Last week we talked about the Dangers Within Preterism and I dealt with several different doctrinal errors that are coming under the umbrella of Preterism. Because I received so much feedback this week on that message, I thought it would be profitable to expand on this topic a little more.
I said last week that I am a full preterist, I have been for 22 years. To me Preterism is the only eschatology that makes sense. It is the only eschatology that takes the time statements at face value. Soon means soon and "this generation" means the generation that Yeshua was speaking to.
Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Matthew 24:34 ESV
If you look at the way Yeshua used the word "generation," I think it will be abundantly clear that it always refers to His contemporaries, the Jewish people of His own period. Yeshua here, very plainly and very clearly, tells HIS DISCIPLES that ALL of the things He had mentioned would come to pass in THEIR GENERATION. This includes the Gospel being preached in all the world, the abomination of desolation, the great tribulation, and the Coming of the Son of man. This is so clear that it greatly troubles those who hold to a Futuristic eschatology.
Yeshua uses the near demonstrative "this" generation. Every time "this" is used in the New Testament it always refers to something that is near in terms of time or distance. Yeshua doesn't say, that generation, referring to a different generation than the one He was speaking to. But "this generation" the very people to whom He was speaking.
So Preterism as an eschatology is, in my opinion, right on. It is true to the principles of hermeneutics. But it's getting to the point that I don't want to associate with the term "Preterist." My eschatology is definitely a fulfilled eschatology, but there are some within the movement that give it a very bad name. And when these people who hold some very unbiblical views call themselves Preterists, I don't want to be associated with that.
The danger within Preterism comes from the fact that Preterism has become an umbrella under which man's false doctrines are gathering. And as they join the Preterist movement they bring their doctrinal errors with them. And because they say they are Preterist they discredit the eschatological view by their doctrinal errors.
One of those doctrines that is discrediting the eschatology of Preterism is the doctrinal error of Baptismal Regeneration. There are many from the Church of Christ who have embraced the eschatology of Preterism. So, their eschatology is now correct, but their soteriology is an abomination. Baptismal regeneration is the belief that baptism is necessary for salvation, or, more precisely, that regeneration does not occur until a person is water baptized.
What is regeneration? Hodge says that regeneration is "the instantaneous change from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regeneration, therefore, is a spiritual resurrection, the beginning of a new life." Thiesseen says, "Regeneration may be defined as the communication of divine life to the soul, as the impartation of a new nature, or heart and the production of a new creation."
Regeneration is synonymous with the term "born again" or "born from above." Regeneration is the same as "receiving a new heart" (Ezekiel 36:26), or what Ephesians 2 calls being "made alive." 1 Peter calls it "being called out of darkness into His marvelous light." All of these terms refer to what theologians call "regeneration."
There are many different views of regeneration within the Church. The Pelagian view says that regeneration is a moral transformation, a work of man. Most liberals today hold this view. It was condemned by the Church in 431 at the Counsel of Ephesus. Practically, the Pelagian says, "I can save myself by my works." Adam was the first Pelagian; he tried to cover his sin with fig leaves. God killed animals and clothed Adam and Eve with the skins to picture Christ's righteousness.
The Catholic view says that regeneration is accomplished by baptism, so it is a work of man through a divine ordinance. The Church of Christ also holds the view of baptismal regeneration. This view is called "semi-pelagianism." Regeneration is not exclusively God's or man's work--it is the fruit of man's choice to cooperate with the divine influences. They teach that the work of man, a decision to trust Christ, is prior to the work of God. This view is held by most evangelicals. They believe it was necessary for them, in an act of their own will, to cooperate with the grace found in the preaching of the Word.
Then there is the position that we hold here at Berean Bible Church, called the "Calvinistic or Reformed View," which teaches that "regeneration is of the Lord"; God made us alive, who were dead; God made us willing, who were unwilling. Salvation from beginning to end is a work of God, according to the Reformed View.
Having that understanding of regeneration we can now see that Baptismal Regeneration means that the act of water baptism conducted by a pastor or priest contains regenerative or life-giving power. Baptismal Regeneration strenuously promoted by churches in the Restoration Movement.
