Friday, April 21, 2006

Reflections on Sanctification

American Christianity tends to focus on only one aspect of God's salvation of His people, when in fact salvation is a three-fold process. Down South when someone becomes a Christian, people say he "got saved," as if it is a single event in the past. What's done is done. Through the ages (consider the reformers, for example), the term "saved" has been used in a much broader sense, in accordance with scripture. Salvation is not a one-time thing because salvation is not an event but a journey. I was saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.

When Christ drew me to himself by faith, I was justified as my sins were forgiven and I was declared righteous before God - justification is salvation from the penalty of sin. I am now being sanctified, as the Holy Spirit works in me to slowly conform me closer and closer to Christ's image - sanctification is salvation from the power of sin. Someday, when I am loosed from this imperfect, earthly body, I will be glorified, at last without even the temptation of sin - glorification is salvation from the presence of sin.

Being a child who was catechized, I've known for a long time the terms and respective definitions of the three aspects of salvation, but it has been only recently that I've really begun to understood sanctification. It is so easy to see sanctification as our pleasing God by cleaning up our lives by ourselves, rather than the Holy Spirit working through us to conform us to Christ's image. Truly everything good in me is of God, not myself, and sanctification too is only through God's grace and His enabling.

***Disclaimer***
My intent is not to paint a fatalistic view of sanctification in which God robotically manipulates His people. Sanctification is by the Holy Spirit's working and His enabling, but man is still active! I am not at all an advocate of hyper-Calvinism or the
Let Go, and Let God theology! Given my past struggles with understanding sanctification, this post is intended to focus more on God's role, but it is not intended as a complete discourse on the subject.
**************

It amazes me how God takes filthy people like myself, who have profaned His name and worshipped idols - either literal or figurative - and transforms them by His power and for His glory. Just study a few of our Biblical heroes to see the great work of grace that God does in the lives of fallen sinners. Adam's sin cursed all of mankind, yet God granted him a righteous seed and ultimately The Righteous Seed. David was a murderer and adulterer, yet he was beloved of God - a man after God's own heart. Peter was The Rock on which Christ built His church, yet he personally denied Christ three times! Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament, yet he assisted in the murder of Stephen and scores of other early Christians. If any Biblical character understood the grace of God, it was Paul:

I Timothy, Chapter 1:


15Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

I used to not be able to understand this passage. How could Paul call himself the worst of sinners? Notice he calls himself that in the present tense, not the past tense. When he wrote I Timothy he was an apostle, a leader in the early church, divinely inspired by God to write the bulk of the New Testament. If anyone had it "together," he sure did! Okay, so he was still a sinner and his past was awful, but he was very Christ-like at the time of writing, and even with his past, there were zillions of people that had been far worse than him, right?

I understand what Paul meant now, though. Paul truly understood the gospel of grace. He saw his sin in all its shame - and he saw his sin more than he saw the sins of others - and he also saw Christ's blood covering over his sin. As Paul grew in his faith, his awareness of his sins, past and present, grew larger, and he continually became more and more aware of how filthy he was. The good news, though, is that his awareness of the cross also grew, covering over his sins! That is the message of the gospel, in a nutshell. God first shows us how very filthy we are, and then He picks up out of the mud and mire and personally cleanses us for His glory. He doesn't leave us to sanctify ourselves, but enables us and works through us.

Paul was once a Pharisee - likely a member of the very Sanhedrin that condemned Jesus to death. He aided in the stoning of Stephen and the persecution and deaths of scores of God's people. He did it under the guise of service to God, and he believed he was obeying God with his actions. He was very wrong, as the Lord abruptly revealed to him on the road to Damascus. God picked up this filthy Jew who was His enemy; He picked up the proud Pharisee who was breathing out murderous threats against His people. God jolted him out of darkness, showed him his sin, and proceeded to wipe away his guilt and his wicked ways.

