Berean Baptist Church > Blog > Wrestling with Tensions

One of the things that sets Berean apart is our willingness to hold things in tension. Most churches don’t do this on Sunday mornings or, unfortunately, ever. In many churches, there are two churches—the Sunday morning, once-a-week church, and the participating-in-a-small-group church. And these two groups are different. Those participating in weekly Bible studies will dig deeper, see the issues, and wrestle with the tensions. At Berean, the goal is to be consistent from Sunday morning to Sunday school, to Sunday night, to small groups and micro-groups throughout the week—there is a consistent desire to read God’s word and unpack it. Our goal is to let the Bible speak for itself.

Elder Mike modeled this well for us Wednesday night as he led us to wrestle through a difficult text in Colossians. He talked about these paradoxes in the Bible. Remember, a paradox is two statements (ideas) that seem contradictory if both are true, like the tri-unity of Godhead. Statement number one—there is One true and living God. Statement number two—the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. That paradox is so orthodox and universally accepted in Christianity that it isn’t even seen to be a paradox anymore—but the post-apostolic church wrested intently with the tri-unity of God.

The other tension we wrestle with is what causes others outside the church to label us as reformed, or Calvinistic, etc. Wednesday night, Mike talked about the great missionary William Carey in a church of Particular Baptists. Particular Baptists set themselves apart from General Baptists. In my view, neither group is willing to wrestle with the tension or the paradox. Particular Baptists believe that Christ died for the sins of a particular group of people—the elect of God. General Baptists believe Christ died for all. They reject the limitation of the efficacy of the atonement to only the elect of God. Two denominations, both Baptistic—yet doctrinally distinct.

In Berean, we acknowledge the struggle—the paradox. The particular Baptists argue if Christ died for the sins of all of humanity—why then is anyone going to hell? Christ died for even the individual’s sin of unbelief. General Baptists read the Bible and reject such limits on the atonement. The plain reading of “Christ [died] once for all” (Heb 10:10) would be one such example. 1 John 2:2 would be another example. Theologians wrestle with these texts with words like sufficiency or efficacy—for example—the death was sufficient for all but not efficacious. These are tensions that must be wrestled with.

There is some type of election in the Bible—you can’t deny that and be true to the Scripture. But we say to all, even if you believe Christ died for only the elect and you are one of the elect, Christ’s atoning sacrifice for your sins does not absolve you of your personal responsibility to believe the gospel. Now, that’s a tension. I am part of the elect. Christ died for all my sins. Why, then, must I believe the gospel? Two thousand years ago, when Christ said, “It is finished.” my sins were atoned for, yet I must still believe the gospel. Yes, you must! But why? The simple answer is the Bible plainly teaches unbelievers (those who do not believe the gospel) go to hell.