The Restoration Movement, part of the broader movement called "restorationism," began in the early 19th century when a conglomeration of members from different Christian groups and denominations decided they had gotten away from the basics of Christianity. Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and others abandoned their formal denominations with hopes of establishing a church based solely on the Christianity taught in the New Testament. With their belief in Jesus as the only model and the Bible as the only sacred book, they endeavored to re-establish Christ's Church as it had been during the time of the apostles after the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Their goal was for everyone to abandon their dividing religions and become united as one church under God's rule alone. Among the most influential leaders of this movement were Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone.
The most troubling thing about the Restoration Movement is their Doctrine of Salvation. According to a Christian Restoration Association publication, "What You Must Do to Become a Christian" involves four things: You must believe, repent of sin, confess Christ, and be baptized for the remission of sins. One must admit his or her sinfulness and need for forgiveness, then repent and accept Jesus as Lord of his or her life. One must then be baptized by full-body immersion for the remission of sins. At this point, it is believed that one begins a new life, and is reborn. This directly contradicts the biblical Doctrine of Salvation by grace through faith alone, without the added condition of works:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV
The idea of salvation by faith alone is an abomination to the Church of Christ. Last Sunday Steve Baisden, a Church of Christ minister who has recently become a full Preterist did a podcast entitled, "True Belief." Because of my message last week mentioning the Church of Christ one of the listeners sent me a link to Steve's podcast. [For those of you who care to fact check me you can find that podcast at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dcYMSdPn5I]
If you listen to the podcast you will see that Steve holds to the Doctrine of Salvation that is laid out by the Christian Restoration Association. But because he holds to a Preterist eschatology, because he comes under the umbrella of Preterism people will think that all Preterist are this wacked out in their soteriology, and therefore dismiss Preterism.
Advocates of baptismal regeneration, like Steve, point to Scripture verses such as Mark 16:16, John 3:5, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27 and 1 Peter 3:21 for biblical support. And I can see how people may think that those verses seem to indicate that baptism is necessary for salvation. However, there are biblically and contextually sound interpretations of those verses that do not support baptismal regeneration.
Steve says 31:10, "People think that just because they can find a couple of verses that say you have to believe, but don't mention baptism, therefore, they can just choose to believe. They don't understand that true belief involves doing what Jesus said?" They run to passages like John 3:16 and say all you have to do is believe. Don't they realize that just ten verses earlier Jesus said":
Yeshua answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. John 3:5 ESV
So, Steve would take the "water" as an allusion to water baptism, and the "spirit" as referring to the Holy Spirit. So, in his view regeneration happens only when a person undergoes water baptism.
In considering audience relevance, Christian baptism would have had no significance for Nicodemus. He knew nothing of Christian baptism. And it's interesting that Yeshua never mentioned water baptism again in clarifying the new birth to Nicodemus.
Nicodemus' misunderstanding leads Yeshua to explain His point slightly differently. Here He says, "born of water and the Spirit," which is just a different way of saying, "born from above" in verse 3. Here Yeshua says he, "cannot enter the kingdom of God," which is another way of saying he, "cannot see the kingdom of God" in verse 3. So Yeshua is saying the same thing, but in a different way so Nicodemus will get it. So, what he is saying in verse 5 was something that Nicodemus should understand.
When water is used figuratively in the Tanakh, it habitually refers to renewal or cleansing, especially when it is found in conjunction with "spirit."
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. Isaiah 44:3 ESV
Here we see the connection of water and spirit. Most important to our discussion is:
I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:24-27 ESV
Here the water and spirit come together, the first to signify cleansing from impurity, and the second to depict the transformation of heart that will enable people to follow God wholly.
So, the revelation that Yahweh would bring cleansing and renewal as water, by means of His Spirit, was clear in the Tanakh. Yeshua evidently meant that unless a person has experienced spiritual cleansing and renewal from the Spirit of Yahweh, he cannot enter the Kingdom. The text in John 3:5 has nothing to do with ritual baptism.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV
Steve says, "Should not perish" not "will not perish." He is saying that "should not perish" doesn't mean that you won't perish. He is saying that believing only gets you part way there, that baptism is still necessary. First of all, the Greek text here reads, "Whoever believes in Him not perish." There is no word for "should" here in the Greek text. The verb apollumi is subjunctive. All that means is that it relies on the main verb "believing in Him". If the main section is true, then the subjunctive portions are true. It is simply saying that whoever believes in Christ does not perish. This wipes out Steve's argument here. If he wants to defend his doctrinal beliefs by a text he should not rely on the English translation.
