By: Jesse Stiemann
You have heard it said, “I came to Christ,” but God says to you, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we might walk in them.” The overall emphasis in Scripture is not that which we as corrupt humanity bring to the table, or what we did to get us there, but that God Himself saved us when we could not save ourselves. There is truth in the phrase, “I came to Christ,” but only if that phrase is preceded by the fact that God worked in our hearts to bring us near. There are many problems with Arminianism. These problems, however, are not what will be addressed.
We as the Reformed, who hold to these doctrines of grace so tightly and dogmatically, have many problems of our own. Inevitably, we end up at the same problem which the Arminians have, namely, pride. We look at the Arminian and we think, “I thank you, Lord, that I am not that prideful in my theology.” In our theology, perhaps not, but certainly in our lives, that is, in our applying of our theology. When His disciples were quarreling about who would be greatest in the Kingdom, Christ told them to observe the Gentile rulers, how they lord their authority over the peoples, and then he told them that those tactics would not work here. Whoever seeks to be great in the kingdom of God must be last and a servant to all and a servantof all. If you think you are that servant, then you must repent and cease trying to be first. Similarly, the person with the biggest theological brain and yet little service-mindedness has petty or perhaps no understanding of theology, and he will truly be last in the Kingdom, if indeed he even makes the cut. Why do we serve? Not merely to become first, but because of Christ. We see His example, and His love for us, and He then calls us to serve each other and the world as He does. We are to take up our cross and deny ourselves. We are to do it in love, and yet in the Reformed world what do we replace this activity with? Backbiting and tearing each other down because “Can you believe that John doesn’t hold to Amillenialism?” or “Did you hear that Jackie doesn’t believe in wearing head coverings in worship?” We do not have love for one another. We want to dominate with our superior knowledge and impress upon everyone our own importance. This is trying to be first in the Kingdom of God.
This sort of activity is most displeasing to God. We are to bear ourselves forth in the example of Christ, who being in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be clutched but humbled himself in the likeness of sinful man. He came not to be served but to serve. With meekness He served, and He calls us to serve as well. Why is this emphasis so important? Service shows love. Love is both a feeling and an action, but the action proves the feeling, and it proves our character. If all we are doing is merely cutting down Brothers in our pride, then the opposite, which is hate, is shown through our actions.
Look at the Corinthian church. If you see their sectarianism and think, “Who is that speaking about today?” then have no doubt, because it is you, and it is me. We brandish the doctrines of grace as a weapon to cut down Arminian Brothers and yet we show no love for them. They are less than us, so we think. God loves us more, so we think. We practice the same with Reformed brothers. If they do not agree with us, then they are just not a very good Christian. What is the root? Pride. What is the underlying thought? God loves us more because we understand His word better. What? Did Christ die that one may be better than another? No, and may it never be uttered! We are sons by adoption, and as Brothers in Christ we have the same inheritance as one another, because our sonship is not in ourselves, but through faith in Christ. Thank God that it is by His Son’s merit, for were it by us, there would be no inheritance, only weeping and the gnashing of teeth.
What is faith? It is a gift of God, so that no one may boast. Spiritual things are also spiritually discerned, and without the Holy Spirit we cannot understand them. This knowledge that we brandish and even wear as a badge, where then does it come from? God Most High Himself. We are so caught up in the doctrines of grace that we miss the point. These doctrinesare not to puff us up. We had no part in it. We were dead in our sins, but God the Father, being rich in mercy because of the love He had for us in Christ, bought us with a great price, and covered over our treason, making sons out of enemies. This is divine grace, that we did not put forth the effort required to be saved, or to know God more, or to love Him more, but He sanctified us, and continues to do so. Brothers, in order to gain a more appreciative view of Arminians (and indeed any who disagree with us on any point of doctrine) we must seek our roots in the waters of life, flowing from the tree of life, which is Christ. We entered by His grace alone, are maintained His grace alone, and will finish by His grace alone.
All human error in theology is rooted in pride, so let us seek to remove that plank from our own eye before brutally tearing the speck out of a brother’s. There is a time and place for good theological discussion and disagreement, for searching the Scriptures and forming conclusions, but let us make both the goal and foundation of these things love of God and love of brothers, not intellectual domination which is abhorrent to God. All theology is important, but we must continually seek our roots, lest we become rooted in our own knowledge and not in the love of Christ, for knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. Brothers, stand firm in the love of Christ, and let us strive to love one another as He loves us. Only God can change our hearts, as we Reformed folks well know. Therefore, let us pray earnestly to be servants of and to all people, and for our love to grow, and for our pride to diminish, that we may please Christ well.
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”