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Until one summer ago (summer of '97),I was a BIG TIME advocator on the side of free will. My close church friends had been searching through the scriptures for a long time, and had come to rest on the side of sovreign election in salvation. I'll never forget our days of endless debate as our college and careers group battled out the issue: Bible pages frantically turning, concordances ripping off shelves... A good friend of mine, on the election side, left me with this challenge: if I could build a solid defence for free will, based on scripture (in its proper context) he would reconsider. I got into some major bible reading, determined to prove him wrong; while I prayed that God would teach me if in fact I was wrong. I found not one verse about free will, but dicovered that sovreign election was an undeniable Biblically based doctrine.
You may not agree with my point of view, nor with everything I have written, and that's ok. I would not be so bold as to claim that I have the absolute and only truth on this matter. I as I have read through the scriptures over the past year, I have come to believe that this is the correct understanding of scripture. I would willingly reconsider my view should the Holy Scriptures reveal otherwise.
Many people, I believe, are in grave danger when they get into a rut of believing that what they have always believed and what their church has taught them cannot be wrong. Too few people are willing to lay aside their theological presuppositions to consider their position in light of scripture. Many would prefer to remain in the comfort zone of what they have always known, and are not open to the Spirit's teaching.
I pray that you will read through the scriptures prayerfully, open to the instruction of the Holy Spirit. Please lay aside your biases and be willing to consider the scriptures I have highlighted in my text. Do not attempt to be defensive (as I was when I fist began studying this), Defensiveness causes one to rationalize scripture to make it fit their understanding.
I have highlighted many verses throughout this text. Please take the time to read the verses in the context of the whole passage. Many false doctrines and religions are built on single verses twisted and taken from their context. If your hermeneutics are in order (scripture interprets scripture; verse in context with chapter, with book, with the whole of scripture; observing to who and about who a verse in being written, etc), you will be less likely to err in your interpretations
I welcome your comments or questions. Please read through this text in its entirety before making any conclusions. Hold your questions and objections until you have read everything, for I may deal with that question later.
1. Intro: WHAT IS THE WILL?
2.THE SINNER'S NATURE
a) born dead
b) spirtually deaf & blind
c) cannot understand things of God
d) is enmity against God
e) is in bondage to sin
3. SALVATION IS OF THE LORD
b)To God be the glory
c) election based on foreknowledge?
4. GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY AND MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY
5. THE GIFTS OF FAITH AND REPENTANCE
6. CAN GOD'S CALLING BE RESISTED?
7. COMMON OBJECTIONS:
#1 it's not fair
#2 2 Peter 3:9
#3 If God has his elect, why evangelize?
8. WHAT DOES THIS CHANGE? DOES ANY OF THIS MATTER?
WHAT IS THE WILL?
For centuries, the question has been asked: does man have in him the ability to freely will to choose God?
Before it can be asked whether or not man has in him the free will to choose God, the question must be asked: is man's will free? But before it can be asked wether or not the will in itself is free, another question must be asked: what is the will?
According to Webster's dictionary and Roget's thesaurus, the will may be defined as: 1. the mental process by which one chooses or decides; 2: desire or wish. It is interesting to note that "free will" is a term that commonly finds itself in the books of modern philosophy. Consider for a moment the definition of free will found in a secular dictionary, The Skeptic's Dictionary (Caroll, Robert) (link at bottom)
["Free will: Free will is a concept in traditional philosophy used to refer to the belief that human behavior is not absolutely determined by external causes, but is the result of choices made by an act of will by the agent. Such choices are themselves not determined by external causes, but are determined by the motives and intentions of the agent, which themselves are not absolutely determined by external causes. ...Free will advocates, or libertarians, as they are sometimes called, believe that while everything else in the universe may be the inevitable consequence of external forces, human behavior is unique and is determined by the agent, not by God ..."]
First of all, one must note that what a man chooses is an act of his will. That much is true. Man has a will. What he wills, also defined as what he desires or wishes, is determined by his own motivations and intentions. Again, that much is accurate.
The question must then be asked: where do these motivations, desires and intentions that will come to determine how he wills to act, come from? The answer is basic: those things that we desire are those things that are in our heart. We desire something, that "something" is in our heart, and from there comes the motivation and hence, the will to choose, to act. (I choose to pick up and eat a donut, rather than a tomato, because it is the donut that I desire in my heart.) Based on these definitions, one can see already, that the will in itself is not a free or independent thing, but rather is dependant on man's desires, based on what is it his heart.
In returning to the question of the will in relation to man being able to will to chose God, one needs to consider what the Bible says about man's heart, from which will come the desires and the motivations that will make him act.
The Bible tells us in Jeremiah 17:10 that, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?" Jesus also pointed out to the wicked Pharisees that because their hearts were full of evil, ultimately, everything they said was evil. Matthew 12:34 "You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks."
If man's heart is corrupt and filled with evil, out of his heart will only come evil, the desires within his evil heart will be evil, and man will not desire that which is good, therefore will not choose to run to that which is absolutely good, namely, God.
MAN'S SINFUL NATURE
In order to understand what sinful man is or is not free to do, his nature must be understood. The Bible uses several illustrations to depict the man's condition without Christ.
a). THE SINNER IS BORN DEAD IN HIS SIN
Romans 6:23 Makes it very clear: "The wages of sin is DEATH" This means physical death as well as Spiritual death.
Psalm 58:3 "The wicked go astray from the womb: they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies."
Psalm 51:5 "Behold, I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me."
Romans 5:12 "For as by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; and so death past upon all men, for that all have sinned.
John 5:24 "Verily, verily I say unto you He that hears my words and believes on Him that sent me, shall not come into condemnation but is passed from death unto life."
What does it mean to be dead? Dead means dead. Many people portray the sinner as one who is dying, sick, in trouble, in desperate need of help, but not dead. But the Bible states: "Ephesians 2:1 "And you hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sin". You "passed from death unto life" (John 5:24 )
A dead man is totally and completely dead: A physically dead man does not desire life, he does not even know that he needs life. The greatest doctor in the world may be standing two feet from him, he will not hear, care, nor have any inclination to call out for the doctor to heal him and save his life. The only hope the dead man has is for a miracle to make him alive. Only then can he cry out for help and assistance.
It is therefore interesting that the Bible uses death as a portrait of the Christ-less sinner. He is spiritually dead (to the things of the Spirit of God, spiritually unaware and spiritually unable to make any spiritually minded decisions.
b). THE SINNER IS SPIRITUALLY BLIND AND DEAF
While the dead corpse lying at the side of the road may have eyes, and ears, most would not hesitate to agree that it would be foolish to assume that he is able to see and hear. He is dead. Physically dead people don't see physical things. The same, according to the Bible may be said of the spiritually dead man. The spiritually dead man, is spiritually blind. He has physical eyes to see with and ears to hear with but they neither hear nor see the things of God
Jesus spoke to many people throughout His earthly ministry. He performed amazing miracles, spoke with great authority (Matthew 7:29) yet still countless numbers turned away and did not believe in Him. To His disciples who'd been inquiring as to why Jesus often spoke to the people in parables He told them : (Matthew 13:11-16 "Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to them it is not given, therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing hear not, neither do they understand. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear"
Seventeen times in the New Testament (eight times by Jesus) are the words used "He that hath ears to hear let him hear." In John 8:44 He says; "Why do you not understand my speech? Even because you cannot hear my word." Was Jesus referring only to physical ears? His hearers were not physically deaf - they had been listening to him preach and had sometimes interjected. On a physical level they could hear His message. But as Matthew 13:16 highlights, not all were blessed, as were the disciples, with eyes that could see and ears that could hear. (See also Luke 10:23 "Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, 'Blessed are the eyes that see what you see'.")
While it is true that many of the passages that speak of spiritual blindness refer to the Jews, in accordance to what was prophesied of them; every unbelieving man, Jew or Gentile is found in the same condition. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 we read: "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God".
How then is a blind unbeliever to receive the sight needed to see the light of the gospel? Exodus 4:11 The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?" It is God who gives man his physical sight and hearing, so it is of the sight in his blinded mind. Luke 24:45 "Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures".
c). THE SINNER CANNOT UNDERSTAND THE THINGS OF GOD
The Bible tells us that the natural man in his state of spiritual death, does not understand, nor can He receive the things which are of the God.. 1 Corinthians 2:14 "For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually hidden."
d). THE SINNER DOES NOT DESIRE OR SEEK GOD
Not only does man not understand the things of God, he does not desire them, and does not seek for them. It is a myth that man in his state of sin truly seeks God and is able to come to Him. Romans 3:10&11 declares: "There is none righteous, no not one; there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God" While it's true that some would appear to seek God in some form or another, they seek Him not to glorify Him, but with selfish motives, seeking Him as a type of "life preserver", or as a "genie-in-a-bottle" during times of trouble.
John 3:20 says: "For everyone that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed."
It is against our natural sin nature to come to God. Look at Adam and Eve: What did they do when they realized they were sinners? They ran from God; they tried to hide. The truth is that the closer we get to God, the more we realize how wretched we are. The holiness of God is offensive to us; it exposes the wickedness that we are pleased to live in. So we, as Adam and Eve did, run and hide from Him. The only way we will ever come to God, is if God intervenes and draws us irresistibly to Himself. John 6:44 "No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." 6:65 "..no man can come unto me except it were given unto him of my Father.")
e). THE SINNER IS ENMITY AGAINST GOD
"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be" (Romans 8:7&8) This passage tells us that the carnal mind IS ENMITY AGAINST GOD. Not only does man, in his carnal, dead stated not desire or seek God : he HATES Him. He will not come, and does not desire to know this one who will shed light on his enjoyed evil. (John 3:20). God must change that man's mind or he will die is his dead state of enmity. Jesus said: "You WILL NOT come to me that you may have life. John 5:40" Only the Holy Spirit can turn someone's will around. "Who "works in us both to will and to do God's good pleasure". (Philippians 2:13)
As stated earlier, the whole issue of "free will" rests upon man's supposed freedom to chose or to reject God at will. However, along with death, blindness, and deafness, another portrait that the Bible paints of the Christ-less sinner is that of bondage. The man without Christ "everyone who sins", according to John 8:34, "is a SLAVE to sin". Again in Romans 7:14 Paul affirms he is "unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin" In 2 Timothy 2:26 he speaks of those who are opposed to the gospel and says that he hopes they will escape "the snare of the devil, who has taken them captive at his will (or "to do his will"). In 2 Peter 2:19 we read of false teachers of whom it is said "they themselves are slaves of depravity--for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him".
