Friday, September 5, 2008

By Grace God Is The Monergistic Causal Agent

22Therefore say to the house of Israel, "Thus says the Lord GOD: "I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name's sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. 23And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD," says the Lord GOD, "when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. 24For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. 28Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. 29I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. 30And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations. 31Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. 32Not for your sake do I do this," says the Lord GOD, "let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!"

33"Thus says the Lord GOD: "On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt. 34The desolate land shall be tilled instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass by. 35So they will say, "This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.' 36Then the nations which are left all around you shall know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted what was desolate. I, the LORD, have spoken it, and I will do it."

37"Thus says the Lord GOD: "I will also let the house of Israel inquire of Me to do this for them: I will increase their men like a flock. 38Like a flock offered as holy sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem on its feast days, so shall the ruined cities be filled with flocks of men. Then they shall know that I am the LORD."'"

In the above passages from Ezekiel 36, a unique thing occurs. Something that the Lord says is not done for anything that man has done. verse 32 The sequencing is familiar:

Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

What must happen to a man first so that he believes into Christ is the Dividing Line.

As John Hendryx explains:
God does indeed give a prevenient grace to man: According to Scripture, all people are born dead in sin (Eph 2:1). This simply means that, as a result of the Fall, people are born without the Holy Spirit and therefore, (left to themselves) are hostile to Christ and unable to understand to spiritual things (1 Cor 1:21). It does not mean they can do (or think) nothing in their state of common grace, but it means they can do nothing spiritual or redemptive ... that they will always think God's word is foolish (1 Cor 2:14) until the Holy Spirit, who comes from the outside, works grace in their hearts.

Now, what may come as a surprise to many is that even the most hardened Arminian believes this. Semi-pelagians do not believe this, of course, but Classic Arminians along with Calvinists believe, with the Scripture, in the necessity of some kind of prevenient grace prior to belief. And it is important that we make this distinction so we do not misrepresent anyone's views. So to the question: can any person come to faith in Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, both the Arminian and the Calvinist would definitively answer "no".

As is demonstrated in the Ezekiel passage it is not something with which man must in the beginning cooperate. Quite the opposite. Man in his state of rebellion will not. To be able to will to love God and keep the first commandment, God does a miracle, removing the heart of stone and putting in its place a heart of flesh, verse 26. That is not owing to man, not for his sake, verse 32, not that there is anything worthy in man, for he is no different than all the nations around with hearts of stone. Israel profaned the name of the Lord and caused the nations to do likewise. It is not because of some effort on their part, either, that they are caused to obey. For the following verse tells us from where the power which enables them is derived and how it is that power exerts its influence in causing the keeping of the ordinances of God such as the commandment of repentance unto salvation or any other righteous work required for entrance into the kingdom.

The kind of grace that God gives is not the faulty grace of the Arminian which may or may not fulfill the commands of God. It is bound to the very Spirit of God, verse 27. Just as men of old spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit, so also the righteous appeal of repentance and the cry for mercy is a gift carried out in vessels of flesh by the Holy Spirit's efficacious power. He causes and He carries His own to do what he commands.

Not only that, but the sanctification is accomplished by Him and Him alone. It is called circumcision of the flesh, or mortification of the flesh, by the Spirit. See Galatians also where Paul is concerned, not with just definitve sanctification but progressive sanctification which he parallels as being of the same type concluding that if one is saved but submits to rules and ordinances for sanctification and perseverance in salvation, the death of Christ avails nothing. A little leaven leavens the whole lump and eventually the doctrine of salvation by grace is abandoned and the Jewish religion of works takes its place. That is what Paul accused Peter of, introducing accursed heresy which usurps the Gospel's rightful place, replacing it with a gospel of bondage again to the law. It is a gospel, which is no gospel, of a god who is no god able to save.

Ezekiel tells us that all that comes before in prevenience is all that will ever be given, and all that is given is all that is necessary, and that it is complete in reference to the glory of God (verses 33-37) which otherwise would be blasphemed if it should fail to fulfill the thing it was sent to do. Jesus summed this glorification up in John 17. And as Hendryx explains, all those that the Father has given to the Son will be given a new nature in regeneration, and it does not fail, of all that the Father has given no one is ever lost.

Hendryx sums up:
To use some biblical imagery, we cast the seed of the gospel indiscriminately because the Holy Spirit alone can “germinate” the word unto life in Christ. The fallow ground of our hearts must first be plowed up by God, for the soil of our heart is not good by nature, but only by grace. The seed will not find good soil until God makes it so. For Ezekiel the prophet says:

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

Notice that in order for obedience to take place the Lord must first cleanse our hearts, put a new spirit in us and remove our hardened uncircumcised heart. No one believes and obeys while their heart is still stone. Our blind eyes must be opened, our deaf ears unstopped, and our corrupt nature supernaturally changed by the Holy Spirit, before we can begin to have any good thoughts about Christ. The Bible likens the new birth, or regeneration, to the first creation (2 Cor. 5:17). God let light shine into what was darkness. And God breathed life into lifeless man and then man, because of the new principle of life now within him, breathed and walked. Likewise regeneration can be likened to God's first breath in man, and faith, to Adam's first breath. The former is monergistic and the later, while it springs from the principle of grace that now exists within, is participatory. Both the creation and the maintaining are all of grace, but only God's breathing life into us (ex nihilo) is monergistic (that is, it is the work of God alone). When God brings forth something out of nothing, it is monergistic, but when we breathe (or have faith) as a result of God's act, we are now participating, so by definition this is not monergistic, but all springs forth from God's initial monergistic act of giving life from nothing.

"Regeneration is the fountain; sanctification is the river." - J. Sidlow Baxter

This is what I call passive/active sanctification, because as Jesus, Ezekial, Paul explain, except that we abide in Him we can do nothing. Nothing. By definition it is not monergistic if what we are saying is that man acts at all. The import of Hendryx, just as it was with the Council of Orange, and as it has been recognized in the orthodox faith since the patriarchs, is that man is carried along. All that flows from the fountain of monergism is what carries out the work and therefore the glorification of God. It is by grace alone and not the prevenient grace of the Arminian, or of any other form of common grace like that of the Pelagian or semi-pelagian. It is a prevenient grace that is preventive, that will not allow failure to save and that eternally. The grace of Christ, that is the Christian grace, is complete in all that is required of righteousness in man that fits him for salvation. And this all bought by the blood of Christ. His reward given to him by the Father is that we are made to partake in the adoption as sons. It is his righteousness, his deeds, his righteous confession and love of the Father freely given to us grace. It is his drawing, his spinkling of us, his cleansing us. He does it all, even making us active by it.

Our passive/active obedience is well expressed in the Hebrew term in Ezekiel for cause. Like the word receive in 1 Cor 4 it is active but can also be passive, and it can at the same time be both. The one thing that it cannot be is neutral. Like the term in Ezekiel for God santifying Himself in his people, all three are the case. Just as when it is said that his works have been finished from the beginning of the world yet he never stops working. But what always comes first is the activity of God so we also have the Promised One who is in us not by the power resident in us, that is we cannot ascend into heaven to bring Christ down, but by the power resident in Him. We are also in Him by the same power. Likewise we walk by the Spirit, passive/active. But we are at first passive while He takes the active role of causing us to walk according to His commands such that we put to death the deeds of the flesh. Though like Isaiah says he also causes us to walk not according to his statutes for a season, he is always faithful to save his people from utter destruction. His discipline moves us to diligence so we work out our salvation with fear and trembling because it is He who is a work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. We do not do as we want. Therefore Paul tells us that Christ is our salvation, both our justification and sanctification, in whom alone is the promise, to whom alone belongs the promise, who is alone the promise. He leaves nothing to the chance of our choosing.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Thank God that from these stones he is able to raise up children.


No comments: