Report of the Study Committee: Process & Purpose of God’s Calling People to Salvation 
EDITOR’S NOTE: Conference approved the committee’s proposed legislation at Second Reading at the 2008 Conference.
FIRST READING – 2006. Minutes
Article 9 – Sin – Yes – 134, No – 8
Article 10 – Human Ability & Responsibility – Yes – 120, No – 24
Article 11 – Election – Yes 123, No – 22
Article 12 – Salvation – Yes 131, No – 14
Article 13 – Repentance – Yes – 137, No – 9
ELDER BOARDS OF THE CHURCHES – 2008. Minutes
Article 9 – Sin – Yes – 43, No – 9, Abstain – 1
Article 10 – Human Ability & Responsibility – Yes – 40, No – 13
Article 11 – Election – Yes 36, No – 17
Article 12 – Salvation – Yes 38, No – 15
Article 13 – Repentance – Yes – 41, No – 12
SECOND READING – 2008. Minutes
Article 9 – Sin – Yes – 135, No – 22
Article 10 – Human Ability & Responsibility – Yes – 137, No – 24
Article 11 – Election – Yes 119, No – 42, Abstain – 1
Article 12 – Salvation – Yes 123, No – 26
Article 13 – Repentance – Yes – 131, No – 19
The Study Committee on the Process and Purpose of God’s Calling People to Salvation met five times since last Annual Conference. The committee completed its assignment as directed by the 124th Annual Conference, which was to “provide exegetical studies on the proposed changes” in Articles 9-13 of our Articles of Faith (2007 Yearbook, p. 41). That report was distributed to the individual churches in early January 2008 as per the committee’s assignment, allowing individual boards of elders to vote prior to the 125th Annual Conference. A copy of those materials comprises Appendix A of this report.
The vote of the boards of elders on the proposed clarifications to the articles pertaining to salvation, to be followed by the anticipated vote of Annual Conference on the second reading material, will represent a definitive resolution to the committee’s work. Having fulfilled its assignment, this committee requests to be disbanded.
Resolved, that the second reading material pertaining to Articles 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 of the Articles of Faith be adopted.
Committee to Study Articles Pertaining to Salvation: Calvin T. Reed, Chairman; Ronald L. Kohl, Secretary; David T. Allen, Clifford B. Boone, Andrew T. Crossgrove, William G. Schlonecker, Arthur J. Simpson.
Appendix A: Exegetical study for 2008 Annual Conference
The Study Committee on the Process and Purpose of God’s Calling People to Salvation is circulating this exegetical material on the proposed clarifications to the Articles of Faith in fulfillment of its assignment given at the 124th Annual Conference.
Whereas, there has been considerable discussion at the 14th Annual Conference of the proposed changes to the Articles of Faith regarding salvation, and
Whereas, additional materials pertaining to these proposed changes are being prepared for circulation to the churches, and
Whereas, some Boards of Elders have already voted on the proposed changes and have reported these votes prior to the 124th Annual Conference, therefore be it
Resolved, that any Board of Elders desiring to change its position on these proposed changes in articles 9-13 prior to the 125th Annual Conference be allowed to do so, and that the revised position be considered to supersede any prior communication with respect to articles 801-3 and 801-4 of the Faith and Order.
Article 9 – Sin
Current article in Faith & Order
9-1. Sin is any lack of conformity to the will of God1 or any transgression of the law of God.2 Sin separates man from God, incurring His wrath and judgment, and it is manifest in the selfishness, rebellion, and total depravity of man’s conduct and behavior before God and man. Sin is the cause of the curse on and defilement of the created universe.3
9-1. “Sin is any lack of conformity to the will of God1 or any transgression of the law of God. 2 Sin separates man from God, incurring His wrath and judgment, and is manifest in the selfishness, rebellion, unbelief and total depravity of man’s being.3 Sin is the cause of the curse on and defilement of the created universe.” 4
1 All wrongdoing is sin (1Jo.5:17a). Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins (James 4:17).
2 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness (1Jo.3:4). For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10).
3 “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, (2) in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air. (3) All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” (Eph. 2:1-3). “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, (19) since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. (20) For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (21) For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Rom.1:18-21). Also Rom. 3:10-12, Rom. 8:7-8.
4 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time (Rom.8:22). (See also Gen.3:17,18).
Scripture tells us that sin manifests itself in several ways. Selfishness and rebellion are two by-products of man’s inability to conform to the will of God and his eagerness to transgress the law of God. The Bible teaches that sin manifests itself in unbelief. Unbelief, the lack of belief, or choosing not to exhibit faith in Jesus Christ and the truths of the Gospel, is regarded as a manifestation of sin.
As Article 10-1, Human Ability and Responsibility, states that man acts “only in accordance with his fallen, sinful nature,” he is still responsible for properly responding in obedience to all of God’s commands, one of which is to believe. In Acts 16:30, the Philippian jailer asks, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? In response, Paul and Silas answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31) While man “acts only in accordance with his fallen, sinful nature,” he is at the same time responsible for obedience. But he rejects the truths of the Gospel, choosing not to believe.
