Report of the
On the Process and Purpose of God’s Calling
People to Salvation
The Study Committee on the Process and Purpose of God’s Calling People to Salvation presented to 123rd Annual Conference changes in wording to various articles relating to soteriology. The committee was then given the assignment by Annual Conference “to supply Annual Conference pastors and delegates with materials giving reasons for their proposed changes” in Articles 9-13 of our Articles of Faith (2006 BFC Yearbook, p. 37). The committee fulfilled its assignment and a copy of those materials, which was sent to each church, comprise Appendix A of this report.
In fulfilling its assignment, the committee stressed once again that the suggested changes in wording do not represent any change in the doctrinal positions presently found in our Articles of Faith. Therefore, the committee did not present exegetical material to support the word changes to the present articles. It did not believe that it was necessary to present detailed scriptural support of what we already hold as a body to be true.
Whether ultimately the proposed wording for Article 11, Foreseen faith, as proposed is adopted or not, we cannot be ambiguous as to what our present position actually is.
While we do not question the integrity of any who sign that they are in agreement with the Articles of Faith, we do question the understanding of any who would hold to a foreseen faith view of election while at the same time affirming that “election is a free act of the sovereign God in which from eternity, for reasons known only to Himself, and apart from any goodness in man, He graciously chose from among the fallen mankind a people unto salvation, that they might be conformed to Christ’s image.” (Article 11-1)
Therefore, any persons who presently hold to a foreseen faith position should not sign that they are in full agreement with our present Articles of Faith but should declare their reservation regarding Article 11. Whether or not the proposed clarifications are adopted, such persons, if holding credentials, should continue to minister and will continue to be embraced by the Bible Fellowship Church. The BFC, however, will continue to require persons seeking credentials to be in full agreement with the Articles of Faith. The committee is proposing a resolution to this effect.
The committee has become aware that an exegetical study by previous committees of this and related articles has not been preserved. If Annual Conference desires a detailed written exegetical study concerning Article 11 or any or all other articles under consideration, the Committee is willing to present such a study to be circulated before the 125th Annual Conference for inclusion in a report to the conference.
Upon further reflection and interaction with various individuals, the committee has become aware that the proposed wording of Article 10, But unless regenerated, has been construed by many to mean that one must hold that regeneration comes before faith. And since the committee has already stated on the floor of conference that no such understanding was intended to be communicated by the proposed changes, the committee will present a resolution at this Annual Conference that the words But unless regenerated be removed from the Proposed Article 10 that has been adopted at First Reading.
The committee unanimously proposes the following resolutions:
1. Whereas, it appears that there are some brethren who currently hold to a foreseen faith position as a basis of election, and
Whereas, a foreseen faith position is inconsistent with the Articles of Faith of the Bible Fellowship Church, which states “election is a free act of the sovereign God in which from eternity, for reasons known only to Himself, and apart from any goodness in man, He graciously chose…” (Article 11-1), therefore, be it
Resolved, that any persons who presently hold to a foreseen faith position should not sign that they “subscribe without reservation” [F&O, 512-11.2, Duties (4)] to our present Articles of Faith but should declare their reservation regarding Article 11. Whether or not the proposed clarifications are adopted, such persons, if holding credentials, should continue to minister and will continue to be embraced by the Bible Fellowship Church. The Bible Fellowship Church will continue to require persons seeking credentials to be “committed without reservation” [F&O, 512-13.3, Duties (5)] to the Articles of Faith.
2. Whereas, the words But unless regenerated contained in the proposed Article 10 have been construed by many to require that one must believe that regeneration precedes faith, and
Whereas, the Study Committee on the Process and Purpose of God’s Calling People to Salvation stated on the conference floor that it was not its intention to imply by these words that regeneration must precede faith, and
Whereas, it is the purpose of the proposed changes to bring a greater clarity to the present articles, and
Whereas, the meaning of the phrase but unless regenerated is not sufficiently clear, therefore be it
Resolved, that the words but unless regenerated be deleted from Article 10 that was adopted at first reading and that the original wording, but left to himself, be re-inserted.
Committee to Study Articles Pertaining to Salvation: Calvin T. Reed, Chairman; Ronald L. Kohl, Secretary; David T. Allen, Clifford B. Boone, Andrew T. Crossgrove, William G. Schlonecker, Arthur J. Simpson
Materials for Annual Conference pastors and delegates
to understand the proposed clarifications in Articles 9-13 of the Articles of Faith
Dear pastors and elders,
In response to the initial mandate from Annual Conference, the committee initiated a study of the biblical teaching on the process and purpose of God’s calling people to salvation.
