Without Merit

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This is one of those articles where I would just like to scream. Yes, I know, that’s unprofessional, and somewhat unbecoming (well, considerably more than “unbecoming”). It is borne out of the general frustration of dealing with Calvinist/Augustine/Reformed/Sovereign Grace/Primitive Baptist theology.1 However, that is not the only source of frustration that generates this post, as there are a number of fundamental, unaffiliated Baptists out there who are just as clueless about what this article will address. Now, to be fair, and utterly so, the Arminians and Universalists are not exempt here either.

Now, before anyone thinks that I believe that I have a lock on all kinds of Scriptural knowledge, allow me to disabuse you of that notion. I am constantly learning, and constantly finding out how much more I don’t know, than I do know. In short, I still have lots to learn. Nevertheless, this lesson is so basic that it should be taught to everyone, lost or saved from Day One. Why do I say this?

Let’s find out.

To be honest and fair, I really had not put this lesson into an organized pattern of thought and teaching2 prior to dealing with Aaron the Calvinist, who has taken it upon himself to attempt to “correct” the supposed “error of my ways.” But, I am a hard-headed little snot3and such admonitions tend only to make me dig deeper the prove out whether what I believe is true or false. In short, I am one of “them.”4 What is this supposed “error?” It has to do with merit before God, and whether we have any or not.

Now, the adherent of Calvinist theology believes we have no merit before God. But, the basis of having no merit has everything to do with man being utterly incapable of anything, and God foreordaining who will be saved, and who will not. In sum, if you claim that you come to God on any other basis than God foreordaining you to salvation and choosing you in eternity past, and then regenerating your heart so you will believe, you are claiming merit before God.

That doctrine is not what I believe, and it is not the historic Baptist and Baptistic doctrine that has held firm ever since Jerusalem.5 What I believe is that the LORD foreknows who will and will not come to Christ for salvation, but He very plainly leaves that choice up to the individual as to whether they will believe the Gospel or not. Now, the Scriptures are express that the LORD God grants faith, which is necessary for salvation, and He also grants repentance, which is necessary for salvation. However, what the individual does with the faith and repentance that are granted, is entirely up to them. They can choose to believe what faith shows them, and they can choose to exercise the repentance and believe the Gospel, and be born again in Christ. Being born again in Christ is a work of the Holy Ghost, and not of the individual. In this process, all the individual ever does is make a series of choices:

  • Choose to believe what faith shows them (faith pretty much works automatically at this point).
  • Choose to exercise the repentance granted.
  • Choose to believe the Gospel.

Everything else is a work of the LORD God:

  • He brings the message of salvation through His servants
  • He grants the faith.
  • He grants the repentance.
  • He causes the individual who believes the Gospel to be born-again.

So the real question here is:

Is there any merit before God in making the right choices?

The challenge I was given is as follows, and its pretty presumptuous:

“When are you going to give scripture support of your foreknowledge view? When are you going to explain to me and your congregation how one receives Jesus by grace alone without merit according to your foreknowledge view?”

Now, I have to tell you, I really get a kick out of this part:

“When are you going to explain to me and your congregation . . .”

Like I don’t teach . . . Suffice to say those whom I teach well know and understand the basis of salvation and they are familiar with the message “Our Motivation” which is on the website, which one could listen to, if they were a mind to, as it does explain some of what I will cover here.

Now, this does come after I had already issued a request to Aaron to explain the principles and logic of the following verse, with a specific question:

So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. (Luke 17:10)

And then I asked:

What in the world is the “whole duty of man?”

What should have happened was an instant recall of a specific passage of Scripture that used the exact words in the quotation marks. Should I say that it didn’t? Well, it didn’t. What I was hoping to come to mind is one of the more well known quotes from the Scripture, namely this one:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Now, the question we must address is:

How do these two passages of Scripture fit together, if they fit together?

First, they do fit together, and in explaining how they fit together, it will be plain precisely how. Now, we must understand that I asked for the principles and logic underlying the statement of the LORD:

So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. (Luke 17:10)

In looking at this, we need to be clear that this statement follows on the heels of a parable about a master and servant relationship in illustrating why the LORD refused to even entertain the idea of increasing the apostle’s faith. Please understand, what the LORD states here does run counter to modern American thinking, but modern American thinking is dead wrong:

And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. (Luke 17:5-10)

Virtually everyone, to one degree or another, understands or knows about the illustration of having the faith of a grain of mustard seed. However, following hard after that is the word “but” which is a contrasting connective, and then the illustration begins:

But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. (Luke 17:7-9)

Now, here we see that a servant is expected, after working the fields, to come in and fix supper for his master, and that before the servant can eat. Moreover, after all is said and done, a question is asked by the LORD:

Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? (Luke 17:9a)

And the LORD answers His own question:

I trow not. (Luke 17:9b)

Meaning, ‘I think not’ or ‘I don’t think so’ whichever you prefer. In summary, the servant is commanded to do all this work, and when all is said and done, the LORD says that he, the servant, should not, indeed will not, be thanked for his service. Moreover, that is the way it should be. But, the LORD does not stop there. Now He makes application to the apostle’s request for more faith:

So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. (Luke 17:10)

Not to be smart about it, but if you cannot see the “No” answer here, you’re blind. Yes, the LORD told the apostles by way of illustration, ‘No, I will not increase your faith.’ But He really didn’t stop there either. Instead, the statement He made contained a principle that is applicable to all times and all places. This principle is clearly laid out in the following portion of the statement:

when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. (Luke 17:10b)

Which is to say: if you get everything done, which you were ordered, or commanded to do, then you are not worth any more to your master than what you were before you were ordered to do those things. Why? The reasoning follows:

we have done that which was our duty to do. (Luke 17:10d)

You did everything you were supposed to, ordered to, commanded to do. Yet, you never increased your value to your master, because he expected you to do what he ordered you to do. After all, isn’t that why you are a servant, retained in his service? If you don’t do what you are supposed to, here’s what you can expect:

And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. (Luke 12:47)

Hence, the principle here is a principle applicable everywhere, at all times, in all places: Servants are not rewarded for doing all they are ordered, commanded to do — they are, after all, merely fulfilling the will of their master, which is what is expected of them. They are, when all is said and done and having done all commanded them, worth no more than they were when they were placed in their position of servitude — they are unprofitable.

Now, to be certain, the word “profit” is tied to the word “merit” because a couple of synonyms of “merit” are “value” and “worth” which directly tie to “profit.” Additionally, “merit” is also synonymous with “earn,” and one of the definitions of “merit” is “deserve.” All these words tie together to show that which is “profitable,” which is to say meritorious or entitled to praise, gratitude, and/or commendation. In this case, it would mean acceptance by the LORD based upon one’s valuable service

Now then, shall the question be asked? Certainly it should:

Does man have a duty toward God?

Absolutely.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Here we are clearly and inescapably told that our “whole duty” is to “fear God and keep his commandments” — end of story.

So then, just who has done that? Perhaps it should be clarified as to what the commandments of the LORD are? Without going into excessive detail, the following verses suffice:

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:35-40)

We should note here the requirement given is expressly “all” and not “some” of your heart, soul and mind. Additionally, this “all” is inclusive, meaning “all, all the time” and not “all, some of the time.” Briefly comprehended, this leaves no room for anything else. Thus, I ask again:

So then, just who has done that? And, even if you did, what could you possibly say to the LORD God?

However, since none of us have kept either of those two commandments, the LORD gave man another commandment:

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: . . . (Acts 17:30)

And:

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. (Mark 1:14-15)

Now, this commandment has been in force ever since the fall of Adam in the Garden, and the evidence for that is more fully discussed in the article “What Does God Require of Us?” The long and short of it is that all men everywhere, at all times are commanded to repent and believe the Gospel. To fail to do so, is to disobey the commandment. To do so, is merely to fulfill the duty the LORD God requires of every man.

Now, supposing you do that, you know — repent and obey the Gospel: just what can you say to the LORD God?

How about:

So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. (Luke 17:10)

How is it now that anyone, lost or saved, besides the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, has any merit, any profitability before the LORD God?

