Free Will or Free Grace? [Thomas Waters]

Pastor Thomas Waters
Pastor Thomas Waters
[3 min. readout]

Having spent a couple of weeks on the oncology and hospice floors of Emory University with family, I have been reminded yet again of the bounds and limits of a person’s will. Many folks, would have you think that the will is neutral and capable of accomplishing great feats, not the least of which is salvation. Yet the time spent at Emory has demonstrated and brought to my mind yet again one of my core beliefs concerning the bondage of the will. Contrary to popular opinion, a person’s will is neither free and certainly not the deciding factor in life’s course or destination.


Yes, we have a will. Yes, one acts according to his will. Yes, by one’s will (determination) great accomplishments have been achieved. However, everyone’s will is sinful and limited. These limitations affect all our decisions and capabilities from the lesser and mundane to the higher and spiritual.


While spending so much time on the 5th and 7th floors of Emory Hospital, I met several people. Most of the folks I met were visiting family members, often critical if not terminally ill family members. None of us (patients and/or family members) wanted to be there. The patients wanted (willed) to be well and to live. We the family did not want (will) our loved one to have cancer or to die.


The patients were receiving top notch, often cutting edge medical treatment by skillful doctors and nurses. While many of the patients were helped others could not be. Why? Was the deciding factor one’s free will? Did some by an act of their will or their loved one’s will stop death? No! Not even the best medical skills combined with the love and good will of family, staff and patient could reverse the devastating effects of the disease or prevent death.


Interestingly while at Emory I did not hear anyone touting free will as an answer for cancer or death, but I did hear folks talking about and engaging in prayer. Wonder why? Because intuitively we know that man’s will is limited and not the ultimate factor in life or death. Why do we pray and ask God for our daily bread (lesser) and the forgiveness of sins and the salvation (greater) of loved ones? Because we know that our wills are limited and that daily and eternal blessings are not the result of man’s will but God’s grace.


The Bible says, The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law (1 Corinthians 15:56). Sin is the greater, the cause of death. Death is the lesser, the result of sin. If no one can prevent death (lesser) by an act of the will, why would we imagine that the solution to sin (greater) is the will of man? Salvation and eternal life are not the results of free will, but free grace sovereignly and lovingly applied by the Great Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To God alone be the glory! Amen.

Thomas Waters pastors Emmanuel Baptist Church in Jesup, GA. He serves on the Administrative Council of the Georgia Association of Confessional Baptists Churches.

[source: The Log College]

Friday Funny: John Samson on James White’s “ESV Only Controversy”!

ESV Only Controversy

Guest host of The Dividing Line, John Samson, started off Tuesday’s show with a pretty funny intro [3 mins.]:

After this good bit of humor John Samson continued what he had started in February, his series on the TULIP (Doctrines of Grace). At this point he was on the subject “Irresistible Grace.” [video | audio]

Yesterday John Samson sat in again and picked up where he left off on Tuesday with “Preservation of the Saints” on The Dividing Line. [video | audio]

Note:, the above two videos were added to this TULIP series post.

Theological Structures that Damage/Destroy Assurance [Roger Nicole]

Roger Nicole
Roger Nicole

Roger Nicole, in an article written for Ligonier Ministries, writes:

The privilege of assurance, which is secured by the work of Christ for His own and which is properly undergirded in the Reformed faith, is damaged or even destroyed in certain other theological structures.


I. When justification by faith alone is not duly proclaimed and the good works of the believer are presented as participating in the ground on the basis of which salvation is secured, the assurance of faith receives a fatal blow…


II. This problem also burdens the Arminian view. In keeping with Arminian principles, a believer may properly say, “I am saved now,” for by virtue of the work of Christ God confers salvation to any and all who repent and believe. Yet this blessing is not a basis for complete confidence that a change of disposition may not occur…


III. There are, of course, other systems of thought that undermine assurance in a still more fundamental way. For instance, those which deny the reality of life beyond the grave have no place for salvation, let alone assurance. Those also which think of salvation in social rather than individual terms do not consider assurance.