Ultimately, unbelief is a rejection of truth, a rejection of what Paul says in Romans 1 is self-evident. God has made plain His “eternal power and divine nature” by what He has created, so that men are “without excuse” for not believing (Rom.1:20). And yet man rejects the truth in unbelief. Paul writes that God’s wrath is “being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Rom.1:18).
The sinful nature of unbelief appears elsewhere in Scripture. In 2 Thessalonians 2:12, Paul writes, “…all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” It is not only the unrepentant sinner’s pleasures in committing unrighteousness that is sinful, but his failure to believe the truth about Christ is also sinful.
Hebrews 3:16-19 adds that the punishment of those who were not allowed, at the end of the Exodus, to enter the Promised Land, was not just because they “rebelled” and “were disobedient” but because they lacked faith. The sinfulness of this absence of faith is clearly seen by the writer’s statement that those “whose bodies fell in the desert” were identified as “those who sinned” (Heb.3:17). And what is his conclusion? “So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief” (Heb.3:19). Sin, then, does not just manifest itself in man’s selfishness and rebellion. It also manifests itself in unbelief in the truths about God, the truths of the Gospel.
Unbelief, the rejection of truth, is a manifestation of the corruption of his intellect and will. Unregenerate man rejects that which Paul writes in Romans 1 has been revealed to him. As Paul further writes in Romans 1:25, the unregenerate have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie…”
Our clarifications assert that the total depravity of man’s being affect his entire nature. Conduct and behavior are only part of the greater whole: that man’s being is totally depraved. It is not the act of sin (“conduct and behavior”) that makes man a sinner. He is already sinful, born with a sin nature. The Scriptures teach that we are sinful at our very core, courtesy of the failure of our original parent, Adam.
Scripture supports this in both the Old and New Testaments.
Adam’s fall had serious consequence for all of mankind. In Genesis 8:21, God says of man, “every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.” The word “childhood” does not suggest that man is born without sin until childhood, but that sinful man does not have to be taught evil; he does evil instinctively, even from early in life. Evil is not a matter of environment or of poor parenting; it comes from sinful man’s sinful nature – from his very being.
David, in reflecting upon his own sins in the Bathsheba-Uriah debacle, wrote of the sinfulness of his own nature. In Psalm 51:5, he wrote, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Elsewhere, in Psalm 58:3, David wrote, “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.”
It is not that David is denigrating this wickedness to one class of people: the wicked. He was saying that wickedness is not something that is taught but something into which one is born; all are wicked directly from the womb because all are born into sin.
This line of argumentation is strengthened and elaborated upon in the New Testament in Paul’s writings.
In Romans 5, Paul drew several distinctions between the original Adam and the new or second or last Adam, Christ, to show that we bear the consequences of a sinful nature courtesy of the fall of Adam. In Romans 5:12, he wrote, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…” He added, in Rom. 5:18, “…as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men.”
In Ephesians 2:3, Paul provided specifics in terms of the widespread effects of sin’s stain. “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful natures and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”
It is not just our conduct and behavior that condemn us, but our nature and our very being that are “totally depraved.” Total depravity does not mean that we are as bad as we possibly could be, but that depravity has extended to every area of our nature. We act, not out of our environment or nurture, but according to our nature, which is inherently sinful.
So while sin manifests itself in man’s conduct and behavior, its root is man’s entire being, which produces sinful conduct and behavior. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we have a sinful nature.
Article 10 – Human Ability and Responsibility
Current article in Faith & Order
10-1 In his original creation man was endowed with the ability to will and do good or evil and was accountable for his willing and doing.1 But by the fall of Adam man lost his ability, apart from God’s grace,2 to will and to do those things necessary for a right relationship with God;3 however, he is still accountable to God for obedience to all of His commands.4 Man has not lost his ability to make decisions,5 but left to himself, he acts only in accordance with his fallen, sinful nature.6
10-2 Only by God’s infinite grace can man will or do anything necessary to his salvation.7 By that grace, God saves men8 whom He causes to will and to do good; however, He does this without nullifying man’s ability to act responsibly.9
10-1 In his original creation man was endowed with the ability to will and do good or evil and was accountable for his willing and doing.1 But through the fall of Adam man lost his ability, apart from God’s grace,2 to will and to do those things necessary for a right relationship with God;3 however, he is still accountable to God for obedience to all of His commands.4 Man has not lost his ability to make decisions,5 but left to himself, he acts only in accordance with his fallen, sinful nature.6
10-2 “Only by God’s infinite grace can man will or do anything necessary to his salvation. 7 By that grace, God saves those men whom He causes to will and to do good;8 however, He does this without nullifying man’s ability to act responsibly. 9
1 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Gen.2:16,17).
2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath (Eph.2:1-3).
3 There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God (Rom.3:11). Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God (Rom.8:8).
4 God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (Rom.2:6-10). In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).
5 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (Deu.30:11,19).