They don’t. No one does.

At some point, I will address the Lord Jesus Christ’s merit and profitability before the Father, as His work was worthy of all praise and honor, but I will not at this time. Suffice to say, when we have obeyed the Gospel, and done all our service to the LORD God, all we can say is:

We are without merit and unprofitable before the LORD, as we have done that which we were commanded to do.


  1. I have to list all those labels as the adherents of this theology do tend to lie about what they believe as it is so odious to the vast majority of folk out there. I will say, at least Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church has the guts to own up to what he believes and carry it to its logical conclusion
  2. This is not to say I didn’t teach it. Rather, it is to say that I only taught it piecemeal.
  3. Well, maybe not so “little” at 6ft., 185lbs
  4. I trust you all will know who I am talking about here: you know, those folks who are simply difficult to get along with cause everything has to be proved to them.
  5. Actually, historic “Baptist” doctrine is essentially the same doctrine the LORD preached to Adam and Eve in the Garden. However, for the sake of New Testament dispensation, we will start at Jerusalem.
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9 Responses to “Without Merit”

  • Aaron says:

    No offense Paul, but you are behaving just like the universalist that I was trying to debate. I would give him questions about his theology, asking him to show me in  the bible and he refused. If you believe in any doctrine( such as your foreknowledge view of salvation) and you refuse or can’t give scripture support for that doctrine, than it is a false view or revelation that did not come from God, if it is of God, it will be in His Word and I’m asking you to show me. If you refuse to answer the questions above, you are telling me that you believe in a doctrine that does not require  you to give scripture references and you simply put your faith in something that is not biblical.I’m excited for you to defend and teach me from scripture the following questions that are above.

  • Aaron says:

    Please stop referring  to me as “Aaron the Calvinist”. I do not refer to you as “Paul the Fundamentalist Baptist”. It is condescending and disrespectful. Please stop the labeling.

    • Paul says:

      Why?

      The Lord Jesus Christ referred to his cousin John as “John the Baptist.” I am not ashamed of being a fundamental Baptist. In fact, I expressly, publicly state that is what I am. If you want to refer to me as “Paul the Fundamentalist Baptist” it’s not going to hurt my feelings, I’ve been called worse.

      You believe Calvinist doctrine (which is NOT Bible doctrine) therefore you are a Calvinist. Moreover, you cling to it in spite of considerable proof that doctrine is corrupt and contradicts the Scripture. Hence, you are “Aaron the Calvinist.” You believe it, wear the label.

  • Aaron says:

    Why? Because I respectfully asked you not to, that is why. Paul you cannot  show scripture support of your own foreknowledge view of salvation, so please do not  tell me or anyone else that the doctrine of sovereign election is not biblical,(I have given you countless scriptures that proves it is biblical) you are hardly in the position to say what is right or wrong when you cannot or refuse to prove your own position.So please ,do yourself a favor and answer the questions above if you want your interpretation of scripture to be respected, otherwise your salvation doctrine is true because the tradition of Paul the Baptists denomination says its true. I do not put any faith into the traditions of men. I put my faith in God’s word. Show me in scripture and answer the questions above or continue to believe and teach a false view of salvation that is a result of mans tradition and not biblical.

    • Paul says:

      Aaron,

      You are a Calvinist, and the label sticks. If you are ashamed of it, that is not my problem.

    • Paul says:

      (I have given you countless scriptures that proves it is biblical)

      Not hardly. You have given me a bunch of out-of-context passages that do not say what you think they say, and it’s hardly “countless.”

  • Aaron says:

    According to your doctrine of salvation,  2  people hear the Gospel and receive the same amount of grace to believe. One person believes and the other does not. Why?  Faith? God supplies grace, the faith and repentance for both to believe.  Why does one believe and the other does not?According to your doctrine of salvation something in that person makes one say yes.Was he able to generate a right thought, produce a right affection, create right belief, while at the same time man #2 did not have the natural wherewithal to come up with the faith to be saved?
    Is it the grace of God that makes you differ from unbelievers or is it your faith? If salvation depends on something inside that person to come to faith, than that salvation is no longer by grace alone but dependent on merit of that individual. That is the salvation of merit that you preach and teach.

