Based on the analyses presented in Sections 1.20, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 13.21 and many other Sections of Theology Corner, the chasm between Reformed Theology and Wesleyan/Arminian Theology is as vast as that between Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19 – 31). There is no bridge from the TULIP to the Remonstrance nor can one ever be constructed. But curiously, the various aspects of the great gift of salvation are similar for both systems:
- Redemption (Rom 3:24; 8:23) - You are freed from the bondage of sin for the first time in your life.
- Forgiveness (Mat 6:9-15; 1 John 1:8-10) – You are forgiven your sins by God.
- Justification (Rom 3:21-26) – You are declared righteous by God; this legal declaration is valid because Christ died to pay the penalty for your sin and lived a life of perfect righteousness that can in turn be imputed to you.
- Adoption (Rom 8:23; Gal 3:26; 1 John 3:2) – You are a joint heir with Jesus to the Kingdom of God.
- Regeneration (John 3:1-21) - The Holy Spirit makes known to you the will of God and helps you discern truth from lie. He occupies and purifies all the rooms of your heart into which He is invited. For the first time in your life you are not a prisoner of sin. You are free to pursue the path of righteousness. This is the first day of your Christian life and you are a new creature in Christ. This is the mechanism of your redemption.
- Sanctification (Heb 6:1; 1 Pet 1:13-16) - You are led by the Holy Spirit along the path toward holiness; this is a lifetime journey.
- Reconciliation (Eph 2:11-22) - You are reconciled with all other believers.
- Unification (Eph 3:1-11) – You are united with all believers in the Church of Jesus Christ.
- Glorification (Rom 8:30) – You will complete the journey along the path of sanctification when your mission in this life is done.
For illustration, consider one of the more subtle aspects of salvation: that of justification. The sentiments of Calvin on this subject may be collected from the following passages in the third book of his Institutes:
“We simply explain justification to be an acceptance, by which God receives us into His favour and esteems us as righteous persons, and we say it consists in the remission of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. He must certainly be destitute of a righteousness of his own, who is taught to seek it out of himself. This is most clearly asserted by the apostle when he says, ‘He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteous of God in Him.’ We see that our righteousness is not in ourselves but in Christ. ‘As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.’ What is placing our righteousness in the obedience of Christ, but asserting that we are accounted righteous only because His obedience is accepted for us as if it were our own?”
The view taken by Calvin, of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in justification, is that the righteousness of Christ is accepted for us as though it were our own.
In the words of Arminius:
“I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers, and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude, that, in this sense, it may be well and properly said, to a man who believes, faith is imputed for righteousness, through grace, because God hath set forth His Son Jesus Christ to be a propitiation, through faith in His blood. Whatever interpretation may be put upon these expressions, none of our divines blame Calvin, or consider him to be heterodox on this point; yet my opinion is not so widely different from his, as to prevent me employing the signature of my own hand in subscribing to those things which he has delivered on this subject, in the third book of his Institutes.”
John Wesley, in a sermon entitled, “The Lord our Righteousness” echoes the position of Arminius. All this commentary is in substantial agreement with the position set forth in Section 3.3 of Theology Corner:
Justification is a relative change and not the work of God by which you are made actually righteous. Justification removes condemnation but does not change your nature or make you holy. Justification is what God does for you through His Son; sanctification is what God works in you by His Spirit. Justification is a declarative act in the mind of God while sanctification is a moral change within the soul.
It would seem that Reformed Theology and Wesleyan/Arminian Theology are not divided by the destination so much as they are divided by the journey!