6 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Rom.3:10,12). Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil (Jer.13:23). (See also footnote 2).
7 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy (Rom.9:16).
8 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (James 1:18) Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – (13) children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)
9 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Phil.2:12,13).
In Genesis 2, after placing Adam in the Garden of Eden, God said to him, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die (Gen. 2:16-17).”
Scripture tells us that God created man, both male and female, in His image, and with this command it is clear that God created man with the ability to obey or to rebel against God. Man had the ability to will and to do good or evil. But in Genesis 3, Satan planted seeds of deception. Adam and Eve willfully chose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:6). Their fellowship with God was broken, and they hid from God (Gen. 3:8). But God in His mercy found them in their hiding. He convicted them of sin, brought judgment upon them, and covered them through sacrifice (Gen.3).
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned”…“Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation”…“…just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men (Rom. 5:12, 16, 18).” The Psalmist declared, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me (Ps. 51:5).” Therefore, it is clear from Scripture that through the sin of Adam, each of his offspring is born in sin. The changing of the word “by” to “through” in Article 10 conveys the universal effect of Adam’s sin on the entire human race.
The addition of the word those, so that the sentence reads, “God saves those men …” flows out of John 1:12-13 and James 1:18. John wrote, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” And James wrote, “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created.” This wording is consistent with Article 11-2, Election, which states “those so chosen He redeems by His Son and seals by His Spirit.”
Article 11 – Election
Current article in Faith & Order
11-1. Election is a free act of the sovereign God in which from eternity,1 for reasons known only to Himself,2 and apart from any goodness in man3 He graciously chose from among the fallen mankind a people unto salvation,4 that they might be conformed to Christ’s image.4 Those so chosen He redeemed5 by His Son and seals by His Spirit.6
11-1 Election is a free act of the sovereign God in which from eternity, 1 for reasons known only to Himself, 2 and apart from any foreseen faith and/or goodness found in man, 3 He graciously chose from among the fallen mankind a people unto salvation, 4 that they might be conformed to Christ’s image. 4 Those so chosen He redeemed by His Son5 and seals by His Spirit. 6
1 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Eph.1:4,11).
2 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mat.11:27).
3 Who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time (2 Tim.1:9). For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)
4 Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph.4:13).
5 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth (2 Thes.2:13).
6 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit (Eph.1:13).
The present article on election states that God chose for “reasons known only to Himself.” To postulate that God chooses individuals on the basis of foreseen faith is to posit the reason for God choosing whom He does. In fact, it is asserted by those who hold to a “foreseen faith” position that we as humans know the reason why God chooses whom He does, namely foreseen faith, and that the reason is not just known by God, but He has revealed it in His Word.
What is a foreseen faith position? It is the belief that in eternity past God looked down the corridor of time and chose those people to salvation whom He knew would respond in faith when the gospel was preached. For example, Henry C. Thiessen states, “By election we mean that sovereign act of God in grace whereby He chose in Christ Jesus for salvation all those whom He foreknew would accept Him” (p. 344, Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdman’s, 1949). Therefore, God chose those whom He knew ahead of time would choose Him. This is conditional election. It explains the condition upon which God made His choice. His choice was predicated upon man’s choice. In essence His choice did not govern man’s decision, but man’s choice governed God’s decision. (Note: for a classic definition of the foreseen faith position, see p. 72, Perspectives on Election: Five Views, Chad Owen Brand, gen. ed, Nashville, Broadman & Holman, 2006.) In C. Gordon Olson’s book, p. 272, Olson states, “…it becomes clear the repentant faith is that which God foresees as the basis of the pre-appointment of His saints.” (C. Gordon Olson, Getting the Gospel Right: A Balanced View of Salvation Truth, Global Gospel Publishers, Cedar Knolls, NJ, 2005)
Question: Why doesn’t the BFC believe that the foreseen faith position is in keeping with the teaching of the Scriptures?
There are a number of reasons why the BFC does not believe that the foreseen faith view is in keeping with the Scriptures. We will move from the general to the specific in answering that question.
First, such an interpretation does injustice to the most basic concept of God’s making His choice before the foundation of the world.
In Ephesians 1:3-6, Paul wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (4) For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love (5) He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will—(6) to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One he loves.”
The very idea that God chose us before we were even created is intended to convey to us God’s primacy in this choice and man’s lack of involvement in God’s choice. God chose us before we even existed. The thought is that we are a blessed people because God chose us. There is nothing said about our choosing God or God predicating His choice on our choice because we did not exist when God made His choice.
Furthermore, we are told in the book of Romans that God chose Jacob before Jacob and Esau were born. “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad–in order that God’s purpose in election might stand (Rom. 9:11).”
The reason for stating that God’s choice took place before they were born is to drive home the fact it was apart from any goodness that was found in them. This is communicated in the words “done anything good or bad.”
“Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad–in order that God’s purpose in election might stand… (Rom. 9:11).”
This is what is meant in the article when it states that God chose apart from any goodness or faith found in man. The word “found” is intended to communicate originating in man.
