Soteriology

How I Became Convinced of the Effectual Call

I grew up with a semi-Calvinistic understanding of salvation. I knew that people were dead in sins and that dead people don’t do anything. But I did not understand much of how salvation actually worked.

When I first heard someone teach on the effectual call (also poorly described as irresistible grace) I balked at it. It didn’t seem to match up with my conception of salvation and my experience of life. When the gospel was preached, it seemed that the Spirit was working generally in people’s hearts, and they either responded to that work or rejected it. But that was all that was happening.

While in graduate school, I took a class on Romans. When studying through Romans 8—specifically verses 28–30—I became convinced that the effectual call was a biblical teaching.

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The Atonement

(About this series)

CHAPTER IV: THE ATONEMENT*

BY PROFESSOR FRANKLIN JOHNSON, D. D., LL. D., AUTHOR OF “OLD-TESTAMENT QUOTATIONS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT” ETC., CHICAGO, ILL.

The Christian world as a whole believes in a substitutionary atonement. This has been its belief ever since it began to think. The doctrine was stated by Athanasius as clearly and fully as by any later writer. All the great historic creeds which set forth the atonement at any length set forth a substitutionary atonement. All the great historic systems of theology enshrine it as the very Ark of the Covenant, the central object of the Holy of Holies.

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Folk Religion and Gracious Lost People

I have known many folks who embrace what I call “folk religion.” It runs something like this: “I want my family (and myself) to be nice, good, and decent. Christianity is what makes people nice, so I will choose to be a Christian and rear my children as Christians. The theology doesn’t matter, what matters is how we live and treat others.”

This belief system boils down to using the Kingdom of God. Using this reasoning, our faith exists to help us and our children become kind and honest people—a civilizing, positive influence. Hopefully our faith will keep us off of drugs, keep us from being promiscuous, help us avoid excessive alcohol, and help us avoid dishonest gain. We will see our kids grow up to become responsible, family-oriented, and self-supporting.

We all desire our children to turn out well, and to live decent lives ourselves. This is not a bad secondary goal. We should aim for that. But if this is why we call ourselves Christians, we are in trouble. Faith in Jesus becomes a means to an end, not an end in itself. Our primary goal should be to be in right relationship with God.

When folks use Christianity in this manner, they will eventually be confronted with the rude awakening that some who profess faith in Jesus are not all that wonderful. On the other hand, at times, those who profess other faiths or no religion at all are sometimes quite kind and generous.

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What is the "New Perspective on Paul"? A Basic Explanation (Part 3)

(Read Part 1 and Part 2.)

Is lack of righteousness the problem?

In the various presentations of the New Perspective on Paul or NPP, the centrality of the call upon sinners to repent and believe in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, and the promise of forgiveness and eternal life with God when they do is seriously compromised. Think about these words from the end of John 3: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (Jn. 3:36).

The solemnity of these words strikes everyone who reads them. The difference between everlasting life and abiding wrath is belief in the Son. What is it that must be believed? The answer to that question is the reason why John wrote his Gospel. After recounting the crucifixion and resurrection John focuses upon Thomas’s doubt and the Lord’s answer to that doubt. Jesus stresses belief in Him in that context. Then John adds his summary:

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