Notes from the Baptist Examiner.
A brother, colleague in the ministry, sent me several samples of the publication called The Baptist Examiner, a paper published in Kentucky and edited by Bob L. Ross and John R. Gilpin. Our sincere thanks for this kindness.
The papers which we read contained several remarkable articles, all of which clearly indicate the position of the writers as being strongly opposed to every semblance of Arminianism. A striking example of this we noticed in an editorial written by Bob L. Ross. The editorial contained the following sub-titles: Salvation By The Grace of the Devil, Unconditional Salvation, Good Works Necessary, and God Sales Against the Old Will. We are republishing the editorial exactly as it was written, and trust that our readers will appreciate what is good in it. Here follows the editorial:
SALVATION BY THE GRACE OF THE DEVIL
The BIBLE TEACHES salvation by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-10). The Arminians teach that salvation is by the grace of the Devil, and here is how:
The Arminians teach that God does all He can possibly do to save all men without an exception; but the Devil’s power holds a great number from God, and they go to Hell. In the words of the rank Arminian, Noel Smith, “God Almighty Himself couldn’t save them! He did all He could. He failed.”
Now, if the Devil can keep sinners from being saved, then his power is certainly greater than God’s and he could keep everybody from being saved, if he so desired. But some men get saved and go to Heaven, so the Devil must have permitted their salvation, for he could have blocked it. This simply means that all that get saved are saved by the grace of the Devil, and they go to Heaven, evidently because the Devil wouldn’t have them in Hell.
That is certainly some “salvation” which the Arminians preach. The Bible teaches us of a great salvation, however. It teaches us of salvation by the sovereign, eternal, immutable, elective grace of God. This grace brings salvation and gives it unto the elect of God. (II Thessalonians 2:13, 14). How would you rather be saved: by the grace of the Devil, or by the grace of God?
There ARE NO meritorious acts whereby salvation is gained. God is not in the business of peddling His grace upon certain conditions. Merit-mongers despise salvation by grace, and the God of all grace equally despises the doctrine of salvation by human effort. There are no meritorious conditions to salvation. God does not say, “I will save you, if you perform such and such an act.” That would be salvation by works.
Furthermore, it would be a denial of man’s total depravity and inability (John 6:44, Ephesians 2:1). Gracebrings salvation to the spiritually helpless sinner. Some Baptists refer to repentance and faith as “conditions” of salvation. But if salvation is conditioned upon the sinner in the very beginning, then why not all the way to the end? Repentance and faith are not conditions to salvation; they are the means of God in bringing His people from sin unto Christ. I say the “means of God,” for repentance and faith are “inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God. (Baptist Confession of Faith, New Hampshire). The elect do not of themselves perform repentance and faith but the Spirit produces these graces in the elect, “in connection with divine truth.” Our salvation is conditioned upon one only, even our God. If we, as helpless sinners, are to be saved, it depends entirely upon Him. We are what we are “by the grace of God.” (I Corinthians 15:10).
GOOD WORKS NECESSARY
Works ARE NOT necessary to obtain salvation, for salvation is the gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8, 9). But works are necessary as an evidence of election and salvation.
The person who professes to be elect or to be a Christian, yet has no works, and no hunger for righteousness, has no evidence of his election or salvation. Without repentance and faith, no one can lay claim to salvation through Christ. Without a holy walk in life, no one can lay claim to having repented and believed. Understand, these things do not obtain or merit salvation; they simply evidence salvation. They are the fruits of the Word sown in “good ground.” The seed was first sown, then came the fruits.
The free-willers and merit-mongers reverse this order; they have the fruits before the seed. They are endeavoring to merit or gain salvation by works. But John the Baptist taught that “fruits” were an evidence. Paul Raid we are created “unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10). All good works are the fruit of the Spirit’s work. No good thing can come from the flesh. Thus, every good work is of God. If we do it, it was wrought in us by Him. All praise goes back to His throne, no flesh can glory!
GOD’ SAVES AGAINST THE OLD WILL
The WILL is nothing more than the expression of one’s nature. Man’s nature is sinful, so he wills to sin. Since man’s nature is void of any spiritual good (“no good thing in the flesh”— Romans 7:13), then man cannot have a will to do that which is spiritually good. He will never have a will to repent, nor a will to believe; he has only a will to sin, for his nature is totally depraved by sin.