The basis for God’s choice is rooted in His purpose. The reason that this choice was made before they were born is so that God’s choice would not rest in a difference between them, but solely in His purpose.
Again, Romans 9:11 says, “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad–in order that God’s purpose in election might stand:”
God had a purpose in choosing whom He chose. The distinction was found in God’s purpose, not in those whom He chose. They had not done anything bad or good to provide the basis for God’s election. His choice was not based on “merit” but on His sovereign prerogative to choose whom He would.
In Romans 9:12-13, Paul adds, “not by works but by him who calls–she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ (13) Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’”
[An aside: Much has been written on this subject of God’s love for Jacob and God’s hatred of Esau. There is a sense in which God loves all humanity and there is a sense in which God has a special love (a redeeming love) for His own. In a comparative way, God’s love for all humanity seems to us like hatred in contrast to the love He has for the redeemed.
For example, note Luke 14:26 (NASB): “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Love for God is contrasted with love to one’s father, mother or children. The point is not that we are to fail to love our children, but rather that our love for God must surpass the love that we have for our children.
It is profound that the admonition that husbands are to love their wives is founded upon Christ’s love of the church. Eph 5:25 (NASB) stresses, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” We know that we are to love all mankind, including our enemies. That does not, however, mitigate the fact that we are to love our own wives, in a unique way, distinguishable from our love for others, in keeping with Christ’s unique love for His church.]
Returning to Paul’s argument in Romans 9, it is significant that in Scripture, Paul anticipates the objection that if election is true, then God must be unjust. Romans 9:14 says, “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!”
Why is such an objection anticipated? If God’s choice were predicated on knowing what mankind’s choice would be, and He simply chose those whom He knew ahead of time would choose Him, from where would the accusation of injustice come? But God did not predicate His choice upon man’s choice! That is why God’s justice is addressed.
Now, why isn’t God unjust? Note that the text, in addressing the anticipated charge that God is unjust, says nothing about “foreseen faith.” In fact, it heads in the exact opposite direction. The person who is saved does not get what he deserves. Instead, he gets mercy and compassion. Note Romans 9:15 – “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.
It is God’s sovereign prerogative to dispense mercy as He wills. Romans 9:15 says, “For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
Why does God choose one person over another? What distinguishes one person from receiving mercy and another from not receiving mercy in God’s choice? Often the reply is, “Because one person has a faith that is foreseen by God and the other person does not.” But Scripture clearly denies that God chooses an individual for salvation as a result of knowing that such a person will desire to be saved.
Romans 9:16 says, “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” The NASB translates it this way: “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”
Literally, the whole point of the passage is that God’s choice is sovereign, independent of mankind.
Now, note the next anticipated objection. If God makes His choice independent of man’s choice, and God’s choice governs man’s choice, then why does God find fault with mankind? Romans 9:19 says, “One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who resists His will?’”
That question would never be raised if man’s will or choice were the determining factor in God’s choice. And if man’s pre-known faith were the determining factor in God’s choice, then we would certainly expect any misconception to be cleared up. In other words, we would expect the text to state, “You don’t understand; man’s pre-known faith is the reason that God chooses whom He does.”
However, that is not where the text leads. Rather, it addresses the inappropriateness of our finding fault with God. It is not our place to pass judgment upon God. God passes judgment upon us. Romans 9:20 says, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'”
The text points back to a question of rights. What right does God have to make a choice that governs man’s choice? That is a key issue for those who hold to a “foreseen faith” view. Notice how the Scripture answers that anticipated charge. Romans 9:21 says, “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?”
The Creator has the right to do what He wills with His creation. That response is not welcomed by many; however, that is what God’s Word says, and who are we “to talk back to God?” (Romans 9:20)
Then, it is objected, mankind is reduced to nothing more than a puppet or a robot. Some people argue that certainly there is no question that God would not treat us like robots, thereby violating our “free will.” Notice what the above text says. It likens mankind to clay, an inanimate object that is fashioned or molded by the potter, our creator God. Romans 9:21 says (NASB), “Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?”
The text does not speak of mankind’s free and pre-known choices. It speaks of a sovereign God exercising His authority over an object that is made by Him and fashioned by Him.
But what is often lost in Romans 9:21 is a very important statement. That which distinguishes what becomes of the clay is not a difference within the clay. It is not that there are two lumps of clay that differ one from another. There is but only one lump of clay. The point is that there is not some intrinsic difference found in the clay. For example, one lump of clay has a faith that is foreseen and another lump of clay does not have a faith that is foreseen. The lump is the same lump! Rather, the distinction lies solely in the choice of the potter.
“Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?”
Some would assert that election in this instance is not election to salvation but election to service. “All agree that the theme of divine election is the main point, but the disagreement is over the nature of this election. Specifically, is Paul talking about election to salvation or election to service?” (Perspectives on Election: Five Views, Chad Owen Brand, gen. ed., p. 123)
However, the entire context of chapters 9-11 has to do with salvation. Rom 9:2-5 says, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.”
