We should consider the humbling truth that we are not invincible. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. A house of mourning will one day convene because of our death. Facing the truth of our mortality can have a sobering effect. Earthly life really ends, and earthly life really matters.
The writer says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart” (Eccl. 7:2).
We should reflect on that observation, for the writer is telling us something that’s “better.” In such “better” statements, the “better” way is the wise way.
Two houses are contrasted: the house of mourning and the house of feasting. The house of feasting would be understandably appealing. Feasting denotes celebration, liveliness, fellowship, joy. Haven’t you been at a table with friends or family and thought, “I don’t want this to end. The joy is so palpable, the company so delightful”?
We are more comfortable at the house of feasting, for sure. Laughter rings in the air, and it’s contagious. The atmosphere can be relaxed, and it’s a breath of fresh air.
So how is going to the “house of mourning”…better? After all, mourning denotes sorrow and grief. There’s loss to face, and the older we get the more losses we experience. The “house of mourning” is about the reality of death.
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By Ron DiGiacomo — 11 months ago
Although God does not desire the salvation of the reprobate, we may declare with full confidence and without equivocation: “God came to save sinners, like you and like me. Come now, receive and rest Christ as he is freely offered to you this day and you will be saved!”
Q. What is effectual calling?A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.WSC Q&A 31
Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.Canons of Dort 2.5
The free offer of the gospel (abbreviated “free offer”) has meant different things at different times. From a confessional standpoint, it can only mean that God sincerely offers salvation to all who repent and believe. The meaning is at best narrow. The confessions do not speak in terms of God’s desire for all men to be saved; they merely teach that God promises the gift of everlasting life to all who would turn from self to Christ. This promise of life through faith is sincere. It is a genuine offer. If you believe, you will be saved. This gospel is to go out to all men everywhere.
Arminians are often quick to point out that the free offer is inconsistent with Calvinism. They reason that if the offer of the gospel is sincere and to go out to all people without exception, then God must desire the salvation of all people without exception. Otherwise, they say, the offer isn’t sincere. How can God desire the salvation of all men without exception if God as the ultimate decider of man’s salvation chooses to pass over some? In other words, Arminians reason that unless God desires to save all men, which they observe does not comport with Calvinism, the free offer of life through faith is insincere when given to the reprobate. Their axiom is that a sincere gospel offer implies a sincere desire to see the offer accepted, a well-meant offer. More on that in a moment.
The OPC’s Majority Report
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), representative of possibly most Calvinists today on the matter of the free offer, under the leadership of John Murray and Ned Stonehouse, adopted as a majority position the Arminian view that God desires the salvation of all men. While still holding fast to the Reformed view of predestination, the OPC affirmed the view that that the free offer cannot adequately be disassociated from a divine desire of salvation for all men without exception. In other words, such Calvinists assert that the genuineness of the gospel offer presupposes God’s desire that all embrace Christ.
Subsequently, the free offer has taken on the additional meaning of a well-meant offer, or desire, that the reprobate turn and be saved. Accordingly, a major difference between Arminians and such Calvinists as these is on the question of consistency.
Back to first principles. What makes an offer genuine or sincere?
Can we judge whether an offer is genuine or sincere simply based on whether it is true or not? If God intends to keep his promise, then isn’t the offer genuine? With respect to the gospel, if one meets the condition of faith, he will one day enter the joy of Lord. Isn’t that enough to make the offer of salvation sincere?
Let’s do some basic theology…
What does it mean that God desires the salvation of the reprobate? Are we to believe that God desires the reprobate to do something he cannot do, namely regenerate himself and grant himself union with Christ? Or, is that to check our Calvinism at the door? Isn’t it Jesus who saves? Isn’t salvation of God after all? At best, if we are to remain consistent with our Calvinism, then wouldn’t it follow that to argue for a well-meant offer of the gospel we’d have to posit that God desires that he himself would regenerate the reprobate unto existential union with Christ? After all, when God desires the salvation of the elect, his desire is fulfilled not through sinners giving life to themselves but by God recreating sinners in Christ according to his predestinating decree of salvation.
Aside from the question of whether God desires that unchosen persons act contrary to the decree, what does it mean for God to desire that he himself act contrary to how he determined he would act? Of course, I know no Calvinist who affirms the well-meant offer of the gospel who would say that God desires that he had elected all unto salvation, or anything like that. Yet if man cannot turn himself, as Calvinism clearly affirms, then isn’t the implication of a well-meant offer that God desires that he would turn those he has determined not to save?
Simply stated, since Calvinism affirms total depravity, wouldn’t it stand to reason from a Calvinistic perspective that if God desires someone’s salvation, God must desire that he save that person? Accordingly, the questions that should be considered in this regard are either (a) “Does God desire the reprobate to turn himself and live?” Or (b), “Does God desire that he himself turn the reprobate so that he can live?”