God took a man who thought he had everything right before His Maker, showed him he did not, and then set about sanctifying him with His Spirit. If there was anyone aware of his own unworth of the mercies of Christ, it was Paul. He saw what he once was and saw what Christ was transforming him to be. He knew that this transformation was not by his merits, but by the merits of Christ. The old Paul was dead; Christ was alive in his place. Paul recognized that everything good in him was Christ, not his old self. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

I used to really not understand Paul's statement here in I Timothy, and it wasn't until God taught me about grace in my own life that I finally understood how Paul could make such a statement without false humility. Some of you may remember my musings on grace back in January and February (see pertinent posts here, here, and here to refresh your memory). I understood Paul's statement in I Timothy when I at last saw my utmost filth and Pharaseeism before God, when I finally understood that my sanctification (not just my justification and glorification) is also by God's power. Am I a passive bystander? Absolutely not! But neither is sanctifiation a matter of me pulling myself up by my own bootstraps. The strength and ability needed for sanctification is given me by God, as the Holy Spirit works in me.

Did you catch the last part of verse 16? Paul was shown mercy that Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Paul was saved not by his merits or for his own exaltation, but that Christ might display unlimited patience, that Christ (not Paul) might be an example to those who believe. One of my favorite old testament passages about salvation is Ezekiel, Chapter 36 (emphases mine):

22 "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.

24 " 'For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. 32 I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign LORD. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, O house of Israel!

Look at the glorious promises in this passage! We will be given a new heart and a new spirit; we will be cleansed from our impurities. We will be moved to follow God's laws - note the action is catalysted by God! Note also that this is not for our sake, but for the sake of His holy name. Our salvation is that His name may be famous, that His glory be displayed through the earth. The message of the gospel is that we are filthy and God is holy, but that God in His purpose and mercy has saved a people for Himself. We are to be ashamed and disgraced for our conduct, but then rest in the assurance that God is merciful even as He is holy. Salvation is not about man being good enough to please God or good enough to impress others; Salvation is about God's mercy and love to fallen sinners and about His name being made famous as He refines a people for Him.

Ultimately everything in all time has worked towards His overarching purpose of glorifying Himself. That is why He created the world, why He sustains it, why He saves His chosen people, and why He sanctifies His children. He saved us out of love, but not in order to exalt us in this life. That sounds very un-American, does it not? You mean it's not about me? That's right. It's all about God. Any good I have in me is solely from Christ, not myself. I was once dead to sin, not maimed by sin. Even my faith is a gift of God.

Anything good in my life or in the lives of other Christians is not of ourselves. It is by God and for God. That is why when we look at our brothers or sisters who may not seem as "sanctified" in a certain area as us, we should humbly think, There, but for the grace of God, go I. We are all in a violent, lifelong process of sanctification, to quote my pastor. When we, out of duty, confront fellow Christians regarding sin in their lives, it should be with an attitude of humility, realizing our own unworth of God's grace in our lives.

As we continue in our sanctification, our prayer should be that the good people see in us will be Christ, not us. May they see God's infinite patience as He transforms our twisted, sinful selves into His image, and may they murmur, Look what God hath wrought. May the focus be on Christ, not us! It's awfully hard to take such a humble view of things, is it not? I am the first to admit pride is a major struggle in my own life. But then, I am given a perfect example of humility - Christ Himself. Though equal with God, He humbled himself for the exaltation of the Father and His purposes:

Phillipians, Chapter 2

5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Christ became fully human so that He could not only suffer and die as our substitute, but so that he could also empathize with our situations. Christ was tempted in every way, yet was without sin. He lived a perfect life of humility and servanthood to the Father. Yet now He has been exalted! Humility, servanthood, suffering, death, and rejection had to come first, but He was promised exaltation when His task was done. Someday we also will be exalted and granted eternal bliss in the presence of God. Someday we will taste eternal pleasures at Christ's right hand.

9 comments:

Lydia said...

Wow, what an awesome message in this post. Thank you, Susan for reminding all of us of the riches of Christ. I found myself saying "Amen" out loud at several points. I can so relate to the way you described feeling as you see yourself over the years through sanctification. "It amazes me how God takes filthy people like myself, who have profaned His name and worshipped idols - either literal or figurative - and transforms them by His power and for His glory." Personally, I have seen more and more just how wretched I am and how wonderful Christ is. It causes me to feel totally in awe of Christ and his atoning work at Calvary.

