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SALVATION CAN BE RESISTED

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Evening, May 22, 2005
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"Come, for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse…" (Luke 14:17-18).


I do not hesitate to say that the greatest preachers of modern times have been, in the main, Calvinistic in their doctrine. Nor do I hesitate to say that the preaching which has been connected with the three Great Awakenings was, in the main, Calvinistic. I also recognize that the great pioneer missionaries and the Puritan fathers were Calvinistic. And I know that Spurgeon, the greatest preacher in the English-speaking world, was a Calvinist.

And I myself have been called a Calvinist. One man recently published a review of two of my books in which he said, "Read these books and decide for yourself whether Dr. Hymers is a Calvinist." This good man says that, whether I know it or not, I am a virtual Calvinist. Perhaps he is right. Perhaps the question really does boil down to whether or not a man believes in total depravity, and salvation by the grace of God in Christ alone. If that is what one means, then maybe I am a Calvinist after all. In a day of "decisionism" perhaps being called a Calvinist isn't so bad.

But I must tell you honestly that I disagree with some of the "five points" of Calvinism. Not all of them, mind you. I believe the first and last points virtually as Calvin himself taught them. I believe in the total depravity of man, and I believe "once saved always saved," the doctrine of the "perseverance of the saints." Those two points seem totally Scriptural to me. But I have trouble believing all that is said about some of the other points of Calvinism.

You must understand that I came into this through the "back door." Although I was converted under the preaching of a five-point Calvinist, Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge, I was a member of, for lack of a better word, what would be called an Arminian church. That was my background since I became a Baptist at the age of thirteen. I then went to a liberal Southern Baptist seminary and an even more liberal Presbyterian seminary. So, the question I was dealing with in my seminary days and afterwards was the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Bible. By focusing on this doctrine, I was able to earn a master's degree and a doctoral degree in these liberal seminaries without losing faith in the Word of God. I attribute this solely to the grace of God. A verse in the Book of Daniel has often come to mind concerning my deliverance from the rank liberalism in those seminaries,

"So Daniel was taken up out of the den [of lions], and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God" (Daniel 6:23).

Then, in my pastoral ministry, I came under the influence of Charles G. Finney. I read his autobiography and his Lectures on Revival. I tried my best to put into practice what Finney wrote - but it did no good. In fact, it did great harm. The church was burned deeply by the use of Finney's methods. No revival occurred, and only a few conversions came out of that period of ministry.

It was only then that I began to study the revival preachers of the three Great Awakenings, Whitefield, Edwards, Nettleton and Spurgeon. I found that their message of man's depravity and salvation by God's grace in Christ was the answer to the "decisionism" of Finney and his followers. So, I suppose it is not surprising that some men now call me a "virtual Calvinist." I do believe that the Puritans, the revival preachers, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J. C. Ryle, and especially George Whitefield and Spurgeon, preached the gospel with great clarity and power. I often quote these men in my books and sermons because they so thoroughly debunk the synergistic "decisionism" of modern evangelism. So, as I said, I have come under the influence of Calvinism "through the back door."

And yet I must also say that I disagree with some of the points of Calvinism. I consider these to be the nonessential points. For me, the essence of Calvinism can be stated in three points: (1) total depravity, (2) salvation by grace through faith in Christ, and (3) the perseverance of the saints (once saved always saved).

Let me just outline two of the doctrines of Calvinism that give me trouble: irresistible grace and limited atonement. Under the point of irresistible grace, Calvinists hold that God chooses the elect for salvation and damns the rest, and that saving grace cannot be resisted. I have trouble believing that. The Calvinist theologian Charles Hodge said, "If [salvation is] equally designed for all men, it must secure salvation for all" (Systematic Theology, II, p. 353). I don't agree with that. It seems like mere human theology, rather than the pure teaching of the Scriptures.

I believe that God intends for people to be saved who never experience salvation, so that, to me, grace is very resistible. I also believe that God's grace is available to all human beings, not merely to the elect. Please turn with me to Titus 2:11. Let us stand and read this verse aloud.

"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men" (Titus 2:11).

You may be seated. Most Calvinists make "the grace of God" in this verse mean "the Son of God." For instance, Dr. John MacArthur says that verse refers to "not simply the divine attribute of grace, but to Jesus Christ Himself" (The MacArthur Study Bible, note on Titus 2:11). But the verse does not say "Jesus Christ Himself" or "the Son of God." It does not say, "For the Son of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men," as Dr. MacArthur would have it. I learned in liberal seminaries to rely strictly on the words of the Bible, not on the reasonings of man. And it does seem to me a mistake to make this verse focus on "Jesus Christ Himself," as Dr. MacArthur says. No, the clear and plain Word of God does not say what Dr. MacArthur says it does. Instead, it boldly proclaims,

"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men" (Titus 2:11).

Doesn't this appear to be the plain, literal meaning of that verse?

And if it means what it says, doesn't it give you hope that you, too, may be saved? Although you may have been thinking that there is no hope for you because you are totally depraved, dead in sin, that you are not one of the elect, doesn't this verse shine a ray of hope into your heart? I think it ought to do so. And so did Luther, the great Reformer. Luther boldly said that this declares that God's grace comes to all men, and I think he was right on this.