Given that man is blind and deaf to spiritual things and cannot do anything to to turn himself Godward, how are we not strictly dealing with the theological plausibility of (b), that God desires to turn the reprobate contrary to what he has already decreed? If TULIP is true, then (a) would seem to be a non-starter.
By Keith Kauffman — 6 months ago
Theological systems that reject the eternal security of the believer find motivation for outward deeds in earning or keeping one’s salvation. Lives are spent doing good deeds in hopes that they can merit the favor of God. But for those whose confidence rests in God’s saving power alone, we go forth serving Christ with joy and confidence. If our service goes unnoticed, we don’t care because we know God sees it and we serve to please Him.
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! – Romans 11:1
The fear of rejection is perhaps one of the more influential considerations in our decision making. The choices we make, the conversations we choose to have or avoid, the way we spend our money; many times, these decisions are guided by our desire to avoid being rejected by others. The desire for a lasting acceptance seems an innate characteristic of humanity. If we are fortunate enough to somehow make it as part of the “in” group, the inner circle, we often take whatever steps we deem necessary to remain as such. To be numbered among the people of God is the best inner circle there could be, the most glorious collection of people there has ever been. To be a sinner saved by the grace of God alone through the atonement set forth in Christ is to be truly blessed, and so it begs the question: can one ever go from being part of the people of God to being separate from the people of God? There have been erroneous systems of Christianity throughout the centuries that have argued it is indeed possible to lose one’s salvation. A sacramental Roman Catholicism argues for the necessity of works to maintain one’s place within the family of God. An Arminian Protestantism denies the Reformed doctrine of eternal security. Both theological systems fly directly in the face of Scripture’s assertion that once numbered among the people of God, there is nothing that could ever remove you. Yet it begs one final question though: could God Himself remove you? Again, the Scriptures are clear: by no means!
Books have been written to prove this point from Scripture, so we’ll forego a lengthy discussion on proving this point. We’ll simply echo what Paul says in Romans 8: those whom God predestines, he also calls, justifies, and glorifies. Salvation is entirely of God from beginning to end. Or perhaps more poignantly, once we have been united to Christ by faith, we cannot be disunited, and our sins, both past and future, are covered by His blood.
By Bill Muehlenberg — 3 months ago
At the end of the day, as our culture rapidly changes all around us, we must retain an unchanging message. That is non-negotiable. But we can be open to new methods – at least to SOME new methods. But even here real care and prayer is needed as to the best way to proceed.
Some things change in life. Some things do not change. Knowing which is which is vital. As to the former, people change. Cultures change. Societies change. But as to the latter, God does not change. The Christian gospel does not change. Our fundamental need as human beings does not change.
So how does the Christian know how best to present an unchanging gospel to a changing world? At the risk of oversimplifying things, when it comes to the gospel and our presentation of it, there have been three quite broad options to run with. They are:
-Keep the message and the methods the same – fundamentalist Christians.
-Keep the message but change the methods – evangelical Christians.
-Change the message and the methods – progressive Christians.
Others have made use of this threefold scheme, and all three of these positions need to be teased out more fully to do them justice. But roughly speaking, that is sort of how things have panned out in the West over the past few centuries. And the three Christian camps also need to be discussed a bit further. So let me seek to unpack all of this.
The term “fundamentalist” gets a bad rap today, and it is usually used as a term of derision. And it does not help when Christians who can be described as fundamentalists are put in the same category as fundamentalist Islam. The term arose over a century ago when believers chose to affirm the fundamental truths of the gospel, and oppose the liberal theology and social gospel of the day. See this article for more: https://billmuehlenberg.com/1999/07/26/what-is-fundamentalism/
Evangelicals in part sprang out of the fundamentalist camp (but go back before that as well) and they too strongly champion unchanging biblical doctrines that can never be jettisoned nor diluted. Thus the Trinity and the deity of Christ are must-believe core doctrines that of course go back to the early church creeds. See more on them here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/03/19/what-is-evangelicalism/
Progressive Christians tend to be those of the religious left, who not only embrace various political and social agenda items usually championed by the secular left, but tend to have a very weak view of biblical basics as well. In fact, most are quite happy to insist that we must reject or radically redo most basic Christian beliefs. I explain this in more detail here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/01/23/progressive-christianity/
Gospel and Method
As to the three main ways to present the gospel, let me look at how the three groups might proceed:
Fundamentalists are quite right to not want to change the core gospel message. But they might be wrong when it comes to how we present the gospel. For example, they might resist such things as newer and more easy to understand Bible translations, perhaps insisting that one can only use the KJV.