"Our salvation is that His name may be famous, that His glory be displayed through the earth. The message of the gospel is that we are filthy and God is holy, but that God in His purpose and mercy has saved a people for Himself. We are to be ashamed and disgraced for our conduct, but then rest in the assurance that God is merciful even as He is holy. Salvation is not about man being good enough to please God or good enough to impress others; Salvation is about God's mercy and love to fallen sinners and about His name being made famous as He refines a people for Him."
You explained the purpose and intent of the gospel so well. Praise God for equipping you with this ability that comes from Him.

I especially loved what you had to say about the Apostle Paul. I think his testimony is the greatest example of how it is none of us but only Christ. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Paul did not choose God. God chose Paul as His own by His sovereign grace and mercy. His life is the ultimate picture of total depravity and unconditional election. "God took a man who thought he had everything right before His Maker, showed him he did not, and then set about sanctifying him with His Spirit. If there was anyone aware of his own unworth of the mercies of Christ, it was Paul. He saw what he once was and saw what Christ was transforming him to be. He knew that this transformation was not by his merits, but by the merits of Christ."

I especially loved what you had to say here: "Anything good in my life or in the lives of other Christians is not of ourselves. It is by God and for God. That is why when we look at our brothers or sisters who may not have it as "together" as us in a certain area, we should humbly think, There, but for the grace of God, go I. And that is also why, as we continue in our sanctification, our prayer should be that the good people see in us will be Christ, not us. May they see God's infinite patience as He transforms our twisted, sinful selves into His image, and may they murmur, Look what God hath wrought." Exactly! Who am I as a wretched sinner to say that I am superior in a given area over another brother or sister since Christ is the one doing the sanctifying work in each of our lives. It reminded me of what the disciple John exclaimed, "He must increase and I must decrease."

I was so blessed by this post. Thank you for sharing with us. I would love to link to it if I have the chance. It inspired me to maybe share of how I came to finally recognize the true doctrines of grace after shunning them and despising them before. May God be magnified in all we do as His own dear Son is exalted our lives.

Mrs.B. said...

Wow Susan! There are no words....this was AMAZING, well done!

I have a question about this quote though:

"Ultimately everything in all time has worked towards His overarching purpose of glorifying Himself. That is why He created the world, why He sustains it, why He saves His chosen people, and why He sanctifies His children."

Especially the sentence in bold--do people who hold to Reformed Theology believe that some are 'chosen' to be saved and some are 'chosen' to go to hell?

If so, how does that reconcile with the many verses that talk about God not being willing that 'ANY' should perish and that 'ALL' come to repentence?

It would seem to me that if He chose some to go to hell then He wouldn't use words like 'ANY' and 'ALL' in His Word.

Thanks! (o:

Mr. Baggins said...

Susan, great post. I might modify it slightly: Most Reformed theologians, while emphasizing that God is indeed at work in sanctification, also note that man is active. Both sides are necessary to stress in order to preserve the balance between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. The best book is Stephen Marshall's book called _The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification_. He was a Puritan, and understood the Gospel as few today do.

In response to Mrs. B, the Reformed faith believes that all are headed to hell unless God does something. So it is not as if humanity is grouped in between heaven and hell, and God splits some off that group to go one way, and the rest He *diverts from their original course of neutrality* to go to hell. That is not a correct picture. Predestination is not symmetrical. Those whom god has not chosen are *passed by,* in order to receive justice from God, while those that God chooses receive God's mercy. God is not some kind of homocidal maniac. Read Romans 9 very carefully (the passage that Arminians always skip), and read Ephesians 1.

With regard the words "any" and "all" in Scripture, we have to remind ourselves of the most important factor in biblical interpretation: context. Supposing I had a group of kids surrounding me, hounding me for a piece of candy. One particularly selfish boy asks me if I would only give candy to him. I say, "No, I am giving candy to all." The word "all" there is in a context: I am not giving candy to the entire world. Rather, I am giving candy to all of the group. The context determines what the "all" refers to. We cannot let our predetermined ideas about God obliterate the context in which the word "all" occurs. So, in 1 Tim 2, when Paul says that God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, we have to look back and see what the "all" is to whom Paul is referring. Are there any clues? Yes, there is verse 1, which uses the phrase "all people," *and then describes who the all people are.* That is, they are kings, and people in high positions. In other words, God's grace is not limited to any social class. But Paul is not making a head count of the world.