Sinful man is not free! Sin, not Christ is his master. If he is not free but in bondage to sin, all that is in him, including his mind and his will, are also in bondage to sin. The myth of a free will is answered in this: his will is not free but a slave to sin. He is only made free if the Son has made him free. (John 8:36 ).
It is true, as again stated earlier, that man is a moral being, able to make choices, but his choices are governed by whom he is serving. The natural, dead man serves and obeys the desires of the flesh. He might choose to do a "good" deed, yet his motives are not to give God glory, and "whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). He is "free" in that he is not being forced to sin, but as a slave of sin, he is free only to sin. (See Romans 6:20) Jesus said to the Pharisees: "You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do.." John 8:44. Again, the unregenerated man's will is ruled by sin, therefore will never submit itself to Christ.
SALVATION IS OF THE LORD
If it is as has previously been established, that man is totally dead, unable, unwilling, and undesiring of God; if he is blind and deaf and cannot see nor hear and understand the gospel, if his will and heart are in bondage to sin and he will not seek God nor willingly submit to Him; it remains that if any man is to be saved, his salvation will have to come entirely from God. Left to themselves, every man would be lost. Matthew 19:25,26 "Who then can be saved?...With men it is impossible; but with God all things are possible." (Mark 10:26,27; Luke 18:26,27)
Many people represent salvation as being mostly of the Lord, but in part of us as we have to have faith and believe. And yet, the scriptures tell us that Jesus is both "the AUTHOR and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2) Man does not seek God (Romans 3:11 ), so God, seeks man ( Luke 19:10) Man does not come willingly to God (John 5:40), so God must draw him (John 6:44). Man does not choose God, but rather, God chooses him. (John 15:16 "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you...") So it can be declared as in Jonah 2:9 "Salvation is of the Lord"
Contrary to our understanding, our salvation does not begin with our faith: It begins with God. It appears to have begun with us, as from our perspective we look back on the moment of our salvation. We see that we sought, that we had faith, and we see our own personal response to the calling of God. But as we look at our salvation from the perspective of God, through His Word, we see that He was the root of it all. Consider for a moment the testimony of the great preacher Charles H. Spurgeon.
"When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this...One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God...the thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, "I ascribe my change wholly to God."
God has, according to the Bible chosen us for salvation long before we were ever in existence, and this election has nothing to do with our will, but rather with His. Ephesians 1:4,5 "According as He has chosen us in Him before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will." Verse 11 says it again "...being predestinated according to Him who works all things according to the purpose of His will: that we should be to His glory, who first trusted in Christ." 2 Timothy 1:9 "Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to Him own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began."
Many Christians today have a fear of the doctrine of election. It is by far one of the greatest debates in he history of the church and many Christians would rather avoid the issue than to delve into the big questions it raises.
Some avoid the issue because they see that it does not easily comply with logic. They are unable in their minds to reconcile the two truths presented in the Bible: that man is responsible for his actions, and yet at the same time God is fully sovereign.
Still others avoid the issue because they mistakenly believe that it paints a picture of a cruel and uncaring God who will not save everyone but chooses some to live and others to die. (Yet rather it is that of a merciful God who chooses to redeem some undeserving people out of a world of equally undeserving people who because of their sin justly merit death and hell )
Despite it's obviously controversial and seemingly contradictory nature, the doctrine of Sovereign Election is one that cannot be ignored by any Christian seeking to study the Bible in its entirety. Throughout the Scriptures, one can find over 127 examples of God's choice of nations or individuals for various purposes: (God's choosing and electing a people to himself (the Jews) through the choosing of Abraham out of a world of people, the choosing of Isaac over Ishmael, the choosing of Jacob over Esau (before they were born according to Romans 9) the choosing of who would betray His Son (Acts 2:23), the choosing of the disciples, right down to the choosing and election of the church, his bride.)
Webster's dictionary defines election as follows: "ELECT: to determine in favor of, to designate, choose or select as an object of mercy or favor, predestinated in the divine counsels, one chosen or set apart, one chosen or designated by God for salvation, collectively, the saved. ELECTION: Divine choice, predetermination of God, by which persons are distinguished as objects of mercy, become subjects of grace, are sanctified and prepared for heaven, the elect."
If one does a word study of the following words: elect, election, chosen, called, appointed, ordained, predestined, predestination; he will find that election is indeed a biblical concept (unlike the term "free will" which is never found in the Bible) The following is a small list of the many passages which mention election, and being chosen.:
2 Thessalonians 2:13 "But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation..."
Titus 1:1 " Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledging of the truth."
Colossians 3:12 "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;..."
Revelation 17:14 "And they that are with Him are called and chosen, and faithful."
Romans 11:5 "Even so then, at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace."
Romans 11:7 "What then, Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded."
2 Timothy 2:10 "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."
Mark 13:20 " But for the elect's sake, whom He has chosen, those days shall be shortened. (22,27)
Luke 18:7 "And shall not God avenge His own elect...?"
Romans 8:33 "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?
Romans 16:13 "Salute Rufus, chosen in the Lord"
Psalm 33:12 "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance."
Peter 2:9 "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.."
James 2:5 "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world..."
1 Corinthians 1:27-31 "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things, and the things that are not to nullify the things that are; so that no one may boast before him. 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. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
b) TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Despite its many appearances in scripture, the doctrine of election/predestination is one that very often confuses and divides. It does raise a lot of questions (all of which are answerable with scripture) and it strikes some sensitive nerves.
The biggest nerve that is struck when free will is denied and God's sovereignty upheld is man's pride. Man, in his sinful nature seeks independence from God. He has the "me do" attitude of a toddler. He wants to achieve his own salvation and stay in control of his own life. Finally, by the grace of God he is convicted of his sin and the Holy Spirit brings him to an understanding of His need for a saviour. Yet that desire for control still lingers in the flesh.- If man can say "I chose God", he can still in his mind have control of his life. If he was willing and that willingness is the closing factor in his salvation, he still has the final say. God is in his life only because he gave him the permission to be there. It is tough on man's ego to admit that he is totally dependant upon God for all. That he is so wretched and depraved that He can do nothing in his salvation. That even his believing and repentance is given to Him through God's grace; such is a reality that takes much humbling in a person in order to be accepted. It is easier on man's pride to declare that he in some fashion chose God...
We live in a society that is very man centered. We talk about self esteem, self help, and focus on self images, while the Bible talks about humility, submission, dying to self... Sadly this man- focused pattern of thought often finds itself within our churches. Emphasis is commonly placed on what man must do, on his free will and ability to choose... little is said of god's sovereignty, of His infinite wisdom, of His omnipotence... As Chuck Swindoll says: "no other doctrine (than election) so highly upholds the perfect character of God" And yet, how often do we seek instead to uphold man's dignity in allotting him "freedom and wisdom to choose" If man's will really was free and man was able to choose God to determine that he will go to heaven, a natural result is that this would give those of us who are saved, boasting rights. If God drew all men equally and did in you nothing more than He did in anyone else, and if the only difference between you who is saved and the other guy who isn't is that you chose God and he didn't, you can pat yourself on the shoulder and take pride in your "wise decision". If however, you understand that you were spiritually DEAD, unable without the Spirit to understand the things of God (see 1 Corinthians 2:14), unable, unwilling, and in your state of sin, undesiring of God but that God in His grace, "according to the good pleasure of His will" (Ephesians 1:5) chose you and revealed Himself to you, causing you then to believe and place your faith in Him; you can only give God the glory.
1 Corinthians 4:7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
Ephesians 2:8&9 says: "For by grace are we saved through faith, and that (the whole first part even faith) not of ourselves, it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast.
Free will glorifies man. It says that man has in him the ability to wisely choose for God. Election glorifies God. It says that only God is wise; only God is sovereign and in being sovereign is utterly able to control and make the wisest of decisions.
We live in a society that is very man centered. We talk about self esteem, self help, and focus on self images; while the Bible talks about humility, submission, dying to self... Sadly this man- focused pattern of thought often finds itself within our churches. Emphasis is commonly placed on what man must do, on his free will and ability to choose... little is said of god's sovereignty, of His infinite wisdom, of His omnipotence...
No other doctrine (than election) so highly upholds the perfect character of God" And yet, how often do we seek instead to uphold man's dignity in allotting him "freedom and wisdom to choose." When the final deciding element in man's salvation is his election, not his will; God gets all the glory. Man gets none.
Ephesians 1:11-12 "...In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything according to the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
c) HOW ABOUT ELECTION BASED ON FOREKNOWLEDGE?
In trying to reconcile the verses about election with their concept of "free will", many people explain election this way: God foreknows our faith and elects us on the basis of our choice of Him. This theory, although it suits the free will idea, is based on a misinterpretation of Romans 8:29-30. "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified."