Steve goes on to say 43:26, "Believe here is a synecdoche (a synecdoche is a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole. Synecdoche is a subset of metonymy. Synecdoche and metonymy are also considered forms of metaphor, in that all three literary devices involve a substitution of one term for another that requires a conceptual link) true belief means you're going to do what He tells you to." Meaning you're going to repent and be baptized." Then Steve says, 46:40 "When God tells us to believe that is inclusive of repenting, calling on His name, confessing Him before man and being baptized."
I would say that belief is understanding and ascent to a proposition. To Steve believe is a synecdoche that means doing a bunch of things.
And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Yeshua the Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 ESV
This is one of the Church of Christ's favorite verses. Is baptism necessary for the forgiveness of sin? At first reading of the text, it does seem to indicate that. There's a little Greek preposition "eis" [ace] that is translated "for" that can also be, and often is, translated "because of" or "on behalf of." So, the Greek text could actually be translated, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Yeshua the Christ because of the forgiveness of your sins." Therefore, baptism would not be a means of forgiveness; it would be the public declaration of the forgiveness of sins. The Greek word can go either way.
We use the word "for" in the same way. If I say that a criminal is going to prison FOR his crimes, I do not mean that he is going to prison in order to receive his crimes.
As I said last week the Gospel of John, the only book in Scripture whose purpose is evangelistic (John 20:31), doesn't mention baptism or repentance. It was written to bring men to faith in Christ so they would receive eternal life and yet leaves out things that Steve says are necessary for salvation.
Mike Heiser in his book Reversing Hermon talks in chapter 9 on the significance of baptism in relation to the sin of the watchers.
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Yeshua the Christ, 1 Peter 3:21 ESV
Heiser argues that "appeal" should be understood as "pledge," and "conscience" should be understood as "the disposition of one's loyalties" (p. 144). In this light, baptism is a "loyalty oath, a public avowal of who is on the Lord's side in the cosmic war" (p. 144). It is letting the "powers and authorities" (1 Pt 3:22; cf. 1 Cor 15:24) know where one stands. This is why it was especially important in the Great Commission given to "the eleven" (Matt 28:16-20). They were about to invade the territory of these other gods. Those once enslaved to them needed to let them know their loyalties have changed.
Baptism has nothing to do with affecting inward salvation at all. And, since this war is over, I personally don't think that baptism is necessary today at all. If Heiser is right on baptism, and we're right on eschatology, it just doesn't carry the same weight anymore. It was something that had significance mainly during the transition period.
Steve winds up his podcast by saying 53:03, "Believer, if you're not baptized, if you don't go to church you're going to hell, you're as lost as lost can be." So, among the other things that you have to do in order to receive regeneration, you have to go to church. So, then I would assume that "going to church" is part of the synecdoche that is belief. This synecdoche just keeps on growing. To believe is to go to church. Notice that he says that believers are going to hell if they don't do certain things.
Then Steve says this 53:40, "The church, there's only one of them, it's the one that preaches and teaches the truth. It's not the ones that are out here teaching you a bunch of false doctrine. And in West Michigan I know of no other than the one that meets right here in Ludington. 3816 West Fountain Rd, that's where we're at." He goes on to say56:24, "When you want the truth and only the truth as they had it in the Bible you'll only find it with us in Ludington Michigan."
In an article published in Tabletalk magazine entitled, "What Is a Cult?" Edmond Gruss writes, "Does the organization claim to be the only one that has the truth? Does it claim it is God's sole channel or only true church? As a result, are all other religious organizations to be rejected as false? If a person leaves the group is salvation lost?"
These marks of a cult all seem to fit with what Steve is saying. He is preaching a works salvation, if you don't obey you go to hell. This is quite different than what Paul preached:
For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 ESV
So, CoC says you are saved by a ritual, this is the same thing that the Catholic church teaches. And this is why there was the Protestant Reformation. And let me say that it seems to me that the Restoration Movement was an anti-Reformation movement. And what the CoC teaches is exactly opposite of what the Protestant reformers taught.
We at Berean Bible Church are reformed in the way that we view the world and the Bible. This means that we identify with most of the teaching of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. We believe in the absolute sovereignty of the Almighty God, "Sola fide" (salvation by grace through faith alone) and "Sola Scriptura" (the Scriptures alone).
