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A Paper on Jonathan Edwards’ Books, ‘Religious Affections and Freedom of the Will’.

 

 

 

 

The Freedom of the Will

Religious Affections

Scott Paul Bushey

TH743 Jonathan Edwards

Student ID# 57740903

December 5, 2017 in the year of our Lord

 

 

 

 

This will be my 5th paper for the Doctor of Divinity program at The North American Reformed Seminary. In this paper, I will interact with two valuable resources of Jonathan Edwards, entitled, Religious Affections and The Freedom of the Will. It is not my goal to address the books in general, but of the doctrines he is extrapolating upon in these works.

Edwards does a great job in Religious Affections to distinguish between true and false affections and how one is to understand the doctrine. I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Edwards adequately deals with various argumentation that all believers can use in deciphering, not only their own walks, but the walks of those dear to them. I found much of what he says to be quite profitable and at times, even wondering whether or not I was actually in the faith. The Puritans were famous for this. It was valuable in that I found myself pausing and evaluating myself in light of what he was teaching. Edwards seemed determined to close all avenues of escape, resulting in a deep challenge for the Christian to vigorously move towards the grace of Christ and throw oneself on the mercy of Jesus alone; but on the other hand, pressing home the works that all believers should possess. If your walk is void of godly works, it is quite possible that you remain in your sins.

In his treatment in The Freedom of the will, there is much philosophy and language; I found this book much harder to digest. It is because of this that I will discuss some important verbiage that Edwards utilizes in this book as it is important to understand how one uses these words in philosophical studies. Overall, I found this book quite difficult. (A friend of mine, has recently completed this work and so, you can go here for more details on words used; redirecting you here will free me up to continue my studies without having to invest more time on the glossary. Here is the link to that treatment):

Technical outline-FOTW, by J. Aitken
Choice and will

At the front end, since this is a Christian assessment, I want to start out by addressing that all true will and affections spring forth from God alone. Since God’s word is the touchstone for all the created beings, everything is defined along these lines. Love can only be measured against the backdrop of what real love is, that being, it is an attribute of God and a characteristic that God imparts to His people. The unregenerate man is using an entirely different mechanism to measure this affection; hence, all assessments done apart from God’s Spirit is flawed and deceitful. The enemy wants people to believe the lie and will do whatever possible to distort truth.

When the unregenerate man cries, ‘I love her or him’, they are not using a biblical spiritual measuring stick to define these statements and hence, they are ultimately lies. They are blinded by the enemies lies and think that what they understand to be love, true and real affections when in fact, this cannot be farther from the truth. In Romans, chapter 13 we can see the Apostle tell us, ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’.  So, by keeping God’s law in the graces of Christ’s work, we are revealing that we know what true love is. That is the start and finish. Christ’s work is the perfect example, throwing down His life for His people; He fulfilled the law perfectly and then gave all in love for the elect of God. This is the basis of true love.

A man’s choice will always be based on the same idea, those choices being determined by that which rules in the heart and soul of the man in question. If the man is an unbeliever, he will be ruled by that which seems most important to him personally and never spiritually. Years ago, a friend of mine who was once walking with Christ and is now either backslidden or was an apostate to begin with, seemingly strong in faith at one time, told me when I told him that I was concerned for his soul, ‘I am still spiritual!’.

Spirituality is a thing at best for him. He was no longer measuring this thing he called ‘spirituality’ against his walk and the word of God and was ultimately, redefining the term. He was using it to attempt to cover himself and comfort me. Deep down, he knew what he was saying was silliness. Again, measured against the worlds standards and not God’s word.

There are many people in the world who are spiritual. There are more people in China and India than anywhere else in the world. The people of these nations are spiritual beings. In India, Hinduism has millions of gods. The people of India are spiritual beings! They are not, however, spiritual in the true sense as they are outside of God’s, Christ. They may be (s)piritual, but they are not (S)piritual; there is a vast difference. (1 Cor 2:14).

Thomas Watson makes a good point in his treatise The Ten Commandments when he says, ‘There really is no other God’ and ‘There is but one first cause’. What he is conveying is that there is only one real truth, no matter how you want to dress it up. At the basest level, all definitions are based on cause and not the effect as there is only one true cause, that being Jehovah God. The world and its People define things along the line of arrogance and ignorance; Arrogance, in that they attempt to redefine things outside the word of God and ignorance because they reject God’s word as the ultimate authority.

Consider all the other religions of the world. All of them would say they are spiritual. They need the gospel to bring truth to that spirituality, less they perish along the wayside. I often cringe when I hear believers telling me they are involved in Yoga. Yoga is a spiritually based exercise program, that has an Indian origin. The positions and movements are directed at bringing the participants peace and harmony. Believers get their peace and harmony from God alone; we do not need to seek other avenues for peace and harmony. Many of the exercise positions are beneficial physically but it is the essence of what is being taught as one exercises that is a problem. It is a spiritual discipline. Participants generally have to use names of Hindu god’s during training. It is subtle and dangerous. I only mention Yoga to make the point that one must make the distinction between what the world understands of spirituality and what true spirituality is.

Jesus tells us that in God’s word is life. In Matthew 4:4 He says, ‘Man does not live by bread alone but by the word of God that proceedeth from His mouth’. Men need nutrition from a natural means and more importantly, from a spiritual well. To not have both, you will perish. So, in essence, practicing any spirituality, outside of Christ is actually killing them and building up their cups of condemnation.

The unregenerate man is a god unto himself who refuses to submit to God’s law and believes he knows better than God. The bible tells us that we are either ruled by sin or ruled by holiness. (Rom 6:15-23). This is absolute. There is no middle ground-even though an unregenerate man may make a morally good choice, the choice cannot be said that it springs forth from the fountain of God’s love, Spirit and truth. In Thomas Watsons treatise on the 10 commandments, he writes, ‘Morality is but sinful nature, refined and cultivated.’[1] What Watson is attempting to convey in this statement is that outside of Christ, any morality is but idolatry and nothing less than the sinful nature being refined by a man’s work alone. There is no grace here and outside of God’s graces, rags at best.

The same could even be said of the regenerated and converted man, yet, this choice is ultimately more optimal as the regenerated man has the Spirit of God residing within these choices. Some of the regenerated man’s choices may be sinful; but this man is rejecting and fighting directly against God’s Spirit in these moments. It may also be said that at times, this regenerated man may not truly understand the choice he makes in this regard, and hence, cannot be said to actually spring forth from God’s Spirit as men are able to make choices-it is not God who is choosing for us, after all. Sin still remains. However, the choices that the regenerated man makes, will be primarily based upon a cognizance and knowledge of God and what the Lord commands and expects from His people-but not absolutely.

Consider sanctification and how you have grown over the ages. The choices you make in this day are more biblically based than when you first were saved. The amount of knowledge of God that you now possess today is much greater, hence, your choices are more spiritually intellectual than they were in years passed. This is exactly why reading your scriptures, studying the original languages, reading those who are considered the great cloud of witnesses is so important. If you fail to grow passed milk, there may be a problem and this is the point of what Edwards is conveying in Religious Affections. You cannot have affections toward one that you have no relationship with; you cannot have a true relationship with anyone whom you do not know intimately and you cannot be intimate with a person if you do not get into all of their lives.

