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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « The Purity of New Covenant Membership as a Defense of Credo-Baptism | Main | Four Short Book Reviews »

    Whosoever Will May Come

    On his blog, Vincent Cheung writes: The following is an edited email correspondence.

    When I speak to my parents and pastor, it is typical for them to bring up the line "whosoever will may come" as the statement that somehow proves man's free will and refutes the idea that salvation comes from God alone.

    One of the most frequent fallacies that people commit is the fallacy of irrelevance. Therefore, whenever we come across an argument or objection that supposedly refutes what Scripture teaches, sometimes it suffices to simply ask, "So what?"

    Like many of the objections from Arminians, this one entirely misses the point. Perhaps they have in mind Revelation 22:17, which says, "whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (KJV). Since this is what God says, we readily agree with it, but then what? Who will actually come? It does not tell us. Or, to be more precise, why does anyone decide to come? What is the metaphysical and spiritual cause behind the person's decision and his change in disposition? That is the question. The statement from Revelation, or any other "whosoever" statement for that matter, tells us only about what is available to or what will happen to the person who comes. It does not tell us why anyone would come, or why a person comes when he does.

    Here is something that I wrote in Born Again, my exposition of John 3:

    I can say, "Whoever becomes a fish can breath under water." The statement is true, but it does not mean that a person can become a fish anytime he wishes. In fact, any inference about one's ability is strictly invalid, since the statement contains no information about ability except for the fish's ability to breath under water. Whether or not it is possible for a person to become a fish, one can infer nothing about it from the statement itself, but it only informs us as to what would happen to a person who turns into a fish.

    Moreover, even if it is possible for a person to become a fish, the statement says nothing about how this is possible, or whether it is within the person's own power to do so. God is certainly able to turn a man into a fish, but a man "cannot make even one hair white or black" (Matthew 5:36). A statement like the one that I have made tells us nothing about a person's ability, but information about ability must be obtained elsewhere.

    Whenever we are talking about something that is impossible with man – such as for a man to turn himself into a fish – it means that it will either never happen, or God must make it happen by his omnipotence.

    I then offer an illustration from Matthew 19:23-26. Please see p. 53-55 for the complete section. Or on this site (www.vincentcheung.com), see Born Again (41) and (42).

    Arminians have no respect for the actual language of the text, which means that they have no respect for its author. They are determined to infer from it whatever they want, even when a passage does not address the topic at all.

    In answer to the relevant question of why anyone comes to Christ at all, the Bible says that it is God who chooses the person, changes his nature, and controls his mind, and that is what causes him to "come." We have established this from Scripture again and again, so we will not repeat the information here. Anyway, this is the biblical teaching that the Arminians must refute. As it is, their objection amounts to saying, "Calvinism is wrong because the Bible teaches that anyone who believes in Christ will be saved." But this does not even apply to the debate, since Calvinism does not assert that some people who believe in Christ will nevertheless be condemned. No, Calvinism agrees that all believers are saved. The question is and has always been who will believe in Christ, and what causes these people to believe in him.

    Whenever you are confronted with an objection against the Christian faith, it is always advisable to question the relevance of what is asserted and make the opponent demonstrate its relevance. In this case, sometimes without being aware of it, it seems that the Arminians assume that God's command, which incurs human responsibility, also presupposes human ability or freedom. But as I often mention, although God's command and man's responsibility are inseparably related, there is no biblical or logical relationship at all between divine command (or sovereignty) and human freedom (or ability), or between human responsibility and human freedom. To say that we are responsible has nothing to do with whether we are free, but only with whether God has commanded and whether he will judge...

    Posted by Vincent Cheung on October 8, 2006 at www.vincentcheung.com

    Posted by John Samson on April 22, 2007 12:24 AM

    Comments

    Arminians have no respect for the actual language of the text, which means that they have no respect for its author.

    Amen. It is an easy trap to fall into. We all bring bias to the Text. This article shows how desparate any of our fallen minds are to make leaps in Scripture.

    Very helpful Pastor Samson. Thanks for the post.