So, we think that The Reformation was very important. How you view The Reformation will depend on your theological persuasion. Roman Catholic historians and Church of Christ ministers interpret The Reformation as a heresy inspired by Martin Luther. While Protestant historians interpret The Reformation largely as a religious movement that sought to recover the purity of the primitive Christianity that is depicted in the New Testament.
The Reformers sought to develop a theology that was in complete accord with the New Testament and believed that this could never be a reality as long as the church, instead of the Bible, was made the final authority. The Reformation proper began on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the church door.
Martin Luther is one of the most influential figures in Western history. His writings were responsible for fractionalizing the Catholic Church and sparking the Protestant Reformation. His central teachings, that the Bible is the central source of religious authority and that salvation is reached through faith and not deeds, shaped the core of Protestantism.
Church history is a subject that few twenty first century Americans know much about. Martin Lloyd Jones said, "Fortunately, we are not the first people who have been engaged in this battle (Christian life) and there is nothing which can be of greater help to us, next to the Scriptures, than the History of the Church."
Martin Luther's father wanted him to study law, but in 1505 Luther became frightened during a severe thunderstorm on the road near Stotternheim and promised Saint Anne that he would become a monk if he were spared. About two weeks later, he entered a monastery of the Augustinian order at Erfurt. Here in 1507, he was ordained and celebrated his first mass.
In 1511, Luther was transferred to Wittenberg. During the next year he became a professor of Bible and received his Doctor of Theology degree. Luther at this time was still unconverted.
In his lectures from 1513 to 1515, he expounded the Psalms. Around 1515 he began to expound the book of Romans. It was in 1515 that Luther had what he called the "Tower Experience." He said that Romans 1:17 just jumped out of the Scriptures and brought him to God. Romans 1:17 was his key verse:
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith." Romans 1:17 ESV
It convicted him that only faith in Christ could make one just before God. From that time on Sola Fide--justification by faith alone, and Sola Scriptura--the idea that the Scriptures are the only authority for sinful man in seeking salvation--became the main points in his theological system.
He came to realize that God's righteousness in Romans 1 is not the justice that we have to fear, but the positive righteousness that God gives believers in Christ -- it is a righteousness they receive by personally trusting in Christ.
He began to understand that the Roman Catholic Church did not square with the Scriptures. As he hears confessions at Wittenberg, he hears that people are trusting in their works.
Luther taught that man, because of the fall, was so bound by sin that he could not of himself do anything to avail himself to get out of the situation, but that God must do it. This is what is called the Doctrine of "Total Depravity." Luther believes that man has the power of choice, but that the will of man was not free.
Luther and Erasmus disagreed. Erasmus taught that the will of man was always able to choose good or evil. Luther accused Erasmus of Epicurianism -- the idea that the universe is basically chance. It teaches that God hasn't foreordained everything. Luther said that Erasmus taught an indeterminate God, a God that hasn't determined everything. That was semi-plaginism. Luther said that this was not only heresy but blasphemy. And more than blasphemy, it was atheism. Because if God is not totally in control of everything, He's not God. He said that Erasmus' god didn't exist, and that he was teaching a form of atheism.
Luther believed that after the fall, man's will was a selfish sinful will. Man could choose -- he was uncoerced, but man fallen had no desire for anything except the evil, and as long as he is inclined only to evil, he chooses only evil. Edwards, in his essay, "The Freedom of the Will," wrote that all men everywhere always act according to their strongest inclination at any given time. After the fall, the Bible teaches that man's strongest inclination at any given moment is always to sin. Fallen man loves darkness (sin) and he hates light, so whenever he is confronted with a choice between darkness and light, he chooses darkness. He chooses what is attractive to him.
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. John 3:19-20 ESV
A person always chooses according to his strongest inclination, he is in bondage to choose what he loves. Now, you might ask, "Where is the bondage in choosing what we love and want?" The bondage comes in the result of the sin he loves, the consequences of sin he doesn't like. He wants to live forever; he wants joy, love, peace; but he hates righteousness.
Luther said, "It is not in your power to turn to God. If you think that it is in your power to turn to God, you have missed the whole point of The Reformation and don't understand total depravity. It is not in your power to turn to God. You are a sinner, you're dead, you're eaten up with corruption. Every choice of yours is evil and not good. So how can we turn to Him who is light, righteousness, holy, and good?"
Luther taught that you have a duty to return to God, but you do not have the ability. RESPONSIBILITY DOES NOT IMPLY ABILITY!