The choices we make are based on the root of our being. Volition will always spring forth from that which dominates our heart. As mentioned, this doesn’t have to be absolutely. There are many morally good people in the world who do not know Christ and their choices are often morally better than many Christians I know. I recall watching the movie, ‘The Last Samurai’ with Tom Cruise. The Japanese Samurai portrayed in the movie were highly refined. In fact, every time I watch this movie, I am moved by it and highly convicted. Granted, they lived in a different time and culture, which says much in relation to my point. There are so many things we experience in our age and culture; there are distractions and temptations that these Japanese men didn’t have. Consider the Puritans and the culture. There were no televisions and internet access. We are bombed by media and devices. All of these things play a great part in how we process and are definite triggers that drive our hearts and minds. We are a lazy people. We want everything now. We are pleasure driven and all of these things will be the catalyst to volition. Our will is constantly under pressure to conform to these things that are all about us.

 

The Will of Decree and Precept-Good Purpose/Good Pleasure

The distinction between decree and precept needs to be understood in light of God’s absolute power of decree over all of life and creatures and that which God allows in the choices of men in time. God sees all in a snapshot. He does not see time as we do. Many times, God uses decree to determine things in time; others, he determines in time using the creation to produce results. In the will of decree, it is God alone creating. In precept, the creature is used primarily to bring about a result that will bring God glory. As Turretin says in his book, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, the will of decree “cannot be resisted and is always fulfilled, ‘who has resisted his will’ (Romans 9:19)”. In the will of precept, he continues, “is often violated by men: ‘How often would I have gathered you together, and you would not.’ (Matt 23:37).

Two examples Turretin offers on the differences between will of decree are: (Rom 9:19, Eph 1:1) and will of precept (Psalm 143:10, Rom 12:2). [2] This doctrine shows that all the acts of men are within the realm of that which God determines; there is no absolute freedom here and even those events which the creature rails against God’s commands are worked into the decree of God’s will. ‘All things work together…’ (Rom 8:28) Finally, for the best definition, Turretin says, “the will of decree may be that which determines the events of things” and the will of precept, “that which prescribes to man his duty”. [3]

When we consider Pharaoh and his hardened heart, we can see in scripture where God hardens Pharaoh’s heart a number of times (Exod 4:21, 10:1); this would be the decretive will of God. We then see later in the chapter Pharaoh hardening his own heart (Exod 8:15, 8:32); this would be considered the preceptive will. It is God’s will that I am holy and that I fight the good fight against sin and the devil. This is the decretive will. Many times, I still struggle with various sins and even times submit to the desires of my flesh. When I sin, I make the choice in doing that which goes against the decretive will of God, in the preceptive will of God, God ultimately knowing this and working the illicit choice into a larger plan, using all things for my good. Both ideas are predetermined.

 

Adams will and true freedom
In light of what I have already stated, it is important to make the distinction between Adam and the true freedom he possessed in the garden, prior to the fall and mankind after the fall. Also, I will discuss later in this paper the difference between choice and will

in light of the regenerated and the unregenerated. Most people get these points all intermingled which results in a faulty theology and will result in things like ‘free will’.

When we hear a person crying ‘foul’ in relation to free will, they are using the term in the absolute sense and generally are referring to the will that Adam possessed prior to the fall; they are applying this freedom Adam had to men after the fall and that is where the wicket becomes sticky.

The term ‘free will’ is not completely flawed. Adams will was quite different from the will men have after the fall in the garden. His freedom was to a degree, autonomous (when compared to mankind after the fall). It is of the utmost importance to start here when we look at this doctrine. We need to see the transitions that occur from the garden forward, to appreciate it for what it truly is. As mentioned, this is where the wheels come off the wagon for most. The Reformed hold most reputable books on systematic theologies in high regard as they work in succession in explaining many doctrines of the faith. Most people that rail against bondage of the will do not in fact understand systematics and their theology suffers because of it. God is a God of order and most are confused on the subject. If the doctrine is evaluated in succession, it will be much more logical as the order is important.

 

Ability to sin/Ability to not sin, etc.

This brings us to a few Latin terms: Posse pecarre (the ability to sin) and Posse non-peccare (the ability to not sin). Adam had both characteristics, whereas, men in this day, after the fall, now possess only Non posse non peccare (inability to not sin). When we think in terms of definitions, Adam and Eve were the only humans who actually had an absolute free will. This is where the Arminians err. The free will that they assume all created beings have is along the same lines as what Adam had. Adam was sinless. He

was created in holiness and innocence. Until the fall, he was as close to God as one could have gotten, even walking in the garden with the Lord. His communication with God was nothing like we have today and can be considered intimate. Believers as well have an intimacy with God, but it is not the same. Adam and his wife lived in paradise and the Lord dwelled there. There were not any precluding factors that would affected Adam’s choices other than the law the Lord gave to him and his wife. His nature was perfect, hence, there were no inclinations to sin or to righteousness. It would have to be Adam’s choice, ultimately. Adam had complete dominion over all of creation (Psalm 8:5,6). He had only one limitation and to this, he failed greatly. It’s also an interesting thought in that God allowed the enemy to be in the garden with the couple, knowing full well who satan was. Apparently, God wanted to test His creatures with temptations. Logically speaking, the only rationale for this would be that God wanted to evaluate the devotion of Adam and Eve. He knew they would partake of the fruit. In the outworking’s of God decretive will and the covenant that He made with the son, prior to creation, it had to unfold in this manner, else we would have never needed a savior. There are many mind-numbing thoughts when we think deeply upon God and how He works and it is important we think of these things as it brings us closer to the Lord. This is true intimacy! So, Adam chose sin over holiness.

In the fall, Adam lost communion with God; the couple became spiritually dead and were separated from their Lord (Isaiah 59:2) and cast from paradise (Gen 3:23). It is at this point that the Arminians err. At this point, Adam and Eve lost the autonomous freedom of choice they previously had and now were prone to sin based upon their sinful nature. Their spiritual condition is akin to a physical death. In the book of James, we can see that when lust is united and rooted in our hearts, sin follows and when full grown, brings forth death (James 1:15). To be accurate, they still had the law of God written on their hearts which would still direct them after their fall from grace, yet their choices were now stained to the degree that the choices they would make would be bent towards their own edification and their desires would be towards sin.  Bavinck writes,

“For sin certainly began with a conscious and voluntary act of the will….So, although sin originated by the will, it does now exist outside of the will and is also rooted in all the other faculties and powers of human beings, in soul and body, in the lower and the higher cognitive and conative capacities”. [4]

 

What Bavink is establishing here is the difference between how sin affected the will prior to the fall and now afterwards. The difference is obvious.

Consider a believer in this day, we still struggle with sin even though we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, many times, even resorting to sin and self. One can easily see these differences between pre-fall and post-fall, in our own lives as Christians. Consider those that do not have the Holy Spirit guiding their choices! This is where, when we look deeply into the doctrine of total depravity, one can see the work of fighting against sin and the devil, impossible apart from God’s grace.

 

Total depravity

All of us who are reformed have heard of this doctrine. In essence, it means that man is spoiled and rotten to the core. It doesn’t mean that men are morally deficient in an absolute sense, but through and through. Consider Mother Theresa and all the service she gave to India. Was she a true believer? Given Rome’s doctrine, it would be hard to say. She was a Roman Catholic Nun. The point I am trying to make is that even Mother Theresa, if she was doing these works in an unregenerate state, measure the good she did as an unregenerate. This would equate to a person that is totally depraved, yet capable of doing good works, morally above most and still be outside of God’s graces.

