Differing Views on Salvation

There are several views on predestination, election and salvation. May I share with you some (not all) of these views. As we discuss these views, let us not forget to treat with due respect our fellow Christians who hold on to a differing view from what we believe in.

Calvinism

Theodore Beza believed salvation is only for the elect few.Those who embrace Calvinism believe that salvation is the eternal choice of God for some selected people only—not for all. Salvation is limited to a few. Some go to hell and some go to heaven according to God’s choice from the very start. An individual has no freedom of choice. It has been decided upon a long time ago by God from the very creation of the world who are going to be damned and who are going to be saved. They call this as “double predestination.” Some have been predestined to be saved and some have been predestined to be damned. God’s sovereignty is the basis and foundation of this theology. Essentially, this is Calvinism as taught by Theodore Beza who became the leader after John Calvin died.

In this view, God has two wills—to save the righteous and to damn the wicked.

Arminianism

ArminiusThose who embrace Arminianism believe that salvation is for everyone. They believe that God loves the whole world and salvation is for all. An individual has freedom of choice because God has given each person what is called as “prevenient grace”—the grace that empowers individuals to have a neutral will to choose good or evil—because reprobate man cannot choose good without “prevenient grace.” Those who choose to obey will go to heaven. Those who are disobedient will go to hell.

Based on God’s foreknowledge, he can foresee who will accept and who will reject his free gift of salvation and therefore God can decide in advance who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. In this view, God’s will is not thwarted and humans are given freedom of choice. Arminianism came about as a reaction to Theodore Beza’s version of Calvinism. Arminius who was a Calvinist, reacted to his fellow Calvinist Theodore Beza’s view after the death of John Calvin. This is essentially what Arminianism is all about.

Just like in Calvinism, in this view God has two wills—to save the righteous and to damn the wicked.

Incarnational Trinitarian Theology

TrinityIn this theology, Christ is the center of it all. Christ is the Elected One to be a blessing for all. The purpose of election is to be a blessing to others—to include all—not rejection. In both Calvinism and Arminianism, election and predestination has to do with some people being chosen and some people being rejected—some will go to heaven and some will go to hell.

This is not so in Incarnational, Trinitarian Theology. Through Jesus Christ who is the Elected One, God chose and predestined ALL of humanity (not just a few) to be adopted as his sons through Christ in accordance with his will (Eph. 1:4-5 ). This is an objective truth and reality that has already been decided upon by God from the very beginning. Christ’s atoning work has already been done. It is finished.

Individually and subjectively, each person has to respond and accept this free gift of salvation in order to personally experience and enjoy the benefits of salvation which is already true in Jesus Christ.

Salvation: God’s Free Gift

In view of God’s free gift of salvation each person is encouraged to respond positively (Acts 2:38 , Rom. 10:13 ). There is freedom of choice. God’s sovereignty is not threatened by giving humans the freedom to accept or reject his offer of salvation. Love cannot be forced nor coerced. God will not force anyone against his will. It has to be voluntary or it is not love at all.

Repentance and faith are urged upon everyone as the rightful response signifying acceptance of God’s free gift of salvation. In response to God’s great love, his followers love him in return by following him and obeying all of his commands. Obedience is motivated by love not fear of punishment.

In this view, God has only one will—to save both the righteous and the wicked. As Thomas Torrance puts it, “In God there is only grace. In God there is only ‘yes’ both for the believing and the unbelieving.”

Related Topic:

Photo credit: Google

Are You Licensed to Sin?

Question: “Please correct if I am wrong…but I get the impression…that even if I live a sinful life deliberate or not, I was, am, and will be forgiven….so I am no longer accountable for my actions, past, present and future, is that it?”

license to sinAnswer: The grace that we now enjoy and benefit from does not give us the license to go on living a sinful way of life (Jude 1:4). That’s clear in the Bible. In fact, it is grace that teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and to live godly lives at this present time (Titus 2:11-12). Paul explained that since we are now under grace, we should no longer go on and continue sinning (Romans 6:1-2).

Yes, we do sin every time, all the time. We’re just but humans. But the wonderful thing is that, when we do sin, that has already been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ a long time ago. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ has already covered our sins past, present and future.

The thrust of the Bible teaches us to say “No!” to ungodliness. To sin is not the right thing to do. As a way of life, that’s not right. But we do sin, all the time. That’s the problem. We don’t want to sin but we sin continually. Who is going to save us from this body of death? Paul said he thanked the Lord Jesus Christ who will rescue him from such a miserable situation (Romans 7:24-25).

Therefore, Paul concludes that there is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Trust him (Rom 4). We may fall but we can get up trusting that Christ will forgive us. We are “covered” so to speak, no worries.

If we have a lot of sins, we can have confidence that God has more grace for us (Romans 5). Isn’t that wonderful? But it’s no license to sin. See the difference?

Who is going to separate us from God’s love. None, no one, nothing! (Romans 8) This is quite an assurance. We are not encouraging sin. But we do sin and are worthy of death. But thanks be to God’s grace, we will be fine. Isn’t that great?

So, am I accountable for my sins? Yes of course. But the wonderful thing is, Christ assumed it for us. He became “sin” for us (2 Cor. 5:21 ). He did not “count our sins” (2 Cor. 5:19). We are no longer under any penalty. We are no longer accountable — but only because Christ became accountable on our behalf. We are therefore free from accountability! Unbelievable isn’t it? Believe it! That’s the truth!