Scripture speaks of a remnant being saved, not a remnant being called into service. Romans 9:27 says, “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.’”
In the context of the passage, Paul’s desire has to do with Israel’s salvation, not Israel’s service. Romans 10:1 says, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.
Note that the conclusion of Paul’s argument has to do with salvation, not service. Romans 11:26 says, “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.’”
This is a passage addressing the issue of God’s election as it relates to salvation. It is an explanation of how God’s promises have not failed. God did not promise that every physical descendant of Abraham and Jacob would be saved, but rather that the spiritual descendants of Abraham and Jacob would be saved. “It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel (Romans 9:6).”
The issue is who are God’s children and who are not God’s children. Note Romans 9:8 – “In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.
Question: Specifically, why doesn’t the BFC hold to a foreseen faith view of election when Romans 8:29 states the following: “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. (30) And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.”
It should be noted that the text states that foreknowledge has to do with respect to individuals. “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
Secondly, it should be noted what is absent from the text. The text does not include the words “would believe or have faith.”
It states: “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
It does not state: “For those God foreknew (would believe) He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” The text states that God foreknew the person, not the person’s faith. The text says nothing about knowing the person’s faith.
On this particular issue C. Gordon Olson writes, “In Romans 8:29 it is probable that God’s foreknowledge about something about those who love God is built into the Greek, although not obvious in English. But it is in the context, not just these verses, but the context of the whole, which strongly suggests that faith is that which God foreknows about His people.” (Olson, Getting the Gospel Right, p. 272. Note: the italics are in the original.)
We have already demonstrated that there is nothing in the broader context that points to God having made His choice based on a foreseen faith residing in those whom He chose. Olson affirms that God’s foreknowledge about something about those who love God is not obvious in the English. We agree that God’s foreknowledge about something about those who love God is not obvious in the English. We disagree that it is probably built into the Greek. His assertion that it is “probable” that it is “built into the Greek” is wrong. It is not “built into the Greek” any more than it is present in the English. Further, Olson does not demonstrate any way that it is “built into the Greek.”
Rather than adding words to the text, the text should be read as it appears: namely, that God knew people ahead of time, not that God knew something about people ahead of time!
The word “foreknow,” like its cognate “know,” has a broad range of meaning. However, in our context, the word “foreknow” has the emphasis of having an “intimate knowledge” or “relationship with” before hand.
There is a very important distinction in Scripture between God “knowing people” and God “knowing about people.”
Note how the Bible uses the word “know” as relationship. There are people that the Scripture refers to as God not knowing. In Matthew 7:22-23, Jesus said, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ (23) Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!’”
When it states that Jesus never “knew” them, it does not mean that He was unaware of them or that He did not know all about them. It means that He never had a relationship to or with them. Just as there were people that Jesus did not “know,” so, too, there are people that God does not foreknow. Romans 8:29 says, “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” If there are people that God foreknew, that He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, and if not everyone is predestined to become conformed to the likeness of His Son, then there must be some people that God did not foreknow.
There are people who God does uniquely know. Jesus speaks of them in John 10:14-15. “I am the good shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know me – (15) just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father – and I lay down My life for the sheep.”
The text does not simply mean that the good shepherd “knows about” the sheep. The way in which Jesus “knows” the sheep is likened unto the way that the Father “knows” His Son and His Son “knows” the Father. “…Just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father–and I lay down My life for the sheep.”
Jesus is not simply stating that He is cognitive of the Father or knows something about the Father. He is speaking of an intimate, personal relationship with the Father – in the same way that He “knows” conveys an intimate personal relationship with His sheep.
Furthermore, the idea of being “known” by God as referring to relationship is seen in Galatians 4. “But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? (Gal.4:9)”
When Paul speaks of the Galatians knowing God, he does not mean that they know about God but rather they have a personal relationship to God.
We often use the terminology “to know” in reference to “an intimate, personal relationship.” We might say to someone, “Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior?” or simply, “Do you know the Lord?” What we mean is, “Do you have a relationship to the Lord?” We do not mean, “Do you know something about the Lord?”
Now look at the emphasis of Galatians 4:9. It is not so much that you have a relationship to God but that God has a relationship to you. “But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are known by God. The clear implication is that there are some who do not know God, and – more importantly – He does not know them. He does not have a saving relationship to them.
Again, the word “foreknow” is used of relationship in Romans 11. “God did not reject His people, whom He foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah – how he appealed to God against Israel…”
Again, note what the text does not state. It does not state, “God did not reject His people, whom he foreknew (would believe).”
There is nowhere in Scripture where the term “foreknow” is followed by the words, “would believe” or “have faith.” Thus the obvious reading of the verse makes very good sense.
We should not read into the text the words “would believe” when the text makes very good sense as written. Furthermore, to supply the words “would believe” leads the text of Romans 8:29 into a whole different arena. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
The text is to be understood as those whom God knew ahead of time, not those whom God knew about ahead of time. It is a description of the relationship that God had to a people even before He created them.
Wherein does this relationship consist? Again, look at Romans 8:29-30. “… He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (30) And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.”
