I have been listening to the following podcasts over the last few days.
The Covenant of Works: How this one theological concept is essential to understanding the Bible, the Gospel, the life of Christ and the doctrine of justification. Its long history in reformed theology. Why it’s gone missing in popular evangelical theology. Why some people are resistant to it.
Just Thinking Podcast
Darrell Harrison and Virgil Walker get very personal by sharing with listeners their respective experiences of how God, in His providence, led them from Pentecostalism and Arminianism to Reformed theology and the Doctrines of Grace.
Dispensationalism (13-Part MP3 Discussion Series) I am now on session #3 where Rob McKenzie and Bob Tarullo of the Reformed Forum begin a series of episodes on the subject of Dispensational Theology.
Church History (MP3 Lecture Series) by James White (just began this series)
This lecture series by James White on church history began in early 2016 and continues. After 55 lectures, White has now reached to the time of Martin Luther. https://www.monergism.com/church-history-mp3-lecture-series
Grace to You Pulpit
Understanding Christian Freedom, a sermon by John MacArthur
One of the great benefits of the Internet is that nothing stays hidden within a single community very long. When false statements are made and bandied about, the likelihood of them being exposed for what they are is much more likely than when there was no Internet and teachers could speak to their flock in a closed bubble community.
This week I ran into this meme online posted by someone who obviously did not think very highly of Calvinism.
It says Calvinism [teaches that] "how shall they believe if they have not been regenerated" while Christianity teaches "How they shall believe if they have not heard?"
The man who posted this meme made it quite easy for his followers to disprove a strawmen version of "Calvinism" since it gives the very misleading impression that people who embrace a Calvinist view of God's sovereign grace don't believe in the necessity of preaching the gospel. Talk about false dichotomies. I have yet to meet any classical Calvinists who think people can be saved without hearing someone preach the gospel to them. But I have, upon occasion, heard some Arminians teach that many of those who never hear the gospel in their lifetime will still have an opportunity to repent after they die. No, the fact is that Reformed believers are adamant for the need to preach the gospel to every creature, or they won't be saved. The problem with the meme is that it sees this as a stark either/or choice. Either you are teaching 1) that you must be regenerated to be saved or 2) you are teaching that someone must hear the gospel and respond to it to be saved. But you can't be teaching both. That is a false dichotomy The Bible teaches that it is both:
Predestination destroys legalism. If salvation is by Christ ALONE, it leaves no room for boasting or trusting in ourselves, even a little. It strips us bare and forces us to abandon all hope in our own wisdom, will-power, efforts or rules. The Scripture declares: "It is because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:30-31)
This is not to say that Reformed people cannot be legalistic. Unless we daily remind ourselves of the gospel we all tend to invent ways to trust in ourselves, Reformed believers included. It means to say, rather, that if UNDERSTOOD CORRECTLY the doctrine of salvation by Grace ALONE in Christ ALONE will have the real effect of stripping us of all legalism, or trusting in our own (non-existent) righteousness. Again only God's grace can reveal this. When we understand that God "will have mercy on whom he will have mercy." (Rom 9:15) it will strike us down to the core of our being ... so that we can only look up to Christ.
Visitor: Please explain to me what you mean by God will have mercy on who he will have mercy on. Would you try to say that God would send someone to hell without a choice of accepting and serving Him?
"Since prayer is an aspect of our sanctification, our development or growth in godliness, it too must be understood as the fruit of what Christ has done for us. This is often the missing dimension in books and sermons on prayer...Problems emerge when the task of praying is urged without the motive and pattern of the unique saving role of Jesus. It then becomes a legalistic burden that cannot promote godliness...
"If my assessment has been accurate, it follows that many of our problems with prayer stem from a failure to understand the relationship of our praying to the ministry of Jesus, including his praying. A wrong perspective on prayer may well come from thinking of it as playing a part in establishing our acceptance with God. Prayer that is not the grateful response of the justified sinner is likely to degenerate into an attempt to gain acceptance. Then again, if the sole motive to pray is, as I have heard it put in sermons, 'Jesus got up early to pray, so how much more do we need to get up early to pray', it is missing the grace of God in the gospel. 'He did it, therefore we ought to' is not the perspective of the gospel unless it is linked with, 'He did it for us because we are unable to do it as we ought.'
"It comes down to the avoidance of legalism. Legalism is the name we give to the attempt to achieve righteousness, a right standing with God, by our own efforts in fulfilling the requirements of God. At root we understand that legalism is wrong, but we easily succumb to it without appreciating what is going on. The only answer to this is to keep reminding ourselves of what God has done for us as the central focus of the Bible."
by John Calvin
"Because of the bondage of sin by which the will is held bound, it cannot move toward good, much less apply itself thereto; for a movement of this sort is the beginning of conversion to God, which in Scripture is ascribed entirely to God’s grace. So Jeremiah prayed to the Lord to be 'converted' if it were his will to 'convert him' [Jer. 31:18, cf. Vg.]. Hence the prophet in the same chapter, describing the spiritual redemption of the believing folk, speaks of them as 'redeemed from the hand of one stronger than they' [v. 11 p.]. By this he surely means the tight fetters with which the sinner is bound so long as, forsaken by the Lord, he lives under the devil’s yoke. Nonetheless the will remains, with the most eager inclination disposed and hastening to sin. For man, when he gave himself over to this necessity, was not deprived of will, but of soundness of will. Not inappropriately Bernard teaches that to will is in us all: but to will good is gain; to will evil, loss. Therefore simply to will is of man; to will ill, of a corrupt nature; to will well, of grace.
Answer: No. definitely not. He answers our prayers THAT WE MAY have victory over sin. It is by the grace of God in Jesus Christ that we overcome sin. We come to Jesus empty handed. We have nothing to offer but our sin. Any good in us us purely the mercy and grace of God. Christ is the Savior so He does not come to tell us how to save ourselves by overcoming sin first and then asking for help later.. We need grace not only to come to Him but also the daily grace to overcome sin. No one overcomes sin in the power of the flesh. So when we first come to Jesus we appeal to him to rescue us from the guilt AND power of sin We do not pray "Lord deliver me from the guilt, but not the power of sin .. I got that part on my own..." no, no, no ... so even as Christians we come to him daily in prayer for the wisdom, strength and power to live for him, for, left to ourselves, we have NO HOPE to overcome sin (or do any good in the world) whatsoever. It is mercy alone that saves us and mercy alone that preserves us.
So I would say, rather, that God answers our prayer when we confess our sin and acknowledge our utter impotence to obey him apart from grace. That is where God meets us. And that way, when we do good, or overcome sin, God get's all the glory. If he only answered prayer based on our victory over sin it would be transactional ... based on works of the flesh rather than grace alone. But we owe everything we have to Him so our lives ought to be one of ceaseless dependence (1 Cor 1:29-31, Phil 3:3).
by J. Gresham Machen
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Studies in Theology (eBook) by B. B. Warfield
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The Power of God Unto Salvation (eBook) by B. B. Warfield
The Plan of Salvation (eBook by B. B. Warfield
Calvin and Calvinism (eBook) by B. B. Warfield
Augustine & The Pelagian Controversy (eBook) by B. B. Warfield