Those, finally, which expect that ultimately all rational creatures, or at least all members of the human race, will be saved extend assurance to all, but in this process emasculate the Gospel and depart from the clear teaching of Scripture as it has been well understood over the centuries.


In the Reformed doctrine assurance is grounded in the adequacy of the work of Christ, our mediator and covenant head, in the testimony of the Holy Spirit who witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16), and in the persistent purpose of God who has begun a good work in the believer and will carry it to completion until the day of Christ (Phil. 1:6).

Read “The Privilege of Assurance” [5 min. readout]

Some thoughts on Jesus’ statement that He is Lord of the Sabbath [Barcellos]

sabbathRichard Barcellos:

What the Lord is affirming is that the Sabbath has its place within the sphere of his messianic lordship and that he exercises lordship over the Sabbath because the Sabbath was made for man. Since he is Lord of the Sabbath it is his to guard it against those distortions and perversions with which Pharisaism had surrounded it and by which its truly beneficent purpose has been defeated. But he is also its Lord to guard and vindicate its permanent place within that messianic lordship which he exercises over all things–he is Lord of the Sabbath, too. And he is Lord of it, not for the purpose of depriving men of that inestimable benefit which the Sabbath bestows, but for the purpose of bringing to the fullest realization on behalf of men that beneficent design for which the Sabbath was instituted. If the Sabbath was made for man, and if Jesus is the Son of man to save man, surely the lordship which he exercises to that end is not to deprive man of that which was made for his good, but to seal to man that which the Sabbath institution involves. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath–we dare not tamper with his authority and we dare not misconstrue the intent of his words.

Read “some thoughts on Mark 2 and the Sabbath [9 min. readout]

The Five Points: Their History & Importance [Stephen Rees]

5pointAfter preaching a five part sermons series on “the Five Points”, Pastor Stephen Rees writes:

The five points are a great summary of what the Bible has to say about the way God saves human beings. But the five points are not the starting point in understanding and worshipping God. Believers should be more interested in God himself than in what he does for us. God is worthy to be praised because of who he is: one God in three persons, ‘infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth’. If I were asked which is the most important doctrine for Christians to believe, I would say unhesitatingly, the doctrine of the Trinity: that doctrine underlies all other Christian doctrines, including the doctrines of salvation. I would prefer to hear believers praising God joyfully for the love that has existed eternally between the three persons, than for the mercy we have received from him. Isolating the five points from the whole biblical presentation of God’s being can be dangerous.


The Five Points: important and providential


And yet the five points are important. They do give us a clear and systematic overview of what the Bible says about God’s plan of salvation. And a number of you have said how helpful it’s been to hear the plan of salvation presented in this systematic way.

How did the five points come to be formulated in the first place? By a strange and wonderful providence of God. We only have that five-point outline because of the attempts of false teachers to undermine the teaching of God’s Word. By God’s overruling, their attacks on the truth led to this wonderfully clear summary of the Bible’s teaching on God’s plan of salvation…


Arminius and his followers


We call the false teachers Arminians. They were followers of Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch minister who was appointed as professor of theology at LeidenUniversity in 1603. As a minister in the Reformed church, Arminius had vowed to uphold the teaching of the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism – these were the two documents that summarised the teaching of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands. But Arminius had come to doubt what those documents teach about God’s plan of salvation. Those who listened to him preach began to suspect that secretly he had turned away from the teaching of the Bible and the churches. But he denied it. When he was invited to become professor at Leiden, again he vowed that he would be faithful to the Confession and the Catechism. He did not keep that vow. Rather he used his position to spread the false doctrines that he had come to believe…

Read the entire article [22 min. readout]

[HT: ReformedOnTheWeb]

Anticipation: What about post-Easter Sunday? [Jeremy Walker]

Pastor Jeremy Walker


What about the Sunday after last? Jeremy Walker on the passing of Easter/Resurrection Sunday/April 20…

Last weekend brought with it all the brouhaha that seems to be the sadly-increasing norm among evangelicals with regard to ‘holy week’ and Easter Sunday…

And so the brouhaha dies down, at least until next year. After all, this next one is just an ordinary Sunday, isn’t it?