When we consider John 3, one can easily see that men are given eyes to see things of the kingdom. It is God who works in His people ‘to do and to will’ (Phil 2:13). Outside of this miracle, one cannot see, nor understand the word. Application of any biblical principles is external at best and a reproach to the Lord (1 Cor 1:18). In fact, a man keeping the law of God is doing no more for himself than continuing to convict himself, judge himself and fill up his cup of condemnation for the day of destruction towards himself. It may be said, it be better for the man to never have heard any of God’s message as the judgement would be less for the ignorant man than the man well aware of God’s law and word.

 

Regeneration

Most all of us reformed understand this doctrine so I will not belabor the point; however, it is important to make mention of this doctrine in light of what I have already said, especially about Adam and Eve. I am speaking about regeneration because it plays an integral part in the will men have. Regeneration vs unregenates. So, there was the fall. The couple, dead in their sins. Their propensity and desire would be for self and sin predominantly. How long were the couple before they were actually regenerated and converted under the Covenant of Grace. Consider what I have said earlier about total depravity. They were cast out of the garden; God killed an animal as a sacrifice for their failure. Some time had passed, assumingly. In Gen 3:15 we can see the first proclamation of the Gospel. It is at this time, that the couple was restored back to fellowship with God. Regeneration is not conversion and conversion is not regeneration.

Typically, men are regenerated and come to faith based on wisdom and knowledge that they already have about God. In the United States, most of these acts of the order of salvation happen instantaneously as almost everyone here in this country know who Christ was and what He did for His people. Typically, the outward call goes out by the Preacher, the inward call makes it effectual based on the person ascending to biblical facts, and conversion takes place. This was most likely the case with Adam and his wife, after all, they knew who the Lord was in ways we will never know.  In other examples, men are regenerated and at a later time, after the Holy Spirit allows for biblical facts to hit home (John 3:3) and the person to come to a place where they understand sin and repent accordingly. The outward call, closes the deal and the person is sealed in Christ. Adam and Eve, in their converted state, now had preceptive choice. They still could sin if they chose, but that would run against their nature now; This disposition is similar to their state before their fall in many ways, but still not entirely identical as now they had to fight back against sin and the devil.

 

Jesus was fully human, though not able to sin

Jesus was fully man and fully God. Many treat this doctrine by separating the essences of Christ. In doing this, much error befalls the idea. Simply put, the divinity of Christ

would not allow the humanity of Christ to sin. Since perfect holiness cannot reside alongside sin, it cannot be said that Christ even had the ability to sin, ever. Yes, he was subject to temptation, but never sinned. This is what separates Christ from us, humanly speaking. Jesus was God in flesh; fully God and fully man. In the Latin, Posse non-peccare.

 

Free will in light of God’s sovereignty

It would seem obvious that the Arminian confuses terms when we speak of free will. The will Adam had and the will one has as a result of the fall as was previously discussed, are not one and the same and the distinction must be dealt with. It would seem that these people refuse to make this needed distinction and then fall into their own holes based on a faulty logic. Firstly, it is important to discuss the sovereignty of God here as when we look at the Arminian interpretation of the doctrine many errors occur. For example, in the Arminian scheme of things, it would be quite possible that Heaven would be empty. The Arminian rationale leaves salvation up to the person and in that, the possibility of no one coming to the Lord, must be considered. One would think, in light of language and covenantal promises in scripture, that we would not need to address such ideas, but we unfortunately do. It would as well seem irresponsible of God to leave things of such gravity, to His fallen creatures.

If God is sovereign, man is not. It cannot be both. What kind of God would God be if in fact he left outcomes to chance; how would he determine any timeframes, cause and effect? In the bible, we can see that God knows the end from the beginning Isaiah (46:10) and everything in between. He determines outcomes; consider Pharaoh and the

hardening of his heart for the purposes of God (Exodus 7:3). Consider all the prophecies of scripture; all prophecies were given of God to God’s servant messenger for future times. As well, before time began, in the Covenant of Redemption, the Godhead covenanted together that the Son would die on the cross for a peoples God would give the Son. In Ephesians, we can see that this pact was ratified and all the elect chosen before the foundation of the world. If this covenant was left up to a creature that is totally depraved, the creation would never choose holiness. In fact, they cannot choose holiness as they are at odds with it.

In Genesis 6:5, one can see that man’s thoughts and actions were continually evil. In the Hebrew, the word is ‘Kol’. This word is defined as completely, all, everything, throughout. The grief this brought God caused him to destroy all of creation, but eight souls. In light of what I have written, can anything be left to chance? Could it be said that God is truly sovereign if there is any chance? In Isaiah 46:9-1 we can clearly see God telling us that nothing in time is far from His hand. He created ‘the end from the beginning’ and ‘from ancient times the things that are not yet done’. ‘yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.’ Amazing words from our God. Surely, he is the sovereign and man is not.

 

Will defined

All acts and decisions are based on predisposition. If a man be inclined to certain ideas and desires, these will rule the thought and actions. Edwards described this treatment as akin to a train and its cars. One car will follow the other. The action is begun by the locomotive and the other cars, unanimously following suit. The connected cars did not have any choice. They could not derail intentionally. They are being moved along based on the intent of the first car. Mans will, will always follow the same line of thinking. Volition will be a result of that which is predominant in the heart of said man. Consider a penned Lamb. If one was to feed this lamb the choices meats, the lamb will eventually starve from malnutrition and starvation as the lamb’s nature is that he is drawn to eat plant based meals. He will die first than eat as a carnivore. The same can be said of a lion. He will rather die than eat herb based diets. It is not within these animal’s nature to eat anything other than what they were created for. The same can be said of man’s nature and desires.

 

Liberty implies bondage

In Luke 4:18, Jesus talks of Himself and says ‘to set at liberty them that are bruised’. The Apostle Paul speaks of ‘liberty’ we have in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1) and ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty’ (2 Cor 3:17). It is important to see in these statements that on the contrast, those that are not in Christ Jesus, there is no liberty, but bondage. In Romans 8:15, Paul affirms that we, those in Christ have not again received the spirit of bondage, i.e. the enemy’s chains! In Romans 8:21 he goes on to contrast the ‘bondage of corruption and the ‘glorious liberty’ that comes with being a child of God. In Galatians 4:3, he compares ‘bondage’ to the ‘elements of the world; who is the god of this world? Paul tells us that the enemy is the ‘god of this world’. I make mention of these descriptions to show that there is no freedom, ever. Both the believer and unbeliever are ruled by our natures. Jesus Himself tells us we cannot serve two masters; either we will hate the one and love the other or hold to the one and despise the other (Luke 16:13), but no one is free of one or the other, ever. There is always a master in our lives.  In Acts 5:3, Peter chides Ananias for lying about the money he obtained by the selling of his land and says that ‘satan has filled your heart’. This Greek word describes a vessel being full to capacity whereas no more liquid could be put into it. In Acts 9:17, we see another ‘Ananias’ who was used in the conversion of the Apostle Paul whereas he tells Paul, he will be ‘filled’ with the Holy Ghost. This is the same word and identical filling. Jesus goes on in the gospels to tell us that a house, kingdom and satan himself, if divided, cannot stand. There is no division here. It is one or the other. Do you see any freedom here in this scenario?

Could a man derail the desire that fills his heart? The majority of thoughts and actions will always follow those desires that are the strongest in that man’s nature. In my case, I eat a particular way. I love sugary foods more than I like salty ones. I love Ice cream. I am lazy by nature; however, I do not eat these things because when I do, I get very overweight and sickly. If I don’t exercise, these maladies increase and progress at a very fast rate, so I exercise, almost daily. I am choosing to go against that which I am drawn to for the sake of godly stewardship. Have I derailed any cars? Not really. What I have done is seen that eating poorly and being a gluttonous sluggard is based on my sin nature and that if I continue eating this way, I will suffer the consequences. It can be said that being a good steward of our bodies is Godly. So, in essence, I have not derailed any of the cars in that my inclinations, given that I am a believer, are inclined towards righteousness only. The main car is now Jesus and the Holy Spirit directs my path to I make better choices now that I am no longer ruled by evil intentions. The difference here is that I have the Spirit of God dwelling in me, helping me fight against the sinful nature. The unregenerate man is fighting by himself, which makes the task, impossible.

Many Arminian writers will say that men have a freedom of choice and Edwards would agree; however, these choices are defined along that which again, rules the nature, much like the locomotive that leads a mass of other cars. Holiness was lost in the fall. Man were rendered unholy and separated from God. The inclinations were no longer focused on pleasing God and they now are transitioned to worshiping themselves. All actions will now be a result of a flawed decision-making process and most all choices, at enmity with God.

The scriptures tell us that men are slaves; one is either a slave to righteousness or a slave to sin (Romans 6:15-23, John 8:34, 2 Peter 2:19, Titus 3:3, Gal 4:8-9) Where is the freedom in this? Yes, choices are made and seemingly at the spur of the moment, many times; however, the choices men will make in time are a result of the inclinations of their heart. The inclination of an unregenerate man could be said to be even better than many regenerates at times. Recall, I mentioned Mother Theresa earlier in this paper. Given that she is Roman Catholic, we can, based on the theology of Rome, that she was Arminian in practice as Rome is a works based soteriology. She is a prime example of people who are unregenerate who do more good works than some believers; sadly, in vain.

Any choices the unregenerate makes are soiled and stained, being outside of Christ and the Holy Spirit working indwelling them. Works apart from God and His Spirit are trash and hence, these good choices are still bad choices, no matter how good they may look to the watching world. In Isaiah 46, God calls these works, ‘filthy rags’.  So, to define ‘will’, it is a propensity that is driven by the deepest inclinations of our heart. There is no middle ground and it is absolute. Men are unable to shed this curse. In the book of Jeremiah, we are told that a ‘leopard cannot change its spots’. Can a man change the color of his skin? The same must be concluded in regard to the nature of man.

In the Westminster Confession, chapter 9:4 it reads: “When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of Grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin…”. In the book of Revelation 20:2, we can see that enemy himself is ‘bound’ by a great chain that an Angel of the Lord carries. Consider the binding capacity of this chain and how it relates to those that are outside of God’s powerful; grace to loose sin. Martin Luther wrote in his excellent treatise, The Bondage of the Will: “All the passages in the Holy Scriptures that mention assistance are they that do away with “free-will”, and these are countless … For grace is needed, and the help of grace is given, because “free-will” can do nothing.”[5]

 

Natural ability and moral ability

I go to the gym, three times per week. I try to keep it under an hour. I use the machines to complete a descent workout as I am not young any longer. I will be sixty years old in April 2018. When I was a younger man, I worked out five days per week and did a split workout; I would divide the body parts and rotate the days. It is much more grueling than what I do now and if I was doing this kind of workout, I would burn out and injure myself. In those days, I was able to lift a lot more than my mind and joints would allow today. If I were to try to lift what I did back in that day, I would end up in a hospital. My natural ability has waned. My muscles are no longer as strong and my joints wouldn’t allow for it.

The natural ability has to do with that which God has given me, physically. The moral ability is that which is inclined by my spiritual nature. Consider doing battle against the flesh. The unregenerate man is doing this work, in his flesh alone. His spiritual body is owned by the devil and the devil is directing his steps.

In my walk, I have come across many people who have suffered under substance abuse. Many of these men and women were inclined to quit, but were not able. Their spiritual disposition was bankrupt. They were ruled by their natural ability and the enemy wanted them abusing substances. The gospel is given faithfully by men of God daily. Very few come to faith. Jesus tells us the path to heaven is narrow and few are they that find it. Outside of regeneration, men cannot come to Christ. Outside of the Holy Spirit enlightening the mind to the things of God, leaving men in their natural state, they do not even want the gospel. They don’t want heaven. On one hand, they have the natural ability to choose God, but they won’t, because the natural cannot inherit the kingdom of God. In 1 Corinthians, Paul tells the readers that ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God nor can the perishable inherit the imperishable’. In Romans 8 Paul continues and says, ‘those that are still in the flesh cannot please God’. There is no freedom here.

 

God’s Works are providential

God instructs His people to reflect upon His marvelous works. God’s faithfulness is evident throughout all of scripture. As mentioned, prophesy validates God’s sovereignty and rule over all items of life even down to the minutest details. In the Psalms, we can see some perfect examples: In Psalm 44, we see the Psalmist writing that believers should reflect on the marvelous works God did in our forefather’s ‘day’. In Psalm 111, we are told that the works of the Lord are ‘great’ and are to be ‘remembered’. In Psalm 145, we are told to share these wonders one to ‘another’ and to ‘declare thy mighty acts’. God is surely providential and all His works are predetermined so as to bring Him ultimate glory.

The omniscience of God is everything

Omniscience would be at the basis of all the decrees of God. God cannot decree anything if God does not have a view of everything happening in time. If God did not know of things, even down to the smallest detail, if He was not the cause and effect,

everything happening inside of time, would possibly change all the results. Things would be random and left up to the persons involved, time and culture. All would be left to chance.

An excellent example of Christs omniscience is in his discussion with Nathaniel: Jesus says to him, ‘behold, an Israelite in whom is no guile. Nathaniel asks how Christ ‘knows him’. Christ refreshes Nathaniel’s memory recounting when Phillip called him; ‘When you were under the fig tree, I saw thee’. Christ, in His divinity remained omnipresent and omniscient (John 1:48). Nothing that we do is far from God’s eye (Psalm 32:8).

 

Election

When we think of the term ‘election’ and consider God does elect, both to glory and condemnation, one could not come away from the term itself and think that anything is left to randomness. God chooses His elect, based upon nothing more than His secret will and decree (Titus 3:5). As a Reformed person, this is quite the brain twister as even we, cannot reason why the Lord chooses anyone. None of us are deserving of any grace. All men have fallen and all are deserving of eternal punishment. Yet God in His wisdom and decree, reaches down into the mud and restores certain peoples unto Himself as a gift to Christ. The word ‘election’ itself is discriminatory. It is used more than 25 times in God’s word. In one sense, all men are elect; they are either elect unto glory or elect unto condemnation. The Arminian cannot see clear to rationalize this when reading their scriptures. The bible is clear to make the needed distinctions in determining which group is being addressed. Most times, the term is used in regards to those who are elect unto glory. Christ is elect (Isaiah 42:1). Angels are elect (1 Tim 5:21). Men are elect, (Rom 9:11). Election is biblical and one cannot run away from this fact. This alone should destroy any argument in relation to ‘free will’.

When we consider the works men do, the distinction between believers and unbelievers must be considered. The works that unbelievers do, are self-centered. Given that the god of the air is ruling over their choices, all choices and good works done will be illicit at its foundation.

 

Psalm 139

In Psalm 139 we can clearly see that providence is at the pinnacle of all of creation. It says that God knows me-all of me; every part of me. God knows when I lie down and when I arise in the morning. He understands my thoughts. The Hebrew word is ‘acquainted’, which implies intimacy. This means that God knows what I am always thinking, what I am inclined to do and my weaknesses. Nothing is secret to God. It goes on to say, before I speak, the Lord knows what I will say, and has ‘hedged’ me in ‘behind’ and ‘before’. This statement shows that God knew I would write, what I am exactly writing in this paper before I even knew what I would type. Where in this is a free, autonomous will? The Psalmist goes on to say what I already understand of God and that being, ‘such knowledge is too wonderful to me’. The Psalmist continues to pronounce God’s omnipresence, ‘whither shall I go from thy Spirit’, or flee from thy presence?’ In verse 10, the Psalmist proclaims, ‘thy hand shall lead me, thy right hand shall hold me’. One would be hard pressed to walk away from this reading holding to any freedom in will.

Well, you might say, “Scott, are you telling me that all choices, even the smallest details are controlled by God’s hand?” Yes, that is what I am saying. Even rebellion against God has been decreed for the believer; God uses all things for our betterment. God doesn’t like it when we sin, but even sin is used in the believers walk to refine the saint. Think for a moment about the devil. Satan is a tool of God. He is a created being. He is not a god, nor omnipotent. He is a dog on a leash, that God uses to refine the saint and continue to condemn the reprobate. One might ask, ‘why did God even create the devil? It’s not like God didn’t know that Lucifer wouldn’t fall-He knows everything, right?’ Yes, God knew and the enemy is part of God’s larger plan; the enemy has many duties to bring about the complete purpose of God.

“Scott, when we sin, we make a choice to do what God wouldn’t want us to do. Isn’t this a freedom of the will?” Yes and no. Yes, in that we have a certain type of freedom, but that freedom is no longer absolutely free. As discussed earlier, make the distinction between absolute freedom and freedom that has a bend in it. The decretive will of God and the perceptive will. The bend will always direct the will; believers are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness; so, our choices will always have this predisposition and the mass of choices we make will mostly be towards pleasing God.

The unregenerate, the opposite.
God is a God of order

Since God is perfect, His thinking is always based on purpose. This purpose is ultimately to bring Himself glory. To do this, God must have a plan in mind. There is no randomness with God. God’s word is the plan laid out perfectly for His people. God ordains and decrees all things. If men are able to make independent choices, apart from God’s will, decree and ordination, it is they who are the sovereigns and not God. Is there absolute order in these terms? If God allows for chance, how orderly is He. Randomness is more like chaos. Consider the technical requirements for the temple. God gave specific orders in how things were to be done. Nothing, in regards to worship was left to chance. This is how God operates. He is a surgeon and His scalpel, exact.

 

Bavinck writes,

“we believe that all things without exception are under divine providence whether heavenly or sublunary, great or small, necessary and natural, or free and contingent”. [6]

 

Is creation free to do as it will?

The universe is in perfect balance; Physicists will tell you that if the Earth’s axial tilt changed just a bit, life as we know it would not be the same. Consider oxygen. If there is a change of molecular structure, we would all perish as what we breathe would no longer be oxygen. God holds all this in harmony and balance. The creation is not able to change one bit unless of course, God ordains it. When we look at the book of Revelation, we can see that the Lord Jesus Christ will return in fire! The moon will turn red. These are supernatural things that are hard to perceive in our flesh, but in the spirit, we know it is true. Gravity. If gravity changed, what would be the result? It would be astronomical. The sun has been burning bright for six thousand years. If it burns out, we die. In Job 12:15, Moses writes, “Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up: Also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth” and Job 26:10
10 “He hath compassed the waters with bounds, Until the day and night come to an end.”

The world’s surface is 71 percent water. Notice how the Lord keeps these waters caged in for our safety. Granted, there are tsunami’s and storms at times, based on God’s decrees, but all in all, he keeps the waters within their confines as He has commanded them. Recall what the disciples said to Christ amidst the stormy seas, “what manner of man is this that the wind and sea obey him” (Mark 4:41)?

Did you ever think about how the eye works, or how we are able to breathe even while asleep? How about our hearts? The rhythm and beating. The human heart beats about 100,000 times in a twenty-four-hour period. Multiply that times 365 days per year and then multiply that by your age. It’s really astounding. I will be sixty years old this coming April. My heart has beat 2, 190,000,000 times since I was created. God keeps it beating, for His glory alone. One would think that our hearts are tired and rightly so. We need to redeem the time.

 

Is God free?
Edwards believed that God is radically free. In chapter 2 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, it says, God is ‘most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute’.   However, can God do that which goes against His character? He cannot and never does. God is bound by His character and law. He is faithful and cannot sin. A few examples would be: God must punish sin, he cannot deny Himself, he is limited by His promises and covenant keeping in the Word, he is immutable, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. In all of this, as Edwards said, He is free. But His freedom is within His decrees and character; in this, he cannot go against the things I cite. So, even God is bound and not absolutely free. Radically free, yes, but not absolutely. How could it be said that there is any actual order if this be true. If men’s wills are free, then randomness must be part and parcel. God is sitting back in all of this, hoping for the best. The creature is determining future results and they are changing from moment to moment. This thinking is inconsistent and surely goes against the attributes of our great God.

 

Free agency

When we hear this term, one must consider sports. A player is under contract with a specific team; in the contract, at a particular time, the athlete is free to leave the team if a financial offer comes to the table from another team. If not, the player can stay and fulfill the timeframe under the original agreement. The player has the choice to stay or leave at this given time. I have said a number of times in this paper that there is truly no free will and men will always act according to the desires of their natures. This is true in the absolute sense. However, it is important to note that when God gives men faith, it is the man himself who responds in faith to the ability for faith God has allowed. It is my faith. It is me, who repents; God does not repent for me. On one hand, God decrees these choices and on the other, I have volunteered these choices. The free agent athlete is given the freedom to make a choice to stay or leave; given that money is the monster here, he will go where the money is the greatest, generally. The nature described in this paper can be equated to the athlete’s desire for more money. In the life of the unregenerate, the money is akin to sin. Sin will be the predisposition in how and what this ‘free agent’ unbeliever will choose based on his or her desire.

This takes us still back to the scenario of the locomotive and the trains attached to it. If the train is heading north, based on its disposition, the cars follow. It has the ability to choose to head north at the desired time and by choice can travel slowly or fast, but none the less, it will travel based on its nature. In the compound sense, it can do no other than travel north, in the divided sense, it has a few choices: 1) The conductor can refuse to leave the station, 2) He can agree to leave the station, 3) He can travel slow or fast, 4) He can go in reverse. Whatever the case, the cars will always follow the inclination of the locomotive and conductor. Consider a conductor of an orchestra. All the musicians, by default follow him or conductor in electronics. All the components of a piece of electronics work in cycles and unison; take one part out and it will fail. All the parts depend on the other and one part allows the other parts to function. The same can be said of the nature of man.

Consider what I have said earlier in this paper in regards to the will of God. In the decretive, God decrees that the train will leave the station. In the preceptive, the engineer makes the choice of leaving at the time determined by the schedule. He will leave, none the less. He may leave earlier or later. He may keep the speed up to keep with the decreed time limits or not. He may go faster or slower, yet, he will leave. The engineer of the train is a free agent in some ways to make these choices, yet these choices are determined by the company itself, ultimately.