In the report to the 123rd Annual Conference, the committee unanimously concluded, “The purpose of God’s saving individuals is ultimately to bring honor and glory to Himself. The process by which God saves individuals is by choosing them according to His sovereign prerogative, granting faith and life to those who are dead in their trespasses and sins. The Bible teaches that all that He chooses, He saves, and none of those who are saved will be lost. Since salvation is totally the work of God from its commencement to its completion, God is honored and glorified, and man is humbled and kept from boasting in the salvation he receives.”
The Study Committee on the Process and Purpose of God’s Calling People to Salvation presented changes in the wording of articles that were approved at first reading. In order to facilitate the discussion and vote by the Boards of Elders of particular churches that is required before second reading, the committee was given the assignment by Annual Conference “to supply Annual Conference pastors and delegates with materials giving reason for their proposed changes” in Articles 9-13 of our Articles of Faith (2006 BFC Yearbook, p. 37). It is in fulfillment of that assignment that the committee presents these materials to you.
You received a letter from the Committee on Arrangements dated Oct. 2, 2006, explaining that it is the responsibility of the Boards of Elders of each particular church to review and vote on proposed changes to the Articles of Faith.
Background to the Report Submitted
To the 123rd Annual Conference
It is the committee’s sincere belief that the suggested changes in wording do not represent any change in the doctrinal positions presently found in our Articles of Faith. Instead, they clarify the meaning that is already present. Therefore, the committee has not entered into a new scriptural study to support the articles; such study was accomplished when the present articles were written. It is the committee’s desire to remove any perceived ambiguities, so that each article is clearly understood, even at a cursory reading by one who is not familiar with the BFC. The committee also believes this will aid in the recruitment of pastors by attracting those who hold to the same theological positions that are held by the BFC.
The sole purpose of these materials is to demonstrate that the proposed changes in wording are, in fact, clarifications of the BFC’s present doctrinal position, and not changes in position. This will be accomplished by noting how the clarifications are consistent with wording in both the article under consideration and the wording in other existing articles. The committee rejects any suggestion that the proposed clarifications constitute a new position for the BFC. An assertion to the contrary would constitute a new doctrinal position for the BFC.
Therefore, the materials that you have before you for consideration represent a study of the Articles of Faith of the BFC, demonstrating that the proposed wording of the articles is consistent with the present wording of the articles; and further, that the clarifications presented are helpful in the recruitment of pastors and in erasing perceived ambiguities.
Article 9 – Sin
Current article in Faith & Order
9-1. Sin is any lack of conformity to the will of God1 or any transgression of the law of God.2 Sin separates man from God, incurring His wrath and judgment, and it is manifest in the selfishness, rebellion, and total depravity of man's conduct and behavior before God and man. Sin is the cause of the curse on and defilement of the created universe.3
9-1. “Sin is any lack of conformity to the will of God1 or any transgression of the law of God. 2 Sin separates man from God, incurring His wrath and judgment, and is manifest in the selfishness, rebellion, unbelief and total depravity of man’s being.3 Sin is the cause of the curse on and defilement of the created universe.” 4
1 All wrongdoing is sin (1 John 5:17a). Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins (James 4:17).
2 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10).
3 “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, (2) in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air. (3) All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” (Eph. 2:1-3). “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, (19) since what may be known about God is plain tot hem, because God has made it plain to them. (20) For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (21) For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Rom. 1:18-21). Also Rom. 3:10-12, Rom. 8:7-8.
4 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time (Rom.8:22). (See also Gen.3:17,18).
1. Adding the word unbelief to Article 9-1 is consistent with Article 15, Justification, which states, “the sinner is declared righteous solely through faith in the redemptive work of Christ.” Prior to faith, man was unrighteous and unbelieving, thereby incurring God’s wrath and judgment.
2. Total depravity includes not just man’s conduct and behavior, but his whole being or nature. This is consistent with Article 10-1, Human Ability and Responsibility, which states that while man has not lost his ability to make decisions, “left to himself, he acts only in accordance with his fallen, sinful nature.”
