The Sovereignty of God
Unwanted Results of an Inordinate Emphasis on the Exercise of Sovereignty
Election is terror not comfort
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
29 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. 30 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. 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.
Another victim of the over-emphasis on sovereignty is the loving act of God electing to save mankind through Christ. Election, the unquestioned sovereign act of God providing salvation for man, should be an example of God’s loving sovereignty and hope to the world that God loves. Sadly, it has been made by some interpretations of Scripture to be the most terrifying doctrine ever articulated from the Bible for the majority of the lost world.
What makes the difference?
The difference is the sovereignty extremist’s demand that only the most severe interpretations of election can combat their perceived, unsubstantiated crisis of scriptural truth regarding God’s sovereignty and man’s free will in this one matter alone.
One such severe interpretation of election is found in the spiritual deadness of men. Although there is no question that men are depraved, sinful, and dead toward God, there is great question as to the interpretation of this by the sovereign extremists.
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
Their interpretation of Ephesians would include the analogy of comparing the physical birth process to the spiritual rebirth as articulated by R.C. Sproul one of the foremost proponents and authorities of Reformation Theology.
In addition, when He exercises this grace in the soul, He brings about the effect that He intends to bring about. When God created you, He brought you into existence. You didn’t help Him. It was His sovereign work that brought you to life biologically. Likewise, it is His work, and His alone, that brings you into the state of rebirth and of renewed creation. Hence, we call this irresistible grace.
The implications are clear from Reformed Theology; man, who is dead, must experience the new birth. So, where is the severity? All of us who believe the Bible would be happy with this until it is understood that Reformed Theology teaches that the rebirth occurs before faith can be expressed toward God. This is quite disturbing since there is absolutely no support for this in the context of Ephesians. The severity is in the order of the events in which a person is saved.
If their order of events is sound, then how and when is man brought to spiritual life so he can express faith in Christ. The answer is a severe interpretation of the Father drawing the lost to his Son which must include bringing spiritually dead men alive, regeneration, before any expression of faith.
John 6:44 (KJV 1900)
44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
Although reticent to explain in full and using euphemistic rhetoric, Dr. Sproul teaches that God, and God alone, must overpower each individual, intended for salvation by the choice of His good pleasure, spiritually and volitionally forcing that individual to live again spiritually prior to any expression of faith. There is no salvation by grace through faith.
Dr. Sproul states that regeneration occurs before faith can be expressed by the unbeliever which is the historical teaching of Reformed Theology. Regeneration, the act of the Holy Spirit working on the resistant heart of man during the calling event, must occur prior to any faith being possible (irresistible grace). Thus, man is brought back from spiritual deadness so he can express faith.
“In historic Reformation thought, the notion is this: regeneration precedes faith. We also believe that regeneration is monergistic.” (TULIP and Reformed Theology: Irresistible Grace from R.C. Sproul Nov 28, 2012, Article from Ligonier Ministries of R.C. Sproul)
J.I. Packer wrote the following.
Regeneration is the spiritual change wrought in the heart of man by the Holy Spirit in which his/her inherently sinful nature is changed so that he/she can respond to God in Faith, and live in accordance with His Will (Matt. 19:28; John 3:3,5,7; Titus 3:5). It extends to the whole nature of man, altering his governing disposition, illuminating his mind, freeing his will, and renewing his nature. (http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/packer_regen.html)
The question must be asked. Does God regenerate lost man spiritually prior to the salvation experience by faith? There is one answer, no. As supported by the text in Ephesians and Titus, there can be only one spiritual awakening, and that is the spiritual awakening Christ brings to sinful men for eternal salvation through faith.
5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
If this historic teaching of reformed theology is true, then the calling or drawing is rebirth of the sinner, regeneration. This is Irresistible grace. Euphemistically, Sproul calls it “effectual” grace because it is always effective because no will can be expressed against it. Irresistible grace is the act of God exerting sovereign control over a particular sinner, reconditioning his will (forcing) through regeneration. This is clearly the teaching that man is saved prior to faith. The reconditioning and the rebirth of man spiritually must be the same act of God, else there are two acts of spiritual rebirth or some facsimile thereof. This makes whosoever will a pawn of irresistible grace.
Intentionally, election must include irresistible grace. This direct act of God with absolutely no expression of man’s will or faith becomes man’s only hope to be saved.
One must be warned; there is a terror to this system of belief because it demands also the ugly doctrine of reprobation. By fact of such a severe interpretation, there can be no doubt that the opposite is true. Those not personally impacted by God’s irresistible grace must go to hell. They have no choice.