Is Matthew 1:21 A Valid “Proof text” For The Reformed Believer Or Not?

One of the verses that I often cite when explaining my transition to a reformed theological position is Matthew 1:21.  The context of his verse is an angel telling Joseph that Mary has not been unfaithful to him and that the child she is carrying is of the Holy Spirit.  The angel tells Joseph what to name the child and for what reason the Holy Spirit has supernaturally impregnated her.  See for yourself:

Matthew 1:18-25 (18) Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  (19)  And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  (20)  But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  (21)  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  (22)  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  (23)  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).  (24)  When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,  (25)  but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Verse 21 conveys a very specific message.  It says that “He will save His people”.  Note that it does not say that” He will make them savable” or “He will make salvation possible”.  I need to make this distinction because of an article recently posted over at Society of Evangelical Arminians under the title of “Matthew 1:21:  How Calvinists Blind Side A Text“.  As you can imagine, the title caught my eye so I read it.  It is a short article but it gives a good understanding of what the Arminian postition is.  The Article starts with the following paragraph:

One of the more inane prooftexts for Calvinism is Matt 1:21, “…for he will save his people from their sins.” Calvinists argue that this is a statement of definiteness, that it does not say that Jesus will merely provide the opportunity of salvation for “his people,” but instead, that Jesus will definitely save his people. They claim that this flies in the face of Arminian assertions that through Jesus, God provides a way for everyone to be saved.

The quick Arminian retort is simple: “What!? Do you Calvinists think that Arminians deny that Jesus will definitely save his people??? Of course, we Arminians affirm that Jesus will definitely save his people, just as the text says.”

The author correctly and briefly begins by stating the Calvinist position on this verse.  (For those who might be wondering the word inane means:  lacking significance, meaning, or point, i.e. silly).  He also addresses a common objection Calvinists present to Arminianism:  that in Arminian theology Christ’s death only makes salvation possible, it does not directly save anyone.

In my own personal experience, which includes believing in this way myself and then, once I accepted Reformed Theology,  discussing this topic with others who still hold this view, most will say the same thing the author does.  They will quickly and easily affirm that Jesus’ death will save His people.  But, when questioned on specifics of how, most actually come to the position that Jesus’ death only makes salvation possible.  At which point most who believe this way no longer want to continue the discussion because they see the hole in their theology but are unwilling to address it.

The author continues

The ultimate question is a matter of defining “his people.” Indeed, in Matthew’s Gospel, the issue which is pounded is whether “his people” consists of Abraham’s descendants only, or whether “his people” is actually the community of faith, consisting of both Jew and Gentile believers; obviously, Matthew favours the latter position.

I agree with him here that the ultimate question is who makes up His people.  This brings us to the point of Election.  Who gets to define who His people are?  Do we or does He?  It is my contention that only God, as Creator, has that right.  The Creator is always greater than the creation.

If you say that His people are defined by us, then that brings up several questions that must be answered.  How can God be truly sovereign if we have the power to decide who make up His people?  Why would Jesus choose to bear, on the cross,  the sins of those whom He knew would never choose Him?  If Jesus did bear, on the cross, the sins of those who would not choose Him then on what basis does God punish them (because the penalty has already been paid by Jesus)?

In conclusion, Matthew 1:21 is a Calvinist proof text.  The author of the post has missed the point of what is being proven though.  It proves that there is a definite group of people who are known as His people.  We must then move on to find out who these people are and how they become and stay His people.

Do you agree with my assessment?  If not, why?  What is your understanding?

Mohler: How To Use A Study Bible

Dr. Mohler has posted a short article on his blog discussing how to use a study bible.  It is a good article and worth taking the time to read.  If you have not used a study bible before I would encourage you to examine one.  It really helps as you to get the full picture as you read and study the text.

I have several and they are a big help when I prepare my Sunday School lessons.  The notes are useful in clarifying obscure passages or setting the scene.  The cross references are helpful in letting the Bible interpret itself.