Shall We Continue to Sin?

But shall we continue sinning that grace may abound? Does this give us a license not to care and just do as we please and commit sin at will? Of course not! (Romans 6) God’s grace should encourage us to love him and obey him more and more instead of rebel and sin against him and our fellowmen. Isn’t that the right thing to do? If a criminal was pardoned and freed, does this give him the freedom to commit crime again? Of course not. To do good is just but the right thing to do!

But will God forgive us each time if we make mistakes? Yes, just like the Father in the parable of the lost Son. He will always gladly welcome us back home. That’s really encouraging. That’s really good news! That’s is why the good news (gospel) is really good news!

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free! (Galatians 5 ) This is the frame of mind and attitude we need to have about these things.

For Further Study:

Photo credit: Google

How to Study the Bible

After 23 years of reading the Bible, I finally learned how to study the Bible better in 1996. I thought I already knew. I learned a better way in studying and understanding the Bible. I learned how to apply it into my personal life more accurately. I’d like to share these with everyone and I hope it’s simple enough to understand. Let me try.

There are essentially two tasks involved in how to study the Bible properly. The first task is getting the facts and the second task is application of these facts.

First Task: Getting the Facts

Study the BibleThink like a crime investigator trying to solve a mystery in a crime scene. Not exactly—but try to find out everything about that part of Scripture that you are studying or are interested in. Read through the book.

Try to find out what exactly happened back then. Try to imagine the original situation when it happened. What was the occasion? What was the situation? Ask probing questions. Who wrote the book? Who? What? When? Where? Why? What’s the point? Who was the author of the letter or book? Why did he write? Who was he writing to? Try to find out the situation in the past.

Find out the historical background or context. Find out the cultural background. Find out the literary context. Is this part that you are studying part of a letter, a poem, a song, a parable or a narrative? It will have a great bearing on how you interpret Scripture. Check the grammatical context if need be. Check various Bible translations and other Bible helps. It’s not wrong to ask scholars. They know their work. Is this written in Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic? You might need to do a word study. Get all the facts available.

For this first task on how to study the Bible, you are like an investigator trying to get the pieces of the puzzle together to “solve a mystery”—sort of. What happened back then in that particular situation? Get all the relevant facts. Some call this first task as “exegesis.”

Second Task: Application of the Facts

The second task in how to study the Bible involves interpreting all the relevant facts that has been gathered and applying it into our present situation at this time. Some call this part as “application” or some call it “hermeneutics.”

Both exegesis and hermeneutics involve interpretation. Exegesis (first task) involves interpreting what actually happened in the past while hermeneutics (second task) involves interpreting the facts gathered and applying it into our modern times. The whole process (the first and second task) is also called hermeneutics but please don’t get confused. These two words, exegesis and hermeneutics are sometimes used interchangeably and it can be confusing sometimes. But for our purposes here, I hope I’m making myself clear about their difference.

In light of what we have discovered in the first task of exegesis, how do we now interpret all of these information and apply it into our modern situation at this time (hermeneutics/application)? In light of who God truly is as revealed in Jesus Christ, how are we now to interpret these facts and apply it into our lives at this time? Is this relevant and applicable at all to us today? This is the second task.

Are we bound to just follow everything in the past—word for word (literal translation)—just because it is in the Bible? Of course not. For example, should we try to literally greet each other with a “holy kiss” (Romans 16:16) just because that’s what it says in the Bible? Of course not hahaha! In some cultures, they do kiss each other (men to men) as a form of greeting but in some other culture, that may not be appropriate—even repulsive haha! But we can understand the principle of greeting one another and loving one’s neighbor. This is the importance of getting the context. We can apply this principle of “greeting one another” to our modern times (maybe a handshake as an example) but not exactly the way they did it in the Bible back then (literal). We should try to understand first what we have learned in the past (exegesis) before applying it to our modern times (hermeneutics). That’s the idea.

Should we disregard the facts we’ve discovered and go right ahead and interpret Scripture without considering the various backgrounds/contexts (exegesis)? Of course not! We don’t just interpret and apply Scripture from thin air (hermeneutics). If we differ in our modern application and practice today from the past, it is because we have already considered the facts found in the text—not from thin air.

Jesus and Paul re-interpreted the Old Testament. That was their only Bible back then. There was no New Testament yet. Their interpretations and how they applied Scripture (the Old Testament) are recorded in the New Testament. The early Christians added more books to the Bible in light of their understanding of who God truly is as revealed in Jesus Christ. They decided which literature should be added and included in the Bible based on their understanding of who Jesus is. This gives us a hint on how we should approach the Bible as a whole. We interpret Scripture based on what Jesus said in the New Testament and not the other way around. We interpret Scripture (the written Word) based on who God is as revealed to us by Jesus Christ himself, the Living Word. That’s an important point to consider in interpreting Scripture. We get the facts, apply these facts to our modern situation with the understanding of who Jesus is and who we are in him.

Broadly, I believe these are the two important points to remember when we study the Bible – when we try to study, understand, interpret and apply Scripture: Get the facts and apply these facts to our modern times with the understanding of who Jesus really is. Or for the scholarly, they call it exegesis and hermeneutics.

Suggested Reading: