Due to my concern for christians trapped in Calvinism (and others who are at risk), I include the below text parts from Jesse Morell. I believe that the doctrines within Calvinism unfortunately and inevitably encourage christians to remain in their sins, but that doesn’t mean that I believe that all who call themselves calvinists must be major sinners. Still, the doctrines are dangerous (which all gnostic teachings are) and must be exposed in order to save souls. If we love each other, we would like to help each other on the right track.
Calvinism is totally man centered. “I am saved by nothing I do,” “I cannot be lost by anything I do,” etc. It is all centered on man being saved no matter what. It gives religious sinners eternal security. It itches their ears. There is no choice of total repentance from all sin required, just believing. There is no necessity to labor and run and persevere unto the end. There is no threat of going to hell through sinning. It itches the ears of those who want this man-centered gospel. You don’t have to love God supremely. You don’t have to totally commit yourself to God. You can live in compromise and sin every day in word, thought, and deed, and still be saved. Calvinism doesn’t glorify God, it comforts religious sinners and in doing so it dishonors God.
Which system really glorifies God? The one which says God is the ultimate cause of sin and that men do not need to stop all their sinning, or the one that says each individual is the cause of their own sin and we must all repent of our sins and live holy lives glorifiying to God? Which doctrine of grace really glorifies God? The one that says grace means being saved while we continue to sin, or grace is the means of being saved from our sin? One of these systems glorifies God while the other system greatly dishonors Him. What of the Westminster Catechism that says no man is able, either of his own power or by any grace received in this life, to perfectly keep the commandments, but does daily break them in word, thought, and deed…? Well, that covers all the bases. I mean, the devil couldn’t do any worse than that. That excuses all sin, of any kind. Calvinism certainly does make “a broad stroke that intentionally misunderstands and maligns Christ.” How man-centered is this theology! Now, the power of man’s sin is even greater than the power of God’s grace! God’s grace cannot overcome man’s sin! Wow, talk about a man-centered sin-excusing theology.
Glorification is the perfection of the body. Sanctification is the perfection of the heart. We are not commanded to be glorified in this life. This is not an obligation. We are not sinful for failing to have glorified bodies. Even Jesus did not have a glorified body until after the resurrection. But we can sanctify ourselves to God. We can set ourselves apart from the service of sin to the service of God.
We are not born with a sinful nature
We are born into a sinful world, but sin itself is a choice of our own will. You are not born a homosexual, drunkard, etc. That is choice. Paul said sinners will be “without excuse” on Judgment Day. They cannot say, like Lady GaGa, “I was born this way.” God forms our nature in the womb and He does not form us as little sinners. We become sinners at the age of accountability, by our own free will. As the Bible says men are sinners “from their youth” which means “juvenile” not infant.
“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” Ps. 139:14. We are not guilty of the sin of Adam: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” Eze. 18:20 We are commanded to sanctify ourselves: “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.” Lev. 20:7. This verse is quoted in the New Testament as well. Jesus can forgive us and cleanse us, not from some sin, but from all sin: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I Jn. 1:9. Just read the rest of 1 John. He that sins is of the devil. Whosoever has been born of God does not commit sin. Etc. The Word says that the grace of God that brings salvation teaches us to live free from sin in this life. Our fallen bodies do not make us sin, so we don’t need a new body to be free from sin. Romans 6 says Jesus sets us free from sin in this life. Hebrews says Jesus was made in all things liken unto his brethren.
Jesus did not have a sinful nature, so neither did we. Jesus lived a holy and sinless life and Jesus said come and follow me and He is our example to follow. If we sin after our initial conversion, we must repent or perish as Jesus taught his disciples. We never have to sin, as God never allows us to be tempted above our ability (1 Cor. 10:13). To say that we can never life free from all sin in this life is to make the power of sin greater than the power of the cross and greater than the power of God’s grace. Certainly, we still have a free will after conversion so we are still capable of sinning. But with the help of God’s grace, we can choose to overcome and persevere. Men are sinners by choice, as the Bible says all we like sheep have gone astray and turned to our own way. And therefore, we can cease to be sinners by choice. Hence, God’s command for us to repent and His appeals of grace. We cannot have glorified bodies in this life, and so we have not attained physical perfection. That comes after our race is done. But we can have sanctified bodies in this life, as Paul said we can yield our members as instruments of righteousness, present our bodies a living sacrifice, that God can sanctify us wholly spirit soul and body, etc.
