Calvinism: Putting God in a Box

By ignoring the fundamentals of Bible Interpretation, well meaning Christians often misunderstand & misrepresent basic Bible Doctrines.  When we try and understand Bible teaching through the filter of our own Preconceived Ideas, take passages out of their intended context, or overlook the abundant evidence given in the “Whole Counsel” of God, we in effect are putting God in our own little box rather than openly trying to understand what exactly it is He is trying to convey to us.   This dangerous practice is responsible for many teachings to be far over-emphasized and others completely neglected.  We need the Biblical Balance that God intended for us in order to gain wisdom and understanding.    

1. Election & Freewill

I suspect that the Doctrine of Election will never be fully understood by any mere mortal but was meant for us rather to believe and accept.  Explaining Election without discussing Freewill is like separating Repentance & Faith from a clear Gospel message.  The two are immutably joined together!     

It is clear that Election is taught in the Bible.  God picked us out before He created the earth and anyone in it.  (We will discuss this in a little while.)  To utterly refute Election is silly since it is so evident in these verses. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:  Ephesians 1:3-11 

Not only were we “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (vs.4),” but the “Lamb’s Book of Life” was also pre-existent at that time.   

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.  Revelation 13:8 

The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.  Revelation 17:8 

If we scroll further down in Ephesians chapter one, we also see another doctrine that is vital to our accepting the idea of Election.  The “Elect” person actually realizes this upon Believing of their own Freewill. 

That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.  Ephesians 1:12-14 

Being Elect does not in itself save us.  However, Repenting & Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ not only saves us, but also reveals our Election.  

2.  Atonement: Limited or Unlimited?

Calvinists believe that some were ordained to eternal life and the rest to destruction.  Limited Atonement is a cornerstone of that persuasion and simply means that Christ died only for the Elect.  (Obviously it is only the Elect that made His sacrifice Effectual.)  I believe that the Bible clearly teaches otherwise.  

 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  John 3:16 

Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.  Romans 3:22-26 

Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.  I Timothy 2:4 

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. 10 For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.  I Timothy 4:9&10 

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.  Hebrews 2:9 

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.  I John 2:2 

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.  II Peter 3:9 

The most famous verse in the Bible conveys a Gospel message that extends God’s free gift of eternal life to the whole world and to anyone (the whosoevers) that will believe.  The New Testament offers ample proof that Atonement is Unlimited and that Christ died for all, every, and the whole world.  

3. Foreknowledge:  the Basis for Election. 

But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.  John 6:64 

Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.  I Peter 1:2 

The Balance of Election is Freewill.  The Basis of election is God’s Foreknowledge!  God knew beforehand (even before He created the Earth.) who would believe and who would believe not.  He Chose us based on this knowledge.  Election is not the Cause of belief or unbelief, it is the Confirmation of that belief or lack thereof.  The fact that God knew in advance does not relinquish us from our responsibility of responding to the Gospel willingly placing our faith in the shed blood of our Savior and repenting of our sins.  

4.  An Election Invitation

We are told in I John 4:19 that “We love him, because he first loved us.”  It is the ministry of the Comforter, according to John 16:8 to convict us of our sin and to guide us into all truth (vs. 13).  So it is that when we think that we have found God, He has actually called us, exposed and revealed our sin by His Holy Ghost, and invited us to repent and trust His son Jesus for our eternal salvation. In Matthew 16:15-17, when Jesus asked the disciples who they thought he was, Peter replied, “thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”   Jesus quickly acknowledged, “for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” 

The point is that God is the one that does the inviting.  It is our responsibility to be accountable for our sin by repenting and receiving Christ by faith into our heart as personal Savior. 

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.  John 6:44 

And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.  John 6:65 

5. Irresistible Grace

Jesus made it evident that we do not get saved any time we wish but are in fact drawn by God and given the opportunity to be saved.  This leads us to another problematic tenant of Calvinism, Irresistible Grace.  The premise that at that point in time a person is not capable of rejecting the Gospel does not seem Biblical or real to me.  The rich young ruler went away from Jesus quite sorrowful after his initial conviction to trust Christ.  King Agrippa, also under great conviction told Paul that he was “almost persuaded.”  The parable of the sower in Matthew 13, tells the storey of the the person represented by “stoney ground” who actually makes a false profession but has no root of faith.  I have personally dealt with many sinners under great conviction who were powerfully drawn to Christ but rejected Him at the last moment for various reasons. 

Calvinism is a popular belief system, and has been from the time of the Reformation to Colonial Puritanism to our present day.  Instead of manipulating the Bible to agree with Calvin, I prefer to try and understand the teachings of God as they were intended.  My Bible says that Jesus died for the sins of the Whole World not just the Elect.  My Bible teaches that God is no respecter of persons and demonstrated his love for each of us when Christ shed his blood on the cross.  Bible doctrine should not be refuted by human wisdom and logic.  Faith is taking God at His Word.  Election & Freewill are based on God’s Foreknowledge and not on John Calvin and the reformed church.   


