Contend Earnestly: Our First Importance

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Our First Importance

I want to be clear here first and foremost: I love a good discussion on theology that is open, biblical and honest. But what I want to bring to our discussion today is of FIRST importance. Take a look:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
1 Corinthians 15:1-4

There are some points I want to make and then I will actually open up this passage to some discussion on some old school theology. Notice that Paul gives us a look at not only what has happened in the past but also where we should be in the present.

First, Paul tells us that he is speaking to his brethren, the saved, the elect, the chosen because of the gospel preached and they received. In our society and church that loves to show plays and theatrical dramas or dance, this is another good example that faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. We, as teachers, pastors and theologians need to remember to never leave our post of proclaimers of the truth. This is the only way that people are converted to the saving knowledge of our Saviour.

Notice also that Paul says that they, the Corinthians "also stand" in the gospel. This is speaking of the truth that perseverance is proof of conversion. This correlates very well with the antithesis of Psalm 1:1 that states the one who is not blessed is the one who "stands in the path of sinners." To stand in the gospel is to live the gospel, to breath the gospel, to preach the gospel. Are you standing in the gospel, or are you of "that faith that doesn't save" that even the demons believe in? Good questions to examine ourselves with.

But notice where our first importance lies: the gospel. We get into a lot of discussions and allow our minds and fellowship be broken with many loving brothers in Christ over matters that aren't essential to the eternal proof, the eternal FIRST IMPORTANCE. I believe this is why Whitefield and Wesley could minister together, they were humble in their theology knowing the gospel was the first importance. I am not one who proclaim that the Arminians preach a different (heretical) gospel, and in my humble opinion if you truly believe this you preach an elitist gospel that definitely didn't save the thief on the cross. Now I love debating and discussing with my Arminian friends, but my hope would be that afterwards we would both scour the streets together telling all sinners to repent and believe, to understand the first importance. Remind yourself this week what must be of first importance in your life. It isn't your job, it isn't your ministry, it isn't your family, it isn't your wife, it is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!

A post on the blogosphere wouldn't be complete though without asking the "ole skool theology" question. The unlimited atonement folk (not just Arminians here) would state that Paul defends the thought that Christ died for all in this passage. This is not a new discussion, it is actually a very old one. One that more of the reformers held to than many of us like to admit. Take a look at what Paul says: I delivered to you...Christ died for OUR sins...

The unlimited atonement folk would say that since none of the other facts changed since Paul delivered the message, such as, Christ being buried and raised on the third day, then we must also take Paul's words to mean that Paul delivered to the Corinthians when they were not believers that Christ died for our sins...meaning Christ died for all the sinner's sins to whom Paul was proclaiming, regardless of whether they ended up repenting or not. I hope I made this point clear, and if I didn't just ask. I am sure that this will cause some good discussion on the subject.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

The "our" refers to "brethren" in verse 1 which you correctly define as "the saved, the elect, the chosen". "Our" is not everyone, if it were, many verses in the entire Bible would have to be changed. This is a common mistake.

Bob said...

If the Arminianism isn't heresy, the neither is semi-plagianism nor palagianism from which Arminianism desends. These give the glory of salvation to man (self) which is a form of idolatry. This was satan's argument in the Garden, that man could be on equal with God.

Seth McBee said...

Bob...curious...have you ever read any books by an Arminian that state their belief on Sola Fide?

I think you would be surprised to say the least...

Anonymous...although I do agree with your sentiment and "am on your side" let me hit you with it from "their" point of view...

When Paul proclaimed the gospel to them they were all sinners, so how could have Paul been so blunt to tell a bunch of sinners that Christ died for them? I take it the same as you do, so I hopefully am not leading any astray in any way...just something to think about...

Bob said...

Not to start an argument, but you seem to contradict your own review of "Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities".
Present day authors seem determined to bend Arminianism to fit some presupposed acceptable template whereas the fundamental points of the Remonstrants remain intact even if they are obscured. Why not give God the full glory He deserves and stop playing around the margin, which only leads to trouble. After all, eternal salvation is the issue, not some cutesy "I did it my way" theology.