Certainly we are not forgiven before we repent, and if we sin God clearly sees it. But when we think upon what Jesus Christ has done to make forgiveness available for us and for everyone, we should love Him and turn from all our sins as a consequence. Once we do that, God forgives us through Christ. Calvary makes us willing to do what creation made us capable of doing. And what the law could not do, the gospel was able to accomplish. Legal motives of self-interest were insufficient to perfect the heart, but the motives presented to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ can cleanse us from all sin. Every day we make the choice to sin or not, and certainly our salvation depends upon our perseverance in holiness, but when we look upon the cross and see how much God has loved this world, we see how worthy He is of our worship and service and we love Him in return with our obedience.
Romans chapter seven
Rom. 7 gives us a description of what occurs when the mind of an unconverted sinner is convicted by the law. Using a literary technique, Paul uses the present tense to tell the narrative. As many stories begin with “once upon a time,” Paul said, “For I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Rom. 7:9). He then proceeded in his narrative to discuss what happens when an unconverted sinner encounters the law of God. Some suppose Romans chapter seven to be a description of the Christian life, as opposed to a description of an unconverted state. But we know Paul is not referring to his own converted state because he already said that Christians have been made “free from sin” (Rom. 6:18, 22). The man in Romans seven was not “free from sin” and, therefore, he was not a Christian. Paul also said that, “There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1). Yet the man in Romans chapter seven was under condemnation and therefore needed to be saved by Jesus (Rom. 7:24-25).
And Paul said that, “to be carnally minded is death” (Rom. 8:6). But the man in Romans chapter seven said, “I am carnal, sold under sin” (Rom. 7:14). Therefore, the man in Romans chapter seven did not have eternal life. And finally, Paul said that as a converted man he lived with a good and pure conscience that was void of offense (Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16; 2 Tim. 1:3). The man described in Romans chapter seven is deeply disturbed by his conscience (Rom. 7:16). Therefore, the description given in Romans chapter seven was not of the converted life of the Apostle Paul. It is a narration describing what happens when an unconverted sinner’s mind encounters the law of God and is convicted by it.
Jesus died for everyone, but only those who repent and believe are forgiven through it. So if a believer sins, they must repent and ask God for forgiveness.
Forgiveness of future sins is nothing more than a license to sin. God only forgives us of our sins after we have repented of them. And since we are not yet guilty of future sins, we have nothing to be forgiven us. Not only would forgiveness of future sins be unwise, it is also impossible. Sins must be dealt with as they occur. Hence what we read in 1 John 1:8-9. If a believer sins, we must repent or perish.
We were not capable of sinning before the age of accountability, as Jesus said if you were blind you would have no sin. Infants are not under the wrath of God, as the wrath of God comes upon those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Those with knowledge are without excuse, but as infants have no moral knowledge, they are with excuse for their behavior. As they grow, they make free will choices. Hence we are told to teach them, disciple them, etc. If their nature caused their actions, teaching them would be useless and discipline would be cruelty and pointless. Only if their free will makes their choices can teaching and disciple change their behavior.
The perfection that God requires is a perfection that we are capable of. It is purity of motive – a perfection of heart. The Bible commands us to love God and love our neighbor. The Bible speaks of men who were “perfect in heart” which shows it is possible for man in this life. The commandment is directly proportationate to our ability, as we are command to love God “with all” thy ability and love your neighbor “as yourself.” We are not commanded to love with more ability than we have, but with all the ability that we have. So it is not impossible. If it were impossible, God’s law would be unreasonable and unjust. Damnation would be infinite cruelty. But as God is just and as He does punish sinners, this shows that they were capable of avoiding their sin
Which is greater, the power of sin or the power of the cross and the grace of God?
If the power of the cross is greater than the power of sin, why can’t you stop sinning? Does not the cross make you love God? And if you love Him, you will obey Him. When you are tempted, just look at the cross. Put your faith in God and you will overcome sin. As love is the fulfillment of the law – a complete satisfaction to our moral obligation. Love is perfection. God does not want us to have an imaginary holiness but an actual holiness. The Bible never says that Christ’s works of the law are imputed to us. That is not necessary as we are not justified by works of the law. The “imputed righteousness of Christ” is a cliche and a myth. If you sin, God see’s it. Nothing is hide from His eyes the Bible says. He says, “I know your works, be zealous therefore and repent.” Don’t dream that you are covered by the imputed righteousness of Christ while you continue to sin, thus making his work a license to sin. Rather, repent of your sins and then you will be pardoned by His grace and mercy.
Paul taught that we were not under the law, as in the Torah, but not that we were free from all moral obligation. As Paul said we are obligated to love God and love our neighbor. God is not an anarchist or an antinomian. He does not promote lawlessness. As Paul said, not without law to God but under the law of Christ.
God does not impute our trespasses to us when He forgives us and pardons us. This is conditional upon our repentance and faith. Holiness, in terms of the Christian, is an internal attitude of submission and obedience whereby we are set apart from sin and to the service of God. And Jesus not only saves our souls, He changes our lives. He is not only our justification, He is also our sanctification. Justification by works of the law is impossible. Obedience cannot atone for past disobedience. Hence, we need gracious justification. God can declare us pardoned. He commands us to repent and believe and when we are converted He pardons all our past trespasses through the atonement of Christ.
“By nature children of wrath” in context is about how we previously lived a sinful lifestyle. The Greek word for nature in that passage can mean that which by long habit has become nature, according to Thayer which is one of the best Greek-English Lexicon available. The Bible also says that the Gentiles which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, which show the work of the law written on their hearts, their conscience bearing witness. Doesn’t sound like they were born totally depraved with a sinful nature. Conscience is part of our nature, and it tells us to obey God.
The Bible is clear that Jesus died for everyone but not everyone is saved because not everyone repents and believes. It is possible for those for whom Christ died to perish. As Paul said you can cause a brother to perish for whom Christ died. And you can deny the Lord who bought you and bring upon yourself swift destruction.
The atonement does not give us a license to sin or make salvation automatic for anyone. Pardon through the atonement is conditional. The Bible says repent, believe, and persevere unto the end. If we fail any of those points, we cannot expect God’s mercy but His wrath. Jesus said He that perseveres unto the end shall be saved. That speaks of salvation in the future tense. There are others passages that speak of it as past and present. I am saved. I am being saved. And I will be saved. The Bible says eternal life is to know God. And it says by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that says I know Him and keeps not His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in Him. So those who are obedient to God have eternal life and those who are disobedient do not. As it is written, He is the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.
He tasted death for EVERY man it says. He is the propitiation, not only for our sins, but for the sins of the WHOLE world. Just as the serpent was lifted up for WHOSOEVER to be saved through it, so God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that WHOSOEVER believeth in Him would be saved, etc. There is no limited atonement in the foreshadow sacrifices.
People attack biblical holiness and the born again experience as self-righteousness and confuse biblical repentance with justification by works of the law. If a person is living in sin, aka sinning every day in word, thought, and deed, than it should be obviously that they haven’t put their faith in Christ. If they had confidence in His character and trusted Him they would do whatever He asks. As Hebrews 11 says by faith Abraham obeyed. Abraham was justified by an obedient faith, or a faith that resulted in obedience. What sins do you have in your life that you cannot stop? What sins do you have in your life that Christ cannot set you free from? Or really, what sin do you have in your life that you are unwilling to repent of?
Obedience can never atone for disobedience
We could never make up for our sins by obedience and we could never earn or merit salvation. It must come by grace and mercy through Jesus Christ. But it is conditional. We must repent and believe to receive it. I say that we must repent and believe (obedience to the gospel) but that our obedience to the gospel does not merit or earn salvation. “By faith Abraham…obeyed” Hebrews 11:8. Abraham was justified by an obedient faith. There is a difference between conditions and grounds. Our obedience to the gospel is not the grounds of our salvation. It does not merit or earn salvation. Peter said, “repent of this thy wickedness that the thought of your heart might be forgiven thee” and “save yourselves from this untoward generation“. Was Peter teaching heresy by telling them to save themselves? Certainly not. Repentance is a condition of forgiveness. We can only save ourselves, through the atonement of Christ, by repenting and believing.
Justification by works of the law is regarding the Torah and merit. It is not about repenting of your sins to be pardoned by grace and mercy. We do not need to obey the law (Torah) to be saved. But we must obey the gospel, which demands that we repent of our sins and trust in Christ. If good works are the evidence of faith, then bad works are the evidence of unbelief. There is no condemnation for those who walk after the spirit and not after the flesh. If you are living in sin, aka walking after the flesh, there is condemnation. By faith you can live a pure and holy life. By faith you can overcome all sin and be perfect in heart. The same faith that justifies also sanctifies. Under the New Covenant we are not under obligation to the Torah, but only to the moral law of God. The New Testament does not command us to be circumcised, but to love God and love our neighbor.
“But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” Gal. 2:14
“To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.” 1 Cor. 9:21.
We are not under the law of Moses, but under the law of Christ.
“For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” Heb. 7:12.
“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things” Heb. 10:1.
The external and physical laws of the Old Covenant, like the clean and unclean food, circumcision, etc, were figurative of the internal and moral change that occurs under the New Covenant. Thus, the New Covenant fulfills the Old Covenant. These Old Covenant laws were figurative, but in the New Covenant that which is better has come. Hence,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;” Heb. 10:16.
You can read more from Jesse Morell on his website.
“Any theology that gives man a legitimate excuse for sin and maligns God’s holy character CANNOT, by definition be ‘God centered'” (Kerrigan Skelly)