One only needs to ponder briefly the implications of the previous assertion to understand how impossible this system would be. For if God chooses man based on their choice of Him, it really is no choice at all on the part of God. He is merely rewarding His creation for a choice they made. (As Chuck Swindoll puts it: "that's not pre-destination that's post-destination". It would also follow that God's will would then be controlled and defined by the will of His own creatures. (For He could only chose to save them if they would chose Him.) Yet Jesus Himself declared: "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you...". . .(John 15:16)
Another essential point to consider regarding this line of thought is this: Supposing that man is foreordained to salvation based on his foreseen acceptance of God, one would have to ask, how would that man have been able to chose God without it first being of God? For according to the above verse, only those who have been predestinated are called unto salvation, are justified and glorified. Without God first predestinating man, there would be no faith to foresee.
Or, to put it another way, if man is dead in his sin (as previously established), if he, left to himself, does not desire to come to God and depends solely on God's calling and drawing to come to Him, God could not have looked into eternity to come and seen that I would choose Him; for in fact I would not, were He not the one choosing me first. ("We love Him because He first loved us ") The free- willer puts the cart before the horse.. He asserts that God gives faith because man is willing. But the bible teaches that "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy".. (Romans 9:11) Again, the free-willer (Arminian) says: God chose me because I am willing. But I say, (and I believe the scriptures affirm) that I am willing, because He chose me.
Charles Spurgeon explains it in a similar fashion: "Did my savior die for me because I believed on Him? No; I was not then in existence; I had then no being. Could the Saviour therefore have died because I had faith, when I myself was not yet born? Could that have been the origin of my Saviour's love towards me? Oh! no; my Saviour died for me long before I believed. "But," says someone, "He foresaw that you would have faith; and therefore, He loved you." What did He foresee about my faith? Did He foresee that I should get that faith myself, and that I should believe on Him of myself? No; Christ could not foresee that, because no Christian man will ever say that faith came of itself without the gift and without the working of the Holy Spirit."
While considering this issue of faith based on foreknowledge, one must also take a close look at Romans 8:29 "The first few words clearly say "For whom He did foreknow..." Note that it does not specify "for those whose faith He did foreknow.."; it does not say that there was anything in particular in us that He foreknew, but it says WHOM He foreknew. He foreknew people. And those people that He foreknew, he predestinated, He called, He justified and He glorified. . If one would try to say that it was our faith that He foreknew when the text does not say so, another could just as easily say that He foreknew our works, and that would be equally false.
GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY AND MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY TO BELIEVE
As stated earlier, another one of the reasons many people reject the doctrine of sovereign election is because it seems to contradict what the Bible teaches about man's responsibility for his actions. But the fact is, scripture teaches both that God is sovereign and that man is responsible for actions. This is considered an antinomy; two truths that appear to contradict themselves.
Many Christians attempt to reconcile these two apparent contradictions in one of two ways. Their minds are boggled at the thought of everything having been planned and determined by God so long ago. It bothers them. For where is God's holiness? If he ordained the sin of Joseph's brothers (Gen. 45:8; Gen. 50:20) and the sin of Judas (Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28), isn't God to blame? Where is man's responsibility if God has foreordained everything. ...It is the great mystery of divine sovereignty and human responsibility, How can we reconcile the two?
There are some (commonly called Arminians) who correctly see the problem: reconciling the two opposing forces of God' sovereignty and man's responsibility. But in solving the problem they substitute man's reason for the Bible. They reason that they cannot logically reconcile these two apparently contradictory facts. So they hold to one set of facts and deny the other. They hold to man's freedom and restrict God's sovereignty. In this way, they have no rational problem. The contradiction dissolves. Man then has the control and the free will to act as he wills. God will not override his will. His sovereignty is generalized and limited to the giving of free will and the supervision of man's actions.
There are others who resolve the contradiction by taking the opposite extreme. These are the ones who are often called Hyper Calvinists (not to be mistaken with Calvinists) They stand with the same reasoning as the Arminian, but on the other end of the pole. They reasons, as does the Arminian, that the sovereignty of God and man's responsibility cannot be reconciled. So again, like the Arminian, they solve the problem in a rationalistic way, denying one side of the problem. They look at the numerous verses declaring God's sovereignty and foreordination, and holding firmly to that, they deny man's responsibility. Claiming that man only acts as God has foreordained. Most Hyper-Calvinist therefore don't have much care for evangelism. "God will draw them" they say. They also believe in "double predestination" that God did not merely choose out of a world of depraved hopeless sinners a people on whom he would have mercy, but rather predestined each person, actually choosing some for heaven and others for hell. (This is not the accurate biblical portrayal of election.)
The final angle from which to look at the question of man's responsibility and God's sovereignty is to look at both sides of this issue, see that both are true and both are biblical; and admit that although our finite minds see no reconciliation of these two apparent contradictions, both are presented in scripture; therefore both are true and must be accepted. Those who take this position are often called Calvinists.
As Edwin Palmer explains it: "The Calvinist freely admits that his position is illogical... He holds to two apparently contradictory positions. He says on the one hand, "God has foreordained all things, then he turns around and says to every man, "God commands all men every where to repent' You must believe. It is your duty and responsibility. And if you don't you cannot blame God. You must blame only yourself. But if you do believe, remember that it was God who "works in you both to will and to do according to his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12,13)...In face of all logic, the Calvinist says that if man does anything good, God gets all the glory; and if man does anything bad, man gets all the blame. Man can't win.
To many people such a position seems foolish. It is unreasonable. So the Christian has to make up his mind: what is his authority? His own human reason, or the Word of God? If he answers human reason, he will have to exclude or limit one of these parallel forces. [But if he answers the Word of God], he cannot do that. He believes that it was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and [knows that His Word is inerrant and infallible.]
With that firm belief...he accepts this paradox of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. He cannot reconcile the two; but seeing that the Bible clearly teaches both, he accept both. And it does not embarrass him that he cannot understand everything about God. After all, God's ways are higher than his ways. (Isaiah 55:9)"
Charles Spurgeon in his Defense of Calvinism wrote: "That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find in one part of the Bible that everything is foreordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other."
IS EVERYONE CALLED/ELECTED? (THE GIFT OF FAITH & REPENTANCE:)
I have often heard it asked :"isn't the gospel given to all, and therefore the invitation to receive the gift available to all?"
First of all, one thing must be made clear on this issue. Contrary to the tradition of the modern gospel that is preached, the call to salvation is not an "invitation" given to all. It is a command given to all. "..God... commands all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). If they do not repent, they are disobeying God and sinning still.
It has already been established that no man is free to come to Christ without the Father drawing him (John 6:44). But can we say, as many do, that all are given the drawing of the Holy Spirit, and that it is man's will that resists his calling? If one looks again at the will of man, and at his own wretchedness without Christ, he will again see that it is always in his sinful nature to resist God, (John 3:20, John 8: ) When presented with the gospel, sinners do choose. But without the gift and the drawing of the Holy Spirit, the preaching of the cross will always be foolishness to them (1 Cor. 1:18), and their choice will always be to reject it.
Coming to Jesus is a gift, not merely an "opportunity" that all may take or refuse at will. The Bible is full of examples of specific people unto whom it was "granted" or "given" to believe and to see. -
John 6:65 "..no man can come unto me, except it were given unto Him of my Father." .
John 3:27 "A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven"
Matt. 11:27 "...neither knoweth any man the father, save the Son and he to whomsoever the son will reveal him."
John 17:2 "As thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given."
2 Peter 1:3 "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
Philippians 1;29 "Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake"
2 Timothy 1:9 "Who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began"
But man still needs to repent, you say. Yes. But it is God who even grants repentance. 2 Timothy 2:24-25 "God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth." Is this gift given to all? Look at the words of Jesus in John 6:37: "All that the Father gives to me shall come to me." There is a specific number of people, given of the Father to Jesus . "and this is my Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day" (John 6:39). Jesus will not lose those the Father has given Him and they SHALL COME. Is it possible to say that all men are given to Jesus of the Father? No. Take another look at the text above, and you will see that is not possible. There is a direct relation between being given of the Father to Jesus, and coming. (All that the Father gives to me shall come..) You come if you are given of the Father. Do all men come to Jesus? No. Many perish daily.
Look again at Jesus' words to his disciples when they asked Him why he spoke in parables to the pharisees and to other people. They understood that the words Jesus spoke were the words of eternal life ("Lord, only you have the words of eternal life".) So they asked why he spoke in parables to some without explaining it to them. His answer was -(Luke 8: 10 :" And He said: Unto you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand." Matthew 13:11 "Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; but to them it is not given" Mark 4:11 "And He said unto them: Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables.
I once found these verses very disturbing. I'd always wondered why Jesus, if He wanted all men to believe would hide his message when it was evident that if He made his Word clear to them, they would be saved. After reading through the gospels recently, it finally made sense to me. Unto some people it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but the one who "works all things according to the purpose of His will", has seen it fit to keep these things hidden from some. Luke 10:21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight" Unfair? To our finite minds, maybe. But who are we to be God's judge? ‘Does not the potter have the right' to do what he will with his own creation?‘Will not the judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25) Yes, He always does.
CAN AN ELECTED MAN RESIST GOD'S CALLING?
God is sovereign and able to overcome all resistance when He wills. If it could happen that God could not overcome the resistance in a man's heart, than one could conclude that He could not be omnipotent. For if there was a creature that could resist Him to the end, that creature would be stronger than God's Spirit which calls and draws. He is the omnipotent God. He never has been nor ever will be bound to man or limited by anything in him. God spoke and there was light, he breathes and the waters freeze... all creation is subject to Him. Man is no exception.
Daniel 4:35 tells us that"He does according to His will with the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand.
Psalm 115:3 -"Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases."
Isaiah 46:10-11 "I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.
Proverb 19:21 "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails."
Isaiah 14:24 "The LORD Almighty has sworn, "Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.
Inevitably, what God has foreknown and predestined (declared before hand will happen) must, according to the previous verses, come to pass. As it has been noted earlier, those who are saved were chosen by God before the foundations of the world. It was from eternity past that God foreknew us and, according to Romans 8:29-30, predestined us.
