“You represent God as worse than the devil; more false, more cruel, more unjust. But you say you will prove it by scripture. Hold! What will you prove by Scripture? That God is worse than the devil? It cannot be. Whatever that Scripture proves, it never proved this; whatever its true meaning be. This cannot be its true meaning. Do you ask, “What is its true meaning then?” If I say, ” I know not,” you have gained nothing; for there are many scriptures the true sense whereof neither you nor I shall know till death is swallowed up in victory. But this I know, better it were to say it had no sense, than to say it had such a sense as this. It cannot mean, whatever it mean besides, that the God of truth is a liar. Let it mean what it will, it cannot mean that the Judge of all the world is unjust. No scripture can mean that God is not love, or that his mercy is not over all his works; that is, whatever it prove beside, no scripture can prove predestination.” — John Wesley
All Wesley does in this quotation is say that the Calvinist conception of God is worse than the devil, more false, more cruel, and more unjust. Taking that conclusion, he attempts to argue backwards by saying that, whatever evidence the Calvinist supplies, the conclusion will remain “that God is worse than the devil.”
As to his last statement, I will simply place Romans 8:28-30 and Ephesians 1:11, 12 for all to see:
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.”
He would see himself actively choosing, saving, sustaining, and equipping his saints for his work for his glory.
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-14; 2:1-10. 1 Timothy 1:12-15. Philippians 1:6. Ezekiel 36.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
1 Peter 2:9,10
We are a chosen generation for the purpose that we proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of death into life. This is our purpose: proclaiming the glory of God. And it is God who called us out of death into life; who gave us mercy; who chose us as His own special people.
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
First of all, any proclamation that we are merely sick in our sins and could still choose God in our unregenerate state is rendered academically dishonest by this and other passages: we are dead in our sins, as in lying in the grave. It is a miracle of God that anybody have faith in Christ. Second, before Christ, everybody is a child of wrath; none of us have any defense against our sins, iniquities, or transgressions against God. Our one defense is the work of Christ, and this we can only claim through the faith that is a gift of God. I say that the faith is the gift of God referenced in verse 8 for these reasons:
- Grace is always not of yourselves; that is the nature of grace and mercy. We never earn grace; it is an unmerited looking over of our sins, not because of our unrighteousness but because of the divine mercy and grace and justice and love of God. This is important because Paul brings to mind specifically that whatever “that” is, it is not of yourselves. It is unnecessary to bring this up if “that” referred to grace.
- Faith could be argued to be of ourselves. And for this reason, it would be necessary for Paul to remind the Church in Ephesus that this faith is a gift of God. Our faith in Christ is not from ourselves. Our faith in Christ is only through the working of the Holy Spirit, the divine foreknowledge of God.
- In Ezekiel 37, Ezekiel the priest is taken to the valley of dry bones. God then sends His Spirit into the valley, bringing the bones to life. In 37:5,6, Ezekiel relays a message from the Lord to the dry bones, “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.” The Spirit first enters the dry bones, then they live. God in his mercy elects to give these dry bones life. Totally dead, in the grave, these bones have no means to deserve mercy or have faith. And God explains that they shall know He is the Lord after He has raised them up from their grave. It is the gift of God that we are given knowledge that He is the Lord. 37:6,13,14 all acknowledge that we are dead in our sins, and that God shows mercy to us and gives faith to us through His own work.
- As well, Philippians 2:13 explains that it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Our faith cannot be from ourselves. Then the foundation for our salvation would rest on us, rather than on Christ and the work of God. As David Platt explained during the Secret Church this past weekend, “If anyone asks you why you are saved and you begin with ‘Because I,’ you have missed the point.” Our salvation is wholly dependent on the work of God for us on the cross and in us through the Spirit, not of ourselves.
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’ So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.’ Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? for who has resisted His will?’ But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
This passage responds directly to those anti-Calvinist claims that God could and would never condemn certainly anybody to Hell. We can infer from the preceding verses that the question Paul poses in 9:22-24 is rhetorical. The discussion and exposition Paul provides leads us to necessarily accept that argument that God has prepared in advance both 1) Vessels for destruction and 2) Vessels of mercy. The sovereignty of God is revealed in Pharaoh; and the reason is explained here. God hardens whom He wills and has compassion on whom He wills; and he does this so that 1) He may show his power and 2) His name may be declared. Again, this is the purpose of every believer in Christ: to proclaim the praises of God and His power and His glory. This passage also suggests that this is the ultimate purpose of every unbeliever as well; that the whole world (every person) may see the power of God in hardening the heart of every unbeliever and that the children of God may know and appreciate more fully the mercy of God that they have been called and chosen and redeemed and ultimately saved from damnation. Again, “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that he might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had prepared beforehand for glory…”
Take joy in the fact that you have been redeemed and are not a vessel of wrath!