Raison d’etre For Our Reformed Continuance

As we pick up from last week, you may recall that we began to pick up the theme of why does the Reformed Church need to continue to exist and tied up with that is that answering the question “what is the reason for our being,” or if we wanted to say it with a flourish what is our raison d’etre.

We noted last week that there must be reasons for our existence. If there is not we may as well just submerge ourselves in some other denomination. But we can’t do that because of our conviction that we alone have the purest and clearest essence of Biblical Christianity and as such all men everywhere should come and join the Reformed faith.

Of all other expressions of Christianity as Reformed Christians we say that they may well be good and original, but then we would be quick to add that where they are good they are not original, and where they are original, they are not good.

We agree with 20th century Reformed Theologian B. B. Warfield here,

“The chief dangers to Christianity do not come from anti-Christian systems … It is corrupt forms of Christianity itself which menace from time to time Christianity itself.” B. B. Warfield

So, if we were to say overall what is our raison d’etre the answer would be we exist to offer the answer to the other corrupt forms of Christianity.

Now, note we have not said that Christians occupying other forms of Christianity are not Christian. What we insist upon however is that they are part of denominations which are offering corrupted forms of Christianity.

We noted last week that one reason for the need of our continued existence is our championing the Biblical doctrine of predestination. We noted that we alone champion this doctrine. Even where we might find people using the same word and speaking well of it, more often than not they have re-defined Predestination to mean “not Predestination.”

Indeed other expressions of Christianity have so hostile to predestination that they have been willing to demote our God into a demigod or a well intended benevolent bystander.

And to that the Reformed person says, “A thousand times ‘no.'” If we cannot have Predestination we will not open our doors. If embracing a muscular doctrine of Predestination means we must be a collected handful of families in the face of the swarming hives of Mega-Church evangelicalism then so be it.

And to this Doctrine we turn to again this week.

Acts 13:48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

“As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”

Before we get to the obvious teaching of Predestination here note that it was the simple preaching of the Word as traveled along by the Holy Spirit that was the means by which men were saved. This is important to observe.

What we don’t see here is the techniques and tools of the non-Reformed in order to shoe horn people into the Kingdom of God. Just the simple word simply preached by simple men.

Consider, quite to the contrary of the simple Word simply preached by simple men that the appeal the Non-Reformed have always used. The non-Calvinist’s appeal in Evangelism has chiefly been to the sentiments of their adherents. It is the emotive part of man that the Arminian evangelists is typically going after. This explains the revivalism of Arminianism. It explains the early anxious seat. It explains the long drawn out hymns during the altar call. It explains the dimming of the lights. It explains the praise bands and the smoke machines. It explains the light shows, special effects, and the celebrity attendees.

The whole environment is organized so as to play to man’s emotions. This was evident first with the early Methodists who were known as “Holy Rollers.” It was then ratcheted up by the Pentecostals (who are likewise Arminian when they are anything) who discovered that more emotion led to greater attendance and so they gave us Holy laughter, barking in the Spirit and all kinds of unique phenomena as part of their Evangelism..

All of this is keeping with the appeal of the Arminian system with its doctrine of libertarian free will. In the Arminian doctrine man has complete free moral control of himself. He is the Captain of his own fate as he responds or doesn’t respond to prevenient grace. In the Arminian system man is in free moral control of himself, and is able to, at any moment, determine his own eternal state. As this is true it only stands to reason given this anthropological conviction of Libertarian free-will in the Arminian system that what needs done in appealing to fallen Arminian man is to arouse, stimulate, and manipulate man’s emotions.

If winning a lost soul for the Kingdom of God can be accomplished by the simple arousing of the emotions then why take the long laborious route of feeding a man’s mind with the truth? Whatever can lawfully awaken the feelings is considered expedient for the purpose of winning souls. As such Arminian evangelism, theology, and continued sanctification works on men’s senses. The typical Arminian then (and remember we are talking about the lion’s share of the Protestant world) is religiously speaking, a man of feeling, emotion and sentiment and consequently is, by way of disposition, given to that which catches the eye and tickles the ear. Further, we expect to find in Arminians (Methodists, Pentecostals, Wesleyans, Nazarenes, Free-Methodist, Church of God, Many varieties of Baptists, etc.) a tendency to sporadic fluctuations in action depending at any given moment on the wave of sensation that is currently breaking upon their emotions.

Not so the Reformed. And here we are turning again to one of our raison d’etre… one of our reasons for existence...

The Reformed are simple men, simply preaching the simple word. Not pyrotechnics, no glitz, and no glamour. And any drama we have is merely the drama that comes from the Word preached.

The Reformed stand in stark contradiction to those who desire to make worship a Rock concert or Evangelism a dog and pony show. In attending a genuinely Reformed Church you will not find us “treeing the devil,” like one found at the Cane Ridge Revivals in the 1801. You will not find people making animal sounds being overcome by the Spirit. You will not find anxious seats to put you under pressure and on the spot. What you will find is Word and Sacrament. What you will find is what you find here in Acts 13 … the simple Word, simply preached, by simple men.

This is one reason for our continued existence. The Church needs someone left standing who isn’t turning Worship and Evangelism into a Broadway performance and who instead of appealing to man’s emotions and sentiments appeals to man’s mind, via the Word preached and then who relies on the Spirit of the living God to convict and convert or to harden as He determines.