If that is your attitude, might I suggest that your view of the Lord’s day is sadly deficient and probably damaging. I hope you would not need to be a full-orbed sabbatarian to recognise the significance of the first day of the week, the day on which the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, the day on which he met again and again with his disciples, making himself known to them and impressing upon them the realities of his resurrection.

Read the rest here: Anticipation – Reformation21 Blog.

Baptism: A Means Of Grace [Roundup]

Last week, Jim Cassidy over at Reformed Forum reviewed Richard Barcellos’ book, The Lord’s Supper: More Than A Memory.  I was surprised to hear a misplaced critique of our view on the sacrament of Holy Baptism so I decided to collate resources for those interested.

First, I posted this a while back:

Baptism As  A Means Of Grace


From The 1693 Catechism

Q. 95. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?

A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are His ordinances, especially the Word, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.

Q. 98. How do Baptism and the Lord’s Supper become effectual means of salvation?

A. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them or in him that administers them, but only by the blessing of Christ and the working of His Spirit in them that by faith receive them.

Q. 99. Wherein do Baptism and the Lord’s Supper differ from the other ordinances of God?

A. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper differ from the other ordinances of God in that they were specially instituted by Christ to represent and apply to believers the benefits of the new covenant by visible and outward signs.

Q. 100. What is Baptism?

A. Baptism is an holy ordinance, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, signifies our ingrafting into Christ and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.

Richard Barcellos: 

Can Baptists Be Reformed? Is this a contradiction in terms? A Baptist’s Response

Maybe the larger question here concerns Smith’s contention that the BC does not affirm the sacraments as means of grace. This is a common claim. I think it is wrong. The first paragraph of the BC’s chapter “Of Saving Faith” is a slight revision of the WCF. It inserts “baptism and the Lord’s Supper” in place of “the sacraments” and adds “and other means appointed of God” after prayer and immediately prior to “it is increased and strengthened.” The doctrine of the means of grace is the same as the WCF, though. Here is that paragraph:


The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word; by which also, and by the administration of baptism and the Lord’s supper, prayer, and other means appointed of God, it is increased and strengthened. (BC 14:1; emphasis added)


Faith is a gift, “the work of the Spirit of Christ in” the heart’s of God’s elect. That initial work of the Spirit is subsequently “increased and strengthened” “by the administration of baptism and the Lord’s supper.” Baptism and the Lord’s Supper increase and strengthen faith. They are means of grace.


Smith claims, at least implicitly, that the old Baptists were not satisfied with an ordinary means of grace ministry. I will let the reference to the BC 14:1 stand on its own and refer the reader to chapter 20 of that same Confession.


I want to go on record (and I can because this is the internet) as one who thinks the BC of 1689 is of the “Old Side” persuasion concerning an ordinary means of grace ministry – it is a word and two-sacrament document.



Confessing Baptist Table Talk feat. Jeff Johnson & Jordan Cooper: On The Means Of Grace & Assurance Of Faith


Richard Barcellos: Baptism As A Means Of Grace

Tom Chantry: The Nature Of Baptism

Stuart Brogden: Baptism As A Means Of Grace

Pastor Wei En Yi : The Ordinary Means of Grace : Baptism

Reformed Forum’s Review of “The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace” by Richard Barcellos [Audio] + questions

The Lord’s Supper as a Means of GraceReformed Forum’s podcast Reformed Media Review (hosted by Camden Bucey) had Jim Cassidy reviewing “The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace” by Richard Barcellos.

They also ask some good, challenging questions to:

“confessing Reformed Baptists, with a big ‘R’, the 1689’rs especially…”

So don’t be afraid to chime in on their comments.

