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Monday, October 20, 2014

Free-Will Versus the Sovereignty of God; By Grace, through Faith

Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.
Luke 7:50

We have been here before, and the battle continues to be wage in the boardrooms of countless seminaries across God's good Creation! 'Are you a Calvinist or an Arminian; do you believe in the Sovereignty of God, or the free will of man? Just like the political landscape today, especially with its two-party system, it's often hard to tell the difference between these two systems of thought! There are so many varying degrees to both of these 'schools' that in some cases, they seem almost to have merged, as in 'Calvinian', or 'Arminianist'!

The fact of the matter is, that both views have their good & bad points! The Scriptures ARE very clear on the Sovereignty of God, but they are also pretty blatant about man's free-will choice! For one thing, if Adam didn't have free will, how did he decide to disobey God rather than protect his wife from the serpent? How did Judas decide to betray Jesus? We have certain Calvinists who come to the extreme conclusion that God causes us to sin that His Grace may abound, and thus we have the heretical notion that God is the Author of sin; there is a good ( right ) heresy, and there is a bad ( wrong ) heresy: that is simply a wrong heresy!

Many Arminians, on the other hand, with their focus on the free will of man, perceive an almost forced paradox, one which seems to debilitate that Sovereignty.  Thus, from the traditional Arminian point of view, rather than the Almighty & Jealous God of the Old Testament, we now have the more gentlemanly Holy Spirit who would never force anyone to do anything! Either that, or a weak & helpless One, who can do nothing to save His own People unless they allow Him to!

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8

Jesus told numerous people, after they were healed through His ministrations, that they had been healed, or saved, by their faith! Whether you want to be a Calvinist or Arminian about it, and say either that the apostle, in the passage above, was saying that the grace he mentioned was a gift of God, or that the faith he mentioned is the gift of God ( really, both are the gift of God, however you look at it! ); it is clear from Jesus' words to ( some of ) those He healed, that it was their ( own? ) faith in His ability to heal them that their salvation rested!

Really, when you read these words in the context of the History of Israel, wherein they ( corporately ) had become an unclean thing, a dead body; you begin to understood how these physical healings & resurrections pointed to the Healing & Resurrection of Israel! It was Israel's ( the Remnant's ) faith in Jesus as their Messiah that healed them, that saved them & brought about their resurrection, the standing again!

We can argue till we are blue in the face, or the cows come home to roost, whichever comes first, about whether it is grace that saves us, or whether we are saved by faith, whether the Calvinists or the Arminians are right, but the apostle clearly tells us in his letter to the Church at Ephesus that it is both! ''For by grace you have been saved through faith'; like James later wrote, 'faith without works is dead' ( James 2:26 ); the Grace of God, working through their own actions, or faith, is what saved Israel! Consequently, it is what identifies us as the Body of Christ; if we say that we a member of the Body ( the Church ) yet do not do according to what Jesus did, loving God & our neighbor as ourselves, it is manifest that we are not part of that Body!

Let us always remember that the salvation of God's People was never an 'either or' proposition; it was always a 'both and'; the Grace of our Heavenly Father working together with their Active Faith that saved the People of God: it always, as they say, 'takes two to tango'!

Charles Haddon Shank

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