Before we get to the obvious Predestination in this passage we must mention another Calvinist doctrine that rubs up against Predestination that we find in this passage.

That is the doctrine of the general vs. effectual call.

You of course have noticed that St. Paul is preaching to a host of people here and yet they are not all saved? Why is that?

Well, the non-Reformed insists it is due to the fact that those who rejected the General call to come to Christ and leaves it at that. Not so the Reformed. The Reformed admit with the Arminian that many are those who reject the general call but unlike the non-Reformed they see more. The Biblical Christian looks and sees that while all heard the general call of the Gospel to come to Christ only those who were predestined to eternal life received the effectual call.

The distinction is found in the idea that the general call of the Gospel that lands on all the people who hear the Gospel can be and is resisted while the effectual call that lands on the ears of the predestined is irresistible and it is irresistible because those that hear are elect from the foundation of the world for Salvation.

Now, here we have done it, haven’t we? We have implicitly officially linked Predestination with Total Depravity, and explicitly linked Predestination to irresistible grace and unconditional election. If we were to burn a few more sentences we would easily arrive at Limited Atonement and perseverance of the Saints.

But one thing at a time. Let’s us stay with Predestination.

Predestination explains why some receive merely the general call and so do not respond to the command to repent and why some receive the effectual call and so bow the knee to Christ. They receive the effectual call because they were predestined and set apart from eternity to own Christ. God owned them as His people before they were conceived and owned by their parents. From all eternity, God’s favor was and is upon those who receive the effectual call.

This predestination (also called election at this point) accounts for why some men are folded into Christ and why some are left to gnaw at the old ends of their reprobation and so never come to Christ.

If we were to say it bluntly, we would say that many don’t come to Christ because God doesn’t and never did want them… He rejected them from the foundation of the world.

This is predestination. God from all eternity loves all His Jacobs and Hates all His Esaus. God from all eternity has set aside not just Judas as a son of perdition but all those who would hate Christ with their own free will with every inch of their being and so show themselves like Judas, sons of Perdition.

We see that just here in Acts 13:48.

48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

Those that believed, believed because they were appointed to believe. And when did that appointment take place? That appointment took place from eternity past as St. Paul writes elsewhere,

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 

Here is one of the reasons for the Reformed Church’s existence. We believe that our only recommendation to God in Christ was and is God’s work of Predestination. We find ourselves rescued and in Christ not because we are made of better dirt, not because there was something more noble in us that wasn’t in those not chosen, not because we obey the precepts of the law better after conversion, not because God knew what potential we had. No … a thousand times no. As Reformed one reason we exist is to keep thumping the truth that the only reason that we are in Christ is because of God’s unfathomable and inexplicable predestinating grace. A predestinating grace that not only set us apart, but also a predestinating grace that made provision in Christ as the demonstration of the only way to gain access with the Father and a predestinating grace that was assured in the work of the Holy Spirit as certainly applying to the elect that which was accomplished by Christ.

Again Warfield,

“As supernaturalism is the mark of Christianity at large, and evangelicalism the mark of Protestantism, so particularism is the mark of Calvinism.” Warfield

And so we champion predestination here as it pertains to our salvation. If we did not we would be like all other denominations who implicitly or explicitly suggest that the explanation for our interest in Christ is accounted for by some level of our own good-doobie-ness. Without Predestination, to us be the glory, great things we have done. Without predestination snobbery and self-righteousness should abound because without predestination some of us really would be inherently better than others and by all rights should turn their noses up at others.

The world wants Equality. Well, for the Calvinist here is the equality we offer the World and it is wrapped up in our doctrine of Predestination. You all, inside and outside the Church were Predestined to be all the same as dead in your trespasses and sins. You were all Predestined to be all the same as in your vile reproach of the God of the Bible and His Christ. You were all Predestined to be all the same in your hatred for God’s people. This is the equality that the Reformed church teaches and the only escape to that ugly egalitarianism is the hope found in the Predestined Christ for those predestined to no longer be equal in this manner. When we command men to repent we command them to give up their equality.

Now … we have opened up some matters here that we do not have time to close and so we will continue on this march next week seeking to sew those matters up and in doing so we will find other reasons for the Reformed Church’s existence. Reasons we have hinted at this morning. Reasons like our embrace of Total Depravity, Unconditional election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible grace and perseverance of the Saints.

But let us end here this morning by saying that it is our embrace and championing of Predestination that allows us to say that all other expressions of Christianity are corrupt and so those who attend those other expressions, if they no longer are interested in knowing Christ in a strange way, should leave those denominations and find a Reformed Church to attend … if they can find one.

Acts 13:48

Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

1.) Note that it is God’s ordaining of men that leads to men believing not men’s believing that results in their being ordained. No one believes who wasn’t first ordained to do so from the counsels of eternity.

2.) In the phrase, “as many as were ordained,” is the absolute proof of limited atonement. If Christ died a death for all men then there would be no sense in the “as many as were ordained” being penned. That phrase implies there were those who were not ordained to eternal life. Those not ordained to eternal life were those Christ did not atone for.

3.) Though God ordains all things, this ordination is specifically tied to eternal life. God not only ordains the differences between natural men but ordains who be bequeathed with redemption and who will not.

4.) Irresistible grace is implied in the definitive character of the statement. If one has been ordained to eternal life one will believe. For the ordained there is no escaping believing unto eternal life.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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