Baptists of today who think they can pick and Choose what appeals to them from Calvin’s teaching and yet remain Biblical should take a lesson from history.
The Anabaptists who were the antecedents of modern Baptists were neither Calvinistic, Lutheran nor Armenian in doctrine. This group appeared almost immediately after the Reformation started. Many of them at first hailed Luther and Zwingli with great enthusiasm. But they were after all not followers of the Reformers and before long they became their bitter opponents.
Who were these Anabaptists? Where did they come from? What explains their changing attitude toward the Reformers? Some think that they were an entirely new sect, which in no way existed before the Reformation. But it is unlikely that an entirely new sect, without any previous background, would suddenly spring into being. Others think that they had already formed their opinions before the time of the Reformation.
So, it seems likely that the kind of people who have become known in history as Anabaptists were there when the Reformation started. The reason they changed so soon into strenuous opponents of the Reformers was that they felt sadly disappointed in them. A.H. Newman, the Baptist church historian says that Thomas Munster, with whose excesses the Anabaptists are usually equated, was not really an Anabaptist.
Thomas Munster was never really an Anabaptist. Though he rejected infant baptism in theory, he held to it in practice, and never seems to have submitted to believers’ baptism himself nor to have re-baptized others. The one thing that marked the Anabaptists was their literal hermeneutics of Scripture. Thus, they emphasized ‘believer’s’ baptism and separation of church and state. Another mark was that as a result of their literal approach to Scripture they were Chiliastic or premillennial.
Such Anabaptist leaders as had been under the influence of Mediaeval Chiliastic enthusiasm, whether of the Taboritic or the Franciscan type, when encouraged by the Protestant Revolution to come forward boldly with their reformatory schemes, were sure, along with their insistence on believers’ baptism as the divinely appointed initiatory rite into churches of the regenerate, to emphasize the eschatological views that had long been normative in their religious thinking.
The excesses of some of the leaders by perverting the Premillennial doctrines had caused some to overlook the fact that even the groups of Anabaptists who did not carry it to excess were premillennial, and thus literal interpreters of the Bible. This fact was the real basic and main reason for the differences and conflicts between the Anabaptists and the Reformers. It was not until the 17th century that Baptists were divided into, “free will” or “general” Baptists, who were Arminian, and “particular” or Calvinistic Baptists. This was a real departure from their Anabaptistic background.
Two Distinct Groups of Baptists Emerged During the Seventeenth century in England, the General Baptists and the Particular Baptists. The General Baptist were the first to arise and had their origin in John Smyth (d 1612) who had strong Puritan leanings… The Particular Baptists, …arose through out secession from a Calvinistic Independent Church whose theology they retained. This Church was none other than the first Congregational Church founded by Henry Jacob (1553-1624)
History then teaches us that there is a middle view between Calvinism and Arminianism and that is the Biblical view held by the Anabaptist who opposed Luther and Calvin. It was not until the 17th century that Baptists began to choose these other non-Biblical views. Pastor Kenneth H. Good is pastor of a GARBC church in North Olmstead, Ohio. In a personal talk with myself and Dr. B.E. Northrup, pastor Good responded to the question: Why adopt Calvin when he was opposed to every- thing the Anabaptists stood for? He answered to theeffect; “We can take the good from Calvin (i.e. what he taught about salvation) and reject the rest. We don’t have to believe everything Calvin said.”
Little did Pastor Good realize that Calvin’s doctrine of Salvation was the result of the rest of his system. The five points of Calvinism (TULIP) are a result of the whole system of Calvin. The five points are dependent on all the rest of his system. To take the five points and rejecting the rest of his system is to take the results from the rest of the system, while rejecting the source of these five points. As such, one is left with five points which have no reason to exist since they are but an extension of all the rejected sources.
This tact will be demonstrated by looking at the various parts of the total system.
