May 302013

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

1 Peter 1:1-2 (ESV)

Recently, I was watching a documentary on Georgia Public Television called The Appalachians. The subject of the section I watched was about the religious practices of Appalachia. The writers stated that the settlers that first came to the South were Calvinistic and that they believed in a harsh and stern God, who had His chosen people. Then, the documentary stated (and I’m paraphrasing), John Wesley came and preached a God of love, a God that accepted everyone, and this message was accepted by the people of Appalachia, and Calvinism was rejected. (The truth is John Wesley did not have a good reputation when He came to America in 1736 in Savannah, GA. He testifies that he had come to convert the Indians and realized that he himself was not converted. Wesley was not converted until 1738 back in England at a Moravian mission. George Whitefield the Calvinist had a far greater impact and reputation in his preaching in America, and Whitefield was called a Methodist first! That’s right: the first Methodists were Calvinists!)

The documentary got one thing right: Over a period of time, Calvinism was primarily rejected (and we are paying the price the fruit of Arminianism has caused). But it got one thing very wrong: The God of Calvinism is not like an old grumpy grandpa who really doesn’t love anybody. The biblical truth is that it is amazing that He would set His affection on any of us, rebels such as we are.

“In love He predestined us.” Eph. 1:5

“But God, being rich in mercy (rebels deserved condemnation but needed mercy), because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.” Eph. 2:4-5

Calvinists most certainly believe the truth of God’s perfections and that He is to be feared. But Calvinists do not believe that He is a joyless God and saves a joyless people. It is actually the other way around. He is the happy God, the blessed God of 1 Timothy 1:11. He is in no way stingy with His love and grace. As a matter of fact, “Heaven will not be thinly populated. The living seed of Abraham will be as numerous as the sand on the seashores and the stars in the heavens (Gen. 15:5). Election declares the expansive generosity of God, not his stinginess.”[1] The Father’s house of John 14 is actually a large house, and millions of believers, from every tribe and tongue and people and nation will be there. What a diverse family God’s elect become! The fact that the elect come from all over the world and from different periods of time, shows them the amazing bond they will have with those so different; and yet they have one thing in common: The Father who chose them before the foundation of the world, the Son who achieved their righteousness and died for them, and the Spirit who made the Gospel effectual in their hearts – elected by sovereign grace!

Believers should be the happiest people on earth! Peter says in verse 8 that we love the God we do not see and that this God has filled us with joy unspeakable and full of glory. It does not mean that we love to go through trials, but that even through trials there is an enduring hope and peace, a rest in God’s promises, a joy that gives strength. Believers are joyful because of God’s love and work in their lives (James 1:2-3). The elect exiles rejoice that this life is temporary and that God is producing in them a great weight of glory in their home to come.

So don’t believe the lie of those who misrepresent the God of Calvinism as a joyless, dull, loveless, graceless and gloomy God. The elect will one day enter into the joy of their Master! Believers experience God’s joy now and will in the future. May grace and peace be multiplied to you!

In Christ’s Joy,

Pastor Bill

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[1] Beeke, Joel. Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism. Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust, 2008, Pg. 67.

May 142013

To those who are the elect exiles … according to the foreknowledge of God, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His blood: may grace and peace be multiplied to you.

1 Peter 1:1-2 (ESV)

Last week, we saw that believers are not elected so that they can live however they please. Believers are elected to be conformed to the image of Christ. Believers are elected for holiness, in the sanctification of the Spirit. Election is also unto obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His blood. Believers were chosen to have the work and benefits of Christ applied to them so that they can live in obedience to God.

Peter alludes back to Exodus 24:3-8, when Moses confirmed the covenant between God and Israel. Moses sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on the people, pointing us ultimately to the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. In Exodus 24:7, Moses read the book of the covenant in the hearing of all the people and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” So, when Peter says that we are elect for obedience to Jesus Christ and for the sprinkling of His blood, he refers to the blood of the new covenant, which cleanses us from sin and grants us a heart of obedience. The blood of forgiveness that is applied to the believer’s soul is the fruit of God’s election in Christ. So, John Calvin called election the “parent of faith”. If we are believers, we are elected to faith and salvation, elected unto a union with Christ, elected unto adoption, and elected to participate in all the redemptive provisions of our great God and Father. We have been chosen by God to be Abraham’s offspring, heirs of the promise, receiving the Spirit through faith (Gal. 3:14). We are born again of the Spirit, adopted into God’s family, our sins cast as far as the east is from the west, united with Christ and placed in His Church, and we are preserved forever for an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:4). The inheritance and rest of Joshua would point to this! The inheritance Israel received through Joshua was one that would not last; the land was still defiled, and it would fade away. “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on” (Hebrews 4:8).