Article 10 – Human Ability and Responsibility
Current article in Faith & Order
10-1. In his original creation man was endowed with the ability to will and do good or evil and was accountable for his willing and doing.1 But by the fall of Adam man lost his ability, apart from God's grace,2 to will and to do those things necessary for a right relationship with God;3 however, he is still accountable to God for obedience to all of His commands.4 Man has not lost his ability to make decisions,5 but left to himself, he acts only in accordance with his fallen, sinful nature.6
10-2. Only by God's infinite grace can man will or do anything necessary to his salvation.7 By that grace, God saves men8 whom He causes to will and to do good; however, He does this without nullifying man's ability to act responsibly.9
10-1. In his original creation man was endowed with the ability to will and do good or evil and was accountable for his willing and doing.1 But through the fall of Adam man lost his ability, apart from God's grace,2 to will and to do those things necessary for a right relationship with God;3 however, he is still accountable to God for obedience to all of His commands.4 Man has not lost his ability to make decisions,5 but unless regenerated6, he acts only in accordance with his fallen, sinful nature.7
10-2. “Only by God’s infinite grace can man will or do anything necessary to his salvation. 8 By that grace, God saves those men whom He causes to will and to do good;9 however, He does this without nullifying man’s ability to act responsibly.10
1 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die" (Gen.2:16,17).
2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath (Eph.2:1-3).
3 There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God (Rom.3:11). Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God (Rom.8:8).
4 God "will give to each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (Rom.2:6-10). In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).
5 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (Deu.30:11,19).
6“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5) “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…(5) made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…” (Eph. 2:1, 5)
7 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one" (Rom.3:10,12). Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil (Jer.13:23). (See also footnote 2).
8 It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy (Rom.9:16).
9Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – (13) children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)
10 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Phil.2:12,13).
1. The replacement of “by” with through in Article 10-1 is simply designed to eliminate a possible misunderstanding of time-chronology. It was through Adam’s fall, not “by the time of Adam’s fall,” that sin came into the world and man lost his ability, apart from God’s grace, to will and to do those things necessary for a right relationship with God.
2. The replacement of “but left to himself” with the proposed clarification but unless regenerated asserts nothing more than that fallen man, with a fallen nature, has no other nature from which to work “in accordance with” unless he is first regenerated. In addition, Article 17-1, Perseverance of the Saints, notes that it is “those regenerated by the Word of God through the work of the Holy Spirit become partakers of the divine nature.” They are not “partakers of the divine nature” before regeneration.
3. “God saves those men” is consistent with Article 11-2, Election, which states “those so chosen He redeems by His Son and seals by His Spirit.”
Article 11 – Election
Current article in Faith & Order
11-1. Election is a free act of the sovereign God in which from eternity,1 for reasons known only to Himself,2 and apart from any goodness in man3 He graciously chose from among the fallen mankind a people unto salvation,4 that they might be conformed to Christ's image.4 Those so chosen He redeemed5 by His Son and seals by His Spirit.6
11-1 Election is a free act of the sovereign God in which from eternity, 1 for reasons known only to Himself, 2 and apart from any foreseen faith and/or goodness found in man, 3 He graciously chose from among the fallen mankind a people unto salvation, 4 that they might be conformed to Christ’s image. 4 Those so chosen He redeemed by His Son5 and seals by His Spirit. 6
1 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Eph.1:4,11).
2 "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Mat.11:27).
3 Who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time (2 Tim.1:9). For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)
4 Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph.4:13).
5 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth (2 Thes.2:13).
6 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit (Eph.1:13).
1. The present article on election states that God chose for “reasons known only to Himself.” To postulate that God chooses individuals on the basis of foreseen faith is to posit the reason for God choosing whom He does. In fact, it is asserted by those who hold to a foreseen faith position that we as humans know the reason why God chooses whom He does, namely foreseen faith, and that the reason is not just known by God, but He has revealed the reason in His Word. A foreseen faith position stands in complete opposition to the plain reading of the current article, which states “for reasons known only to Himself.”
Further, the present article states that it is apart from “goodness” that God chooses who will be saved. Foreseen faith would be a “goodness” found in man that men without faith do not possess. Such a faith determines God’s choosing of a person; hence, God’s choice is no longer “for reasons known only to Himself and apart from any goodness in man.” As such, a foreseen faith position is antithetical to our current article on election. Either the basis of God’s choosing is a reason known only to God or foreseen faith is the reason. Either it is apart from man’s goodness or it is because of the goodness of man’s faith. It cannot be both. The present article does not provide room for foreseen faith as a part of God’s choosing, but rather man’s faith is a result of God’s choosing.