It is essential to the five points to interpret the words: “world,” “all men,” “whole world,” as meaning “the elect.” To violate the literal meaning of these simple words, the reformed man must resort to an allegorical form of interpretation or hermeneutics. This form of interpretation is basic to every area of the Reformed position. The clearest statement as to how “the world” of John 3:16, I John 2:2 and II Cor. 5:19 means only “the elect” is stated by the Reformed theologian Benjamin B. Warfield:
In other words the sovereignty of God lays the sole foundation, for a living assurance of the salvation of the world …If you wish, as you lift your eyes to the far horizon of the future, to see looming on the edge of time the glory of a saved world, Calvinism thus is the guardian not only of the particularism which assures me that God the Lord is the Savior of my soul, but equally of the universalism by which I am assured that he is also the true and actual Savior of the World. It was because God loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Son; it was for the sins of the world that Jesus Christ made propitiation; it was the world which he came to save; it is nothing less than the world that shall be saved by him…then we shall see a wholly saved world… There is no antinomy, therefore, in saying that Christ died for his people and that Christ died for the world. His people may be few today; the world will be His people tomorrow.
2. Allegorical Conclusions
This bit of allegorical nonsense is absolutely essential to the limited atonement view of the five points. By accepting the five points one accepts the results of a pseudo-Biblical system. This method of interpretation is essential to Calvin’s concept of the church, sacraments, salvation, covenants, Christology, Pneumatology, Satanology, eternal moral law, atonement, decree, grace, righteousness, sin, Christian life, social reform, church and state, prophecy and Theology proper. All of these areas are reflected in the five points.
2. Theology Proper
Reformed theology confuses how God knows with what God knows. God’s will is then confused with His knowledge. It is true that there is no succession in how God knows, for He knows all things simultaneously and instantaneously. However, there is both succession and sequence in what God knows. He knows the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:9-11). It is true that He knows the end in the same act in which He knows the beginning, but He knows the end as the end and the beginning as the beginning. Therefore, He must know what comes between the end and the beginning as sequence, cause, and effect.
Reformed theology shows the confusion in this system by the Supra-lapsarian View. This view has God electing before He has determined to create or permit the fall. So, there is no need to elect. There is neither cause and effect nor sequence. There is nothing to select.
The word elect in the O.T. is bakhar and in the N.T. is eklegomαi, both mean to pick out, select or choose out. How could God choose some when He had not as yet determined to create them? God both determined to create and to permit the fall and then to choose some out of the total fallen group, a group seen as all one in Adam.
This confusion carries over to the decree as to what and how God knows. It is not too much to say that to many limited atonement people today believe that God could die and yet the decree would roll merrily along. Berkhof, in his Systematic Theology, clearly demonstrates this and adds the concept of immobility to God:
The divine decree is eternal in the sense that it lies entirely in eternity. In a certain sense, it can be said that all the acts of God are eternal, since there is no succession of moments in the Divine Being… The decree, however, while it relates to things outside of God, remains in itself an act within the Divine Being, and is therefore eternal in the strictest sense of the word.
This concept confuses the mobility of God and His will with what and how He knows. Such a concept makes God a slave to His decree, since if the decree is as eternal as God is, then how could it be an act of His will? But the O.T. word for decree is khouk, which means a statue or thing determined (Psa. 2:7). The verb to decree is gazar, which means to determine. The N.T. boule is the first declension noun from the verb boulomai, which means to determine. Thus, the noun means a thing determined–a decree. There can be no beginning until God decrees it and there can be no end until God decrees a beginning.
Therefore, the decree is not the result of God knowing but a result of the three Persons of the Godhead determining to devise and operate a plan of action in keeping with the knowledge of deity. The knowledge is not the decree but the basis of the determined plan–the decree is the expression of the three Persons determining a plan in keeping with the omniscience of their one divine nature. Paul expresses it in the N.T. language:
In whom (Christ) also we were made an inheritance, being marked out before hand as measured by the purpose of him who operates all things as measured by that which has been determined (by three persons) concerning the desirous will (Divine nature) of him. Eph. 1:11 (by author).
The decree is not as eternal as God. There was a phase in God’s existence when this present decree did not exist. However, the Godhead knew that at some point in their existence they would determine this present decree; God’s plan of operation from ages past unto the ages of the ages or the future (which is not the same as saying eternally).