"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,"

not just to the elect. And, that being true, there is grace available for your salvation, even though you are a hardened, depraved sinner. I am glad to proclaim this verse to you, hardened and hopeless though you are - for God's grace is extended to you, even you, and makes possible your salvation in Christ.

"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,"

not to "certain classes of men" (the elect, as Calvin taught), but to all men. And since you are one person among "all men," the grace of God is able to bring you, even you, hardened as you are, "to salvation."

Now turn to I John 2:2. Please stand and read this verse aloud.

"And he [Christ] is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our's only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (I John 2:2).

You may be seated. The word "propitiation" refers to the appeasement of God's wrath through the death of Christ on the Cross. I have trouble with limited atonement, one of the points of Calvinism, when I read this verse. For instance, John MacArthur says, of this verse, that Christ "actually satisfied fully the wrath of God only for the elect" (ibid., note on I John 2:2). This expresses the third point of Calvinism - limited atonement. But that verse does not say Christ died "only for the elect." It says the exact opposite! "And not for our's only, but also for the sins of the whole world." That is quite clear wording. It doesn't agree with the limited atonement of Calvin, but there it is - on the page of the Bible.

"And he [Christ] is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our's only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (I John 2:2).

Now, there is a ray of hope for you. Do you see it? That verse clearly says that Christ died for you - to pay the penalty and appease the wrath of God toward you. Can you grasp that?

"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men" (Titus 2:11).

"And he [Christ] is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our's only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (I John 2:2).

Since saving grace and Christ's propitiatory death are available to all people, why are some saved and others lost? Luther said that question cannot be answered in this life, because the answer belongs to the incomprehensible judgments and unsearchable ways of God.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts…saith the Lord…so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Why are some people saved and others not? Luther said that this is a mystery that only God understands, and is not revealed in Scripture. I think he was right on this. We have to let it go, and not try to understand it all. This much we know: Christ died to pay for your sins, and "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men" (Titus 2:11).

Now for the next point, please turn to Matthew 23:37. Let us stand and read this verse aloud.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"
    (Matthew 23:37).

You may be seated. "And ye would not!"

The Bible never says that you are lost because salvation isn't available to you. The Bible says that your resistance is the reason you don't get saved. Turn back to Acts 7:51. Read it aloud.

"Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost …" (Acts 7:51).

"And ye would not!" "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." These verses show that God the Holy Spirit urged these unbelievers to be saved, and it was their resistance that prevented them from being converted.

Again, on this point, I believe that Luther was Scripturally correct, and that Calvin was wrong. Luther spoke of gratia resistibilis - human beings having the power to resist the grace of God. "And ye would not." "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost."

You must understand that this is not synergism. The Bible does not teach that man cooperates with God in salvation. Salvation does not come as a result of a human decision. But damnation does come because man makes a decision! "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." "And ye would not!" You do have the power to oppose Christ. Please turn to Isaiah 53:3. Let us stand and read this verse aloud.

"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him …" (Isaiah 53:3).

You may be seated. Isn't that quite clear? "We hid as it were our faces from him." You have the power to hide your face from Him. You do not have the power to be saved, but you do have the power to resist Christ and hide your face from Him.

So, my question to you tonight is this - will you stop resisting Christ? Will you stop thwarting the love of God in Christ? Will you stop fighting God? Will you stop rejecting the offer of God's mercy in Christ?

Now, let us conclude with one last passage of Scripture. Turn to Luke 14:16-18. Let us stand and read these three verses aloud.

"Then said he [Christ] unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse…" (Luke 14:16-18).

You may be seated.

Here is the universal call of the gospel, "Come; for all things are now ready." The grace of God is there for you. The benefits of Christ's death and resurrection are there for you. The Holy Spirit is there to bring you to Christ. "Come; for all things are now ready - And they all with one consent began to make excuse." "And ye would not." "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." "And they all with one consent began to make excuse." "And ye would not." Isn't that exactly like you?

"Well," you may say, "I don't see it. I don't think I am resisting Christ." No? Then why do you resist thinking about the sermons during the week? Then why do you resist thinking about your sins during the week? Then why do you go on and on resisting meditation on Hell? Then why do you resist daily Scripture reading and daily prayer for your own conversion? Then why do you resist answering our deacon or myself in the inquiry room? Isn't it true that you resist? And isn't this the reason you are not converted? "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." "And they all with one consent began to make excuse." "And ye would not!" Salvation can be resisted. Christ can be resisted. When will you stop resisting?


(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 14:15-24.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
"Come and Dine" (by Charles B. Widmeyer, 1884-1974)/
"Don't Turn Him Away" (by Haldor Lillenas, 1885-1959).



THE OUTLINE OF

SALVATION CAN BE RESISTED

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"Come, for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse…" (Luke 14:17-18).

(Daniel 6:23; Titus 2:11; I John 2:2; Isaiah 55:8-9;
Matthew 23:37; Acts 7:51; Isaiah 53:3; Luke 14:16-18)