In all that I have expounded upon above, I use these treatments to show that nothing is up to chance and to hold to any other rationale is contra biblical. Arminianism and free will, destroy the works of God. It is a false mentality and goes directly against God’s word and results in chaos and disorganization. If God is a God of order, to hold a contrary view sets in motion nothing more than a god that is confused and whimsical at best.
Religious Affections

In the Belgic Confession, section 24, it reads:

“Therefore, it is so far from being true that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation.”

 

In the fine book by Horatious Bonar, Light and Truth, Bonar describes people who are hard workers of religious duties yet are far from grace. Bonar says that ‘mechanical religion’ is deadly and only fit for the gods of Greece or Rome. He goes on to say that your attendance at worship ‘may be reverent and regular’ but if there is ‘no breath in it’, useless.[7]

What exactly are religious affections? Simply put, religious affections are nothing more than the work the Holy Spirit does in God’s people. This is a fruit of our sanctification. The out-workings of sanctification will always be a fruit of the spirit; it can be physical as well as mental; For example, my prayers for those in need of prayer is a religious affection. Me aiding someone in need, physically is another. These works always spring forth from the fountain of God’s love. Believers are thankful and the gratitude we have for that which God has given us in exemplified in the works we do for all mankind; it is not a work that is centered on just Christian society but all of human beings. In Proverbs 25:22, we are told, if thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; if he be thirsty, give him water: for thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee (Rom 12:20). Poole explains this as doing good to those which hate you create two outcomes: 1) the kindness the believer shows to his enemies will possibly melt their stony hearts ‘into repentance’ or 2) harden them to the degree that this kindness will ‘aggravate’ their disposition and even speed up ‘vengeance’ from God.[8] Again, this is a perfect example of God’s decretive will in judgement and the perceptive will in the works God has his creation do to accomplish and finalize that which he has decreed. Of course, believers should not be intent in pursuing the latter in this situation as then the heart would be wrong in the matter. We are to love our enemies and the goal of said love would be in the desire that these people would repent and fall on Christ for mercy not that fire from heaven would come down and consume the person. The fruits of the spirit are not vengeance; vengeance is ‘mine, sayeth the Lord’ (Rom 12:19). Edwards writes in ‘Religious Affections’,

“The things of religion are so great, that there can be no suitableness in the exercises of our hearts, to their nature and importance, unless they be lively and powerful.”[9]

 

Edwards also cites 2 Tim 3:5, ‘having a form of Godliness, but denying it’s power’. Our works should be driven by true hearts to God in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the same way, I made a distinction earlier in relation to the term ‘spiritual’, I am making the same type of distinction here. The definition for ‘religious affections’ can only be measured against God’s word and hence, any works that the unregenerate does, is not really religious affections, but love of self. The final goal of most works done by non-believers has to do with feeling good about one self or putting another feather in one’s cap. The scriptures tell us to do good; to give our cloak if need be; to feed the hungry and give shelter if need be. We are to deny ourselves and pick up our crosses! I will discuss two types of religious affections in the next section: 1) Only a work that the Holy Spirit initiate are true forms of religious affections. 2) If the heart is not right, i.e. self-interest, these works that a believer does is despicable to God.

Jesus tells us that he ‘must leave’ so as that the ‘helper would come’ (John 16:7).

The Holy Spirit is needed in the lives of believers to accomplish that which God has decreed. There is a fine line in the works we do that are of true religion to God and ones that are compelled out of self; believers are guilty of performing works with the wrong intentions at times. Our affections are often grounded in the flesh and our hearts are not right; we still struggle with sin and until glorification, our minds will not be able to see in the spirit fully. Given this, many things we do, that we think are directed by God are not.

We like to do things we like to do. Serving in a capacity that is difficult, we often complain. I recall years ago, I was heading up a ‘moving ministry’. No one wanted this position because it was hard work. Packing, lifting, moving people’s homes; loading the truck, traveling, unpacking. This ministry was predominantly to needy people; the elderly, the single mother, the homeless. I didn’t enjoy this ministry and most assuredly, the works I did were not in the love of Christ. I didn’t complain mind you-at least not out rightly. But when I was away from it, I disliked it to the point, I eventually abandoned it. Socially speaking, it was good that I was doing this, spiritually, it was a wash as I was not moving in the Holy Spirit when I did these works. They were not religious affections. I failed to see the need of the people I was serving. I was selfish and only considered the extent of the hard labor I had to do. I had no joy in all of it and most likely was sinning against God here. This example shows one way where we stain a good work by attitude. Andrew Gray writes in his book, ‘The Works of Andrew Gray (1839), 12 Select sermons; ‘For Jesus Christ is Precious to Believers’:

 

“I would say, that a Christian may have much visible fruitfulness, when there is much unfruitfulness in his soul, and so may be a barren Christian. By visible fruitfulness, we mean or understand, the going about the exercise of outward duties, when within there is nothing but barrenness in the exercise of inward duties. And there are these four words that I would say to you concerning a natural conscience.”[10]

 

When we look to the book of James, we can see that works are fruit of regeneration and conversion. Though, as mentioned earlier, they are not absolute proofs of a person being in Christ. What exactly is religion? Religion is the true worship of the one sovereign God, His Son and the Holy Spirit. In James 1, ‘religion’ is mentioned, twice. In verse 26 it mentions the ‘bridling of the tongue’ and the man that doesn’t bridle his tongue, his religion is ‘in vain’. In verse 27 it says that ‘visiting widows and the fatherless’ is ‘pure’ religion. These are perfect examples of religious affections. If a man keeps the law of God that is springing forth from an appreciatory heart, considering what Christ has done in his behalf, this is religious affections. Religious affections are truest in those times when one has been wronged and they respond in love. Consider Christ and when He was beaten and spit upon, yet no guile came from His mouth; in fact, He asked the Father to forgive his tormenters. This is true religious affections. Religious affections are most evident when the flesh tells us no, but the Spirit demands obedience and we submit, knowing that this is what Christ would have done. We are called to be like Christ. The disciple is not above his teacher (Luke 6:40).

 

Religious Affections in light of choice

Believers are in positions to rail against that which God would want for us and at times, rebel. We are not autonomous in our choices and as explained earlier in this paper, our nature now demands obedience. Sometimes, sin rears its ugly head and we fail in the fight against the flesh. One of the results of this is the emotion of guilt. The believer will feel guilt for his sin. I guess it could be said that guilt of sin is a religious affection also. The unbeliever, generally, does not feel guilt over sin. In fact, most embrace their lying and cheating. When we choose God’s ways and reject the desire to sin, we are being affectionate to God; we are saying essentially, ‘Your law, your desire for me, is more important to me than that which my flesh wants. We take up our crosses and walk on. We run the race. We fight the good fight. We persevere in light of the world and what it dictates. In this, the choices we make are based in love of God. The believer must choose God. We must keep our mind fixed on Christ; The Apostle tells us that believers have ‘the mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2:16). How do we have the mind of Christ? It’s not like we have two minds. When the Apostle tells us that we have the mind of Christ, he is referring to the Holy Spirits influence on our minds. We can choose God or we can choose the flesh. If we choose God, we are using a religious affection. If not, it is not religious. It may seem ‘affectionate’, but without the Holy Spirit, it is not religious. I am sure that the people I assisted in moving saw the work that I did on their behalf was religious, but in truth, it was not.