Similarly, in 1 John 2:2, where John says that Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ous only but also for the sins of the whole world, we have to understand here the *historical context.* The above example examined the literary context, whereas this one revolves around the historical context. John's readers were dealing with Gnosticism, a sect that believed in exclusivity with regard to knowledge: if you belonged to their clique, then you would have access to specialized knowledge. You weren't really "saved," as it were, unless you were initiated into their special group. This is much like the Masonic tradition today. So John is saying that salvation is *not limited* to a small group, but is for every tongue, language and nation. Therefore, John cannot be made to say that Jesus Christ was the propitation for every single person head for head.

The other reason we know that this is the correct interpretation, by the way, is that Jesus' propitation *actually accomplishes* the salvation of His people ("It is finished"). If it actually accomplished the salvation of every single person in the world, then all people would actually be saved. But we know that not every person in the world is saved. Therefore, Christ did not die for the sins of every single person in the world.

B.B. Warfield once put it this way: the Atonement of Christ is like butter, and people are like bread. Now, if the bread over which this butter is to be spread includes everyone in the world, then the butter would not completely cover the bread: our sins would not be forgiven. However, if the bread is smaller, then the butter would cover it completely. We must balance this analogy by saying that Christ's death has infinite value, and could cover everyone's sins. However, what we are trying to do is to understand why it is that not everyone is saved.

Now, how does this fit it with the free offer of the Gospel? For that is the next question usually asked. The answer is that God not only ordains the *result,* but He also ordains the *means* by which the results are reached. In other words, I as a Reformed person cannot just sit back and say, "Oh, God is going to do it all, therefore I don't have to do anything." The reason is that God has ordained that I be an instrument through which He accomplishes His purposes. It is really amazing to think how God can use fallen me to accomplish His eternal purpose.

But then you might ask, "But is the offer of the Gospel sincere or not?" It is sincere. All who repent and turn away from their sins will be saved. The place of the doctrine of election is not in evangelism ("Some of you are elect, and some aren't. all you have to do is discover which on it is for you"). That is a caricature of the Reformed faith. The real truth is that the doctrine of election exists to comfort doubting *believer.* Imagine salvation as a door. On the front side is an inscription, "All who will may enter." You walk through the door. On the back side of the door is this inscription, "Elect from all eternity." The point is, you can't know whether or not you are elect, unless you walk through the door, and even then it might take you awhile to be able to read that door correctly.

Actually, the doctrine of election not only requires evangelism, but undergirds and strengthens it. This has always been recognized in truly Reformed circles. It is the reason why Reformed churches have sent more missionaries into the field head for head than any other form of Christianity. What do I mean by election requiring evangelism? what I said above about God electing the *means* by which His people come to faith. The means is us! the doctrine of election also frees evangelism from the "anxious bench* syndrome common with Finney-style evangelism, where the salvation of the person depends on the eloquence of the speaker. I can share the Gospel in plain, unadorned speech, knowing that God will use it to bring His elect to salvation regardless of my eloquence. furthermore, I know that no amount of eloquence will persuade someone who is not elect. All I have to do, then, is simple sharing of the Gospel.

I hope I haven't overloaded you with this ridiculously long comment. But the questions you raised require a thorough answer or none at all.

Adrian C. Keister said...

I would agree with Lane whole-heartedly. While I also think you have a great post, there, I would have the same concern as Lane. Justification is by grace through faith plus nothing. It is a gift, totally unmerited. There are no works which we, as being merely human, can do in order to earn our justification. The same is not true of sanctification. Sanctification = faith plus works. God gives us the strength to do the works, and then we do them. It is that doing which is the sanctification. Marshall's book is, indeed, masterful, and I would second Lane's recommendation.

Keep up the good santifying work, there, Susan. :-)]

Hey, bro, nice outline of Reformed theology, there. I might link to it or post to it or something. Very nice, indeed.

In Christ.

Susan said...

Lydia, I also thought of the quote by John regarding Christ increasing :), but had omitted it because my post was already long. I'm glad you quoted it! It does fit nicely, doesn't it? Regarding your statement here:

Who am I as a wretched sinner to say that I am superior in a given area over another brother or sister since Christ is the one doing the sanctifying work in each of our lives.