It is a continuing process that is described in Romans 8. It follows that those whom he foreknew and predestined he calls, he will justify, and later glorify. There is no option in this system for those who want to opt out. Those whom He has chosen will eventually come. Those who are able to resist God's calling to the end (for "many are called" are simply not part of the "few are chosen" (Matt. 20:16)
It must be explained before going further, that the above does not mean that man is forced into salvation against his will. Any man who comes to Christ does so willingly. The difference between his will as he comes to Christ and his will while he was dead in sin is that it has been changed. The will that once stood in bondage to sin and ran form Him now runs to Him. He has been drawn to the Father, his blind eyes have been opened, he sees his need, and willingly embraces Jesus as His saviour.
There must be something definite and effectual about the call of the sovereign God. An ability to overcome even the darkest and coldest heart and to give life to the deadest and vilest of men. God is our creator. Our very existence depends on Him. So to say that God can be limited by he decisions and actions of his own creation is nothing but utter nonsense. It was He who first created our being out of nothing. If He is able to do that, how foolish to think that He is not able to create in us a heart that would desire Him where once we had a heart of stone; or that He is not able to move or change a will that He himself created.
We read in 1 Samuel 10:9 "As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul's heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day." When God changed Saul's heart, did Saul first have to be willing? Did he give God permission to change his heart? God did with it what he would. In the book of exodus we read six times of God hardening Pharoah's heart (9:12, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:8) In Joshua 11:20 we read of the nations who battled Israel: "For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses". We read of We also read in Acts 16:14 of Lydia "whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken by Paul."
If God changed and hardened hearts as He desired, how can the free-willer say that ‘God can't intervene or override your will'. As seen earlier, you will (what you desire to do) comes from what is in your heart. If God can change a man's heart how can anyone say that he cannot change the man's will, which follows the heart?
#1: IT ISN'T FAIR!
This is the most common outcry from those who are studying topic of election. In our limited understanding we think it unfair that God would only choose to save some while holding others accountable for not receiving Him when in the confines of their sinful nature they were unable to o do so.
Interestingly, these are not new questions. Paul's Roman readers were undoubtedly struggling with very similar questions as he answers them in Romans 9:11-16,18, (read 10-24 for context)
11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad--in order that God's purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls--she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13 Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." 14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
You may be thinking, as I too once did, 'that's not fair! God isn't even giving some people the chance to be saved. He is condemning people who were foreordained to reject him?!!!'
Paul anticipated the same objection from his readers: 19 One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" The answer? 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, `Why did you make me like this?'" 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? 22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath--prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory-- 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
I wrestled with this passage for a long time. It really does not seem fair to my human mind that God would "have mercy on whom I will have mercy" and "endure with patience vessels of wrath, prepared in advance for destruction". I have spoken to some who say that this passage is referring to the jews and God's election of a nation. Verse twenty four, in my opinion, would debunk that idea as it speaks of the calling from among jews and gentiles, vessels of mercy prepared in advance for glory; but supposing that is the case, is it not just as "unfair" of God to elect and chose one nation over another?
Is it unfair that God would judge a man for rejecting him when that man is unable to do receive Him without His intervention? Consider for a moment why that man is in such a state. It is a result of his sin. It is man's own fault that he is unable to come to God. God is just in condemning him because he is a sinner.
But, you might say, as I have often heard people say, 'what if I want to be saved, but then I cannot be because God has not elected me, is that fair?'
First of all, what is the measure by which we determine what is fair of God to do? ("Who are you, oh man?) Is God unfair because He does not choose to save everyone? You say if God were like this then, no, He would not be fair, as He would not be giving people the choice. But they did choose. We all choose to sin, to disobey God. If God were to really be fair and just with us, He would send everyone of us straight to hell. The wages of sin is death and we all very much deserve it. God is not unmerciful, unloving, or unjust if He does not chose to save everyone. He is extremely loving, and extremely merciful if He chooses to save any at all. That is grace. God doesn't owe anyone salvation.
The second aspect to consider here is the desire for salvation. The hypothetical person in the above example is saying: "I want to be saved!" And if those words come from the heart, that is the sign of a heart God has already softened, He may be calling them already. For the "natural man does not desire the things of the Spirit of God" "The preaching of the cross is to them that are perishing, foolishness" If this person is truly honest about their desire for salvation and truly seeks to know God as He is, that is not something that can come from the dead, sinful nature, which as we have seen earlier desires nothing more than to enjoy his sin and run from God. Everyone who honestly desires to know God, on His terms (salvation by grace alone) will be saved. Those who come do so willingly (for God has made them willing) and those who die in their sin also do so willingly. No sinner will ever stand before God and say "I wanted your salvation and you did not give it to me" Jesus said: "He that comes to me I will in no wise cast out" The one who dies in His sin and has rejected God will get what He wanted. He wanted nothing to do with God and so it will be that God will have nothing to do with Him throughout eternity.
