The Scheme of Redemption
Redemption of Man in Two Parts
God's plan for redeeming man runs like a scarlet thread throughout scripture. Beginning with the promises God made to man in the Genesis account, and man's subsequent fall from God's favor, until the closing of the New Testament canon, where the Apostle John recorded the beautiful invitation, "And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17), God's scheme is the primary theme of scripture. It is both simple and sublime. God's requirements for man, that he may be redeemed, can be understood even by children. At the same time, the enormity of His Son's sacrifice and what it means for us dwarfs our comprehension.
The following material in this month's Watchman Magazine is intended to give an overview of that sublime plan. It is our intention to both document the great expression of God's grace in sending His Son to die in our stead, and the divine requirements mandated by God that we might receive the benefits of such a gift. No study of Redemption is sufficient that does not explain both God's part, and man's part in securing that safety.
A Prevalent Error
theology has gained an upper hand in Denominational Christendom. This is not because the scriptures validate its tenets, but rather because the Protestant Reformation, which gave birth to the myriad denominations, was greatly influenced by the teachings of John Calvin. Calvinism can be summed up by the acronym TULIP:
T otal Depravity
U nconditional Salvation
L imited Atonement
I rresistable Grace
P erseverance of the Saints
You may note that each of the tenets of Calvinism is predicated upon the belief that man plays no part in his own redemption. The Calvinist incorrectly argues that man is born into the world totally depraved. His every thought and intent is evil. He is incapable of doing good. Even the attempts to do good are evil, as his depravity is total. Since this is the case, it is God alone who determines who will be saved and who will be lost. Never mind that this makes God a respecter of persons, and a capricious Being who condemns at His whim those who are not culpable in their sin.
This fatalistic atttitude toward redemption has its comforts. After all, if God saves me, I am saved, and there is nothing I can do to invalidate my redemption. Conversely, if I am lost, I can do nothing about it, so there is no use in concerning myself with spiritual matters. The problem is that Calvinistic doctrine does not jibe with the tenets of scripture.
- Total Depravity. The Calvinist teaches that the little child is born into the world totally depraved. This contradicts the statement of our Lord regarding the little children, when He said "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:14). Now, unless the Calvinist is willing to concede that the Kingdom of Heaven is made up of those totally depraved, he must admit to the purity of the little children, and the invalid nature of that tenet.
- Unconditional Salvation. One has only to read Mark 16:16 to see clearly that our salvation is conditioned upon faith and baptism. "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." The fact that Jesus demanded action on this occasion reveals clearly that there are conditions ascribed to a person's redemption.
- Limited Atonement. This tenet of Calvinism is rather silly. It is necessitated by the belief that salvation is unconditional, and the reality that some will be lost. So, the logic is that Jesus only came and died for those predestined to salvation. His blood was shed only for a precious few. However, that plainly denies what Jesus said of Himself in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Clearly the redemptive blood is available not to only a few, but to whoever believes in Him.
- Irresistable Grace. According to the Calvinist, if God chooses to redeem you, you can not resist his advances. Again, this is not born out in scripture. In fact, Stephen accused the Jews of doing exactly what the Calvinist says can not be done, "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Sirit; as your fathers did, so do you" (Acts 7:51).
- Perseverance of the Saints. Finally, the idea is promoted that if salvation is soley the work of God, then once you are saved, you can not so sin as to be eternally lost. The logic parallels the rest of Calvinistic theology, but again is not born out in scripture. The Bible is replete with warnings of the possibility of Christians losing their souls (cf. Hebrews 6:4-6; 2 Peter 2:18-22) and with actual names of those who have lost their redemption (Hymenaeus and Philetus come to mind, cf. 2 Timothy 2:16-18). Simon, a former sorcerer, is recorded in Acts 8 to have obeyed the gospel, thus becoming a Christian (vs. 13). When he sinned Peter said unto him, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!" The question obviously arises, why would Peter threaten Simon with condemnation when Simon was incapable of so sinning as to lose his soul? The answer is that Calvinism has it wrong on this point as well!
This short refutation of Calvinistic theology serves to point out a central aspect of our theme in this month's Watchman Magazine. The Redemption of Man consists of two parts. God has His part, and fulfilled the requirements regarding man's redemption by sending his Son Jesus to die as a vicarious sacrifice for sin. Man too has a part to play in his own redemption. Only those who faithfully execute the commands of God can rejoice in the promise of eternal reward.
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