A Transcript Of The Video Study
In our previous study, I drew a sharp line between these two systems of teaching—Arminianism, which is deeply rooted in the philosophy of Humanism; and Calvinism, which is rooted in the sovereign grace of the TriUne Jehovah. Arminianism, as it has its roots in humanism, is the epitome of false religion; whereas Calvinism, as it has its roots in sovereign grace, is the essence of true religion. The question which therefore follows—are we to conclude, if Arminianism is the epitome of false religion, and if one subscribes to it, then he/she must be a non-Christian?
There are some who take a very strong and harsh view on this question. I know, for instance, of some Arminians who believe all Calvinists are heretics and anti-christs. But I also know of some Calvinists who believe all Arminians are false professors and pharisaical. For example, there is a well known Calvinist from the United States—one whom I deeply respect, and therefore whose name I will withhold, but who shared the following anecdote:
“Once a friend asked me, “Do you believe I was saved when I was in fundamentalism, free-willism, and Arminianism?” My answer was given without hesitation, “No, you were not saved then.” Freewillism is just as false a religion as Mormonism, or Romanism. No one is saved by believing a false gospel. If you are saved, you were saved when you heard and believed the gospel of God’s free, sovereign, efficacious grace in Christ. NOT BEFORE! If men are saved to the honor of God and the glory of Christ, if the Holy Spirit gives dead sinners life through the preaching of a false gospel, why should we concern ourselves with knowing and preaching the truth, the gospel of Christ?”
Now, I cannot agree with the conclusions of my esteemed friend. I believe it is possible for a sinner to be born again, and yet belong to the Arminian camp. In order to explain my view, I would like to provide a response to my friend’s conclusions:
1. To be “saved” is one and the same thing as to be born again. Nowadays, when people talk about the time they were “saved”, they are referring to that experience described by the Lord Jesus Christ as a new birth. You will remember, in John chapter 3, Jesus discussed the subject of the new birth with a man named Nicodemus. There were three things Jesus explained concerning the new birth.
First, its necessity—John 3:3,5: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Whatever else may be true of the new birth, this is certain—if a sinner is to see or enter into the kingdom of God, he/she must be born again.
Second, its meaning—John 3:6: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” There are two births. First, there is a physical birth—“that which is born of the flesh is flesh”; Second, there is a spiritual birth—“that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The physical birth is by natural generation; whereas the spiritual birth is by supernatural regeneration. Everyone comes into the world by generation, and by virtue of Adam’s headship, is conceived in sin and shaped in iniquity. They are automatically brought under the authority of the covenant of works, accountable to God according to the law inscribed upon their hearts. In this natural condition, their souls are dead in trespasses and sins, and are therefore in an unregenerate state. On the other hand, everyone who enters the kingdom of God does so by regeneration, by virtue of Christ’s headship, created in righteousness and true holiness. Regeneration is a work of the Holy Spirit, whereby He unites the soul with the Lord Jesus Christ, even as a branch is engrafted to a vine, by virtue of which the life of Christ flows into the soul and a new nature, created in righteousness and true holiness, is imparted to the soul. It is within the capacity of this new nature, the regenerate sinner is enabled to exercise the fruits of the spirit, among which are saving faith and repentance. Now, when a sinner is born again, he/she is delivered from the authority of the covenant of works, and is brought under the blessings and authority of the covenant of grace, made alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. That is the meaning of regeneration, or the new birth.
Third, its conditions—John 3:8: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Like the wind, which sovereignly blows when and where it pleases, so the Spirit of God sovereignly regenerates all such as should be saved—those given to Him by the Father and the Son (His elect people). Regeneration is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God does not seek permission from the sinner, nor does the Spirit of God cooperate with the sinner, when regenerating his/her soul. There are absolutely no conditions imposed upon the sinner in order for the Spirit of God to regenerate his/her soul. This leads me to my second response to my preacher friend’s conclusion:
2. The new birth is not conditional upon a preacher’s message or the sinner’s creed. My friend asks the question—“if the Holy Spirit gives dead sinners life through the preaching of a false gospel, why should we concern ourselves with knowing and preaching the truth, the gospel of Christ?” Well, the Holy Spirit doesn’t give dead sinners life through any type of preaching. The new birth is not conditional upon a preacher’s message, neither is it conditional upon a sinner’s creed (whether he/she subscribes to Arminianism or Calvinism).
The Apostle John pointed out in the first chapter of his gospel record that the sinner is not born again “of blood”, that is, on condition of his/her family pedigree; nor is the sinner born again “of the will of the flesh”, that is, on condition of his/her free will (or creed); nor is the sinner born again “of the will of man”, that is, on condition of the preacher’s desire (or message); but rather, the sinner is born again entirely “of God”. (Jn 1:13)
You see, we concern ourselves with knowing the truth and preaching an accurate message of the gospel of Christ, not because the regeneration of sinners depend upon it, but rather, because it is our duty and desire as regenerate sinners to nurture right views of the gospel as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Which leads me to my third and final observation:
3. Every person that is born again starts out as a babe in Christ. A baby must pass through stages of maturity, from infancy to adulthood, growing in size and strength, and increasing in knowledge, understanding and wisdom. For instance, when writing his letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul told those believers that he could not speak unto them about the deeper truths of the gospel, for they were but babes in Christ—he had to feed them with milk, instead of meat, for they were not able to digest the more robust teachings of sovereign grace. (1 Cor 3:1,2) When writing to the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul admonished those believers to “be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the deception and cunning craftiness of men.” (Eph 4:14) When writing his letter to the Hebrews, the Apostle Paul rebuked those believers, “For when they should have been mature Christians, able to teach others the grace of God, they were in need that someone teach them again those things which be the first principles of the oracles of God.” (Heb 5:12-14)
You see, my dear friends, it is possible to be a regenerate sinner and yet not have an accurate knowledge of sovereign grace. To say that it is impossible for one to be truly born again if he/she subscribes to the teachings of Arminianism, is a judgment, in my view, that fails to take into consideration the weaknesses and fragility of a baby Christian. The issue is not whether one subscribes to this creed, or another creed, but rather, has this sinner be made alive unto God through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus?
Now, I believe great care must be exercised, when ministering to baby Christians. Jesus told His disciples that a new born believer is like a child, and that he who receives such an one in His name receives Christ. But, said Jesus, Whoso offends one of these baby believers, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. The fact is, my friends, when a sinner is born again, it matters not whether his/her faith is as a grain of mustard seed, or a full grown tree—that sinner has entered into the kingdom of God, for one’s new birth is not dependent on the message of a preacher, or the creed of the sinner, nor even the level of knowledge that sinner has of sovereign grace. We must therefore exercise charity, and spiritual discernment, when we meet with others, whose creed may differ from our own. If we detect they have had the grace of Christ imparted to their souls, then let us embrace them as our brothers and sisters in Christ, and on that basis, seek to encourage and edify them in the gospel of sovereign grace.
Jared Smith served twenty years as pastor of a Strict and Particular Baptist church in Kensington (London, England). He now serves as an Evangelist in the Philippines, preaching the gospel, organizing churches and training gospel preachers.