    I agree entirely with all that is stated in this post, but perhaps jus in one point, and that not with the concept but in the way that the concept is explained. I will cite what is posted:

    "In answer to the relevant question of why anyone comes to Christ at all, the Bible says that it is God who chooses the person, changes his nature, and CONTROLS HIS MIND, and that is what causes him to "come."" (emphasis mine)

    I feel that the statement "controls his mind" contributes that some people will attribute that you teach some kind of "puppet theory" on salvation. Don't you feel that you can express the change of heart and mind operated by God in the person that doesn't sound that way?

    Blessings and keep the great posts!!

    Johan

    Excellent post... Thank you this is quite helpful.

    C.H. Spurgeon says something similar in his sermon: Human Inability

    "Oh!" saith the Arminian, "men may be saved if they will." We reply, "My dear sir, we all believe that; but it is just the 'if they will' that is the difficulty. We assert that no man will come to Christ unless he be drawn; nay, we do not assert it, but Christ himself declares it--"Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life;' and as long as that "ye will not come' stands on record in Holy Scripture, we shall not be brought to believe in any doctrine of the freedom of the human will." It is strange how people, when talking about free-will, talk of things which they do not at all understand. "Now," says one, "I believe men can be saved if they will." My dear sir, that is not the question at all. The question is, are men ever found naturally willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ? We declare, upon Scriptural authority, that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, and so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful. supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will ever be constrained towards Christ. You reply, that men sometimes are willing, without the help of the Holy Spirit. I answer--Did you ever meet with any person who was? Scores and hundreds, nay, thousands of Christians have I conversed with, of different opinions, young and old, but it has never been my lot to meet with one who could affirm that he came to Christ of himself, without being drawn. The universal confession of all true believers is this--"I know that unless Jesus Christ had sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God, I would to this very hour have been wandering far from him, at a distance from him, and loving that distance well." With common consent, all believers affirm the truth, that men will not come to Christ till the Father who hath sent Christ doth draw them."

    "Arminians have no respect for the actual language of the text, which means that they have no respect for its author." -Cheung

    In the language of the old King James, "Walkest not thou charitably?"

    Although I basically agree with the content of this post, I think this comment is over the top. Many godly men throughout history who have not been Calvinsts have loved God, followed His Word, led many to Christ, and will hear at the judgement seat of Christ, "Well done thou good and faithful servant."

    Alan

    Given what we know of Vincent's writings, we do not believe he means to say that Arminians are unsaved or that they have not been used of God. If we believe in grace as Calvinists then we believe that God saves people in spite of their bad theology.

    But I will attempt to give you an example where many Arminians do not respect God. A large number of them try to argue against Calvinism by saying that if God ordains all things that come to pass, as Calvinists teach, then [they reason] He is necessarily evil, arbitrary etc.

    Well, since God does in fact ordain all things that come to pass and nothing takes Him by surprise, then they are, in fact, calling God evil. This form of argument was intended by Arminians to protect God from the evil charge but by making the argument they are in danger of doing the very thing they claim to want to avoid.

    Arminians are our brothers and sisters in Christ because they believe that they have no hope save in Jesus Christ alone. But whenever we misrepreset God, to that same degree we commit idolatry. That does not mean such a person is not a Christian, but it means that they need to be corrected. So when Vincent says that "they have no respect for its author" when they indeed misrepresent Him in the Text in order to create a more palitable God, then Vincent is not being uncharitable, but charitible. It is a loving rebuke meant to bring a person under Christ's authority in this matter, not a condemnation of their soul. At least if they have no respect for him in the given text, then to that extent they are picking and choosing a God of their own design. We all need to be watchful since we all do this to some degree just by reason that we are sinful humans.

    To further the point... if two persons hear the gospel and one responds in faith ...if you ask an Arminian what makes two persons to differ? is it Jesus Christ or something else?, they are forced to answer "something else" ... which basically shows the inconsistency of their other teaching of salvation can be found in Christ alone. If it isn't the grace of Jesus alone that makes me who I am then it leaves room for boasting in something else. The cross and Jesus Christ become sidelined, not central. This compromises the gospel itself. The reason we believe Arminians are saved for the most part, in spite of this, is because they are inconsistent on this point. But those Arminians who actually believe that one can lose his salvation are treading on dangerous ground and are not much different than a Romans Catholic who also asserts that a person much maintain his own just standing before God. If one can lose their salvation due to some sin then Christ and his crosswork is not sufficient.

