10As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
12All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
I had a discussion just yesterday with a good friend about the doctrine of Election and Total Depravity. While I appreciate John Calvin, I’m no Calvinist. I will be the first to admit and embrace the mystery of God. He is sovereign and knows all things. He has all power! When I read the Bible however, it seems clear to me that His sovereignty doesn’t translate into choosing Christ for me. He is all powerful, but He has left the power to make that decision to me.
Someone will IMMEDIATELY ask, “If the decision is yours, you’re not going to choose God! Read Romans 3:10-11 again.”
I will, as long as you read Romans 3:10 through verse 26… especially verses 20 & 21. Here’s what’s going on in the early chapters of Romans. Paul is talking about the Law that God gave through Moses. Romans 3:10-18 are passages from the Old Testament (Psalm 5:9; 10:7; 14:1-3; 36:1; 53:1-3; 140:3; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Isaiah 59:7-8) that Paul is quoting to prove his point: You cannot be saved… You cannot be made righteous through the Law. Even though it is holy and from God, it cannot save you. “No one is righteous… not even one!” Nobody is able to keep this law. Read Romans 2 and 4 along with chapter 3 and it’s pretty evident.
The hinge of Paul’s argument is found in verses 20 & 21:
It’s unfortunate that the NIV (and others?) put a section heading between these verses. Oh well..
So where Romans 3:10 says that there is no one righteous, not even one, Romans 3:21 says that now there is a righteousness from God. Here’s where I am… I believe in depravity (to be sure! Look around…), I just don’t believe in TOTAL depravity. That’s where TULIP (Calvinstic doctrine) goes wrong, and unfortunately – it’s the “T!”
TOTAL Depravity mandates that God choose (or elect… as in Uncondtional Election; the “U” of TULIP) who He will save since human beings are TOTALLY incapable of choosing Him. God chooses some for Glory and those He doesn’t choose rightfully wind up in Hell. Doesn’t this seem wrong to you? Romans 3 is vital in this theological discussion.
How do I see it? Don’t misunderstand me, this righteousness is TOTALLY from God! It is 100% His grace in effect, saving people who do not deserve it. The question is, who are the ones who are going to be saved? Romans 3:22 says,
It doesn’t say that this righteousness comes to all who are Elected… but to all who believe. God has predestined that all who would believe in Christ will received this righteousness and be saved. But who will be saved? Those who believe. It gets better:
God justifies and makes righteous those who have faith in Jesus. Now either God created us in His image (Gen. 1:26) with the capacity to think, feel, reason and choose – or He didn’t. If He did, then although certainly depraved, humanity can hear God’s grace expressed through the Gospel and say “yes!” to it. In doing so, human beings come to faith in Jesus and are made righteous. A grand purpose on earth is given and Heaven awaits…
Romans 4 – Abraham is our example. He’s the Father of Faith. Abraham believed God and it was credited to Him as righteousness. Paul is on a roll!
So because the “T” in TULIP is faulty (more theological than biblical), the rest of the acrostic naturally flows in the wrong direction.
U – Unconditional Election, because God is the One who has to choose for people since they cannot on their own hear and believe the Gospel.
L – Limited Atonement, because since only the ones God has chosen will be saved, Jesus’ death on the cross must be limited to those elect ones. (Try not to read John 3:16 here)
I – Irresistible Grace – If God has decided to choose you, there is NO WAY you could refuse His decision to save you. Truly, the decision was never yours to make.
P – Perseverance of the Saints – If God has chosen you, and because He is sovereign and knows the end from the beginning (which is true!), then there is no way you can lose your salvation. It’s a done deal… and it was done before you were born.
Some will ask, “Well what do you do with God’s sovereignty?” Two things: I keep it the amazing mystery that it is to me! God is amazing. His sovereignty fuels my worship. Secondly, I don’t believe that just because God knows who will end up with this righteousness through faith in Jesus means that He CHOSE for them. God can know without making the choice. Remember, He exists outside of time. This is no problem for God.
One last observation. Even if I’m dead wrong and God has predetermined who will be saved and who will not, how am I going to know who’s saved or not? We’re talking about what’s in the mind of God, which we can’t know and haven’t been given access to. What we can think through, however, is the Word that He has given us. This is where I choose to live rather than in the theology of men.
That’s enough fun for now. I have to get to work! Blessings to you…