In the precious chapter we emphasized the truth that Jesus is a perfect and complete Savior, i.e. that He perfectly accomplishes all that belongs to and is implied in the work of salvation from beginning to end. He not only performs that part of the work of salvation that must be accomplished for us, in behalf of us, our redemption; but He also is the Author of the wonder of salvation that must be wrought within us and upon us to lead us out of sin and death and shame to everlasting life and righteousness and glory. Now, this really implies that He must be an effectual Savior, i.e. one that is wholly capable and powerful to save. For if He alone accomplishes all the work of salvation, if we really find in Him only all that is necessary unto our salvation, it follows that His alone is all the power to save, and that He is in no need of help on the part of man. Hence, it would seem to be somewhat superfluous to write a special chapter on the absolute efficacy, the sureness, the unfailing power of Jesus as Savior.
Yet, to cut off all possibility of misunderstanding on this point, and with a view to the prevailing and pernicious spirit of Arminianism in circles that profess to believe in Jesus the Savior, it may be expedient to emphasize for a moment the truth that Jesus actually and effectually saves, and, that, too, without the will or consent of the natural man, yea, in spite of the fact; that the latter will never give his consent to be saved, and will exert himself to the utmost to oppose this Jesus that saves him from his sin and death.
O, the difference between sound doctrine and the Arminian error on this point often appears to be so slight and insignificant, that it would not seem worth the effort to explain it! When you insist that Jesus is a complete Savior, and that one must find in Him all that is necessary unto salvation, the Arminian seems to agree fully and wholeheartedly with you. Salvation is all of Christ, in no respect or degree of man, he will say. It is, not of works, it is all of grace! Christ alone merited our redemption for us by His perfect sacrifice on the cross, and that, too, while we were yet enemies. And in Him are all the spiritual blessings of salvation. He bestows them upon us. He regenerates us and gives us faith whereby we may appropriate Him and all the blessings of grace. There is nothing of man in it. Of ourselves we can do nothing. We cannot believe, we cannot accept Him, we cannot fight the good fight and persevere to the end. Always His grace is first. And the Arminian will not even object if you insist that Christ bestows these blessings of salvation only upon the elect! Surely God has chosen them that believe in Christ, and that will inherit eternal life, from before the foundation of the world, and these are surely and infallibly and powerfully saved. Jesus saves!
You say, perhaps, that all this is sound doctrine, purely Reformed, and that no man confessing these truths can possibly be an Arminian?
But what about the Arminian document that was composed in Gouda the Netherlands, in 1610, known as the Remonstrantie? That document begins with an article on the doctrine of predestination as follows: (DUTCH REMOVED). After all, does not this article plainly and explicitly teach that only the elect shall be saved, and that election is an eternal and immutable decree? You object, perhaps, that this article teaches election of believers and of those that will persevere, but does not the article also definitely state that one can believe only through the grace of the Holy Spirit? Or consider the third article of this same document, and see whether you can find anything in it that is not sound doctrine: (DUTCH REMOVED).Would you suspect, that men, who did not hesitate to express themselves so strongly on the total incapability of man to do any good, and on the absolute necessity of regeneration by the Spirit, could teach the doctrine of universal atonement and or the free will of man in the matter of salvation?
This would seem impossible.
Yet, this is exactly the truth. In the second article of the same Remonstrantie the Arminians declared: DUTCH REMOVED. Here they teach the error of general atonement. Christ died for all. Yet, only believers actually enjoy the forgiveness of sins which the Savior merited for all. And in the fourth article of this document, after they emphasized strongly that the grace of God is the beginning and end of all good, so that without it man does absolutely nothing, they declare that this grace is not irresistible: (DUTCH REMOVED).
In this last statement may be found the reason why the Arminian can often use language that leaves the impression that he is perfectly sound, that he believes in an effectual Jesus and in sovereign grace, while, nevertheless, he rejects both. O yes, it is all of and through grace, but whether a man shall receive this grace or not depends on himself! For grace is not irresistible! And this means that it can be efficacious only if man consents. If the sinner resists, the Savior can do nothing with him. Jesus is not an effectual Savior. And because He is not an effectual Savior, He is really not a Savior at all. The slogan which the Arminian loves to write on billboards and over the doors of his church, Jesus Saves, does not represent what he actually teaches. For his Jesus, the Arminian Savior, is capable of saving only those sinners that are willing to be saved. And such there are not! The Arminian Jesus does not save!