After which there will be new determinations. One can understand the difference between knowledge of a beginning and the determination as an act of the will in human experience. Each year one knows that next April 15 one must file their income tax return. The knowledge of this event beforehand is not the same as filing the report. You must determine to sit down and do it. This is the beginning. When you file your report, it is a result of an act of the will determining an act based on something in your knowledge; thus there is an end. However, filing your income tax report does not exhaust all your knowledge, only some of your knowledge. The average person knows more than is in your report. Thus, the Trinity knows more than They decreed in the present decree.
The Reformed theologian usually relates the decree to only one Person of the Godhead. By inference, this one Person is the Father and thus the doctrine of the Trinity, Christology and Pneumatology suffer.
The Westminster shorter statement, which is reformed, reflects this: The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.
How different from the New Testament, where the Apostle Paul ascribes praise to the glory of each Person of the Trinity for their part. in this decree (Eph. 1:6 (Father) v.12 (Son) v.14 (Holy Spirit)).
The first point of the five points of TULIP denotes total depravity. While all Bible believers who understand Scripture believe in the total depravity, the Reformed theologian uses it in a different way than Scripture does. Total depravity is the result of Adam eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. His nature became perverted (i.e. body, soul and spirit). By his sin, physical death came upon all mankind (Rom. 5:12). This is by immediate seminal
imputation. Moreover, his trespass, or offense to God, brought condemnation to all mankind. This is passed on to all men by mediate imputation by propagation and imparts the sin principle, or nature, which results in spiritual death and condemnation (Rom. 5:18). Spiritual death is neither annihilation or cessation, but a separation. Man is separated from God. However, a spiritually dead man can think, though not correctly, in spiritual matters. The curse placed on Eve, women, and upon creation for Adam’s sake is not of total depravity but the penalty God imposed on Eve and Adam’s transgression (Gen. 3:15-19; Rom. 5:14; I Tim. 2:14). Because mankind was fallen, they came under the authority of Satan, but this was a result of depravity, not the depravity itself. Later God imposes judgments upon man because of his expressions of depravity, but again these are not depravity, but rather the penalties on depravity (Rom. 1:21-28).
Since depravity is passed on mediately by propagation and is realized in the sin nature which brings spiritual death and thus condemnation, a man is born condemned (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:1). Therefore, man is condemned by his part in Adam’s sin and trespass (Rom. 5:18; 3:23; Rom. 6:23). His personal sin, the ones he commits as an individual, are simply an expression of his nature and condemnation. He sins because he is a condemned sinner.
2. Personal Sin
After painting a dismal picture of man’s depravity by combining depravity, the curse and subsequent judgments on man’s depravity, it becomes a dead end to the reformed. In other words, it means nothing in reference to the work of Christ on the cross. It is a facade, or farce, since it has not meaning to the rest of the system. It is used as a jumping off point to something entirely different in their idea of irresistible grace. This becomes very clear when the following statements by reformed men are weighed. James Boyce states:
The condemnation for the sins man commits is too plainly taught in the word of God. From this condemnation, the Elect are rescued by special grace, the Rejected are left liable to it and consequently suffer from it.
And in the same vein Warfield says: But what obstacle stands in the way of the salvation of sinners, except just their sin? And if this obstacle (their sin) is removed are they not saved?
The reformed doctrine of depravity is a farce used to argue that a man dead in sins cannot believe so he must have life first (more will be said about this later). Then they revert to man’s personal sins as a means of condemnation so that they can argue for a limited atonement. It is from the concept of condemnation from personal sins that they make a premise for the statement, “If Christ died for the sins of all men, then all men would be saved.” Any thoughtful person can see that depravity has no place in this statement. It is the personal sins of man that are seen to condemn him; remove these and he is saved. So, reformed theology has led one to believe a doctrine of depravity simply to form a basis for the statement of irresistible grace. This is the “I” of the five points. One would think that depravity would bemade the basis of their limited atonement concept, but it is not.
Scripture teaches that man is depraved because of his part in Adam’s sin and trespass and is born condemned. He is spiritually dead because of his Adamic sin nature and needs new life to be saved (Titus 3:5; Eph. 2:1; Rom. 6:23).