    The problems in synergistic theologies are enormous here and not something to be glosseed over, but not necessarily fatal since we are not saved by gnosis but by grace. A person who believes in Jesus Christ alone has had his heart opened by the Holy Spirit, so we should judge him charitably, but we should not maintain silence in the face of bad theology.

    Shalom

    The subject of free in whatever disguise has been so strangled and untiring source of arguement. I believe poor presentation of this great gift - WILL - from God by the Arminians does not make the subject to be precluded from objective reappraisal and giving its rightful place in theology.

    Salvation is the gift of God, hence the focus is not on the receipient.

    Just like a lost man, who was accosted by someone who knew the man was heading for disaster, offered him a map to help him find his way. If the man takes the map, the issue will not be the taking of the map, but the giver and the gift itself.

    However, his volitional responsiblity is required because a gift of necessity requires acceptance otherwise it cannot be tranfered. Hence his acceptance does not constitute; choosing the giver but giver finding the lost and freely offering the gift. May God help us all that in our bid to fight for the truth, we end up not fighting against it. Take a cue from Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar

    Femi

    If the person in your map analogy hates the giver of the map, he isn't going to take it under any circumstances because he thinks that the giver only has ill will toward him and must be lying. Our wills are in bondage to our corrupt natures by necessity, not as a matter of coersion. We choose to reject Christ with our volition but we will only choose Christ if God's grace disarms the natural hostility of our hearts and grants us the faith to believe (John 6:63-65, 37). Otherwise all would be lost.

    Further, if a parent saw their child run into the street when a car is coming. If the parent merely stood there and offered to save the child if the child met certain conditions, you would not think the parent very loving. True, love, instead is like a parent who runs out in to the street at the risk of his own life to scoop up the child top make certain he is safe ... in other words, true love gets the job done.

    The Arminian kind of love asserts that we must first meet a condition, that is, believe, if God is to love us. Yes, we must believe the gospel but naturally love darkness and will not come into the light (John 3:19, 20). So Christ meets the condition for us, granting us a new heart that we might believe. God loves us in spite of ourselves and does for us what we could not do for ourselves...

    I would like your thoughts on this passage. Thanks

    Isa 55:6 ¶ Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

    My son and I go back and forth about reformed doctrin all the time. I try to gleen from both thoughts. The Reformed doctrin is very dogmatic and leaves no room for,"we could be wrong". The truth is we are all living in error. There is none rightious, no not one. What if you as a reformed believer get to the Gates of Heaven after serving God all your life, and the Lord says,"sorry your name is not in the Lambs book of life, you are not one of the elect". You see my Bible says "God is willing that none should parish". If that is God's will then your doctrin is lacking. Of course God alone is responsable for our salvation. But he will never force our will. It's not a work on our part to choose to give our lives to God, it's a choice. There are three things the Paul says are important Faith Hope and Love , the geatest of these is love. Not once is doctrin ever mentioned. You should choose love not dogmatism as your foundation. When ever I hear a sermon from a reformed pastor he always starts with, "I know what other denomanations believe, but what I tell you is the truth". My Bible tells me that Jesus is the truth not Calvin Not Spurgen, not any man. You can't put God in a box. If God's will is so powerful why did He fail in the garden of Eden. Well He didn't, man made a wrong choice. Just like we have a choice now. "Choose yee this day whom you will serve". It's all about choice not works. If God only chooses whom He will, than He is a bigot. God loves all men libraly and abradeth not. In others words, we are all given the opportunity to choose Him. "For God so loved the world (cosmos) that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not parish but have everlasting life". The key word, whosoever.
    Sincerly Michael Severson

    I must say that I completly disagree. TO follow Calvin's logic, Christ death on the cross would only be for the elect, yet the Word of God says that Christs death was for the whole world. John 3:16 and Revelation 3:20 (and their corresponding chapters)do not stipulate the "who."