HayDay07

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August 25th was a hot and steamy day.  Harold & Lorraine Slack hosted a church social at their breathtaking farm in Lebanon.  The setting was perfect; postcard views, heavenly flowers, an old New England barn, a pasture full of cows and a field full of Christians.  As usual, the food was not a disappointment.  The folks brought their favorite dishes accompanied by Bro. Gene’s grilled chicken, hotdogs & burgers.  The spiritual food was provided by one of our deacons, Scott Klungler.  With a variety of seeds and a few pails of dirt, Bro.Scott gave an object lesson on the Parable of the Sower.  The kids went on hayrides and the heat did not keep our excited crowd from a spirited volleyball tournament.  The older and wiser engaged in tossing horsehoes while the lame, including yours truly, smartly stood by taking in the days festivities.  It was a great time of fellowship,fun & food and we thank all who participated and worked so hard to make the HayDay such a blessing for our church.


Baptism 2007

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Sunday, August 12th was our annual baptismal service held at area 1, Storrs Pond, Hanover, NH.  It was a beautiful day to witness six of our saints making a public declaration of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Don & Pat Lavalette, Lonnie Simons, Caroline Eastman, Tony Horne & Neil Henderson were baptized the old Bible way by being immersed (dunked) in the cool waters of Storrs Pond.  Before the actual baptisms, I preached a gospel message from Acts 16 regarding the salvation of the famous Philippian Jailor.  The service was followed by a wonderful time of fellowship and one of the best cookout meals yet.  Thanks to all for their hard work in making this happen.


Missions Conference 2007

Bro. Mike Gali

We held our annual Missions Conference last May on Saturday & Sunday the 19th & 20th.

Our Saturday meeting started with breakfast at 9am and ended with a great grilled chicken dinner at noon.  Special thanks to Gene & Anna Yeager for their inexhaustible service at all of our church functions.  The morning meetings featured preaching by Mike Gali, Missionary to Chile and by Billy Richburg, a field rep with Victory Baptist Press.

The Sunday meetings featured a morning and evening message from Bro. Gali.  Pastor Moses Yoder from Hardwick, Vermont preached our Morning Worship Service.  We certainly missed our dear friend Dr. Don Davis who is now pastoring in Kentucky.


True Gospel Baptist Church

true-gospel-015.jpgtrue-gospel-013.jpgtrue-gospel-009.jpgtrue-gospel-011.jpgI had the wonderful pleasure of preaching a revival service at a new church in buck, PA from Sunday, April 15 through Wednesday, April 18.  The church was founded by an evangelist friend, Jim Roland and he is pastoring with a faithful core group of about 35 members.  Brother Jim saw the need for a traditional gospel preaching church in that area and responded to God’s call.  True Gospel Baptist Church is located smack in the middle of Amish country, right on the main route in Buck, PA.  They are presently leasing a beautiful building that served as a clubhouse for the local mini golf/driving range.  The driving range is still open and many services feature curious peeks from would be golfers checking out the church service.  The building is comfortable and sunny and seats about 75 people. The Sunday Morning service was packed with regulars and visitors.  The meetings went well and my prayer is that those folks are further inspired to build up that ministry.  It was a special blessing to preach following special music from the Roland family each service.

We stayed with a Christian couple serving in the church, Larry & Debbie Gayle.  They own a beautiful country home in Quarryville near to the church.  We enjoyed their friendship and hospitality as well as their dog, Bently.  Our only complaint was that they fed us too much!

The Gayle’s took us one day to visit some Amish friends and we were invited in the house and also took a tour of the barn.  This family wore the traditional Amish clothing and spoke with distinct accents.  They were extremely happy and friendly.  The older girls were cooking and hooking rugs while the little ones stayed by Linda, their mother.  The house consisted of three large rooms, a kitchen with a simple table and benches, and two additional large rooms with nothing more than a few work tables, a propane lamp, and a small wooden “love seat” with cushions.  Each room had fine crafted cabinets and wall partitions so that the house could be opened up for church services when their turn came around.  The barn was big, housing about 40 Holstein milking cows, 4 very large mules and a few horses.  The son drove up in the buggy and unhitched his horse after bringing his little sister home from school.  They had a few sheltie dogs and 6 precious puppies.  I held one of the puppies the entire time we were in the barn.  My intent was to bring that puppy back to NH until I saw the look in my wife’s eye that told me she wanted nothing to with Amish puppies or any puppies for that matter.

We enjoyed our trip and the opportunity to be a blessing to the new church.  The folks seem very excited about what God is doing and they have been faithful.  Our fellowship with the Rolands was very refreshing and we hope to have them back to our church later this year. 


Pastor’s Report for 2006

oliventrance42.jpgGlory to God!  We held our 1st meeting in the new building on Easter Sunday.  What an exciting day it was.  The church was full and even the Valley news came out and put us on the front page the next day.  I praise God for his great provision.  We were able to put new carpeting, chairs, signs, a piano and even a few new people in the new auditorium.  Unfortunately, I ruptured two discs in my neck a couple of weeks before the move.  Praise God for his grace.