As you look at verse 2, you can’t help but see that God’s election is personal. “May grace and peace be multiplied to you (plural).” The plural “you” refers back to the elect. Election is clearly definite, personal and irreversible. Romans 9:10-13 – “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad – in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls – she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'” The election of certain individuals for salvation was God’s purpose in redemption. God loves one graciously and calls him to Himself, like Jacob, and God passes over others, like the reprobate Esau. This was the essence of Calvin’s view of election and reprobation: “God’s election is always sovereign and gracious. None of the elect deserves to be elect and enter into heaven. At the same time, God’s reprobation is always sovereign and just: none of the reprobate will be unjustly damned to hell.”

The personal nature of God’s election of sinners brings warmth and comfort to the believer. It is evidence that no one cares for you and loves you like your heavenly Father. “The Son of God has loved you and has given his life for you” (Gal. 2:20). The great hymn, “Before the Throne of God Above,” says it so well: “My name is graven on his hands. My name is written on his heart. I know that while in heaven he stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart.” God has displayed the richness of His mercy to you (Eph. 2). When God sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, it was a display of His goodness and kindness (Titus 3). The Son of God met all the Law’s demands on your behalf. His perfect life secured your righteousness and in His sacrificial death He became your substitute. He rose again and He sits at His Father’s right hand where He continually intercedes for you. His sinless blood, shed for you, speaks on your behalf, and it protects you from all the accusations of our enemy. Divine election is a most glorious truth for the Christian. Marvel at His love today and give Him thanks that He has called you and granted faith and repentance. It’s all His work!

Praising Him,

Pastor Bill

May 072013

To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit.

1 Peter 1:1 (ESV)

We have already seen the fallacy of conditional election. Last week, we saw that God’s foreknowledge means that His love is voluntary, discriminatory (He chooses whomever He wills) and gracious. He has always known His Bride intimately. So, to say that God has always foreknown us is to say that God has always loved us.

This week we will look at how Peter refutes the Arminian objection that if election is true, then that means believers can live however they choose. Arminians claim that unconditional election takes away from a believer’s motivation to holiness, since he is already elect. But Peter makes clear that the elect are not only so according to the foreknowledge of God, but they are elect for a purpose: in the sanctification of the Spirit. The elect are called to holiness through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. Sanctification is a process that begins at regeneration. Sanctification is distinct from justification, but there will not be one without the other. God sanctifies those whom He justifies. “Without holiness,” says the writer to the Hebrews, “no will see the Lord.” Peter also affirms this truth: sinful, depraved people cannot enter into God’s presence nor live a holy life unless they have been sanctified by the Spirit. Peter says in verses 14-16, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”

Calvinists must be careful to guard against either legalism (works righteousness) or antinomianism (no law). We cannot add to what Christ has done for us, but at the same time, the Law has not been abolished. The Law has been written on our hearts, so it is the Spirit that works in us, making God’s law a delight to us. The Law is powerless to save, but it points us to Christ, who is our righteousness and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). Unconditional election is a call to holiness. “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)

So, the very purpose of election is to make God’s people holy. God’s election does not destroy moral effort; rather, as Spurgeon notes, “God’s choice makes chosen men choice men.” And Thomas Watson said, “Sanctification is the earmark of Christ’s elect sheep.” No believer can say, “Because I am elect, I do not need to be Christ-like.” Rather, a believer should say, “Because I am elect, I cannot avoid being Christ-like.” As surely as God has committed to save a people for the glory of his name, He also is committed to their purity in life and heart. No true Christian should be comfortable in a lifestyle of sin. This is the work of the Spirit bringing conviction and causing us to confess and look to Christ.