    And they sang a new song, saying, Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth. (Rev. 5:9-10)

    One of the glorious truths of Scripture is that Jesus is not a hypothetical Savior, a mere wanna-be who fails with regularity. No, we proclaim a powerful Savior who perfectly does the will of the Father. His death did not make the purchase of men from every tribe, tongue, people and nation possible, it actually accomplished that which the Triune Majesty intended. Why so many long for an "atonement" that atones not I will never understand, but when they make reference to the extent of the atonement, point them to this text that defines what it means to speak of the "world" in a New Testament context. - Dr. James White

    I asked Jesus into my heart and it worked! I did NOT grow up in a Christian family, so I KNOW the difference. I made a conscious, calculated, analytical, logical decision while in my unregenerate state. THEN I asked Jesus to come into my heart. THEN I was regenerated. This goes against the teachings of Calvinists, Lutherans, and I suppose Augustinians in general. Jesus sits at the right hand of God. I’m glad to know that there are those that must sit at His left hand, because they know my salvation experience better than I do. After all, they believe because they were regenerated. I was regenerated because I believed. Augustine, Luther, and Calvin had their experiences. I had mine, as did many friends who report the same thing. Write me off as a semi-Pelagian, I don't care. I know how I got saved.

    I KNOW I'm saved. And I know HOW I got saved. And it contradicts NOTHING in the Bible, only the understanding that some other people have. I understand that many say a prayer and think that it saves them. I also realize that many say the prayer and believe the gospel, and that is how they get saved, just as I did. I think it's rather arrogant of others to doubt my salvation experience, based on what THEY experienced. I KNOW that I'm regenerated, and I know WHEN that happened, because in MY case, I had to do a 180 degree turn. I KNOW the work of regeneration, I HAVE BEEN regenerated, and that happened AFTER I did what decades later people tell me I CAN'T do, which was to ask Jesus into my heart. Beware of being trapped in a theological system, for that's exactly what Calvinism (and any other ism) is. In fact, that’s the real problem with theology today. We get trapped in isms, and it’s like a football game: beat the other guy, we’re the good guys, win at any cost, go team go.

    By the way, I was baptized five months after getting saved, so I can NEVER believe in baptismal regeneration, no matter how many verses people quote to the contrary (and later I was confirmed a Missouri Synod Lutheran). There really are things that I know from experience. The problem isn't that my beliefs contradict the Bible, for they are conservative all the way. The problem is that they contradict old theologies which need refining. Or can someone tell me me that I'm not saved, someone who knows more about my salvation experience than I do?

    Growing up without New Testament teachings, the day came when I had to advance a step further and accept the gospel in its fullness, converting from a background which hates Jesus Christ. It might not have been the way SOMEONE ELSE got saved, but it's the way that I got saved. It worked for me. I cannot deny my regeneration any more than I can deny my own existence, for it is in me. And I know how it got there. It was a work of God that He did with my permission. I don't fill my own teeth, but a dentist still needs my permission. Ditto with MY salvation, even if not everybody else's.

    Hi Howard,

    So let me put this kindly - one one side there is Jesus saying that unless a man is born again he cannot enter or even see the kingdom of God; and then on the other there is you saying that while unregenerate you could see and enter the kingdom - and in fact you did.. hmmmm, you know, while I appreciate you writing of your experience, I believe Jesus is the greater authority here and I go with Him on this.

    It has been important for me that john 6:65 is there. NOTHING happens with out God saying so. It does present lots of queries perhaps but is a safer position. He can be trusted I believe.

    Basing an entire theology upon ONE topic from the Bible is by definition, a cult. Reformists take the focus off the only object worthy of our attention - Jesus! If we all focus on what jesus asked us to focus on, WHO CARES if we're predestined or not. Living for Christ on Earth and going to Hell is still better than not living for Christ and going to Hell. At least you get to enjoy SOME of Heaven on Earth before your eternal damnation.. ;)

    Basing an entire theology upon ONE topic from the Bible is by definition, a cult. Reformists take the focus off the only object worthy of our attention - Jesus! If we all focus on what jesus asked us to focus on, WHO CARES if we're predestined or not. Living for Christ on Earth and going to Hell is still better than not living for Christ and going to Hell. At least you get to enjoy SOME of Heaven on Earth before your eternal damnation.. ;)

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