And that is why it is so extremely important that we understand the difference between this Arminian error and the truth of the Word of God on this point. It appears so insignificant, but it is very fundamental. It is not merely a question as to whether all men or only the elect are saved: it is a question that concerns salvation itself. For in order to be able to present atonement as universal, and salvation as an opportunity for all men, the Arminian must deny the efficacy of grace; in order to be able to teach that Jesus is wilting to save all, he must deny that He effectually saves any!
Let us clearly understand this.
Christ died for all men, the Arminian teaches. By His death on the cross He obtained the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation for every man. But did He really, according to Arminian doctrine? Did Christ by His perfect sacrifice really obtain salvation for ad men in the sense that through His death all men were brought into a state of reconciliation and eternal righteousness before God? Or let us put the question thus: did Christ then, actually pay for the sins of all men by His atoning death? Not at all! The Arminian dare not teach this. He understands full well that, if Christ had actually and effectually paid by His blood for the sins of all men, all must be saved. For then the sins of all would be blotted out, forgiven for ever, and all men would be justified. And not only does actual experience as well as Scripture condemn such universalism, but such a doctrine would indeed make men careless and profane, seeing that their salvation and justification has absolutely nothing to do with their own attitude toward sin and righteousness, and toward the Christ of God. And, therefore, in order to be able to maintain the universality of the cross, the Arminian denies its effectualness. Christ did not pay for the sins of all, actually and effectually, but only as to His intention. Effectually he atoned for no one. As to His intention He atoned for all. In the death of Christ there is the possibility of forgiveness for all men. Actually there is forgiveness in that death for no one. And so it comes about that Arminianism is principally a denial of the blood of Christ and of vicarious atonement. A man that preaches salvation depending on the free will of man, and a Christ for all, may not be conscious of this, and he may not intention ally deny the atonement, in fact, he may appear to preach righteousness through the blood emphatically, it is nevertheless the truth that He denies the truth of vicarious atonement. For vicarious atonement means that Jesus actually and effectually blotted out the guilt of sin for those for whom He died. Arminianism teaches that Christ did this for no one, but that in His intention He did it for all men. Jesus is not an effectual Savior. For the majority of men He died in vain.
And the same is true of the Arminian error with application to the work of salvation as it is wrought upon us and within us. As we have learned from the quotations made above from the Remonstrantie, the Arminian emphatically teaches that grace must do k all. Man can of himself do nothing. It is only through the grace of the Spirit of Christ that he is regenerated and that he can believe in Jesus. And so it is to the end. Grace must not only save the sinner: it must also preserve him. Of himself he can do nothing to fight the good fight even unto the end, and to be faithful. But through the power of grace he is able to stand and to persevere. And all this grace is in Jesus, Is He then, according to this Arminian doctrine, an effectual Deliverer from the power and dominion of sin and death, and does He really liberate the sinner from the shackles of corruption? This the Arminian could never maintain, and at the same time defend the universality of salvation. For it is evident that if Christ would thus effectually and powerfully deliver all men from sin and death, no one could possibly be lost. And this is contrary to all experience. All men are not actually saved. The majority of men are lost. Even the majority of men that come into contact with Jesus through the preaching of the gospel, must have nothing of Him. And so, as we have seen, the Arminian introduces his doctrine of resistible grace. Christ died for all, not actually, but in His intention. And now, Christ is the Deliverer of all men, not effectually, but again in His intention! He is willing to save all men, if they will only let Him. He is ready to bestow His saving grace upon them all, if only they do not resist Him. He would like to enter the hearts of ail men, if they will only open their hearts to Him, but if they refuse to open when He knocks, He is powerless to save them. He offers salvation to all men, well-meaningly, earnestly, but He effectually saves no one!