Seth McBee said...

bob...
My commentary on the book "Arminianism: Myths and Realities" simply states that the Arminian and semi-Pelagian, in reality believe in that same "good" with each individual. But that is for me a Calvinist, as an Arminian they would define and believe prevenient grace to be completely different than the good that Pelagius boasted about. To that end, the Arminian would then go to define Sola Fide as we (Calvinists) do. Maybe we don't fully agree with their definition but that doesn't put them in the book of heresy. They truly believe in faith alone, in Christ alone, they just have a different perspective on the start of that faith and the use of prevenient grace. Is this a deep theological error? Yes, I believe so. Am I going to anathema them? NO, I am not willing to do that. Like I said before, I would happily go and evangelize with an Arminian brother, but I wouldn't send a friend to their church...that is completely different.

I am a complete sovereign beleiver with no bent towards Arminianism but do believe they are believers in the true Christ, and because of that I will not proclaim that they teach a false gospel. False, being that if it is followed that person goes to hell.

Stefan said...

Seth,

If you want to understand historic Arminianism and its view of sola fide, read John Girardeau's "Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism," in which he compares and contrasts the two systems of theology on this very point. Girardeau was a 19th century Southern Presbyterian, and was staunchly committed to the Scriptures and to the Reformed faith. You won't be dissappointed.

Aside from Girardeau's helpful comparison/contrast of the two, it is important in this discussion to remember (at least) three things.

First, I believe B.B. Warfield was correct when he said that the Arminian (if he has, in fact, come under the influence of sovereign grace) is a Calvinist on his knees. I recently saw a video on you-tube from Pensecola Christian College in which some group sang a ditty about how God created all things, upholds all things, but left salvation in our hands. That is not Arminianism -- that is full blown Pelagianism, and it is not Christianity, no matter how "nice" these people might be, no matter how much they might talk about loving God. It just isn't the gospel at all. But most Arminians betray their convictions on their knees, in prayer, when they thank God for saving them in Christ. They don't thank God they've saved themselves.

Second, Arminian (and other like-minded views) and Calvinist interpretations of a passage (or group of texts) cannot both be correct, emergent church fuzziness on interpretation and doctrine notwithstanding. We must be careful to interpret this text, as with every other text of Holy Scripture, with a concern for authorial intent (despite how that is poo-pooed by the hermeneutics of suspicion). Exegesis and a sane approach to hermeneutics must win the day, so to speak.

Third, it is also important to bear in mind that Arminianism is, just like Calvinism, a system of theology. The differences aren't just in the interpretation of a few texts, but in an understanding of nearly the whole sweep of biblical truth. If you have ever read the Canons of Dort you know that that symbol of the Reformed faith fleshes out this point thoroughly; and rightly so (it will also help us to read that document and recognize that much of present day Arminianism is really semi-Pelagianism and not historic Arminianism, but that is somewhat beside the point). As much as we want to recognize Arminians as Christian brethren, as those who confess Christ and his work as their only refuge from the wrath to come, (I think at some point we can), we need to be very careful that our desire to do so does not overrun our capacity to analyze critically a system of theology that, if followed in all its logical conclusions, does undermine the biblical truth of God's saving grace in Christ. Though Whitfield could recognize Wesley as a brother in Christ, he was also extremely critical of Wesley's theological predilictions.

Anways, I've rambled long enough.

Stefan

David Ponter said...

Hey Seth,

Does this help or hurt your argument:

"The simple reason why those who had the charge of churches resigned the office of teaching to idols was, because they themselves were dumb. Paul declares, that by the true preaching of the gospel Christ is portrayed and in a manner crucified before our eyes (Gal 3:1). Of what use, then, were the erection in churches of so many crosses of wood and stone, silver and gold, if this doctrine were faithfully and honestly preached, viz., Christ died that he might bear our curse upon the tree, that he might expiate our sins by the sacrifice of his body, wash them in his blood, and, in short, reconcile us to God the Father? From this one doctrine the people would learn more than from a thousand crosses of wood and stone." Calvin, Institutes 1.11.7.

David

Josh said...

I am with you on your statement. Our belief in the mechanics of the gospel does not change how it "works" anymore than believing a car runs on water makes it so.