The explanation for our salvation is that God chose to have a relationship to the elect even before the foundation of the world. Those with whom He chose to have a unique relationship, He predestined, called, justified and glorified. The text is not intending to convey that, before the foundation of the world, God knew who would have faith and who would not have faith, and thereby chose between individuals on that basis.
The BFC in general and the committee in particular realizes that there are differing views on election within Christendom. That is one reason for the need to declare ourselves clearly as to what the Bible Fellowship Church’s position is on election. We hold our view not out of ignorance of other views or a lack of consideration of the Scriptures. Quite to the contrary, knowing that there are other views, and that this subject is of great importance, the clarifications are offered.
It was our intention to address a basic understanding of Romans 8 and following passages to demonstrate that the “foreseen faith” view is inconsistent with an exegesis of the passage. This study was not intended to be exhaustive. There are many excellent sources that are available for further study. Two books that the Committee recommends are Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul and Perspectives on Election: Five Views (Edited by Chad Owen Brand with five contributors). In the latter work, various views on election are presented and critiqued. The various contributors interact with each other in a helpful manner. Chapter 1 represents the view held by the Bible Fellowship Church.
Article 12 – Salvation
Current article in Faith & Order
12-1. Salvation is offered in the gospel to all men1 and is received by grace through faith and the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit,2 apart from works or human merit.3 Salvation centers in a person, Jesus Christ, and receiving Him4 includes the remission of sins on the grounds of His shed blood,5 the imputation of His perfect righteousness,6 the reception of the Holy Spirit,7 and the impartation of eternal life.8
12-1. Salvation is the work of God1 in which He reconciles fallen men to Himself,2ultimately removes the consequences of the curse, 3 and bestows upon His redeemed Creation4 the riches of His grace, all to His glory. 5
12-2. Salvation is offered in the gospel to all men6 and is accomplished in all the elect.7 It is received by grace through faith and the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit,8 apart from works or human merit.9 Salvation centers in a person, Jesus Christ, and receiving Him10 includes the remission of sins on the grounds of His shed blood, 11 the imputation of His perfect righteousness,12 the reception of the Holy Spirit, 13 and the impartation of eternal life. 14
1 Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Heb. 7:25) Also Eph. 2:4-5, 8-9.
2 “Through Him to reconcile all things to Himself…” (Col. 1:20) For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! (Rom. 5:10)
3No longer will there be any curse. (Rev. 22:3)
4 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Rom. 8:18-25)
5 I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own Sake, and remembers your sins no more. (Isaiah 43:25)
6 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
7 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44) For you granted him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given him. (John 17:2) When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all those who were appointed for eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)
8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8).
9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph.2:8,9).
10 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
11 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (Eph.1:7).
12 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption (1 Cor.1:30).
13 And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ (Rom.8:9b).
14 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11, 12).
The original article in the Faith & Order presumed that everyone who read it had a working knowledge of what salvation really is. The original authors of this article were not alone, for many systematic theologies do the same thing. Since this current committee was charged with making clear our understanding of the various aspects of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), this particular article was noted as missing a foundational definition. The definition that was added became the first paragraph of the article as the previous wording assumed a working definition of salvation.
There was only one change made within the previous wording, and that was simply to make sure that all who read it would understand that God’s work and God’s will shall ultimately be accomplished here on earth, just as it is in heaven. The explanation of this expanded definition of salvation will be done phrase by phrase, as found in the new Article 12-1 – Salvation.
 Salvation is the work of God
What is salvation? It is a work of God. It is not an act of mankind. There are no less than 158 verses within the Bible that speak to this fact. From Genesis 49:18 (NASB), “For Thy salvation I said, O Lord” to Revelation 19:1 (NASB), “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,” this theme is repeated.
That salvation from God was understood can be seen in Jonah 2:9, where within the belly of the great fish, Jonah said, “Salvation is from the Lord.” The writers of the Psalms knew this, as three times we read similar thoughts, among them, ‘Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Psa.3:9), and “Let the God of my salvation be exalted (Psa.18:46, KJV), and “He only is my rock and my salvation (Psa.62:2).” Whether it be physical, temporal or spiritual, “my salvation comes from Him” (Psa.62:1, NIV).
When Simeon held the incarnate baby in his hands, he said, ‘Sovereign Lord…my eyes have seen Your salvation,” (Luke 2:28-29, NIV). The apostle Paul, while in Rome, made the observation to his Jewish brothers that “the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles” (Acts 28:28, KJV).
To the church in Rome, Paul wrote that the gospel of Christ “is the power of God for salvation to every one who believes,” (Rom.1:16, NASB). It was the apostle John who was given a glimpse of the future in heaven, where 144,000 Jewish men “cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb,’” (Rev.7:10, NIV).