 

This year our Missions Revival started Thursday evening, May 18th and ended on Sunday, May 21st. Dr. Don Davis, Director of Prayer Baptist Missions International was our main speaker and he brought two families from his mission board.  Joshua Sykes is a young man who is called to plant churches in the Mormon dominated state of Utah.  Marty Goddard is a missionary to Mexico and brought his wife, Dawn, and their five children. Moses Yoder, Pastor of Hardwick Bible Baptist Church, Hardwick, VT opened the conference with a captivating message. It was such a blessing to have our first major conference at our new venue. The kitchen was a real Godsend and we certainly appreciate the folks from our church who work so hard to be a blessing to us and the Lord.

 

On Sunday, July 16th, during our morning worship, we were pleased to have six families dedicate their children to the Lord Jesus Christ. There were 8 children presented before the Lord.  The Lord has certainly blessed our church with many toddlers as well as newborn babies to fill our nursery.  There are also many new children in our Junior Church Ministry.

 

We held our annual baptismal service at Storrs Pond in
Hanover, NH. This year we had two of our young men, Andy Kalacinski and Don White come forward for baptism. It was a perfect day to witness these two men publicly affirm their faith. After the Baptism there was a special time of fellowship. There was a cookout provided by our people and we all enjoyed our time in the Lord. Special thanks to Gene and Anna Yeager and their crew.

Although we were all very excited and glad to be in the new building, it seemed as though a lot of us were a little burnt out from the long and drawn out effort of finally moving to Maple Street. But God had a plan far in advance to encourage us.  Dan Meaders was our Revival Speaker from Sunday, October 8th through Thursday Evening, October 12th. Preacher Dan stirred our hearts with Bible messages intended to enhance our spirituality as well as our walk and relationship with the Lord. Each message brought us into His power and presence and reminded us about our calling and purpose.

My prayer for 2007 is that God would save some of our unsaved loved ones, ground our new people and help all of us to live for Jesus.  I truly pray for faithfulness!  Once again, I would like to thank everyone for making OBC a special place to worship and I sincerely thank all of you for your hard work in serving the Lord.


New Beginnings

Acts 1:1-14 

The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 
6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

12 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. 13 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. 

As we embark on our new journey for 2007 there are three basic essentials that we as Christians must employ in order to transcend our present spiritual status.  These simple qualities, possesed by the early church disciples are quite powerful when left unspoiled by present day programs and methods.  According to verse 8 we first need

Power –  I’m talking “Holy Ghost” power and I’m not even pentecostal!  Let’s face it, most of what we do as Christians is done in our own power and not God’s.  Our goal for the coming year should be to do more things in God’s power than we set out to accomplish in our own.  Perfection may be unattainable but a winning strategy of being in God’s power a simple majority of the time is not unreasonable for most Christians.  In Acts chapter two the Apostles were endued with power from on high the day that the Church was birthed.  Peter preached an incredible sermon and thousands were saved. In chapter four they prayed so that the roof was shaken.  The early church disciples simply lived and served with the power of the Holy Ghost upon them.  What about us???  Remember this, “You NEVER get the power, the Power gets you!”

Proclaiming – This is the second aspect of Christainity that we need to improve upon.  We love to talk about the things that excite us – kids, cars, sports, shopping, food etc.  How about being more excited about being a witness for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and not just for the visitation ministry. Let’s truly be concerned for the lost all around us each day.  Remember, giving the gospel is not a sales pitch that we reherse and blather dutifully to those at work.  It is also far more than simply attacking the unsaved for their love of sin.  Most of them don’t really know any better and we were probably worse before the Lord reached low enough to save us. 

Witnessing is like cooking, it helps to heat the oil first.  Heating the oil will open the ears and permeate the barriers that the objects of our gospel witness use to blockade themselves from zealots like us.  It only takes a little bit of love, grace and compassion to make a difference in someone’s life and earn their respect and friendship.  We should never compromise truth, just present it in a proper Biblical way.  Remember, it’s ALWAYS about Jesus!

John 1:14-17 

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. 15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. 16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Perservering – This is the third simple truth that we must resolve oueselves towards in order to have a more spirtitually prosperous future.We should arise each day with the joyous thought of his return for us in glory.  Too often we think about Christ’s return with fear and dread or simply wish that he would come soon in order to rescue us from this awful life on earth.  These are exciting days to be serving and worshiping the Lord.  We should relish our time and be busy about our Father’s business as we watch diligently for our Savior’s return. 

Philippians 3:20&21 

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Ephesians 6:10-18

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.

II Timothy 4:6-8

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

My friends, we ought to persevere for Jesus and not for ourselves.

Praying Together – This is an added suggestion that I have for a great beginning to a new year.  Not just to spend time praying but praying TOGETHER – with our families, other Christains and with our church.  Prayer meetings and family devotions should occupy first place in our desires.

It is unfortunate that we complicate these simple tenants of the faith when they are really not that difficult to put into action.  Like the early church disciples exemplified, these things are needful for our success today. 


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