The Arminian/Calvinist argument is more about the mechanics of salvation. We both preach a Savior that takes away sin for those that repent and follow Christ.

Bob said...

"The Arminian/Calvinist argument is more about the mechanics of salvation. We both preach a Savior that takes away sin for those that repent and follow Christ." Those who believe this will be amazed at the differences after a thourgh study. Although the Christ of Arminianism and the Christ of the Bible may at first seem to be the same, they are very different. One is a false Christ. The other is the true Christ. One is weak and helpless. He bows before the sovereign "free will" of man. The other is the reigning Lord Who wills what He pleases and sovereignly accomplishes all that He wills.
A quote comes to mind "The condition of right thinking—or "orthodoxy"—is, therefore, that the Christian man should look out upon the seething thought of the world from the safe standpoint of the sure Word of God. The fertile source of wilful thinking—or "heresy"—is that, on the contrary, he is often found looking at the teachings of God's Word from the standpoint of the world's speculations."

Seth McBee said...

Bob...
do you believe that Arminians are going to hell?

Josh said...

Those that come to Christ through an "Arminian" gospel, do not know the difference between Arminianism or Calvinism.

Paul did not say go tell everyone they are totally depraved. He preached Christ crucified.

I do not sympathise with Arminian theology, but anyone that thinks he has all his eggs in a basket is deluding themselves. We need to show charity to those we disagree with and continue to search our own understanding and traditions.

There is a little h and a big H when it comes to heresy. If correct doctrine is the only rule of heresy then we all have some little h's to deal with, or to be on the lookout for.

I do not think differently of those that think the rapture is a dispensational premillenial type. I do not think differently of those that believe foot washing is a sacrament.

God uses those that are faithful, whether Arminian or Calvinist.

Bob said...

Many church historians think the error of Pelaganism, semi-Pelaganism, and Arminianism are second only to Arianism.(Amazing Grace The History & Theology of Calvinism)
Denying or compromising the sovereignty of God to replace or share it with man is a form of idololatry and denial of God. This violates the 1st and 2nd Commandments. Jesus said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes the the Father but through Me." (Jn 14:6) In this exclusive statement it's emphatic that there is only one approach to the Father, not many.
At its very core Arminianism is nothing more than humanism, which is worship of self. My challenge to you is to do a serious study of Arminianism beginning with Pelaganism and semi-Pelaganism. The essay "The Pelagian Captivity of the Church" by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon might be a good place to start. I think you will find as others, far more learned than I, that modern day Arminianism is the same old error with the edges trimmed off. Otherwise, why still call it Arminianism? It's just satan's crafty way to make it look palatable.

lordodamanor said...

Seth, one thing I am wondering is if there is really no "spiritual" difference between Arminianism and Calvinism, why bother defending one against the other. They amount to nothing more than opinions. We are to avoid, such useless chatter.

The question really boils down to the efficacy, and holiness of the blood of Christ. When the High Priest of Hebrews spinkled his blood on the people, were they or were they not sanctified. Or, was the blood of Christ just another common thing worthy of being trodden under foot. You see Seth, the blood of Christ cannot be denied, or it is just a common thing, and it is applied not at the behest of the people, but by the mediation of the High Priest, an office that cannot be transferred to another such that they may applied Christ's blood to themselves. And he applied it as he willed, at the time it was shed.

Arminianism is, and will remain what it was at its inception, blasphemy against the blood of God. It is heresy. The Remonstrants wanted to overthrow the doctrines of grace, not just get along and they have never ceased in that quest. Aminianism is the greatest enemy of the Church today because is looks so good. It is as evil as the devil himself. So, when you going to acknowledge the power of the enemy? Or is it just too hard to believe that this is all real?

If you do not believe as truth what you proclaim, then I suggest that you quit proclaiming your opinions. If they are not the only truth, they are no more than lies, and the Arminian is not a liar but just an "opionator" and not a preacher of a false gospel, but simply, a "sharer of what it means to me." Perhaps what the Arminian hordes in the SBC are calling for should be done, declare a truce and stop trying to convince each other.

What did Paul say was going beyond what was written? If you have received the truth, then you have received no more than any other, and you should not be any different than another, but if you have not received, if it is only opinion, why do you insist that you have. If you have received then your opponents have not and you have no excuse except to rebuke them as blasphemers. But, it takes the fear of the Lord, not the fear of men.