2. The addition of the word found in the phrase “found in man” simply means that faith was not resident or inherent in fallen man, but comes as a result of God’s grace. God brings fallen man to faith as opposed to discovering faith resident in man’s heart. Article 10-1, Human Ability and Responsibility, states that “man lost his ability, apart from God's grace, to will and to do those things necessary for a right relationship with God.”
Article 12 – Salvation
Current article in Faith & Order
12-1. Salvation is offered in the gospel to all men1 and is received by grace through faith and the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit,2 apart from works or human merit.3 Salvation centers in a person, Jesus Christ, and receiving Him4 includes the remission of sins on the grounds of His shed blood,5 the imputation of His perfect righteousness,6 the reception of the Holy Spirit,7 and the impartation of eternal life.8
12-1. Salvation is the work of God1 in which He reconciles fallen men to Himself,2ultimately removes the consequences of the curse, 3 and bestows upon His redeemed Creation4 the riches of His grace, all to His glory. 5
12-2. Salvation is offered in the gospel to all men6 and is accomplished in all the elect.7 It is received by grace through faith and the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit,8 apart from works or human merit.9 Salvation centers in a person, Jesus Christ, and receiving Him10 includes the remission of sins on the grounds of His shed blood, 11 the imputation of His perfect righteousness,12 the reception of the Holy Spirit, 13 and the impartation of eternal life. 14
1 Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Heb. 7:25) Also Eph. 2:4-5, 8-9.
2 “Through Him to reconcile all things to Himself…” (Col. 1:20) For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! (Rom. 5:10)
3No longer will there be any curse. (Rev. 22:3)
4 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Rom. 8:18-25)
5 I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own Sake, and remembers your sins no more. (Isaiah 43:25)
6 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
7 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44) For you granted him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given him. (John 17:2) When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all those who were appointed for eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)
8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8).
9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph.2:8,9).
10 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
11 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace (Eph.1:7).
12 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption (1 Cor.1:30).
13 And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ (Rom.8:9b).
14 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11, 12).
1. The committee noted that the Articles of Faith nowhere define salvation. Therefore, in 12-1, the Annual Conference approved a summary definition that is a clarification in keeping with what the articles on salvation teach as a whole. This definition includes scriptural support in the footnotes.
2. That “salvation…is accomplished in all the elect” is consistent with Article 11-1, Election, which states “those so chosen He redeemed by His Son and seals by His Spirit.” In addition to the footnoted Scriptures, Ephesians 1:13 says, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…” It is only those who have believed who are sealed by His Spirit. As such, when the article presently states that “those so chosen He redeemed by His Son and seals by His Spirit,” it is intended to communicate that salvation is accomplished in all the elect.
Article 13 – Repentance
Current article in Faith & Order
13-1. Repentance unto life is a voluntary act of man,1 accomplished by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. Repentance consists in a knowledge of sin,2 a sense of guilt and corruption that results in the confession and forsaking of sin and a turning to God.3
13-1. Repentance unto life is a gift of God1 and a voluntary act of man,2 accomplished by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. Repentance consists in a knowledge of sin, 3 a sense of guilt and corruption that results in the confession and forsaking of sin and a turning to God4 that results in loving, obedient service. 5
1 Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? (Rom. 2:4) When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”(Acts 11:18) 2 Tim. 2:25 “correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of truth . . .”
2 And repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47). In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).
3 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8).
4 For they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thess.1:9).
5 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph. 2:10) We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 1:3)
1. The addition of the phrase a gift of God is consistent with Article 10-1, Human Ability and Responsibility, which states, “But by the fall of Adam man lost his ability, apart from God’s grace, to will and to do those things necessary for a right relationship with God.” Therefore, the act of repentance is not solely the work of man’s will but is a gift of God’s grace. In addition to the footnoted Scriptures, 2 Timothy 2:25 says, “Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth…”
2. Loving, obedient service as a result of true repentance is consistent with Article 11-1, Election, which states that those who are chosen “might be conformed to Christ’s image.” Loving, obedient service is a mark of conforming to Christ’s image. It is also consistent with Article 16-1, Sanctification, which notes that sanctification is a “progressive work” that “conforms the whole man” to Christ’s image “as the Word of God is believed and obeyed.”
The committee thanks the pastors and elders in advance for their consideration of this material and the proposed clarifications to the articles. If you have any further questions, please contact Pastor Calvin Reed, chairman of the committee.
The members of this study committee unanimously approve this report.