- The Gospel
The most basic question concerning the proclamation of salvation is a definition of the gospel. What is the gospel? Paul insists that one must believe the gospel to be saved. He also states it is God’s inherent power with reference to salvation.
For I am not ashamed of the good news concerning Christ (the risen and glorified one) for it is the inherent power of God unto salvation, to the Jew firstly and to the creek. (Rom. 1:16, by author)
Therefore, the question as to what is the gospel is the difference between salvation and condemnation. It is from the human point-of-view the most important aspect of getting saved. For all their boast, of preaching the gospel, one would think that the reformed men would perfectly know what the gospel is. But their own words inform us that they do not know.
Calvin states his concept of the gospel as:
By the Gospel, I understand the clear manifestation of the mystery of Christ. I confess, indeed, that inasmuch as the term Gospel is applied by Paul to the doctrine of faith (II Tim. 4:10), it includes all the promises by which God reconciles men to himself and which occur throughout the Law…Hence it follows that Gospel, taken in a large sense, comprehends the evidence of mercy and paternal favor which God bestowed on the Patriarchs.
Thus, to Calvin the gospel meant believing most of the Bible. To this agrees Bavinck:
Law and gospel are the two component parts of the Word of God. The two are distinguished from each other but they are never separated. They accompany each other throughout Scripture, from the beginning to the end of revelation. The law really belongs to the so-called covenant of works…But the gospel is the proclamation of the covenant of grace which was made known for the first time after the fall of man, and which gives him eternal life by grace, through faith in Christ. The law keeps its place in the covenant of graces in order that through it we should come to know our sin, our guilt, our misery, and our helplessness, and, struck down and stripped by the consciousness of guilt, should take refuge in the grace of God in Christ.
Thus Bavinck assumes one must know most of the Old Testament and a good portion of the New Testament. Berkhof is even more elusive:
It is impossible to determine with precision just how much knowledge is absolutely required in saving faith. If saving faith is the acceptance of Christ as He is offered in the gospel, the question naturally arises, how much of the gospel must a man know, in order to be saved? all true saving faith must contain at least a minimum of knowledge, not so much of the divine revelation in general as of the Mediator and His gracious operations. The more real knowledge one has of the truths of redemption, the richer and fuller ones faith will be. If all other things are equal.
Berkhof ends this section with an appeal for churches to indoctrinate their youth.
It is easy to see how reformed theology can be accused of a salvation by education. They do not believe in a church membership made up of only believers. So one sees the basis of their catechism classes for unbelievers to learn doctrine and to be educated to salvation and church membership. The gospel is stated in Scripture in I Cor. 15:1-4. It contains the fact that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried and that He rose again the third day. Many Baptists today abuse the gospel by leaving out the resurrection and changing the fact Christ died for our sins, to the statement, “Christ died for you.” Paul insisted that the resurrection must be part of the gospel and he gives his motive for preaching that gospel in winning people to Christ. As a result, he said that he suffered persecution (II Tim. 2:8-10).
2. Christ’s Death
A sinner minus his sins is not saved–for he would still be condemned because of his sin nature and the spiritual death and condemnation that comes from this nature. Scripture states that we are saved through the intermediate agency of regeneration and washing from the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). The Holy Spirit regenerates the elect one whom He convicts efficaciously which is based on the work Christ accomplished on the cross.
