The means that God uses.

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by OneOfHisElect, Oct 9, 2015.

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  1. OneOfHisElect

    OneOfHisElect Puritan Board Freshman

    Quick thought,

    We all agree, or I hope we all agree, that God uses means in this world to accomplish His divine will. I am speaking from a "high" Calvinist point of view but the question that I am asking can still be relevant to even the most moderate Calvinist. I want us all to consider the idea of God using the preacher as not only a means of calling out His elect but also as a means of condemning the reprobate. We know that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. We also know that the elect are effectually and irresistibly called by God's Word, but is it also correct to say that by the means of preaching, the non-elect are condemned by hearing the preaching/preacher and never being called unto salvation? In short, can I as a preacher be the means God uses to save and also be the means that God uses to condemn? Am I being a means used to sending people to Hell? It seems like a simple idea but in many ways, at least to me, it is a sobering one.

    Your thoughts?
  2. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    It is a solemn thing to preach the gospel, as it is a savour of life to some,
    and a savour of death to others. John 12:37-41 which is taken from Is6 answers
    your question. Oh the onerous and solemn calling of preaching.
  3. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    God used Adam as the means to condemn men by the law. The Gospel is solely used to save some men. The gospel will be used used at the last day to merit a greater amount of punishment for the unelect that are within physical earshot, but it (The Gospel) is not used for reprobation.
  4. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    There is no confessional notion of God using means of grace to condemn.

    Canons of Dort, First Head of Doctrine, Article 15 makes it clear that reprobation involves that "some have not been chosen or have been passed by in God's eternal election." Read also the important article (16) that follows: Responses to the Teaching of Reprobation. Similarly the Westminster Confession of Faith, III.7 puts it this way: "the rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice."

    Now, if the question is simply, "will the sin of refusing the gospel call to repent and believe be part of that sin for which one is condemned?" The answer is clearly "yes." But it is not correct to say that the gospel is the means of their condemnation. Yes, it is a savour of life unto life and death unto death but it is not properly the "means" of their condemnation. God, in reprobation, does not choose them, but rather passes them by.

  5. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    But does not the truth harden,even as clay is hardened further by the sun?
    Does not the scripture emphasise that the Lord hardened Pharoah's heart
    numerous times and only twice that he hardened his own heart. Jameson-Fausset-Brown
    wrote,"That this expression(John12:40)is a positive divine act,by which those who
    willfully close their eyes and harden their hearts are judicially shut up in their
    unbelief and impenitence,is admitted by all candid critics.( Olhausen)
  6. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Dr. Strange, maybe it is a different kind of means? (I am not a logician.)

    If it is not a means of condemnation to the reprobate, then what is it a means to? It must be a means of something, right?
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Does 2 Cor. 2: 15-16 have any bearing?

  8. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I'm thinking Dr.Strange intends to safeguard the term "means (of grace)" unto its plain, verbal purpose. We ought not develop the thought that a thing created for a purpose, to be a particular means-to-an-end, is properly viewed as a "means" (a word with intention built in) to a different, or especially a contrary end.

    In other words, its a bad idea to think of the gospel, or the Word/sacraments/prayer as means of BOTH grace and condemnation, the intention being of God himself. They are not both things; but the means (intentions) by which men who reject such mercies are located in themselves.

    It is fair to use the term "means" in a more general way. The Westminster Confession (ch.5, Of Providence) does this very thing, but carefully, making these same distinctions between God's use of certain means, and the reprobate's use:
    Here's an example. A Q-Tip(TM) is a soft cotton swab glued to the end of a flexible straw formed as a "means" of gentle cleansing, generally speaking. If one also calls it "a means of death," because an assassin knows how to use such a thing in a deadly way, is to imply that putting packs of 200 of these on the shelves of a drugstore is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Gun-control advocates say similar things (with slightly more plausibility), but the falsity of the statement should be just as obvious. Gun manufacturers are not churning out "means of murder."
  9. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    It seems that the point that Rev. Strange is making is that since reprobation is God leaving men in their sins, no means are necessary to leave them where they already are. In contrast, the elect upon regeneration are taken from being under the wrath of God to a state of redemption and communion with God. Since this is a change, means are used to this end.

    I would agree that we can speak about means in different ways, but in keeping with the OP I think Rev. Strange's comments are very helpful.
  10. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    Quite right, brother. Foster: man in sin needs means of grace to extricate him from such, but not to leave him in it. None of our confessions (in either main tradition) view reprobation equivalently to election. Even if some Reformed theologians (arguably) have, the doctrinal standards, and thus the church in its corporate confessing, has not. They do not permit the same means of grace to be viewed equally as means of condemnation.

    I made it clear that I was speaking of "means of grace" as that is what the OP described. I certainly agree with WCF 5.6 and all that brother. Buchanan said (as well as others above, even as I had quoted, without citing, 2 Cor. 2:15-16). Yes, we can speak of matters in providence being for some means by which men harden themselves, acknowledging that under the same means God softens others. No disagreement with either of these.

    This simply does not mean, however, that preaching, for instance, is equally a means of grace and a means of condemnation. It's a means of grace and remains such. When someone despises and rejects it, it remains a means of grace that is despised and rejected. Are they accountable and answerable for such, and is this part of their condemnation (if they never repent)? Of course, but this does not convert the means of grace into something else.

    For years, I sat under the means of grace and it had the aroma of death to me because I did not receive it in faith. But when God regenerated me so that I believed and repented those same means were received beneficially by me. They were means of grace all along and never anything else, even if they only became the savor of life unto me when I believingly embraced Christ.

    Ah, you may say, but you were the elect! Yes, and who do we know the reprobate to be? We never know anyone--NOT A SINGLE PERSON--to be such. Many hearing the preacher may now and for a long time reject the gospel. We may never know if and when they embrace it. But this does not convert it into something other than the means of grace. Yes, the gospel will testify against all who reject it and we can say this: we can warn our hearers that if they don't repent the very means of grace that they reject will testify against them. But they remain even then means of grace rejected. This is what makes it so terrible. Let's keep these matters clear.

  11. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Last edited: Oct 9, 2015
  12. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks for this, Dr. Strange.
  13. OneOfHisElect

    OneOfHisElect Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks Y'all!
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