I use a couple study bibles regularly.  I use the ESV Study Bible and the Ryrie NASB Study Bible.  I have a couple others that I use occasionally as well.  So, if you don’t already have a study bible then I suggest that you think about getting one.  Do some research and find one that bests fits your desire for translation method and check into who wrote the notes.  It will be a purchase that will give you many great returns.

How Planned Parenthood Operates

This really gets me upset.  I should not be surprised but I am.  People like this should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  Facilitating the murder of unborn babies is beyond reproach.  Watch the video and judge for your self.

Before you accuse me of the N=1 logical fallacy, I know that the actions of one person don’t mean that everyone does this type of thing.  But, there are simply too many reports of this type of behavior from Planned Parenthood employees to think that they are not taught this type of thing.  If Planned Parenthood truly wanted these things to end in their organization they would take real steps to see that it is done.

Agree or disagree?

Source:  Washington Times

Reading Psalms and Proverbs

Recently I have been drawn to reading the Psalms.  I have read them before but there is something different this time.  I seem to be able to understand more the depths the writer of the Psalms was in as he calls out to God in them.  I can see myself in the writers position as he calls out to God.  Maybe I have matured some as a Christian or maybe God is preparing me for something.  Maybe it is both.

I read a quote by Billy Graham in a story written about him in the USA Today in 2005 that I would like to share with you.  He said

“I used to read five psalms every day — that teaches me how to get along with God. Then I read a chapter of Proverbs every day and that teaches me how to get along with my fellow man.”

I had never heard that before but it is profound, at least to me.  I can see the wisdom in doing what he did.  I am thinking about trying this myself.  Psalms and Proverbs are rich sources of spiritual nourishment for the Christian.  I encourage you to partake of that nourishment.

When Things Seem Hopeless Commit Your Spirit To God

Psalm 31

(1)  In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!  (2)  Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!

(3)  For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;  (4)  you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge.  (5)  Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

(6)  I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD.  (7)  I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul,  (8)  and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place.

(9)  Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.  (10)  For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.

(11)  Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.  (12)  I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.  (13)  For I hear the whispering of many– terror on every side!– as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.

(14)  But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”  (15)  My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!  (16)  Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!  (17)  O LORD, let me not be put to shame, for I call upon you; let the wicked be put to shame; let them go silently to Sheol.  (18)  Let the lying lips be mute, which speak insolently against the righteous in pride and contempt.

(19)  Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!  (20)  In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.

(21)  Blessed be the LORD, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city.  (22)  I had said in my alarm, “I am cut off from your sight.” But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help.

(23)  Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.  (24)  Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!

Does life have you beaten down so badly that you are at the end of your rope?  Are you being crushed by the circumstances of your life?  Do you have no hope?  Do you have nowhere to turn for help?  Do you feel that your spirit is broken and you don’t have the strength to continue the fight?  This is the same situation that the writer of this Psalm found himself in.  I bet as you read the Psalm you had empathy for the writer.  You understood his situation.  What did he do?  He turned to God for help.  You can too.


21 Reasons Christians Should Abstain From Alcohol

My friend and former pastor has written a post detailing 21 reasons why Christians should not use alcohol.  He is a bit more moderate on this issue than I am but I still like him anyway.  Click here to read his post.  Click here to read his post.  For the record, I think Christians should completely abstain from using alcohol in any form.  I do not think that drinking is a sin, in and of itself, but I think it gives Satan a window into the lives of Christians.  As such, it should be avoided.  I do make exception for the medicines that have a bit of alcohol in them.

Do you agree with him?  Do you agree with me?  What is your position?

Reading Jonathan Edwards

I am about to begin reading (with my theology study group) “Freedom of the Will” by Jonathan Edwards.  I have never read anything by Edwards before.  I have heard some very good things about him and have read that he is recognized as the greatest American theologian.  I have looked at the first section of the book and realize that this will be some heavy reading.  Even though it will be hard I expect it to be a profitable time.

Have you read anything by Edwards?  What is your impression?