Tag Archives: Jon Mitchell

Reconciliation With God — Jon Mitchell, Interim Editor (Editorial: October, 2014)

The weeping prophet pleaded, “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored!” (Lam. 5:21). In a sense, the entire message of Genesis through Revelation can be summed up in the concept of restoration…Jehovah reconciling man to himself. We see God’s plea with us in the inspired pen of Paul when he wrote his second letter to Corinth: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). His love for us is so great, his compassion so deep, his kindness so beyond comparison, that he was willing to give his only begotten Son for our redemption (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16).

Our Father is the source of “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17). His love for man is so far-reaching that he sends blessings every day even upon those of us who reject him and do not even try to follow his ways (Matt. 5:44-48), which in the end will be the majority of his creation (Matt. 7:13-14). The plate of food for which the atheist refuses to give thanks to a God he refuses to acknowledge, each breath of air taken by Muslims who adhere to corrupted views of their Creator…all come willingly and freely from a God who loves them in spite of themselves, a God who freely offers us all the gift of salvation and eternal life which none of us deserve (Rom. 6:23; Tit. 2:11).

Yet it takes two for complete reconciliation to occur. God’s hand has always been outstretched from Eden until today, and will continue to be held out for us until the day of judgment. Are we willing to take his hand and allow him to pull us back to his side? We are given the choice as to whom we will serve (Josh. 24:15). The Almighty is pleading with us to make the right choice. The apostle wrote, “Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor. 6:1). God loves us with all his being, and only asks that we do the same by submitting our lives to his will (Matt. 22:37; John 14:15; Rom. 12:1-2).

How Satan tries to deceive us into thinking that we can offer God less than our all and still be restored to him…and how sad it is that he succeeds more times than not! From the beginning God’s followers have often wrestled with the sin of giving him lukewarm, mediocre service (Rev. 3:14-22; Mal. 1:6-9). We love the idea of God saving us from our sins by his grace…and yet we also love to follow own desires instead of his! This leads us to believe Satan’s lie that we are still reconciled to God even if we unrepentantly and rebelliously usurp his authority and turn away from his commandments (Rom. 6:1-2; Heb. 10:26-31; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Friends, our Father in heaven has done and continues to do more than enough to bring us back to him. His hand is outstretched. We must take hold of it by giving to him what is rightfully his…our lives, our service, our obedience.

Jon

 

Unconditional Election – Jon Mitchell

If one holds to the doctrine of Total Hereditary Depravity and thereby believes that all of mankind is so utterly depraved that they cannot respond to the grace of God, one has to believe in the Calvinistic doctrine of Unconditional Election in order to have any sort of hope for salvation. John Calvin knew this. He said, “Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which he has determined in himself what he would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is fore-ordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestined either to life or to death.”

In other words, we cannot respond to the grace of God due to being totally depraved and lost in sin. Therefore, the only way any of us have any hope of salvation is for God to have already made up his mind to step in and choose to disregard the sin of some of us and give them salvation anyway. This doctrine, sometimes called the doctrine of predestination, is the basis of the Calvinistic tenet of Unconditional Election: the idea that God chooses some of mankind before they are born to be saved unconditionally.

However, the Scriptures teach that God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 2:11; 10:12; Eph. 6:9). He shows no favoritism of any kind. This goes against Calvinism’s teaching that God has chosen only some of us for unconditional salvation rather than all of us. If both Calvinism and the Word of God are true, why would God have chosen only some of us for unconditional salvation instead of everyone? Isn’t that showing partiality?

The Scriptures also teach that God wants everyone to be saved (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; Tit. 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:9). If John Calvin’s doctrine of Unconditional Election is true, God has chosen only some of mankind for unconditional salvation, not all. Logic dictates that if God has determined some of us to be predestined for salvation, he has also predetermined that the rest of us are destined for an eternity in hell. If both Calvinism and God’s Word are true, why wouldn’t God choose to save all of mankind unconditionally if he wants us all to be saved? Why would he have already decided that some of us will spend eternity in hell if he doesn’t want anyone to go to hell?

Any serious student of the Bible is familiar with the numerous warnings found within its pages. We are warned about Satan and his deceptions (1 Pet. 5:8; Eph. 4:27; 6:11; James 4:7). We are warned to avoid sin in order to avoid eternal punishment in hell (Matt. 5:22, 29-30). Christians are warned about the possibility of losing their salvation through unrepentant sin (Heb. 10:26-31). However, if Calvin is correct and God unconditionally elects some of mankind to be saved, then why would any of these warnings be in the Bible? Why would God tell those whom he has already chosen to be unconditionally saved to be on the alert for Satan? After all, if he has already decided that I’m going to be saved unconditionally, what can Satan do about it? Why would God warn those whom he has already decided are going to spend eternity in hell that they better not sin or else hell will be the result? Why the warnings about falling away from one’s salvation? If he’s already decided that hell is going to be where I end up, then it doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do. In fact, if God has already decided that I’m going to be saved no matter what, then why in the world would I even need to bother to go to church, read my Bible, obey the gospel, or uphold any sort of morality?