Both the Hebrew word for salvation (jeshua) and the Greek word for salvation (soteria) carry a meaning that includes the concept of someone who is able, rescuing someone who needs help. It is God who provides salvation. This can be clearly seen in the three verses selected to substantiate this statement. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” And in Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”
 In which He reconciles fallen man to Himself
What exactly is God doing in this work called salvation? He reconciles sinful men to Himself. Several questions could be asked: What is reconciliation? Why do fallen men need reconciling? And who gets reconciled to whom?
The answer to the first question is found in the definition of the word reconcile. The simple dictionary definition of this word is “to restore to friendship or harmony” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary). That seems to be straightforward. The harmony that man had with God was lost in the Fall. Our Faith and Order, Article 8-2, states, “Our first parents did not remain in the glorious and happy state of their original creation, but, through the subtlety and deception of the devil, they disobeyed and transgressed the command of God the Creator, incurring on themselves and their posterity the sentence of spiritual and physical death.” Thus they lost friendship and harmony with God.
Fallen men need reconciling because they are enemies to God. The sin of Adam, inherent within all of his descendants, separates fallen men from a holy and righteous God. In Adam, all died. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” There is nothing that we can do to remove this sinful nature. So God provided the means of reconciliation through Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17 says, “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”
God reconciled the world to Himself. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 says, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” God has made reconciliation possible through the death of His Son. The two verses selected to illustrate this point, Colossians 1:20 and Romans 5:10, clearly illustrate God’s action in reconciliation which was the provision of salvation for sinners, for fallen men. God planned and provided salvation as the means of reconciliation for sinful men.
 ultimately removes the consequences of the curse
When Adam sinned, the original creation was subjected to the effects of that sin. God told Adam and Eve, “Cursed is the ground because of you…both thorns and thistles shall grow for you…till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen.3:17-19).
The consequences of the curse were felt throughout the world. All creation has suffered as a result. Romans 8:20-22 says, “For the creation was subjected to futility; not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it…its slavery to corruption…the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” When God’s plan of salvation, of reconciliation and of restoration is complete, the curse will be lifted and the earth returned to its original condition.
 and bestows upon His redeemed Creation the riches of His grace
The apostle Paul wrote, in Romans 8:20-21, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” He certainly expected a day to come when God’s redemption would be complete and the abundant riches of God’s grace would be provided to mankind as well as all of God’s creation. For God’s original creative acts were seen by God as “good.” Someday, it will all be “good” again.
 all to His glory.
The plan of salvation that God purposed in His heart before the foundation of the world has as its chief end His glory. God’s provision of a Savior, His only Son, will someday be exalted and His name will be above every name, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Phil.2:10).
In Article 12-2 (currently Article 12-1), there is only one phrase added to the existing paragraph – “and is accomplished in all the elect.” The study committee added this phrase to bring clarity to the paragraph. The phrase is in keeping with the articles on Election, Human Ability & Responsibility, and Perseverance of the Saints.
Salvation as an act of God is a certainty for those who are drawn by the Father and believe. In John 6:37, Jesus says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never drive away.” Those whom God gives will most assuredly be saved; this is the foregone conclusion of this phrase.
Acts 13:48 says, “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” This speaks of God’s appointment, calling, or election of individuals unto salvation. There was no one who had been appointed for eternal life who failed to believe. The point of this passage is that salvation is not just for Jews but also for Gentiles. God is indeed working salvation in the Gentiles as well as in the Jews, and not one Jew or Gentile who was appointed for eternal life failed to believe.
The word appointed in Acts 13:48, in the original Greek, is a perfect passive plural participle. Perfect tense suggests a completed past act whose effects carry to the present. In other words, appointed is a one-time act whereby God determined, or set in place, salvation for these individuals. They believed because they were appointed. They were not appointed because they believed. The certitude of their salvation rests in divine appointment. The individuals who believed were appointed in a one-time act of God’s choosing, resulting in them being brought to the point of exercising faith. The Father appointed, or chose, these Gentiles for salvation. He gave them to Jesus, and they believed. John 17:2 says, “For You granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those You have given Him.”
This phrase (“and is accomplished in all the elect”) completes and affirms all that is written in our Faith and Order about God’s election, man’s responsibility, and perseverance of the saints.
Article 13 – Repentance
Current article in Faith & Order
13-1. Repentance unto life is a voluntary act of man,1 accomplished by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. Repentance consists in a knowledge of sin,2 a sense of guilt and corruption that results in the confession and forsaking of sin and a turning to God.3
13-1. Repentance unto life is a gift of God1 and a voluntary act of man,2 accomplished by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. Repentance consists in a knowledge of sin, 3 a sense of guilt and corruption that results in the confession and forsaking of sin and a turning to God4 that results in loving, obedient service. 5
1 Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? (Rom. 2:4) When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”(Acts 11:18) 2 Tim. 2:25 “correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of truth . . .”
2 And repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47). In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).
3 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8).
4 For they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thess.1:9).
5 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph. 2:10) We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 1:3)
In a previous paper distributed by the committee, it was shown that the two wording additions that the committee is suggesting are indeed consistent with other statements found in the Faith & Order. We now turn our attention to the exegetical support for these wording additions.