God is being fair when he sends a sinner to hell. We whom God saves are the ones who get what we don't deserve. We too had chosen sin and would have remained in it were it not for the grace of God. We too deserve death. "We were by nature children of wrath, even as others" But instead of merited wrath, God chose to give some of us love and grace. That is unfair. Praise the Lord.
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Romans 11:22-36)
# 2: BUT GOD IS NOT WILLING THAT ANY SHOULD PERISH! (2 Peter 3:9)
Or is He? Read 2 Peter 3 verse 9 says "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
Many people jump on the last part of that verse and say: See! The Lord is not willing that any should perish. But the question few ever ask, is: any of what? When one reads the entire passage, he sees that Paul is talking to the saints about the saints. The saints were being confused by scoffers who were mocking the promise of the coming of the Lord. Paul was reminding them that God is not slacking when it comes to keeping His promise (of his return for his saints), that he is longsuffering to US-WARD, not willing that any of us should perish, but that all of us (His chosen) should come to repentance. The reason for His delaying His return, was that He was not willing that ANY of them should perish.
If "any" indeed meant that God was not willing that any in the world perish, as is the popular belief, then God would be delaying His return forever, or else His will (that none perish) would not be done and people would perish when He was not willing that it be like this. If God was not willing that any as in anybody at all perish, none would. But men perish every day. God is sovereign. Nothing can happen that He does not will to happen. Therefore it is His will that they perish. Again, if it was not, they would not.
This is not to say that God is in any way barbaric, taking delight in seeing thousands of people go to hell. This is the farthest from the truth. The disobedience of His creatures greatly grieves the Father. We see Jesus weeping "how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37) We know he could have made them willing if He chose to do so,(Psalms 110:3), and yet he wept for them. It is specifically said in Ezekiel 33:11`As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked but rather that they turn from their ways and live." I believe it is accurate to say that while God takes no joy in seeing men perish, in hi s sovereignty He is willing to let it happen, that He might make His power known (Romans 9:22)
#3 IF GOD HAS ALREADY CHOSEN WHO HE WILL SAVE WHY EVANGELIZE?
For many free-willers, the urgency to evangelize is found in needing to persuade as many people as he possibly can to turn to Christ. They are correct in pointing out that for someone who believes that Salvation is God's predetermined work and that not one more person will be saved then those God has chosen; it could be easy to fall into a mode of complacency and lack of urgency. One could say "Why bother evangelizing? If God has chosen someone, they will eventually get saved."
The Bible is clear that people are not "automatically saved" Romans 10:17 tells us that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" In Romans 10:14 clearly states "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" Jesus has commanded us to go out into the world and preach the gospel to every creature. It is a command and like any other, it must be obeyed. It is not up to us to determine who is elect, only to preach the gospel to each man, as though he is elect and able to hear the message. It is the knowing that God has an elect, chosen people who will hear the message and receive that should further motivate us to preach the gospel.
His belief in election didn't hinder Paul's evangelistic efforts. Paul lived and died spreading the gospel. He declared in 2 Timothy 2:10 "Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. As Chuck Swindoll once said: "If your theology is causing you to loose your zeal for the lost, it's wrong.
DOES IT REALLY MATTER - WHAT DOES IT CHANGE?
Perhaps after prayerfully reading the verses highlighted throughout these pages, the Holy Spirit has given you a clearer understanding of the gift of grace God chose to give you. But now what? What does the understanding of election men in a Christian's life
Personally speaking, I can testify that it has humbled me. I have been made immensely aware of the fact that I had that nothing to do with my salvation. My faith was a gift and even the seeking that I'd thought I'd done on my own can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit drawing me and stirring my heart, revealing His truths to me.
Second, it causes me to love God and thank Him all the more for the undeserved mercy and grace He gave me. I realize that He could have chosen to let me die in my sins; and although I really have no idea why he'd choose me, I thank Him profoundly that I was one whom He chose to give His grace to.
A third thing this knowledge does is put me in a position where I can only give God the glory. Not only for my own salvation, but also for the salvation of others. No longer can I say to myself "Wow - if I hadn't shared the gospel with this person, they might never have become a Christian" Now I can only praise God that He chose to use me to lead someone to Himself. The evangelist becomes a mere vessel, the tool God uses so that His word might be heard. When a person comes to Christ, no one should feel any pride or get any glory but God, since He chose that person and He was the one who worked in their heart.
The knowledge that God chose me is also an immense assurance of my salvation. I cannot loose my salvation anymore than I could achieve it. It is God alone who saves, and God alone who condemns. All my hope and assurance rests on Him alone. I can trust Him with my life, knowing that He had a purpose for saving me and that "He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion" (Philippians 1:6)
While a lot has been said, there is undoubtedly much more that could be discussed concerning the doctrine of Sovereign grace. It is my prayer that you might continue to prayerfully search out the scriptures for yourself to see if these things are so. If you have any questions regarding anything covered or not covered here, I invite you to join my discussion group, especially made for discussing this topic. I hope to continue adding to this web page as more questions surface.
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Kruszer's Theology Korner
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If you are interested in doing further readings on this topic, a list of relevant links will be added shortly.