First, I want to thank everyone who submitted their opinions on the taxation issue in my last blog. I confess that I still don’t know what to think about the issue, but it was very encouraging to see all the various responses given.
What I wanted to write about here is something that I’ve been thinking about for quite a while. Ever since I came to the Calvinist position, I’ve struggled to understand particular aspects of the Arminian position; namely the idea that faith precedes regeneration. Let me explain. Arminians (a.k.a. "free will" advocates) tell us that everyone has the capacity to display saving faith. Or in other words, if man does his part (repent and believe) then God will do His part (enable the believer to be born again). Therefore, it is asserted by the Arminian that God is doing everything He can do to save everyone equally and without particularity, but it is up to man to respond. If man doesn’t respond, God doesn’t save.
Is this what you, the reader, believes about salvation? Do you think that you believed, professed faith in Christ, and THEN God worked in your heart and gave you spiritual life? If this is what you believe, let me share with you a text that says otherwise.
"I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. When they come there, they will remove all the detestable things and all its abominations from it. And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Them they will be My people, and I shall be their God. But as for those whose hearts go after their detestable things and abominations, I will bring their conduct down on their heads," declares the Lord God. (Ezekiel 11:17-21)
Israel was a wicked nation. The Old Testament is full of examples of God pouring out His wrath against His own chosen people because they refused to turn from their sins. But for what reason did God remain patient with them and continue to refer to Israel as His chosen people? One word: Grace. There was absolutely nothing in Israel that could ever lead God to choose them as His people.
But what about you? If you have professed faith in Christ, ponder this thought for a moment. Why is it that you, rather than the atheist across the street, professed faith in Christ? Is it because you are smarter than him? Or maybe its because you are wiser? Or how about this; maybe you are simply more spiritual than him? Which is it? If you believe that every man has the capacity to profess faith in Christ, then what was it about you that caused you to believe? There must be something. If not, would it be safe to say that maybe, just maybe, our faith and believing had nothing to do with us, but instead, was all of God?
Look at verse 18. God says that he will remove all the detestable things and abominations from it. But how can God do that? If it is up to man to make the move, to believe and repent, then how could God fulfill His purpose in removing these sins? Notice: nothing in the context of these verses mention anything about man somehow mustering up enough faith for God to work in His heart. Instead, there is a very common theme throughout: Salvation is completely and totally of God. More on this to come.
"And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh." (v. 19) Here’s the answer! The way that God fulfills His purpose in removing the idols from Israel is to work in the hearts of His people! In order for man to even begin to trust in God, the Holy Spirit must do a work in his heart first. “Wait a minute!” the Arminian objects. "God can give them a new spirit, but man still has the free will to reject it!" This is a valid objection, but it only works if you ignore the rest of the passage and many other texts of Scripture.
"that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God." (v. 20) In other words, when God performs that work of taking out a heart of stone and giving them a heart of flesh (i.e. the Holy Spirit), the result is a new creation that will do what they could never do before; do that which is pleasing to God! I don’t know about you, but that is a pretty amazing truth! Just think, your salvation had absolutely nothing to do with yourself. Salvation is one hundred percent of God, not 99.9 percent God and .1 percent you. Everything from repenting, believing, and doing good works is all because God gave you grace and mercy by performing a miracle in your heart! This cannot be said from the Arminian perspective.
Last, verse 21 says "But as for those whose hearts go after their detestable things and abominations, I will bring their conduct down on their heads." Hold on. Didn’t verse 20 tell us that God will give His people a new heart? If so, then how could God judge those who failed to obey Him? Wouldn’t that suggest that God chooses to have grace and mercy on some and not others? Yep, you guessed it. Grace and mercy is undeserving! If it weren’t for God bestowing Grace on us, then we would be just like Israel in verse 21; justly condemned by God’s Holy Law.
And this is what I simply cannot understand about the Arminian position. They assert that God is doing everything He can to save everyone. Perhaps God gives everyone a heart of flesh, but only some accept it? I cannot help but view the Arminian God as a God who tries to save, but fails. The will of the almighty God of the Universe is thwarted by the almighty will of man. Is this the God of the Bible? No. The God of the Bible will not fail in His purpose. As John 6:37 says, "All that the Father has given Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." My friends, God is a powerful Savior and He will not fail in His purpose. Everyone that God wants to save, He will save with 100 percent accuracy. And those that God does not save will justly be condemned by God because they refused to repent and believe.