Listen to the 20 minute audio podcast here [mp3]

For more on this book, check out the interview we did with the author:
PodcastPromo Richard Barcellos 39 Lords Supper Means of Grace

Young, restless… no longer reformed? Austin Fischer & James White on Unbelievable Radio [Audio]

New Old CalvinismUnbelievable:

Austin Fischer embraced ‘New Calvinism’ as a teenager, after being influenced by its popular proponents. But he recently abandoned it when he found he was unable to worship God as truly just, good and loving. Calvinist theologian James White (old, rested and still reformed) challenges Austin about his journey and his theology. 


james white mic

“I’m old, I’ve never been restless, and I’m still Reformed.”

– James White

Find out more:


For Austin Fischer, click here. For James White, click here.

If you enjoyed this programme then you may also enjoy listening to:

Update 1:30pm: James White: Two Sermons in Response to Austin Fischer

The Reformation Isn’t Over [James White]

2014_TBT_03_March_200x1000One of the free columns from Tabletalk Magazine, March 2014:

“You do not want to end up on the wrong side of history.” This platitude has been granted prognostic status in our day, though one could properly question its fundamental truthfulness. It reflects, however, the prevailing attitude of Western culture, a pragmatism that enshrines in the judgment of “history” (whatever that means in this context) the final arbiter of morality, goodness, and worth. Often this phrase is being urged upon the church to “move on” from opposing homosexuality or the redefinition of marriage.


But this adage also captures the general attitude of a large portion of the population on both sides of the Tiber River to the Reformation and the continuing battle over the issues that gave it birth. Isn’t it time to just move on? Can’t we lay aside our differences for a greater good? Aren’t we a small enough minority now in the midst of a tsunami of secularism and the rising tide of Islam? Shouldn’t we be looking for unity, not for more reasons to remain separate?


We dare not dismiss the weight that these rhetorical questions carry with many within our congregations, and even among the clergy. At the same time, we must recognize the responsibility that is ours as heirs of the great struggle that was the Reformation. Can we betray those who came before us? What would such a betrayal involve? Are we really willing to assert that the great and momentous beliefs they fought for are no longer as important as we once thought?

Read the rest [5 min. readout]


John Samson audio/video on Reformed Theology 101: Law, Gospel, 5 Solas & TULIP

Great audio and video resources for anyone  new to the Doctrines of Grace, Reformed Theology, and really just a basic understanding of the gospel! John Samson does a great job of teaching this to those who are unfamiliar or new to the Reformed faith, which of course if always a great reminder to any Reformed Christian.

John Samson:

As you might already be aware, for the last couple of weeks I have had the distinct honor and privilege of hosting Dr. James White’s “Dividing Line” broadcast while he was away on a ministry trip to Europe.

Hour 1. “Law and Gospel.” [video | mp3]

Hour 2. “The Five Solas of the Reformation.” [video | mp3]

Hour 3. The “T” in the TULIP, “Total Depravity” [video | mp3]

Hour 4. The “U” in the TULIP, “Unconditional Election” [video | mp3]

Hour 5. The “L” in the TULIP, “Limited Atonement” [video | mp3]

For more check out, as a supplement to his book “Twelve What Abouts – Answering Common Objections Concerning God’s Sovereignty in Election” book, the six video teaching sessions totaling more than two and a half hours of material titled “Defending Divine Election”.

Update July 4, 2014: John Samson continued what he had started in February, his series on the TULIP (Doctrines of Grace). At this point he was on the subject “Irresistible Grace.” [video | audio]

Yesterday John Samson sat in again and picked up where he left off on Tuesday with “Preservation of the Saints” on The Dividing Line. [video | audio]

Why does the 1689 use Subsistences instead of Persons in regards to the Trinity? [Particular Voices]

TrinityShield_300Sam Renihan:

A careful examination and comparison of the Second London Baptist Confession (LCF) and the Westminster Confession (WCF) yields a variety of differences and nuances, some more obvious than others. One such difference is found in the second chapter, “Of God and of the Holy Trinity.” The London Confession is considerably more detailed and technical in its formulation of the doctrine of God (which is not to imply any lack of orthodoxy on the part of the WCF). This technicality is seen in the LCF’s use of “subsistence” instead of “person.”…


Why the change? Or what’s the difference between Person and Subsistence?

Read the rest.