 says, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” My second goal relates to this verse – and that is to help give people an answer to the hope that lies within!
This topic is not an essential issue to salvation. Although it’s fun to think and debate about, let’s agree to disagree agreeably when it comes to this issue! Let’s start with where these ideas really began to flourish.
Jacobus Arminius lived from 1560-1609. He was a theologian and a product of the reformation, which was started by Martin Luther. He nailed the 95 thesis on the Wittenberg Cathedral door declaring and proclaiming theological difference from Catholicism and what is now Protestantism. If you aren’t familiar with Luther’s 95 thesis, I suggest reading church history. After much study, Jacobus and his pals came up with the 5 points of Arminianism. They are:
- Humans have Free Will
- Conditional Election
- Universal Atonement
- Resistible Grace
- Perseverance of Some Saints.
Let’s define these points.
Humans have Free Will: this one is self-explanatory. In Genesis, God created Adam and Eve with a choice to eat from the tree or not. They were free to choose to obey or disobey God. Although we don’t have total free will, we do have choices. Pepsi or Coke, Chevy or Ford, PC or Mac However, I can’t choose to turn into the Hulk or fly like Peter Pan.
Conditional Election: There is a condition based upon which a person is chosen for salvation. An example that has been used to explain “foreknowledge” or “predestination” is that God knew who would choose him and He consequently chose them.
Universal Atonement: When Jesus died, He died for every person and His blood would cover anyone who chose to follow Him.
Resistible Grace: Even when God pursues you, you can still resist His call for salvation and go your own way.
Perseverance of Some Saints: When someone becomes a Christian, there is a chance that they could lose their salvation and a particular point of unrepentance.
John Calvin lived from 1509-1564 and was a French theologian and Catholic. While the reformation was taking place thanks to Martin Luther, Calvin converted to the protestant movement. Even after his death, his teachings were still as strong and alive as they are today. Although Jacobus was a product of the reformation, he challenged the reformation theology. This is where the 5 points of Arminianism comes from. Calvin’s loyal followers were unnecessarily distraught by the 5 points and decided that there needed to be an opposite 5 points. I’ll throw my opinion in here by saying I don’t think the best way to do theology is an opposite reaction to an action. Anyway, Calvin’s posse created the Synod of Dort. They met 154 times. I did not mistype that. 154 meetings. They should have read the book Death by Meeting. After 154 separate meetings, they concluded the 5 points of Calvinism. They are:
- Total Depravity
- Unconditional Election
- Limited Atonement
- Irresistible Grace
- Perseverance of all Saints
Total Depravity: People are depraved because of what happened in Genesis 3. Sin entered the world and tainted our thoughts, motives, actions, and words.
Unconditional Election: There is no condition on which a person is to be elected by God. No matter how good or bad a person is, God can save them in spite of their good or bad behavior.
Limited Atonement: When Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world, it was only for the elect. His grace and forgiveness only covered those are would become Christians.
Irresistible Grace: This doesn’t mean that no one can never resist God’s grace. It means that if God so chooses, He can make His grace totally irresistible. Paul’s conversion in Acts 9 would be the most popular example of this.
Perseverance of all the Saints: If a person were to become a Christian, there is no way that God would reject them or lose them.
Below are some Bible verses to help get your study started. Happy reading!
Ezekiel 33:11, 1 Tim 2:3-4, 2 Peter 3:9, John 3:16-17, Matthew 11:28, Acts 17:30, 16:31, Revelation 22:17, Psalm 33:12, Isaiah 41:8-10, John 6:7, Matthew 22:14