Surprisingly the Reformed men deny that the death of Christ is sufficient for the salvation of one of the elect. They divide the atonement into two aspects: the active and passive obedience of Christ. Berkhof states this clearly:
Christ as Mediator entered the federal relation in which Adam stood in the state of integrity, in order to merit eternal life for the sinner. This constitutes the active obedience of Christ consisting in all that Christ did to observe the law in its federal aspect, as the condition for obtaining eternal life. The active obedience of Christ was necessary to make His passive obedience acceptable with God, that is, to make it an object of God’s good pleasure. It is only on account of it God’s estimate of the sufferings of Christ differs from His estimate of the sufferings of the lost…His passive obedience consisted in His paying the penalty of sin by His sufferings and death, and thus discharging the debt of all His people.*14
Calvin agrees in detail with Berkhof:
That Christ, by his obedience, truly purchased and merited grace for us with the Father. I take it for granted, that if Christ satisfied for our sins, if he paid the penalty due us, if he appeased God by his obedience; in fine, if he suffered the just for the unjust, salvation was obtained for us by his righteousness; which is just equivalent to meriting.*15
Christ accomplished 24 distinct things on the cross, three of these relate as the basis of our salvation. These three are: redemption from Adamic sin, reconciliation because of personal sin, and propitiation in reference to our Adamic sin corruption. When God saves an individual the provisions of these three are applied to the one being saved by the regenerative and baptizing work of the Holy Spirit.
The death of Christ, both spiritual and physical, as completed by His resurrection is the sole basis of salvation. The application of the benefits is by the Holy Spirit. Christ’s earthly ministry adds nothing to the work of the cross and the resurrection. However, they are the basis, or provision, for salvation, not the application.
The reformed man makes the passive obedience of Christ acceptable because of the active obedience and then makes the obedience of Christ the instrument of salvation itself.
…the precise point at issue comes therefore to be whether the redemptive work of Christ actually saves those for whom it is wrought, or only opens a possibility of salvation to them…the consistent particularist is able to look upon the redemption wrought by Christ as actually redemptive, and insist that it is in itself a saving act which actually saves, securing salvation of those for whom it is wrought.*16
This statement contains so many Biblical and theological errors that it is beyond the scope of this paper to refute them all. But first of all, note the lack of exegesis. Second, Warfield assumes redemption to be the total work of salvation. Third, he never exegetes the four words for redemption. Fourth, he assumes redemption is for personal sins. Fifth, he assumes that redemption, reconciliation and propitiation are all the same. But they are not the same. Sufficient to note that Warfield and the Calvinistic view both agree that the death of Christ is not sufficient to obtain eternal life for the believer, but that His death was both sufficient and effective in taking away the sins of those for whom it is wrought. But a sinner minus his sin is not a saint; he must have life to be saved. This conclusion that redemption is from personal sins, is the other part of the premise for the famous Calvinistic statement that, “If Christ died for the sins of all men, then all men would be saved.”*17 This same conclusion is stated in a little different way: “Calvinism demands a really substitutive atonement which actually saves.”*18
5. SALVATION AND FAITH
- Calvinism’s Answer
If the cross itself saves, then how does this relate to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and faith on the part of man? It is at this juncture that the depravity of man becomes important to Calvinism. It now becomes clear why so much effort is expended in proving the depravity of man, since it is his personal sins that condemned him. For without using Scripture, the reformed man reasons,
“How can a dead man believe?” Their answer, also without any Scripture, is: “He must be given life that he may believe.”
Indeed this is what every GARBC member swears to when he embraces the GARBC confession of faith according to Kenneth Good.
According to the GARBC statement, man does not believe in order to be regenerated, but God regenerates man so that he may believe.
Repentance and faith are not the causes of regeneration, they are its fruit…
The GARBC Confession sees man as a totally undone sinner. “not only by constraint, but of choice” (article 6, “The Fall of Man”). His only hope lies in God’s gracious act of mercy to bestow life upon the spiritually dead, not in response to man’s faith (foreseen or existent), but with the purpose of giving faith. The Biblical order puts regeneration before faith (John 1:12-13; James 1:18).*19
This opinion is shared by many modern day Calvinists, though Calvin himself put faith before regeneration.*20 It should also be noted that Pastor Good did not exegete, nor tell how John 1:12-13 and James 1:18 prove regeneration is before faith. In fact, a correct exegesis of these three verses would prove otherwise. Pastor Good also misrepresents the GARBC Confession. Article 6 on the fall of man does not relate faith or regeneration to the fall. Pastor Good’s understanding of Article 6 would contradict Article XI, which states, “We believe that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only condition of salvation.”*21
If language means anything then faith is the condition of salvation and as such the condition must be met to have salvation. One cannot have salvation without regeneration according to Scripture. “Not out of works of righteousness which we have done, contrary wise according to His mercy He saved us through the intermediate agency of a washing consisting of regeneration and a renewal from the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5, by author).
