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Schools of Thought on the Fundamentals of Salvation

Direct quotes on theology, as well as commentary on theological positions within Calvinism and Arminianism are from Augustus Strong's Systematic Theology.

Elements of Calvinism:

  1. Whatever comes to pass is "ordained" (ordered) by God; nothing can ever occur which God has not decreed beforehand. Some acts God predestined causally, others permissively. By an eternal act of God, He chooses certain out of the number of sinful men to be the recipients of the special grace of His Spirit and so to be partakers of Christ's salvation.
  2. The atonement was complete at the cross — there is no continuing ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. Christ fulfilled His office as High Priest by offering the sacrifice for sins on Calvary, and by making intercession for us.
  3. Christ was completely free from "original sin" and not subject to the consequences of Adam's fall. He took the nature which Adam had before the fall in Eden and was not subject to the temptations we must face; it was not possible for Him to sin.
  4. Sanctification is never complete in this life. Only at the second coming will sin be "overcome" in the lives of God's people, when we "put on immortality."

Elements of Arminianism:

  1. The order of Arminian salvation is: (a) faith — by an unrenewed but convicted heart; (b) justification; (c) regeneration, or sanctification of the heart. God's decrees do not originate faith, but reward faith.
  2. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross provided for the salvation of all men, not just the "elect;" but we are counted "outside the camp" until we accept the salvation offered. Not until salvation is accepted by the individual does justification take place. Salvation is conditional upon man's response to God's provision. The sacrifice of Christ makes salvation possible but does not intrinsically atone for anyone in particular; it simply permits God to forgive. It is the divine example of "disinterested love." [Note the key words: "provided"; "offered"; "provision"]
  3. Christ possessed the essential elements of human nature: a flesh form which was acted upon by instinctive principles such as hunger, thirst, weariness, fear, compassion; and He was subject to the ordinary laws of human development ("waxed strong"; "grew in wisdom and stature"; "learned obedience"). But He was completely free from all hereditary depravity. Christ "possessed the ideal human nature and has furnished us with the moral pattern which we may progressively realize." His flesh made it possible for Him to suffer and die for our sins. [Note key words: "essential elements of human nature"; "free from all hereditary depravity"; "possessed the 'ideal' human nature"]
  4. "It is theoretically possible that a child may be trained and educated that he will never knowingly and willingly transgress the Law of God; in which case he will certainly grow up into regeneration and final salvation." Sanctification is the work of a lifetime as we strive to overcome sin and maintain a relationship with Christ (works of righteousness have merit). [In this view the burden of salvation is upon us as we strive to live up to the "theory" of sanctification.]

Elements of the Biblical Message of Christ and His Righteousness:

  1. 1. God has ordained that all humanity should be saved (2 Peter 3:9). This He accomplished in His promise of a Saviour from the "foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8, cf. Genesis 3:15). Before there was sin, there was a Saviour. All men, not just "the elect" or "the lucky" have been (past tense) saved, legally justified in Christ before the broken law of God. This does not overrule man’s freedom of choice, but it does give probation. We may choose to be lost and deliberately throw away our "birthright possession" by continually resisting the power of God to save us. Our continued unbelief will be the reason we are lost.
  2. 2. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was a complete sacrifice; a perfect sacrifice and was the fulfillment of the "shedding of blood to atone for sin" (Hebrews 9:22). But, just as in the earthly sanctuary, after the shedding of blood, the blood must be "administered" by the priest on behalf of the sinner, so Christ now, as our High Priest, is officiating His blood in our behalf. This has real benefits for the entire human race. Never one, saint nor sinner, eats his daily food, but he is not nourished by the body and the blood of Christ. But the benefits extend beyond the temporal to even life itself. If Christ had not immediately stepped between the dead (Adam at the moment he sinned in the Garden of Eden) and the Living (God), the entire human race would have ceased to exit at that point (cf. Genesis 2:17; Acts 17:28; 2 Corinthians 5:14).
  3. 3. Christ is "nigh unto us," a Saviour  who is "close at hand"; He is the "Kinsman Redeemer" who took upon Himself the fallen nature of Adam. "He took not upon Himself the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham" (Hebrews 2:16). He was "made of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3). "God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law" (Galatians 4:4, 5). "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). Jesus was tempted in "all points like as we are" (Hebrews 2:14 17, 18; 4:15). In all these verses, the Greek word "flesh" is sarx, "the concrete form of human nature marked by Adam's fall" (Karl Barth; Church Dogmatics, vol. 1; p. 151, 1956 ed.).
  4. 4. True justification by faith is directly related to the work of our High Priest in the Most Holy Apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. During the earthly day of atonement, every one was enjoined to "afflict their souls" as the high priest administered the blood of the Lord's goat within the veil of the Most Holy Place and before the Ark of God, which contained the Ten Commandments. (see Leviticus chapter 16). On this day, all were supremely interested in the activities of their high priest as he went about the cleansing process. All sin was to be "put away," all sacrifices had to be previously made, before the high priest entered the Most Holy Place on the earthly day of atonement. All who failed to follow their high priest in his mediatorial work were "cut off" from the people of God. This understanding is the basis of the teaching that sin not only can be overcome, but that it MUST be overcome for Christ to "finish" His work in the heavenly sanctuary before He comes to collect His Bride at the second coming.

A.T. Jones put it this way: "The sanctuary itself could not be cleansed so long as, by the confessions of the people and the intercessions of the priests, there was pouring into the sanctuary a stream of iniquities, transgressions, and sins. . . .Therefore the very first work in the cleansing of the sanctuary was the cleansing of the people. . . .When the stream that flowed into the sanctuary was thus stopped at its source, then, and then alone, could the sanctuary itself be cleansed." (The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, pp. 118, 119; 1905 edition).

Sanctification in the lives of God's people is not only a possibility, but a necessity for Christ to complete His work as our High Priest. Only after He has a people who completely demonstrate to the unfallen universe that Satan's claims are false, can He lay aside His priestly robes and put on His kingly robes and come for His people. It is the work of justification by faith which produces this — the "work of a lifetime" — which continually says No to Satan as he tempts us to sin, and Yes to Christ as He calls us to righteousness.

One day soon, God will be able to declare to the watching universe: "Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Revelation 14:12.

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