While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." When Yeshua had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. John 12:36 ESV
Yeshua said "believe in the light." Most believers today would say that because Christ commands us to believe, we must be able to believe. That is not correct! Look at the following verses.
Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, John 12:37-39 ESV
They did not believe because they could not believe. Scripture states dogmatically some things that a lost man cannot do: Man cannot see or perceive the kingdom of God -- until he first be born again:
Yeshua answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3 ESV
Man cannot understand spiritual things--until he is first given spiritual life. In regeneration, God gives us spiritual life, which includes a desire for Him. If God gives us a desire for Christ, we will act according to that desire, and we will choose Christ. But what we must understand is that man cannot come to God--until he first be effectually called by the Holy Spirit:
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 ESV
Who is the Lord talking to here? He is talking to unbelieving Jews. Look at the previous verse:
Yeshua answered them, "Do not grumble among yourselves. John 6:43 ESV
This is a present imperative with the negative particle, which usually means: "to stop an act already in progress." I see Yeshua saying here, "Stop your grumbling, the reason you don't understand who I am is because you have not been drawn by my Father, you are not part of the elect, therefore you are blind to spiritual things":
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 ESV
Did you ever learn this method in an evangelism training course? Have you ever been taught, when witnessing to the lost, tell them they have no ability in themselves to come to Christ, and the only way they will ever believe in Him is if God sovereignly draws them? They don't teach this in evangelism classes, but this is Yeshua's method. You can't come unless you're drawn.
Most people have tried to interpret the word "draw" here as "call or invite." But this is not what the word "draw" means. The Greek word helkuo always means:" to draw by irresistible superiority." And the word always has the idea of drawing against resistance. But no matter the resistance, when God draws, men come. Helkuo is used eight times in the New Testament. To understand what it means, let's look at all of its uses:
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." John 12:32 ESV
Yeshua is saying that through being "lifted up" which is referring to His death, resurrection, and exhalation He will draw all people to Himself. This word "draw" is from the Greek word helkuo.
I can hear the universalists saying, If helkuo means to draw by force, then everybody must come to Yeshua. But Yeshua is not affirming that the whole world will be saved; He is affirming that all who are saved are saved in this way. The "all people" here does not refer to everybody. It means all kinds of people, Jews and Gentiles.
The "all men" here in context was triggered by the arrival of the Greeks, and means: "all people without distinction, Jews and Gentiles alike", not all individuals without exception. This passage is the answer to the Greeks request to "see" Yeshua. The crucified Christ will be set before the eyes of the world, Jews and Gentiles, as its Savior and Lord when He is "lifted up".
Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) John 18:10 ESV
The word "drew" is helkuo; does "call or invite" make any sense here? Did Peter invite or call his sword to come out? No! He grabbed it and pulled it out.
He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. John 21:6 ESV
The word "haul" here is helkuo. They were unable to draw in the net.
So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. John 21:11 ESV
The word "hauled" here is helkuo. Do you think that Peter invited the net full of fish to the land? Peter drew the net with irresistible superiority.
But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. Acts 16:19 ESV
The word "dragged" is helkuo; does "call or invite" make any sense here? They did not invite Paul and Silas to the market place, they grabbed them and dragged them.
Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. Acts 21:30 ESV
Again "dragged" is helkuo.
But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? James 2:6 ESV
The word "drag" is helkuo. The usage of this word makes it very clear that helkuo means: "to draw by irresistible superiority." So that's all eight uses of helkuo in the New Testament. They all have the idea of dragging, not inviting or calling.
So, in John 6:44 Yeshua is saying that no one can come to Him "...unless the Father who sent Me draws him!" This is what Calvinists call "Irresistible Grace or Sovereign Grace." It is not that God drags those who don't want to come. It is that God makes willing by His grace. In regeneration, God gives us spiritual life, which includes a desire for Him. If God gives us a desire for Christ, we will act according to that desire, and we will choose Christ.
A sinner absolutely cannot come to Christ until God first does something in that sinner's nature. That "something" is what the Bible calls "regeneration," or the new birth, and it is the exclusive work of God, the Holy Spirit. Man has no part whatever in regeneration.
Since the Reformation, people have departed from the sovereignty of grace. Most professing Christians are not, but of those who really are Christians most have departed from the Reformation in this way. All the Reformers--Luther, Calvin, Zwingly, Knox, Cramner; the German reformer, the Swiss reformer, the French reformer, the Scottish reformer, the English reformer--every one of them believed not only in Grace, but Sovereign grace. The majority of believers today try to have the grace without the Sovereignty of the grace. Evangelical Christianity is trying to hold on to grace provided, while rejecting grace applied. Grace proves irresistible just because it destroys the disposition to resist.