This reveals one of the major flaws in the doctrine of Unconditional Election. Under Calvinistic predestination, it would be possible for salvation to be given to a sinner who has never read the Bible or been part of the church. It would be equally possible for eternal condemnation to be given to a Christian who has read the Bible repeatedly and done his or her absolute best to faithfully live by all of its tenets and principles. In this way Calvinism really tries to make Christianity like Islam. Nonetheless, the Bible doesn’t teach what Unconditional Election proposes. One cannot hold to Calvinism and the Word of God without contradicting one or the other. Since God’s Word is truth (John 17:17), Unconditional Election is false.

However, Calvinists try to hold to both anyway. They cite Romans 8:28-30 as support for their doctrine of predestination: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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” (ESV). Calvinists cite the mention of predestination in this passage as proof that God unconditionally predestines some of salvation. However, such notions are proven erroneous when this passage is considered alongside the entirety of Scripture (Ps. 119:160).

Paul is telling us that God causes all things to “work together for good” (which would include obtaining eternal life in heaven) for two specific groups of people: “those who love God” and “those who are called according to his purpose.” One cannot love God without choosing to obey his commands (John 14:15; Josh. 24:15); our works of obedience, along with faith and God’s grace, justify us (James 2:24; Tit. 3:7). Likewise, the purpose for which God called those for whom he will cause all things together for good is to follow Christ’s example of doing good and enduring suffering as a result (1 Pet. 2:20-21). God calls us through the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14), which calls us to obey Christ (Matt. 28:19-20). Therefore, Paul in Romans 8:28-30 is referring to those who love God by their obedience, those who faithfully and obediently respond to the gospel call.

God did not randomly predetermine some of us for unconditional salvation and others for unconditional condemnation. He HAS predetermined that those who obey his gospel and obey his Son will be saved (Heb. 5:9), not the lucky few randomly selected for unconditional salvation. This is why we are to proclaim his gospel to all (Mark 16:15).

carolinamessenger@gmail.com

Calvinism — Jon Mitchell, Interim Editor (Editorial: September, 2014)

The doctrine known as Calvinism has permeated the foundational theology of much of the denominational world for centuries. Initially conceived by Augustine in the fourth century A.D., the doctrine was popularized in England, Ireland, and Scotland by John Calvin in the sixteenth century. Puritans and Presbyterians brought it to the New World in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, where Jonathan Edwards and others made various modifications to the theology. Today one will encounter various tenets of Calvinistic doctrine in various sects of the Baptist, Presbyterian, and Reformed Churches, among others.

The acrostic “TULIP” reveals the fundamental tenets of Calvinistic theology: Total Hereditary Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. Each one of these false teachings are contingent upon each other. If man is in fact totally depraved due to inherited sin, he cannot respond to God’s grace. Therefore, God must have predestined who would be saved and who would be condemned. Christ’s death on the cross would atone only for those to whom God had already decided to grant salvation. Since God had already determined before they were born that the saved would be saved, it would be impossible for the saved to sin in such a way so as to successfully resist the grace of God and lose their salvation.

By themselves, the separate tenets of Calvinism show a logical thought progression. However, each of them falls short when compared to the totality of teaching in Scripture. The purpose of this issue of the Carolina Messenger is to examine each foundational tenet of Calvinism in light of the doctrine found in the Bible. I encourage the reader to pay close attention to the passages of Scripture brought out by each writer to combat the erroneous doctrines of man promoted by Calvinism. Study what the Bible says and commit these passages to memory in order to be better prepared to bring the gospel to the lost in your lives (Ps. 1:1-2; 2 Tim. 4:2; 1 Pet. 3:15). It is highly likely that any religious person with whom you study will have been taught one or more of these doctrines of Calvinism, and will have blindly accepted them as truth. If they are to know the actual truth of God’s Word which will set them free from the bondage of sin (John 8:31-37; 17:17), you must “explain to (them) the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).

If there is anything the overwhelming acceptance and popularity of the false doctrine of Calvinism proves, it is that ignorance of Scripture does in fact destroy us (Hos. 4:6). Sadly, biblical ignorance is at an all-time high in our society currently. A recent article published by Biola Magazine titled “The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy” states: “Christians used to be known as ‘people of one book.’ Sure, they read, studied, and shared other books. But the book they cared more about than all others combined was the Bible. They memorized it, meditated on it, talked about it and taught it to others. We don’t do that anymore, and in a very real sense we’re starving ourselves to death.”