  • Aaron says:

    This comment is plagiarized. I do not exactly where, as it has been pulled from a book, paper or software that I do not currently have access to, but the “analysis” is not Aaron’sPaul W. Davis


    John 6: 37 ” All that the father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” Notice the key words the Lord Jesus makes very clear ” All the father gives Me,” notice Jesus did not say “All who choose the father he gives Me. John 6: 44 ” No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” Notice the key words of this verse “No one can” and “unless”. Jesus makes it crystal clear that the words “no one Can” and “Unless” have to do with Ability to come and not Permission. Can=Ability, May=permission. Notice Jesus does not say ” No one may come to Me unless they choose the Father who sent Me draws him”. Notice God is not giving the sinner the option to exercise his will to choose to come to Him. The sinner cannot(not capable or unable) to come to Jesus unless the Father sovereignly draws him. You see Paul, when it comes to salvation, God sovereignly chooses us , we do not choose Him, He gives us the ability to choose Him by regenerating our dead spirits by the Holy Spirit, providing the faith and repentance necessary to become a genuine child of God. Without God’s sovereign drawing we would never come to Jesus (John6:37; John 6:44;65). Your doctrine of salvation shares God’s glory with sinful man. God will not share any of His glory with man. John 8: 43-44 ” Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. John 8:47 ” He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” Notice Jesus tells them they do not understand because they are not of God.

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    1. Aaron Says:

      I’m a child of God, not Aaron the Calvinist. I believe Calvinism not because of John Calvin , but because it is all over the bible.  Once again,your commentary has not addressed the issue of our discussion, your Foreknowledge view that God looks down the corridor of time and elects people to salvation because they choose Him. Enough of these irrelevant commentaries. Show direct scripture support that God elects to salvation according to your foreknowledge view. Below is a copy of a private email for all your followers to see what you have been avoiding to answer, maybe someone in your congregation will step up and take a shot.
      Personally, all you are doing is dodging the real issue at hand and jumping from topic to topic recklessly. I quit answering the scriptures because they have no relevance of your false foreknowledge view, nor do they challenge God’s soveriegnty or His soveriegn election. 
       
       
      you said;
       
      So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. (Luke 17:10) What in the world is the “whole duty of man?”
      Aaron: The point of this parable was that a slave, or a servant, should expect no special reward for doing what was his duty in the first place. The demanding standards Christ set versus (1-4) may have seemed too high for the diciples, but they represented only the minimal duties for a servant of Christ. Those who obey are not to think thier obedience is meritorious.
       
      I have been answering you questions now you answer mine.
       
      1) I challenge you to show scripture reference of your view of foreknowledge. Where in the bible does it say that God elects those to salvation on the basis of their positive response to the gospel and choosing him.
       
      2)I challenge you to explain to me how people receive Jesus by grace alone without merit according to your view. If you can answer these questions and show that you still believe in salvation by grace alone, apart from any merit or chance then I shall admit defeat. “I don’t know” is not an answer and does not count.

      Why is it that one unregenerate person believes the gospel and not another?
      Was he able to generate a right thought, produce a right affection, create right belief, while at the same time man #2 did not have the natural wherewithal to come up with the faith to be saved?
      If they both made use of the same grace, did one make better use of it than the other?
      If God’s grace places us in a neutral state, then what motivates one man to believe and not another?
      What principle in him made him choose what he did?
      If all men are neutral in God’s grace was it by chance that one believed and not another?
      Is it the grace of God that makes you differ from unbelievers or is it your faith?

       
       
      Aaron

    2. Aaron Says:

      No offense Paul, but you are behaving just like the universalist that I was trying to debate. I would give him questions about his theology, asking him to show me in  the bible and he refused. If you believe in any doctrine( such as your foreknowledge view of salvation) and you refuse or can’t give scripture support for that doctrine, than it is a false view or revelation that did not come from God, if it is of God, it will be in His Word and I’m asking you to show me. If you refuse to answer the questions above, you are telling me that you believe in a doctrine that does not require  you to give scripture references and you simply put your faith in something that is not biblical.I’m excited for you to defend and teach me from scripture the following questions that are above.