Sorry. Spinelessness is what got us to today. A century and a half maybe two of compromise and cowtowing to the crowing of those who would embarass us, calling us callous and unloving because we use their rhetoric? It is too much like the political fight between liberals and conservatives. Liberals call conservatives harsh and unloving, mean spirited when the conservatives tell the truth. But, liberals can use any language they chose to demean the character of the right. We on the right, that is the Calvinistic side (remember we were here first and are trying to conserve the truth, and it was the liberal Arminians that infiltrated and undermined the credibility of the Reformation). We should not fear to call a spade a spade. Arminianism's Christ cannot save. He is impudent against the will of man. No matter how you slice it, the blood of Christ's sacrifice according to the Arminian is insufficient and limited in its ability. They offer the arguement against limited attonement like a side-show barker, while the pick-pocket does his work in the crowd. Christ office of High Priest, is a sham to them. He was not fit to fill it, so they must for him.

The stories of the martyrs are just nice stories, aren't they? Those Calvinists back then really didn't die for anything-- not really --just opinions.

Seth McBee said...

lordodamanor...
You make a lot of comments about me without even knowing me, yet I won't respond in haste nor anger. I believe that the reason that I defend Calvinism against Arminianism without believing that Arminianism is a damnable heresy is for the same reason that I defend my belief in concentric cessationism vs full cessationism or my belief in credo baptism vs paedo baptism.

I think that if you believe that you need to know all of Calvinism or believe Calvinism over Arminianism you are mishandling the Holy Writ. Paul came to preach Christ crucified (1 Cor 2:1-5) and also, just as this post was about, that the Gospel, namely that Christ lived, died and rose again, was of FIRST importance.

Also...if you want to start in on the limited vs unlimited atonement view, you might want to check out some of your heroes (and mine as well) of the faith to see what they believed on this subject before you start throwing stones here. Just as a way of understanding, you will be calling Bunyan, Calvin and others heretics as well...if you want to check out this please visit my friend and co-laborer "Flynn" over at theology online...

Here is the link:

http://www.theologyonline.org/blog/?cat=32

Please before you call me out as spineless, get to know me first, then let me know your opinion of me...I don't want to boast but while you will be sleeping this Friday night I will once again be out preaching the "spineless" gospel to gangsters, drug dealers, street kids and the homeless in downtown Seattle between 7pm and 3am...

Please pray for me...if you already are (which I hope you would be) and add this time in with your prayers...

And next time come with admonishment, not outright slander...thanks...

Out...

Soli Deo Gloria!

Josh said...

lordodamanor,

Are you a heretic for not fully understanding how when and where the providence of God has directed your life?

Do you fully understand the mysteries of God and give Him is absolute full credit and glory?

There are always 4 fingers pointing back at the accuser.

Seth McBee said...

Josh...I think you bring up a good point...unless one thinks that they have completely arrived in their theology (and if you do, you might want to examine yourself; clinically that is...) then one should realize that this point (Arminian vs Calvinism) has been a debate for decades. And if you think Calvinism doesn't have "holes" in it, then you don't know your theology as well as some others...although I am a Calvinist, I do fully understand some of the implications that it brings on, and some hard passages that are left to the "mystery of God" and His Wisdom...not mine...

"His ways are higher than my ways"

I think coming to theology, especially over a topic that is such a tough one like this, we need to come in humility, not elitism...

David Shaw said...

Seth,

I appreciate your posts on Calvinism. They have been educational. As I read them and studied I came to the conclusion that you just made and that is there are "holes" in both schools of thought. As I studied I had the "but what about this" thoughts. It will take considerable more study to even come close to forming any personal thoughts about the two. These beliefs have been debated for generations and will continue to be. This means that it could take me years to come to any conclusion on the matter. It will truly be an enjoyable time in God's word and in prayer.

All that I or anyone else can do is to allow God to reveal His word to us and show us the mysteries contained within them. When I gain understanding it is my responsibility to convey those thoughts in a way that will edify others, not to come across as superior. We should all remember that we know the things we know not by our own understanding but by God's grace.

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