Not only does Pastor Good contradict the GARBC Confession but he contradicts the Scriptures.
- The Scriptures
- Those that state you are saved by believing: Acts 16:31; Rom. 1:16; I Cor. 15:1-2; John 5:24; Acts 10:43; 13:39; Rom. 4:3, 5; 10:9-10; I Cor. 1:21; Gal. 2:16; 3:6; I Tim. 1:16; James 2:23
- Those that state faith proceeds salvation or parts of salvation: Rom. 3:22, 28, 30; 4:5, 9, 11, 16; 5:1; 9:30; Gal. 2:16; 3:2, 5, 8, 26; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 3:9
- The Prepositions
- ek — out of
- Rom. 3:30 — Justified out of faith (Jews)
- Rom. 5:1 — Having been justified out of faith
- Rom. 9:30 — the righteousness which is out of faith
- Gal. 3:2 — Received Spirit out of hearing of faith
- Gal. 3:8 — God will justify the Gentiles out of faith.
- dia — through (intermediate agency)
- Rom. 3:30 — Justified through faith (Gentiles)
- Gal. 2:16 — Justified through faith concerning Jesus Christ
- Gal. 3:26–Sons of God through faith in Christ
- Eph. 2:8 — Saved, through faith
- epi — upon the occasion or on the basis
- Phil. 3:9 — the righteous out of God which is (upon the occasion or based on) faith.
- ek — out of
In each case, the preposition shows faith must precede righteousness, justification or sonship.
- Faith is not a work: To him that worketh not but believes on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness (Rom. 4:5).
- Faith is of grace: Therefore it is out of faith in order that it may be according to grace…(Rom. 4:16).
- Faith is a gift
- Eph. 2:8 — it is a gift — refers to faith, salvation and grace — genders are different.
- Phil. 1:29 — Given to believe
- I Cor. 3:5 — ye believed as the Lord gave to each one
Grace and faith can coexist and cooperate to accomplish the same end because neither one is of works. Faith is not a work (Rom. 4:5). Grace excludes all works (Rom. 11:5-6). Therefore, there is no conflict between grace and faith.
In the convincing work of the Holy Spirit, the gift of faith is given with which the one being convicted believes unto salvation. It is all of grace and is a gift so no work is involved on man’s part (John 16:8-11).
6. REFORMED LEGALISM
- Tenses of Salvation
There are three tenses of salvation: past, present and future. Each of these tenses are accomplished for the Christian by grace (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 2:11-12; II Tim. 2:2; Heb. 7:25).
Many reformed men place all present tense salvation into the future. Thus justification and eternal life are made to be future realities by many or most reformed men.
This is essentially the meaning of “justification” in Paul. It is an eschatological word which relates to the verdict of acquittal on the day of judgment (Rom. 2:13). Believers have this future acquittal in the present by faith (Matt. 12:36, 37; Jn. 5:24).*22
As to eternal life:
For when He returns He fulfills all His promises and grants to His confessors the perfect salvation and eternal life. Therefore they live in hope, and expect continuously the blessed hope… And only in the coming age will they receive eternal life (Mark 10:30).*23
Except for minor details, such as, making eternal life the perpetual happiness of the final state of the righteous, most reformed men agree that eternal life is future.
Since present tense salvation is all in the future, man is left in the present living under law and earning his future tense salvation by persevering as a believer.*24
It is at this point that many Baptists have been misled. Perseverance of the saints means just that. The emphasis is on the human’s persistence in salvation.*25 Many Baptists take this to be the same as “eternal security” or “security.” It is not the same. The emphasis of security is God’s work in keeping the believer (I Cor. 11:30-32; Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:31-34).
The reformed man is in earnest when he speaks of the perseverance of the saints. He will modify it by saying one must depend on the grace of God.
The picture of the present life as under law is seen as a “struggle” and a “warfare” which by perseverance and the grace of God one earns his future blessings. Thus all reformed men are legalistic at heart and their perseverance is not the security of the Baptists.