Why does God command us to do what we cannot do? To show us how depraved we are, to show us the depth of our depravity. The foundation of reformed theology is the Doctrine of Total Depravity. Many people think they have trouble with the Doctrines of Election and Predestination but their real problem is they don't understand how depraved we really are. When God commands us to return and promises that if we do return to Him He will return to us; we won't do it, we can't do it. We are in bondage to what we love, which is darkness and evil. And we reject what we hate, which is light and goodness and God. We should be able to turn to God, but we are not because of our choice to disobey God in The Garden. We all chose in Adam to turn away from God. This act has left all of us spiritually dead. Let me just say a word to those Preterists who think that election was something that ended in A.D. 70. Why did God use to have to draw dead men to Himself but now He doesn't? What has changed? Is man no longer spiritually dead? And if he is not, what is his condition? Are men no longer born in sin and separated from God? If they are not, then they don't need a Savior. Where in Scripture does it state or imply that man apart from Christ is no longer dead in sin after A.D. 70?
The very fact that God commands us to do that which we are utterly unable, morally unable, to do shows how totally depraved we are. And if salvation is going to come at all, it's going to be applied Sovereignly. This overthrows self-confidence and convinces sinners that their salvation is altogether out of their hands and shuts them up to a self-despairing dependency on the glorious grace of a Sovereign Savior.
Luther was committed to total depravity, that man could not choose God, as was Calvin. As we go backward in time, we see that Augustine taught the same thing in the fifth century. Augustine said, "Man's will is entirely corrupted by the fall so that he must be considered totally depraved and unable to exercise his will in regard to the matter of salvation." The reformers taught it in the 16th century, Augustine taught it in the 5th century, and the apostles taught it in the 1st century.
The teaching of The Reformation is: "Regeneration precedes faith." We must have life before we can believe. The Scriptures clearly show that faith is the evidence and not the cause of regeneration:
Everyone who believes that Yeshua is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 1 John 5:1 ESV
The Greek text reads: "Everyone who believes that Yeshua is the Christ has been [perfect tense] born of God." Wuest translates it: "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ, out from God has been born and as a result is His child." Law said, "The Divine begetting is the antecedent [go before] not the consequent of the believing."
We are not regenerated through the act of baptism or anything else we do, regeneration is a sovereign act of God. We believe, we are baptized, we obey because we have been born again. The Church of Christ has it backwards.
Spiritual death brings an insensitivity to the things of God. It is a spiritual slavery, the prisoners of which are helpless. This is the Doctrine of Total Depravity. It does not mean, as many have misunderstood, that man is as bad as he can possibly be. It means that man is as bad off as he can possibly be. The bottom line is this: Our hope does not lie in our own will. It is our will that has got us lost! We are all sure for condemnation unless God would somehow incline our wills in the opposite direction. We must have a Savior who is mighty enough to rescue us from ourselves. Clearly, God must do something. We've made our choice; our will has spoken. We are hopelessly lost -- unless God will choose otherwise. This is the Doctrine of Total Depravity.
The famous Baptist preacher, C. H. Spurgeon wrote:
"I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the Gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the Gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the Gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ brought out upon the cross."
It is also my conviction that Calvinism is biblical and is the true Gospel. The church today is being flooded with a new Gospel, a humanistic Gospel.
The Gospel is always and essentially a proclamation of Divine sovereignty in mercy and judgement. It is a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and grace. Its center of reference is God. But in the new Gospel, the center of reference is man: You choose, you decide, you initiate salvation. The chief aim of the Gospel was to teach men to worship God, but the concern of the new Gospel seems limited to making them feel better. The Gospel is -- God Saves Sinners! If we understand "total depravity" then we will understand that our salvation is a gift from God. Then God, and not man, receives all the glory in salvation.
I see Baptismal Regeneration as an attack on the Gospel. Over and over the Bible calls upon man to "believe on the Lord Yeshua the Christ" for salvation. But CoC says, "You don't need to more than believe in Yeshua, without being baptized you cannot be saved. These doctrinal errors attack the Gospel of Christ and we must not stand with them. We must defend the Gospel over eschatology.