 

All religious affections are grounded in God’s love

In Luke 11:42, Jesus chides the Pharisees for their tithing of ‘mint, rue and all manner of herbs’, yet they pass over the love of God. Their works were in vain! As well, in John 5:42 he continues his assault on the Pharisees by chiding their work in the scriptures, ‘You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life…you do not have the love of God in you.’ A perfect example of religious affections is drawn out in 1 John 2:5: ‘but whosoever keepeth His word, in him is the love of God perfected’.

In Bavincks Dogmatics, he writes:

“Religion is not feeling and sensation alone but also belief, living for and serving of God with both head and heart”. [11]

 

What Bavinck is saying here is that the knowledge of God must be work its way down into the man’s actions through the knowledge of God and the Holy Spirit in the outward affections, or as James would say in the epistle, a man with no works has a dead faith James 2:20

The starting point is knowledge of God. Before there can be true love, one must know their King. In the scriptures, we can see servants who were devoted to their Kings; many times, they had no relation to that King. They did not know them intimately and most of their devotion was out of fear and learned reverence. The bible is the source of all knowledge. God has revealed to His people His full counsel and in that counsel are the intimacies of the Godhead. To know him is to love Him and to love Him is to know Him. All believers should have a desire to get closer to their King. We should be familiar with that which God has left us as a witness to His wondrous works. In the bible we see the mind of God, His plans for us, His law, His plan of redemption and finally, glorification where we will dwell with Him forever. I believe Augustine called it, ‘a love letter’ to His children. It is akin to a letter a Father leaves his children while on his death-bed. In Christ, His sacrifice and dying on the cross is the final delivery of this letter.

 

The Source of all religious affections

As mentioned, all religious affections are grounded in the love that the Holy Spirit imparts to believers. Without love, one remains in the flesh. They that are in the flesh, ‘cannot please God’ (Rom 8:8). ‘God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of power and love…’ (2 Tim 1:7).  Matthew Poole writes:

“love to God, and to the souls of his people; love so strong as to constrain us to be willing to lay down our lives for Christ, and for his church and people.”[12]

As mentioned, since true love can only be measured along the lines of God’s word, those outside of Christ would not be able to offer anything unto God is any kind of work they do no matter how righteous it may look on the surface. Everything that God requires of His people must be stamped in Christ’s blood. The power of this blood is enough to compel any regenerated person to produce fruit worthy of God’s acceptance. The offering of Cain was presented in vain as Cain’s heart was lacking the faith it took to make any offering; there was no love there of God as if there had been, he would have offered the correct sacrifice that God had commanded-in faith. Consider your offerings to God. Are they with the correct heart and are you making them with a glad heart and relying on faith to perfect your work? If not, they are in vain. The Apostle tells us in 1 Corinthians that if we ‘have not love’ we are akin to clanging cymbals. Cymbals are a percussion instrument. Have you ever seen an example of any music ever compiled using just cymbals? There may be some out there as cymbals do have pitch and can create tunes, but I have never seen one. Typically, cymbals alone would sound crass; it is when they are combined with other instruments that we can appreciate them. Paul describes them as ‘clanging’. This is not with rudiment, but striking them haphazardly or irresponsibly. None of us want to be clanging cymbals! The unregenerate, as they do their works, are crass and clanging. Without love, it is impossible to please God.

 

The character of God is the root of all affections we posses

The spark that lights the ember into the flame is the knowledge we have of God’s majesty and glory. He is perfect and thrice Holy. The consistency of God’s character is our only hope. It is here that we can find solace. It the root of the tree is bad, the fruits will also be (Matt 7:18). God is good. Everything He does is correct, just, righteous, precious and beautiful. When God gave men his ‘image’, he shared the same qualities with His creation that are within Himself. This sharing was particularly special in that none of these characteristics were shared with the other things God created; He kept this for man alone. Think of this as a similarity. It is not exact, mind you. God has no body. He is Spirit. Men have bodies with a spiritual make-up. We resemble God. Initially, prior to the fall, mankind was created with no propensity for death or sickness. We were intended to live with God free of these limitations. When it is said that man was to take dominion over the earth and all on it, this was a categorization based upon these attributes. We were given certain characteristics that were well above of the rest of creation. Being in the image of God gives us rights to love like God did. We were created with a thinking mind. Choice and volition were left in our grasp. We were created analytical. We were righteous and holy. Other living beings do not possess these attributes. Having these benefits are the source of everything. The fall stained this in many ways. Yes, we still have much of these characteristics, but they are now affected by the influence of sin in our lives. They are no longer perfect and without any external influences. Still, these characteristics are where any religious affections sprout.

This is the blessing God imparted to mankind. Angels have some of the characteristics, but they are not made in God’s image. Humans are able to procreate (Matt 22:30). God forgives the sins of the elect. The angels that fell, do not have this opportunity. Jesus died for men-He is the savior of the elect. Angels have no savior. Converted men are adopted into the beloved-we are sons and daughters (2 Cor 6:18). We have exalted positions in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:6). We are given the rights to be conformed to the image of Jesus (Rom 8:29). In 1 John 2:5, the Apostle tells us that ‘whoso keeps his word in him verily is the love of God perfected…’  In Matthew 26:6-13 we can see that a work, outside of love, is akin to ‘nothing’. Love is the root of all that we are and everything springs forth from it.

 

Regeneration is required

I spoke earlier of regeneration. One cannot see the kingdom of God unless God first allows it in the first act of the order of salvation. Any works done will always follow the suit of the inclinations of one’s nature. The fruit of regeneration and conversion will result in works that God has first started in the nature of the believer. To do any good works, again, as defined in God’s word alone, must be precluded by the first move of God in regenerating His elect. The Psalmist writes: “Open thou mine eyes, That I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”

 

 

There is only one truth

The word of God is foolishness to the unregenerate (1 Cor 1:18). Truth can only be appreciated along the lines I have belabored in this paper. The bible is the touchstone. All matters of religion come from this source and to appeal to any other means is a sure sign that one may be in error or even, still in their sins. God imparts this fact to the heart and soul of His children and only them. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor 4:4) so as they cannot understand or assent to biblical facts. He knows that God’s word is truth and he does everything in his power to delude the reprobates. In the case of the believers, ‘God’s word will not return void and will accomplish all that it was intended to accomplish (Isaiah 55:1).

 

There must be fruit!

In the initial stages of my walk, there was little fruit. It took time and study to get to know who God was and what He expected of me as His child. God’s word is a light unto our paths and we must familiarize our self with His word so as apply that which He desires of us. There is such a thing as wax fruit. It looks real, but is a manufactured replica. It has no fragrance. You cannot ingest it. There is no flavor. In many ways, the local church has people in it that have many outward examples of fruit in their lives, yet they are lacking the Holy Spirit in these actions. They are impostors; many times, it is not even intentional. Most of these people believe that they are true believers. This is surely a scary thought; could I be one of them? It is quite possible, to a degree that I may be deceived. In my personal case, I would say that God’s Spirit, bearing witness with my spirit is a good contrasting rationale that I am self-deceived. I love the Lord. I pray that he increases my knowledge of Him so as I am able to do battle in His name. I am very cognizant of my actions and pray that I do not sin against him, all rooted in my desire to glorify my King. In the beginning stages of Jesus’ walk, do you think Judas knew that he was self-deceived? How about Demas or Ananias and his wife? Fruits are a good litmus test for us, but they are not flawless. In the scriptures, we can clearly see the warnings in regards to falling from the faith; we are to always check ourselves to see that ‘we are in the faith’. Most reprobates will not stand the test of time; eventually, as described in the parable of the sower, we can see that the other types of soils that are faulty, the seeds eventually perish and fall away (Matt 13:18-23). Time has its way of revealing truth. If you have been walking with the Lord for a good amount of time, this is a good example. We should always pray that God keeps us. Much like David, ‘do not remove your spirit from me’ (Psalm 51:11). This may seem fatalistic, but the Puritans were famous for writing on this subject and it should be appreciated for a healthy, balanced disposition. We are saved, we are being saved and we will be saved. On one hand, we need to not be haughty in regards to God’s mercy and on the other, cognizant that there are the warning passages I previously mentioned. Compare this with the scripture in 1 John 5;13 which tells us that ‘we can know for sure’ we are believers in Christ’ and the warning passages. These truths must be balanced out. Yes, we can know for sure and then there’s this biblical reality that must be dealt with in light of knowing. We know, but be cognizant and humble in our assessments. Always be working and moving forward in Christ.