    3. Aaron Says:

      Please stop referring  to me as “Aaron the Calvinist”. I do not refer to you as “Paul the Fundamentalist Baptist”. It is condescending and disrespectful. Please stop the labeling.

    4. Paul Says:

      Why?

      The Lord Jesus Christ referred to his cousin John as “John the Baptist.” I am not ashamed of being a fundamental Baptist. In fact, I expressly, publicly state that is what I am. If you want to refer to me as “Paul the Fundamentalist Baptist” it’s not going to hurt my feelings, I’ve been called worse.

      You believe Calvinist doctrine (which is NOT Bible doctrine) therefore you are a Calvinist. Moreover, you cling to it in spite of considerable proof that doctrine is corrupt and contradicts the Scripture. Hence, you are “Aaron the Calvinist.” You believe it, wear the label.

    5. Aaron Says:

      Why? Because I respectfully asked you not to, that is why. Paul you cannot  show scripture support of your own foreknowledge view of salvation, so please do not  tell me or anyone else that the doctrine of sovereign election is not biblical,(I have given you countless scriptures that proves it is biblical) you are hardly in the position to say what is right or wrong when you cannot or refuse to prove your own position.So please ,do yourself a favor and answer the questions above if you want your interpretation of scripture to be respected, otherwise your salvation doctrine is true because the tradition of Paul the Baptists denomination says its true. I do not put any faith into the traditions of men. I put my faith in God’s word. Show me in scripture and answer the questions above or continue to believe and teach a false view of salvation that is a result of mans tradition and not biblical.

    6. Paul Says:

      Aaron,

      You are a Calvinist, and the label sticks. If you are ashamed of it, that is not my problem.

    7. Paul Says:

      (I have given you countless scriptures that proves it is biblical)

      Not hardly. You have given me a bunch of out-of-context passages that do not say what you think they say, and it’s hardly “countless.”

    8. Aaron Says:

      According to your doctrine of salvation,  2  people hear the Gospel and receive the same amount of grace to believe. One person believes and the other does not. Why?  Faith? God supplies grace, the faith and repentance for both to believe.  Why does one believe and the other does not?According to your doctrine of salvation something in that person makes one say yes.Was he able to generate a right thought, produce a right affection, create right belief, while at the same time man #2 did not have the natural wherewithal to come up with the faith to be saved?
      Is it the grace of God that makes you differ from unbelievers or is it your faith? If salvation depends on something inside that person to come to faith, than that salvation is no longer by grace alone but dependent on merit of that individual. That is the salvation of merit that you preach and teach.

    9. Aaron Says:

      This comment is plagiarized. I do not exactly where, as it has been pulled from a book, paper or software that I do not currently have access to, but the “analysis” is not Aaron’sPaul W. Davis


      John 6: 37 ” All that the father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” Notice the key words the Lord Jesus makes very clear ” All the father gives Me,” notice Jesus did not say “All who choose the father he gives Me. John 6: 44 ” No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” Notice the key words of this verse “No one can” and “unless”. Jesus makes it crystal clear that the words “no one Can” and “Unless” have to do with Ability to come and not Permission. Can=Ability, May=permission. Notice Jesus does not say ” No one may come to Me unless they choose the Father who sent Me draws him”. Notice God is not giving the sinner the option to exercise his will to choose to come to Him. The sinner cannot(not capable or unable) to come to Jesus unless the Father sovereignly draws him. You see Paul, when it comes to salvation, God sovereignly chooses us , we do not choose Him, He gives us the ability to choose Him by regenerating our dead spirits by the Holy Spirit, providing the faith and repentance necessary to become a genuine child of God. Without God’s sovereign drawing we would never come to Jesus (John6:37; John 6:44;65). Your doctrine of salvation shares God’s glory with sinful man. God will not share any of His glory with man. John 8: 43-44 ” Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. John 8:47 ” He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” Notice Jesus tells them they do not understand because they are not of God.

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