The exegetical support for the wording change “a gift of God” can be seen in the meaning of the word “grant” or “granted,” and in the Scriptural occurrences of that word in conjunction with the idea of repentance. The word “grant” or “granted” is from the Greek word didomi. The straightforward meaning of this word is “to give” or “to grant.” There is no reason found anywhere in the New Testament which suggests any alternate meaning to the word.
In four verses, the word “granted” or “grant” is used in reference to repentance.
John 6:65 says (NASB), “And He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.’”
It is our understanding that repentance is involved in “coming to Christ.” Thus, repentance would be included in Jesus’ statement in John 6:65. The “coming to Christ” is a gift – it is given by the Father.
Acts 5:31 says of Christ, “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins (NASB).” This verse shows that the exalted Christ gives repentance to Israel. Repentance is given – thus, it can be considered a gift.
Acts 11:18 says (NASB), “When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” This verse expresses the fact that repentance is given by God to Gentiles. Thus again, repentance is given – and therefore it can rightly be considered a gift.
Finally, 2 Timothy 2:25 says (NASB), “… with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth…” This verse expresses the idea that repentance is granted by God to individuals – and thus is a gift of God.
So “coming to Christ” is given by God (John 6:65); and repentance is given by God (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25).
Possible objections to the above-stated biblical justifications for inserting the words “a gift of God” into our statement on repentance are as follows:
1. Some suggest that repentance is not implied in the process of “coming to Christ” that is referred to in John 6:65. If both faith and repentance are considered necessary for entering into a saving relationship with God through Christ, then repentance is indeed included in “coming to Christ.”
2. Some suggest that Acts 5:31 is referring to a general offer of repentance given to the nation of Israel and thus does not refer to individuals. See #3 below.
3. Some suggest that Acts 11:18 is an acknowledgement by Jewish converts that the Gentiles also have been given repentance – and therefore they were not referring to individuals receiving repentance as a gift, but to the Gentiles as a group receiving the same offer that the Jews had received. It is true that this reference is speaking of the Gentiles as a whole, and Acts 5:31 is speaking of Israel as a whole, but it is predicated upon examples of individuals in whom the Spirit of God clearly worked and brought to faith. Our point is that repentance is explained as being “granted.” Thus, even in the context of speaking of groups of people, repentance is explained as something that comes from God and not from within the people who repent.
4. Some would then argue from Acts 5:31 and Acts 11:18 that if repentance was granted to groups of people, it must not be a repentance that is effective in the elect. They would further argue that if the whole group is granted repentance, then it must be referring to an offer of repentance, not actual personal repentance. But there is nothing in either of these texts that says the whole group, either Gentiles or Jews, is granted repentance. Rather, the texts demonstrate that a Gentile in whom the Spirit of God has granted repentance is to be accepted as part of the people of God.
5. Some suggest that 2 Timothy 2:25 is referring to heretical teachers and not to normal individuals, therefore it isn’t applicable to everyone. We answer this with the reminder that all members of mankind are “in opposition” (2 Tim.2:25, NASB) to the Gospel until God savingly works in them. Nowhere in Scripture are heretics considered fundamentally different from the rest of mankind and therefore in need of a different and unique path to salvation. This objection suggests that heretics are granted repentance as a gift, but other sinners are not. No other passage of Scripture supports such a view. 2 Timothy 2:25 certainly does support the understanding that repentance is a gift to individuals from God.
6. Some suggest that the command to repent presupposes an ability to respond and therefore it is a mockery to say that we are to command repentance from all men while knowing that God grants repentance only to the elect. It is important to note that this suggestion and resulting conclusion does not come directly from Scriptural exegesis, but rather from the logic and thinking processes of those who hold that view. Our response to this suggestion is to refer to Article 10, Human Ability & Responsibility, in which the BFC has acknowledged both man’s inability to make decisions except in accordance with his sinful nature and man’s accountability for obedience. It is not the committee’s intent, nor is it within the purview of our assignment, to explain how these apparent contradictions are resolved in the mind of God in reference to repentance. We merely contend that the Scripture does indeed present repentance as being given to individuals by God and is therefore a gift of God.
We conclude from the passages in Scripture which join the concept of repentance with the word “grant” that repentance is indeed a gift from God to individuals, both Jews and Gentiles.
The exegetical support for the wording change “that results in loving, obedient service,” although evident in many Scripture passages, is especially notable in the following three verses:
Matthew 3:8 – “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance…”
Luke 3:8 – “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”
Acts 26:20 – “First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.”
In the above three passages, the person who is professing repentance is required to exhibit fruit or deeds. The fruit or deeds are described as being “in keeping with” or “appropriate to” repentance. Thus, there is no such thing as genuine repentance that does not have with it appropriate fruit. We chose the words “loving obedient service” as that which succinctly summarizes the essence of the fruit.
We conclude from the passages of Scripture that join the concept of repentance with the necessity of fruit and noticeable deeds that it is important and entirely appropriate to include the words “that results in loving obedient service” in Article 13.
The members of this study committee unanimously approve this report.