Tragic, isn’t it? Does this tragedy describe you, friend? Know this: God expects you and me to continually grow in our knowledge of him and his Word if we want to spend eternity with him (2 Pet. 1:5-11). When we replace biblical knowledge and obedience with feelings and suppositions, we fall prey to false teachings like those of Calvinism, and will lose the salvation God offers to us (2 Tim. 4:3-4; Acts 20:29).

Jon

Look for the articles written about each facet of Calvinism in September’s issue to appear on this blog starting tomorrow!

 

“Grace Be With You”: The Editor’s Page – Jon Mitchell, Interim Editor

The Carolina Messenger is a publication with a rich heritage. I first had the inclination that this was so eleven years ago after moving to the Carolinas and reading my first issue. Over the years as my involvement with the paper grew through writing articles, guest editing, and serving on the board of directors in various capacities, I came to value and cherish the paper more and more for the great and needed work it provides in the kingdom of God.

After becoming a member of the board of directors, the expressed goals of the paper as decided by the board were shared with me. “To teach the Word of God plainly and clearly in every article.” “To uphold the Bible as the verbally inspired Word of God and our authority in all matters of religion.” “To please God rather than man.” “To instill in people habits of thought that promote good morality and Christian character.” “To oppose error either within or without the church.” “To be open to discussion of biblical questions and to hear each honest question with love for the questioner and love for the truth.” “To teach the truth in love.” “To have positive Bible-centered lessons that impart faith-building knowledge to the reader.”

These goals, all of which could be summed up by the inspired words of Paul in 2 Timothy 2:22-26 and 4:1-5, are at the forefront of my mind as I serve as interim editor for the Carolina Messenger. This is true for my fellow board members also, of whom several have contributed articles for this issue. Several of them have just been added to the board, and some of them are relatively new to the Carolinas. Their contributions to this issue are our way of introducing them to you. The work they put forth for both the Messenger and especially the kingdom of heaven are greatly appreciated.

As interim editor, my responsibility is to find writers who will help the publication put forth articles that will spiritually benefit our readers. If you are a faithful saint in the church of Christ who has some experience in writing or would like to get some experience, and if you share the same goals for the paper as stated above, please write me or e-mail me and I will share with you more details about submitting an article to be considered for publication.

Before moving on to address the theme of this issue, let me on behalf of the board and all of our writers give a word of thanks to you, our readers and subscribers. Your dedication to the paper as shown through your kind feedback, generous contributions, and continued readership encourages us greatly. This publication exists to serve God by serving you, to help you as his followers grow closer to him and stay on that narrow path which leads to salvation. The writer of Hebrews said, “…let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (10:24). Our prayer is that these articles will do exactly that in your hearts and minds. Thank you for reading. Please continue to support us, and share this paper with others so they may benefit from it as well!

“For I Am Not Ashamed Of The Gospel”

Paul’s words as stated in Romans 1:16 are known by many of us today, but do we consider the high cost he paid to say them? A simple perusal of 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 shows us the great trials and hardships he went through because he was not ashamed of the gospel. Indeed, 2 Timothy implies and history reveals that Paul paid for his allegiance to the gospel of Christ with his life.

Christian, do we join with Paul in standing firm behind the gospel? If there is any question upon which our salvation depends, this is it. We are saved by the gospel which we received…so long as we stand in it by holding fast to the Word of God (1 Cor. 15:1-2). Are we holding fast?

The articles in this issue give the basic principles and commands of the gospel which is “the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16), commands which if not obeyed result in eternal condemnation (2 Thess. 1:7-9). However, if we obey them we receive eternal salvation by the grace of God (Heb. 5:9; Tit. 2:11-13).

Reader, have you obeyed the gospel? Have you become a Christian and obtained salvation by washing your sins away through penitent baptism into Christ that comes from a faith-filled heart? If not, please read these articles with an open and honest heart and bear the fruit God wants from you (Luke 8:15).

Christian, are you standing in the gospel? Are you defending it and proclaiming it (1 Pet. 3:15; Mark 16:15)? Are you showing it through a God-centered life which focuses on repentance of sins and letting your light shine (Matt. 6:33; 1 John 1:7-9; 2 Cor. 7:9-11; Matt. 5:13-16)?

Are you not ashamed of the gospel of Christ?

Jon Mitchell is the pulpit minister of the Duncan Church of Christ in Duncan, SC, and can be reached by email at carolinamessenger@gmail.com.