2. The Sacraments
Most reformed men agree that in some undefined manner, the Holy Spirit works grace in the life of the believer to help him persevere. It is not until one sees the sacraments as the reformed man sees them that it is clear how the Holy Spirit works this grace.
Berkhof defines a sacrament:
A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, in which by sensible signs the grace of God in Christ, and the benefits of the covenant of grace are represented, sealed, and applied to the believers, and these in turn give expression to their faith and allegiance to God.*26
Thus it should be no surprise that after calling the Lord’s Supper a sacrament, Berkhof quotes the Heidelberg Catechism to define how the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament.
The Heidelberg Catechism says that Christ intends, “by these visible signs and pledges to assure us that we are as really partakers of His true body and blood, through the working of the Holy Spirit, as we receive by mouth of the body these holy tokens in remembrance of Him; and that all His sufferings and obedience are as certainly ours as if we ourselves had in our own persons suffered and made satisfaction to God for our sins.*27
Thus it is through the sacraments that the grace of God is applied to the believer while he struggles under law.
How refreshing to know one’s position in Christ and the empowerment that comes as a result. How happy the Christian who is taught by grace and has victory over the sin nature by grace (Titus 2:11-12; II Tim. 2:2; Rom. 6:14).
7. REFORMED THEOLOGY AND SOCIETY
- Civil Government
The legalistic reformed professed believer sees that his struggle in this life would be eased if he lived in a theocracy. To the end of easing this struggle, Calvin had his Geneva and the Puritans their Salem.
Thus Calvin could conclude:
God keeps us united in the fellowship of Christ by means of Ecclesiastical and Civil government…The Magistrate is God’s vicegerent (sic), the father of his country, the guardian of the laws, the administrator of justice, the defender of the church.*28
John Knox, under the influence of Calvin, brought Scotland to its knees and wedded Church and State.
Maintenance of the true religion was declared to be the prime duty of government. Ministers were paid by the state. The church was not to take a hand in politics unless it concerned some matter touching upon religious life or practice.*29
Calvin’s Geneva failed and the Puritans and their Salem failed, for the simple reason they tried to make unbelievers live like believers. They took the Word of God, which is for the man of God, and tried to make it for the ungodly man apart from God. When will Baptists believe that the Scriptures are for the man of God (II Tim. 3:16-17)? If we make the unsaved live like the saved, the Christian loses his uniqueness. We are in the world but not of the world (John 15:17-20; 17:14-17).
It is simple for the reformed to erase the distinction between the world and believers. They have already done it by equating the world with the elect.
Paul said live in society, but stand out from it by your manner of life. Paul never advocated changing the slavery of the Roman Empire. He did not suggest revolt against the filthy Nero. Rather he said be the best slave there is. With respect to Nero, he said be subject to the powers that be for he is one who serves God (I Cor. 7:20-24; Eph. 6:5-8; Col. 3:22-25; Rom. 13:1-7). Peter agrees with this view of government and slavery (I Peter 2:13-18).
Paul — persecution for being different. In fact, if we live godly in Christ Jesus, we shall suffer persecution. (II Tim. 1:8-9; 3:12).
The Anabaptists, being literal interpreters of the Bible, taught separation of Church and State. Today many Baptist have forgotten this, as the letters published in the Baptist Bulletin will show.
2. A Religious Society
Now along comes Francis Schaeffer with his “A Christian Manifesto.” In it he advocates: Christians must realize, Dr. Schaeffer said, “it is just as important to bring society and law and government under the teaching of the word of God as our individual personal lives.”
Sounds like Geneva or Salem all over again. If we cannot learn from the Word of God, cannot we Baptists learn from History? Where is Calvin’s Geneva? Where are the Puritans? They are dead and buried, let’s leave them there!
The grace believer can live in an evil world and live above it. His testimony will shine greater when he learns he not only is saved by grace, but he is taught, disciplined, empowered and victorious by grace. And by the crowning events of grace he will be rewarded and have manifestations of grace into the ages of the ages (Eph. 2:5-7).