I didn't mean to imply in the post (nor do I think you meant to either) that Christians do not have the right to confront sin in the lives of other Christians. In fact, it's our duty! - when done properly. I was speaking of the attitude of holier-than-thou, as I hope everyone realized. Just wanted to clarify that :).

Hmmmm, yes, I'm not a hyper-Calvinist for those wondering/worrying. *sheepish look* Re-reading my post, though, I was focusing so much on the part of sanctification that God plays, that my view almost comes across as fatalistic.

My post was intended as an extension of my own personal experience, as I went from struggling with the opposite view, so I therefore harped on God's role in sanctification. I would have done well to clarify, though! I was viewing this issue from my previously-works-oriented eyes - hence the narrow focus on God's role.

Sanctification is indeed of God, but man is not inactive! I meant that the good in us that enables us to do good works is of God, not ourselves, not that we are robotically manipulated. Some of my sentences were very poorly-worded; here, for example:

Truly everything good in me is of God, not myself, and sanctification too is a work of God, not man.

I did not mean that my good works are robotically forced by God. A better choice of words would have been a working of God, or something along those lines. We are given the means by God, therefore we cannot take credit. I certainly did not mean it to come across as fatalistic, though. I am not at all an advocate of the Let go, and let God theology!

Thank you so much, Lane and Adrian, for calling me on that! I appreciate that more than you probably realize :). I got online to order that book, but the searches I did turn up with Walter Marshall, not Stephen. I assume this is the same person?

Also, thank you so much, Lane, for your excellent response to Mrs. B's question. I hope that helps clarify, Mrs. B :). I read your question earlier this morning amidst lots of activity at our house, and I just prayed that someone else more knowledgeable than me would see and answer it, because my response would have been delayed, much longer, and much less succinct. I did not want to ignore it, because I knew you asked it in such an honest and kind way, as you always do :), but I didn't know if I would be able to do it justice.

And now I'm off to tweak my original post a bit. . .

Mr. Baggins said...

Oops, Walter Marshall it is! That is the book. Westminster Seminary bookstore (http://www.wtsbooks.com/) will undersell (on anything they have in stock) any internet price by %1.

Mr. Baggins said...

By the way, I do realize that you are reacting to your past. And that's very understandable. :-)} (goatee?) That often brings in over-compensation. And I knew that you probably already knew what I was saying. But it does enormous good to the Christian world to walk that razor-thin line between legalism and antinomianism.

Mr. Baggins said...

Now I'm doing the Gandalf thing with a p.p.p.s. But there is one more thing I wanted to say about God's revelation when it says that God wants all people to come to Himself. And that is this: there is a distinction between God's revealed will and God's decretive will (gotta love distinctions! They are a hallmark of Reformed theology! :-) That is to say, God can reveal something to us in His Word which it is not in His decretive will to happen. For instance, God can command in His Word that all people everywhere repent, whereas He has decreed that not all who hear that message will repent. The Bible clearly states that God takes no delight in the death of the wicked, but He does take delight in the death of His saints. The delight He takes in the death of His saints is that they are coming home. But the point is that God *wants* to save people, and He delights when that happens. We do not serve a cold, unloving God. However, God does pass by some, intending to show His justice on them. The example of Pharaoh comes to mind (Romans 9). I would argue that the number of those saved will outnumber those lost (a multitude that no one can number, says Revelation).

Furthermore, there is no such situation as a person banging on the doors of heaven and God refusing to let them in. That will never happen, because if they are banging on heaven's doors, it is because they are elect! The point is that God has to change us on the inside. We are not just sick from our sin, but dead (Eph 2).

Mrs.B. said...

Thank you Lane for taking the time to explain the basics of Reformed Theology to me. (o:

I have no desire to be contentious or to turn Susan's beautifully written post into a theological argument/debate. I would, however, like to respond to what you had to say.

First off, what Susan said was true. My question is sincere and not meant to 'just cause an arguement'. Until I started blogging words like Reformed Theology, Calvinism, Arminiansm and Reconstructionism were just words that I had no idea of the meaning. I've done some minor study on Reformed beliefs and found out that they are similar and different than mine. I don't fit the Calvanists or the Arminians as I will show below.

I did a little bit of reading on Calvinism and from what I understand those who hold to Calvinism believe that there are only 2 schools of thought among Christians. 1) Calvinism and 2) Arminianism. I must disagree because I looked up what 'Arminianism' meant (I had heard of the term but was not familiar with it) and here's in a nutshell what Arminians believe:

Arminianism's main tenets hold that:

1)**Men are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation.
2)**Salvation is possible by grace alone.
3)**Works of human effort are not cause or contribution to salvation
God's election is conditional on faith in Jesus.
4)**Jesus' atonement was potentially for all people.
5)**God allows his grace to be resisted by those unwilling to believe.
6)**Salvation can be lost, as continued salvation is conditional upon continued faith.

The reason I disagree is because I don't believe in all 6. I agree with numbers 2,4&5. I'm not sure about number 3 becaue I don't fully understand what it means.

Doctrinally I am an Independent, Fundamental, Baptist. I believe in election but I believe election always goes with God's foreknowledge. I don't believe God predestinated anyone for hell. I believe the Bible teaches that He knew before the foundations of the world who would accept and who would reject....1 Peter 2:2 explains this as does Romans 8:29. Again, I believe in predestination and election. God's election or choosing is always based on His foreknowledge.

Now, to talk about what you said. I completely agree with you..context in Scriptural interpretation is KEY! To keep from any 'private interpretation' you must know who the passage is written to and/or who the passage is written about.

You brought up Romans 9. I believe you are taking it out of context. Romans 9 is talking about the jews. Verses 3 & 4 show this.

As for Ephesians 1, like I said above, 1 Peter 1:2 addresses election and foreknowledge going together.

I also disagree with your analogy about the word 'all'. It may be accurate in some instances but I do not believe the Bible to be saying that. You referenced 1 Tim 2. Verse 6 says "Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.' I believe Christ died for all/everyone....that does NOT mean that everyone will be saved because most will reject Christ. God did not make us robots, He wants us to choose Him and it's done His way, PERIOD.

("Some of you are elect, and some aren't. all you have to do is discover which on it is for you"). That is a caricature of the Reformed faith.

The means is us! the doctrine of election also frees evangelism from the "anxious bench* syndrome common with Finney-style evangelism, where the salvation of the person depends on the eloquence of the speaker. I can share the Gospel in plain, unadorned speech, knowing that God will use it to bring His elect to salvation regardless of my eloquence. furthermore, I know that no amount of eloquence will persuade someone who is not elect. All I have to do, then, is simple sharing of the Gospel.

With all due respect Lane, I believe you are guilty of characturizing me and my beliefs here. I've heard the Finney arguement before, I just didn't realize what they meant until you just said it. NOONE I know believes that someone being converted or saved has anything to do with 'the eloquence of the speaker'. It's the Holy Spirit drawing them and working on their heart. It's God who does the work and the converting and saving....not man/woman. Noone can just wake up one day and decide 'I think I'm going to be a Christian today.' It must be done by the work of God but it is not open to only a few people. If that were the case then God could not use words like 'any', 'all' or 'whosoever'. 2 Peter 3:9b "....not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentence." That doesn't mean that 'all' will be saved it means that God desires for all to choose Him although He knows many won't. Romans 10:13 "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

I think our biggest differences lies in the interpretation of the words 'any', 'all', and 'whosoever'. And I realize that you're not going to change your mind and I am not going to change mine.

Again, I have no desire to stir up contention or trouble. I only wanted to address what you had to say. Of course, you are welcome to respond to what I've said but unless you need me to clarify something then I am going to gracefully bow out of this.

Thanks again Lane for taking time to explain your beliefs.

And thank you Susan for allowing me to respond and for giving me the benefit of the doubt and believing me when I say that I wasn't trying to be critical or stir up trouble. (o:

Blessings!

~Mrs. B

ps...apparantly we were posting at the same time! Pharoh was not chosen to go to hell....God knew before the foundations of the world that Pharoh would not choose God.

I also disagree that many will be saved...Matthew 7:14 says "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth into life and few there be that find it." I wish that most will be saved but unfortunately I don't think Scripture teaches this to be true.