When God saves the sinner, the Spirit quickens to life (Ephesians 2:1, John 6:63). This imparts to the sinner a new nature. This new nature is a divine nature, being given by God. Thus, the person will have a new will. His will will then be to love godliness and hate iniquity. This will opposes the old nature’s will. This will leads to repentance of sin, and faith in Christ. It continues to cry out for righteousness, and there is a continual warfare between the two natures—the old and the new. (Romans 7:14-25). The old remains unchanged. The new wars against the old nature’s lusts, and puts them down.
What has happened? God has saved a sinner against his old nature’s will. God has “made” one willing, by imparting to him a new nature. The old nature “will not come” to Christ; but by giving a sinner a new nature, God works in “him both to will and to do His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:14).
Though we would express ourselves quite differently than the writer of the editorial above, we nevertheless appreciate the studied attempt to negate the Arminian argument.
A Brief but Beautiful Meditation
The Rev. L. Greenway in the November, 1957 issue ofTorch and Trumpet writes a brief but beautiful meditation based on Ephesians 1:3-5, and entitled: Blessed Be God!
When we say that the meditation is beautiful we are not speaking of it or judging it in the formal sense. The beauty to which we refer is the vibrant Reformed tone that is sounded throughout.
“Blessed be God!” the writer says, is “the keynote of this epistle and particularly of the grand doxology that begins with verse 3 and extends through verse 14.”
“To bless,” we are told, “literally means ‘to speak well.’ When God blesses us, he speaks well of us and to us. When we bless God, we speak well of him and to him. However, this is not a reciprocal action. It is not an exchange of favors. We can never confer a benefit on God! The creature never remunerates the Creator. Man can never obligate God. It is well to keep that in mind when we talk about doing something for the Lord. Always God is the Giver, aid we the receivers.
“God blesses. We bless. But when he speaks well to us, he speaks with power—creative power, transforming power. When we speak well of him and to him, we declare that he is good and gracious. He blesses in word and deed, and thereby enables us to proclaim his Name and to acknowledge that he is what he reveals himself to be. We taste that he is good, but he was good before we tasted. Thirsty, we drink of the Fountain. Never does the Fountain drink of us.” That is part of the vibrant Reformed tone to, which I referred above and which our Protestant Reformed people love to hear. God is everything. Man nothing. This is indeed a far cry from the anthropocentric presentations so prevalent in the writings even of so-called Reformed men today. The Reverend Greenway then by way of contrast points out the vast difference between the scriptural appraisal of goodness and that of the appraisal of modern man. Writes he:
“In this great doxology the apostle recognizes that the most desirable of all blessings are such as are in their nature spiritual, heavenly, and eternal. He speaks of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. It is not the fashion of our age to evaluate benefits that way. The modern man is taught to find his supreme god (I presume this is a typographical error of the printer, and should be “good”—M.S.) in things that are physical, earthly, and for this life alone. Much of modern education is geared to that principle. The thing that counts in most class rooms is getting ahead and doing well in this life. The here and not thehereafter receives the attention. That is all wrong according to the apostle Paul. The Christian’s chief good is his spiritual bounty in Christ. That is where his happiness lies.
“The Christian has been chosen in Christ. The choice was. God’s and he made it with the view of conferring benefits much as sinful man does not naturally care for; namely, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love. Holy means separated, consecrated, devoted to God. For this end we were elected. Our selection by God was unto our sanctification before God. We are to be his in the fuller sense of the word—his husbandry, his building, his temple, his living sacrifice, his fruitbearing vine. This was not our choice. It was his!”
The Reverend Greenway then proceeds to show what .it means that the divine choice was made “before the foundation of the world,” and “according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace.” His closing sentence is: “Here, as in all Holy Scripture, God is all and in all.”
It was a beautiful meditation, hut very brief: Personally I would have liked to have him say more in the following paragraph, which I quote: “Why did he choose us? Was his election a selection of the best? Emphatically not! There is no ‘best’ among unworthy Winners. Paul’s answer is that God chose us according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace.’ Here, as in all Holy Scripture, God is all and in all.” The question that arose in my mind was: Is Rev. Greenway supra or infralapsarian? The above paragraph which I quoted makes me suspicious that he is the latter. If this is so, what will he do with the rest of chapter 1 of Ephesians which to my mind thoroughly supports the supra view?