And thus it is with respect to preservation and perseverance. To the end the Arminian Christ is the willing but powerless Savior, powerless, that is, to overcome the resistance of the sinner. When once the sinner has consented to be saved, and Christ has come into his heart, it is by no means sure that he will be saved in the end. To be sure, Christ must preserve him if he is to be saved. And Christ is willing to keep him. But grace is never irresistible, and if the believer is not willing to let Christ continue to work in his heart and to preserve him by the grace of His Spirit, he will fall away and be lost. The Arminian Jesus is not an effectual Savior. As they preach Him the slogan Jesus saves does not apply to Him, is utterly false! A Christ pro omnibus is a Jesus for no one. To maintain the universality of salvation the Arminian must change the certainty of salvation into a mere chance dependent upon the will of man. To preach a universal Christ he must present a powerless Jesus.
Let us see this clearly.
A universal Christ must needs be an impotent Jesus. And the converse is equally true: a mighty and effectual Jesus must needs be particular. Either you offer a Jesus that is willing to save all men but cannot, or you preach a Jesus that effectually saves His people only. And we may go a step further, and say: Christ either actually and effectually saves or He does not save at all! But the name Jesus means that He is an effectual Savior of His people, not that He is a possible Savior of all men. For thus even the angel interprets the name: “Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.”.
And this is the teaching of Scripture throughout.
The name Jesus expresses that Christ is an effectual Savior, because there is election in that name. He shall save His people! And this means that it is the eternal will and immutable decree of God that Jesus shall surely and infallibly save all those, and those only, whom the Father has given Him. “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own wall, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”. That is the reason why the Lord can assert so positively in the face of the unbelief and apostasy from Him of the Jews in Capernaum: “All that the Father giveth unto me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” . He is the good shepherd that lays down his life for the sheep, and that, too, according to the commandment He received from the Father, . He knobs His sheep and is known of them, . And His sheep are those whom the Father gave Him, . They also hear His voice, and He knows them, and they follow Him, and He surely gives unto them eternal life, and they can never perish. Their ultimate salvation is absolutely sure, because He is an effectual Savior, that holds His own in His hand, and no one can pluck them out of that mighty hand. .
And thus this name of Jesus is preached and explained by the apostles after the resurrection. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”. The purpose of election must stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, even as it is written; “Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated.” . “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” . Salvation is not a chance, or a possibility, but an absolute certainty, for the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” .
Consider what this means. It is according to the pattern, and strictly within the scope of election that all the spiritual blessings of grace come upon us. These blessings are sure because they have their source in God’s eternal election: they are certain because they are particular. This means that God has reconciled us in Christ, according as he hath chosen us, that He prepared the atonement of Christ for us, according as He has chosen us in Him; that He blotted out our sins, according as He has chosen us in Him; that He called us, bestowed faith on us, justified us, delivered us, sanctified us, according as He has chosen us in Him; and that He will surely preserve and keep us, and glorify us in the end, all according to the pattern and within the scope of His eternal election of us in Christ!
And so, Christ is an effectual Savior, not of all men, but of His people, those whom the Father hath given Him: He shall save His people from their sins! His death on the cross is effectual redemption, i.e. by His perfect obedience Jesus actually paid for all the sins of all 11 is own, and He effectually obtained for them all true and everlasting righteousness, and the right to eternal life and glory. Atonement is not a mere intention for all, but a certainty for the elect. Their sins are blotted out, and they cannot be imputed to them anymore. God has blessed them with the blessing of forgiveness, not because they willed to receive it, for they did not will, neither could they possibly will to receive righteousness, but solely because on the accursed tree Christ truly represented the elect, and He really brought the perfect sacrifice of atonement for them. And He is an effectual Deliverer, that is not only willing, but perfectly able and powerful to bestow all the blessings of salvation upon us, and that not because we will or desire or pray Him to give us these blessings of salvation, but in spite of the fact that we do not and cannot will to receive His grace, and because He is the mighty and effectual Savior, able to save whomsoever He will, and willing to save whomsoever He received of His Father, i.e. the elect, He enter into, their hearts, the door of which they would keep shut against Him. He establishes His throne in those hearts of His own, breaks the shackles of sin and death, rules over them by His grace, justifies and sanctifies them, preserves them even unto the end, without fail, and without any possibility of failure, till He shall raise them at the last day, and lead them into the glory prepared for them before the foundation of the world. Yes, indeed, Jesus is willing to save, but He is also powerful to save whom He will. He is an infallibly effectual Savior!