Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Heidelberg Exhortations-Lord's Day 3

Q. 6. Did God then create man so wicked and perverse? A. By no means; but God created man good, and after his own image, in true righteousness and holiness, that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love him and live with him in eternal happiness to glorify and praise him.

Q. 7. Whence then proceeds this depravity of human nature? A. From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise; hence our nature is become so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin.

Q. 8. Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness? A. Indeed we are; except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.

This is the first part of understanding the difficult but sweet doctrines of Reformed Theology. This question directly states the doctrine of Total Depravity. However, that doctrine is not the sticking point for most people. The sticking point with most Arminians is the issue of L in TULIP, Limited Atonement. They imagine that Christ died for every last man, woman and child, IF only that every last man would simply turn his will to the Lord’s. The problem with this is that the Scriptures say that men are dead in their sins and have no way to make themselves alive. Now, a dead man cannot respond to the Lord. Lazarus was just such a man. He was dead in the tomb. He was not able to respond to the Lord and come forth until Jesus spoke to him and commanded him to live. This is the truth of the state we are in. Because of Adam's sin and our sins, we have fallen from that initial estate of freedom into an estate of sin, misery, slavery, and death. We cannot be righteous, happy, free or even alive unless the Lord intervenes and grants light where there is darkness and life where there is death.

What does this have to do with Limited Atonement? Namely, that the Lord is not under any obligation to call life to any such sinners. His passing over some in no way damages His justice. Justice is having us passed over. We deserve nothing less than to be left in our sins. But God’s grace does not come to us by our merit. It is His mercy that reaches down to men who are not worthy of that mercy. For this reason, the doctrine of Limited Atonement would better be called Particular Atonement. Christ’s mercy is given to those whom He particularly loves. He grants them life so that they can come out of the tomb. He makes them alive so that they can live. He regenerates them so that they can respond to Him in obedience. The amazing thing is not that some are passed over and left in their sins. The amazing thing is that any of us are regenerated. And what is more amazing yet is that number of the elect will be one that is incalculable. This is the free gift of the Father in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Glory be to God. May we simply rejoice in God’s goodness to us, embrace it and come out of the tomb to new life.

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