 

Desire for God must increase

Are you hungry for the word and the things of God? Do you desire worship and prayer? Do you yearn for the Lord’s day and the fellowship of the saints? Are you constantly thinking on the things of God and pursuing holiness? These things are direct reflections that the Holy Spirt is working in your life. It could be said that we are in communion with God and His word. Think of any relationships you have had over the years. The people closest to you, you know well. You know how they think; you know the things they like and dislike. You know the buttons that you should never push so as not to upset them. You know the foods they prefer and the arts that they like. There is an intimacy there that is not compared to typical acquaintances. In regards to my wife, when we were friends, I wanted to know everything there was to know about her. How can we know God if we do not pursue knowledge of Him? Christ tells us that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. One of my typical prayers is that God would make me love Him more every day.  Thomas Watson makes mention in his book the Ten Commandments that if a man prays this prayer, God will surely answer this prayer and give what you desire. Are you praying for this? You must, if you intend to grasp the intimacy of Christ, the Father and the Holy Spirit. Most people put more emphasis into their diets and treats than they do with the word of God. Jesus said it best in John, chapter 4: “I have meat to eat that you know not of….My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me”.

 

False affections

Jesus tells us in Matt, chapter 7 that we ‘can know a tree by it’s fruits…and a corrupt tree will bring forth evil fruit’. The validity of godly affections are often times, non-discernable. The church is made up of believers and unbelievers. Judas walked alongside Christ, even performing miracles and the Apostles did not know the difference. I am sure that when it was revealed that Judas was not one of them, spiritually speaking, that they were in disbelief. False affections are those things that are offered up outside of faith. They look valid from the outside. A man that believes that his works save him is still in his sins. Many people have a servant’s heart. There are many types of non-Christian servants in society. Consider people that are not believers that routinely volunteer their time working with the needy. In my profession, the hospitals are staffed with the elderly donating their time. Most of the rationale behind this is twofold, they believe it is good to help people and it occupies their time. They believe if you keep moving, you will live longer. Some may be serving as believers and this is good. All believers should be involved in some ministry of helps. The difference here is that the believers are (hopefully) doing these works out of love for Christ and are aware that it adds nothing to their salvation; in other words, the works we do not maintain our salvation. It is by Christ’s work alone that we are saved.  Generally, since the path is narrow and the way that leads to destruction wide, the majority of these people have false affections. If it is outside of grace, it is by default, false. So, in summary, false affections resemble affections that are produced by the Holy Spirit in believers. Usually though, the list of gifts described in the book of Galatians will always be incomplete, one way or the other. If one was able to look into one’s works, you would be able to verify it this way, but no one is able to see this way.

 

Feelings and experience are not always true affections

Consider the Charismatic community of faith; in all ages there have always been people that have relied on external experiences to ground their faith. When I was saved, it was in a Charismatic assembly. The evening of my coming to Christ was very emotional for me. I can honestly say that I was saved at this time and the joy I felt was stupendous. Many people however, have emotional events and they are nothing more than emotion; we are emotional creatures. Many times, much like described in the the parable of the soils, weather conditions blow away the seed, the enemy snatches it away etc. or when problems arise in our lives and people, many times, forsake their walks; even in light of their emotional moment. They oft times forget about what occurred; time has it’s way of sifting out false confessors. In my case, it has only multiplied. God has been so, so, gracious with me and I am one of the most unfaithful people. I don’t deserve this grace and mercy many times, but that is being weighed out in the mind of a created being. God know better and I thank Him so much for mercy when I don’t deserve mercy, but the rod. To call Him a good father would be almost to use His name in vain, but you get the point I’m sure.

 

Knowledge of God is not sign of true regeneration

How many times have we witnessed theologically strong individuals walk away from the faith, never to return? How about Pastors that have fallen hard from grace? Adultery, thievery, cheating and stealing? It happens. Many of these men have struggled through seminary and obtained prestigious honors; great wisdom and knowledge of God and yet, there they are today. We can see the emphasis on the knowledge of God in the scriptures; in fact, in John 3, we see how the opening of the eyes and mind is integral to conversion. Men must know who Christ is and the work He did, to be saved. Yet, you can know this data in the flesh and still be in your sins; so, knowledge itself will never save. The believer will have knowledge, but that knowledge is a fruit of regeneration and the Holy Spirits work in your life. In Ephesians 1:17-21, it says:

17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

 

Closing comments

Overall, I benefitted greatly from these works. Though I had obvious reservations with regard to Edwards’ work on the will. I have come to the conclusion that Edwards talks to hear himself at times; no disrespect intended but a sentence with one hundred and ten words is a bit much, in my opinion. As well, I don’t know if I am tooled exactly well for philosophy. I know it plays an integral part in theology but much of what he extrapolated on was quite difficult for me. As mentioned, Freedom of the Will was a drudgingly difficult read for me and many of my acquaintances expressed the same sentiment. What I did come away with in these readings was that which I already knew. It was refreshing to reestablish thought related to these two topics and a valid reminder to always check ourselves and make sure we are on the correct page when it comes to our works in Christ and how the nature of mankind is ill, outside of Christ. We can become lackadaisical at times with our walks and these reads by these great men of faith are so, so valuable to God’s people. So, all in all, this was a profitable section of study for me. I thank God for the time he allowed me in studying this material and pray that He would keep it in my heart and mind and that I would continue to grow in His graces.

If you are reading this assessment, I pray that it blesses you in some small way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

[1] The Ten Commandments, Thomas Watson, Pg 251

[2] Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Francis Turretin, pg 220

[3] Ibid, pg 221

[4] Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Francis Turretin, pg Vol 3, Pg 143

[5] Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will, Pg 270

[6] Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Francis Turretin, pg Vol 3, Pg 498

[7] Horatius Bonar, Light and Truth: Or, Bible Thoughts and Themes, Old Testament (London: J. Nisbet & Co., 1873), 318–319.

[8] Matthew Poole, Annotations upon the Holy Bible, vol. 2 (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1853), 263.

[9] Jonathan Edward, religious Affections, pg 8; http://www.jonathan-edwards.org/ReligiousAffections.pdf

[10] Andrew Gray, Sermon 4, pg, 49; Kessinger Publishing, LLC

[11] Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 1, Pg 605, Herman Bavinck, baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI.

[12] Matthew Poole, Annotations upon the Holy Bible, vol. 3 (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1853), 791.

 

 

 

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