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Who has saved us… according to his purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9).

A minister friend from the States used to send me letters on which he stamped, in bright red ink, “Fight truth decay!” It looked a bit odd, but it certainly made an impression! Before I even read his first letter, I remember thinking: “Take a look at that! This will be a good read!” And it was. That was Rev. Wallace Bell, the founding minister of the Puritan Evangelical Church of San Diego – an Irishman! He has since retired, but he left his stamp on that church, (which now stands in almost complete agreement with the EPC).

“Fight truth decay!” We all need to do that. What Christians believe about “grace” is in decay. We need to brush up on the truth.

Biblically, grace is the SAVING power of God’s favour. It is His omnipotent, saving favour bestowed upon elect sinners (who deserve the exact opposite) in and through Jesus Christ – from all eternity. Read carefully through Ephesians 1 and 2 and you will find a comprehensive description of grace. Grace is given in Christ Jesus from before the foundation of the world, and its saving power sweeps its blessed recipients up by his redeeming blood to “sit together in heavenly places with Christ Jesus.” Why does God do that? “To the praise of the glory of his grace…. that in ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:6. 12, 2:7). Grace is God’s glory revealed!

Beware, therefore, the subtle lie of Arminianism! Its thieving hand is stretched out to snatch at God’s glory. Arminianism teaches a grace of God that is general and common. It has grace purchased for all men by Jesus Christ on the cross, and given to all men so that they can save themselves by fulfilling certain conditions. That is a lie that robs God of His glory.

Grace is not some kind of unfulfilled longing in God’s heart that all men might let Him save them. Grace is not God giving “just enough” help to all hearers of the gospel so that they can exercise their “free-will.” That sort of grace – grace for all – is necessarily resistible and non-saving. After all, there are a great many that supposedly receive this grace, but are not saved! Why are not all saved? Obviously, it is because they choose not to believe – and that sin of unbelief stymies God’s grace! God wanted to save them – but they wouldn’t let him. God cannot save the sinner who resists. Salvation swings on the hinge of free-will. This sort of grace depends upon man being “not quite completely dead in trespasses and sins.” It denies the irresistible nature of grace – and the necessity of regeneration to enable us to believe.

Arminian general or common grace is, in fact, salvation by works - Christianised. Grace becomes nothing more than a leg up for the free-will of the natural man. The meritorious good work required now, according to this notion, is not obedience to the law – it is obedience to the gospel command to believe. The sinner, according to his own free-will (with the assistance of general grace which he has in common with everyone else), must choose to believe. That act of will is the work that saves him. That “gospel work” sets him apart from others who heard but did not believe. That act of will bobs his head up above the crowd so God can see him – and reward him! This false notion of grace turns faith into a meritorious good work. Salvation is, after all, not by grace alone; it is according to our works.

He has something to boast about. He did what others wouldn’t do. He must be wiser and better than they. According to this falsehood, the sinner just chose himself into eternal life – God noticed what he did, responded to his choice, and, according to his works, chose him as one of the elect in the decree of conditional election.

He might thank God for the general grace he received along with everyone else, but he must thank himself that he isn’t like other men. He must thank him own free-will for doing what it took to actually save him. God must thank him too! All hail the worthy man!

But what do the Scriptures say?

“…it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy” (Romans 9:16).

God hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9.)

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ, (by grace are ye saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10.)

May the grace of God abide with us in all its saving power and glory!

Pastor Connors.
 
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