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God’s Decree and His Declared will.

People often wish to hurl their meaningless insults [wicked heresy, damnable heresy, satanic heresy etc.] at Calvinists but seldom wish to engage in biblical investigation. Additionally, they often persist in their effort to demonstrate that we Calvinists believe a doctrine that we make no effort to deny, i.e., that God has decreed all that occurs in his universe. We take the words Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:11 seriously— “in whom [Christ] we have been predestined according to the purpose of him who works [energetically and effectively accomplishes] all things [not some things, not good things, not most things, not all the things we judge to be “good” but ALL THINGS] according to the counsel [God’s eternal, unchanging, wise decree that he is well-pleased to accomplish] of his will.” We live in this confidence based on the revealed truth, that “all things work [Some texts read “God works all things] together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). “He does according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and none can stay his hand [prevent him from acting when he begins to act] or say to him ‘what have you done?’ [no one has the right to question what he has done] (Dan. 4:35). Daniel reminds Belshazzar of his father’s experience and charges that he has not learned the same valuable lesson that his father had learned. He said, “. . . but the God whose is your breath and in whose hand are all your ways, you have not glorified” (Dan. 5:23).
We do not live in a world governed by blind fate, chance or luck, encountering one purposeless event and meaningless action after another, but in a world that is guided by the kind and unseen providential hand of our sovereign God. The wise man tells us that even in those matters that seem most random and fortuitous, God is in control. He wrote, “The lot is cast into the lap [the dice are rolled] but its every decision is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:33).
Additionally, we do not deny that God is actively involved in every event that occurs and every action that is performed. He does not govern his universe by bare permission. Assyria and it’s king, is the rod of his anger (Isa. 10:5) the ax of judgment in his hand (10:15). He does not merely permit these wicked people to pillage an ungodly nation but says “I will send him against an ungodly nation” (Isaiah 10:6). Amos asked, “If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it” (Amos 3:6). One could multiply such verses almost endlessly.
What we deny is that God is the author of sin in the sense that he causes the evil perpetrated by wicked and ungodly people. He may, in his providence, determine that Achan will stumble across a beautiful robe from Babylonia and two hundred shekles of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekles, but he does nothing to cause Achan to covet and steal those articles contrary to his holy law. The Scriptures clearly state that God cannot be tempted with evil, nor does he tempt any man, but every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed (see James 1:13-14).
Satan did not plant the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden in plain view of the newly created pair; God did. And he did so knowing full well that he had not designed human nature to act independently. He knew that the moment that Adam chose to act independently would be the moment of his fall. Though God had decreed what occurred in the garden, he did nothing to cause Adam’s fall. When Adam chose to act independently of God, he acted freely, voluntarily and culpably and not as a robot that had been preprogrammed by God to act as he did.
When God sent the king of Assyria against his people, he did not delight in the sinful actions of the pagan king though he had decreed to use him as the rod of his anger. In fact, the text makes it quite clear that God had intended to judge the Assyrians for their wicked designs, though he had decreed to use those very designs to accomplish his purpose. And he did so because those very actions suited his purpose though he did not delight in the actions themselves. Having spoken of his design, God says of the king of Assyria, “Yet he does not mean [intend] so; nor does his heart think so; But it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off not a few [many] nations” (Isa. 10:7). In verse twelve we read, “Therefore it shall come to pass, when the LORD has performed all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say, ‘I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks’” (10:12).
God’s declared will, that in which he delights, is often different from what he has purposed. He often uses second causes that act contrary to his revealed will to accomplish a higher purpose. He decreed the crucifixion (see Acts 2:23 and 4:27-28) which clearly violated commandments he had given Israel concerning the shedding of innocent blood (see such passages as Deut. 20 &. 21). That does not mean that he delighted in the sinful actions of these wicked men themselves. It simply means that he had determined to use their evil machinations to accomplish a higher purpose, i.e., to bring glory to himself and to secure the eternal redemption of his people.


Can Sinners Called by Grace Resist If They Want To?

We read in Mark 3:13, “Jesus went up into the hills and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.” It should be clear to anyone who reads this text that coming to Jesus is an act that results from Jesus’ desire and not from theirs and that such a call is effectual in its nature. He called and they came.

Often, our non-Calvinists friends like to amuse themselves by asking whether sinners who are called by God’s grace are able to resist that call if they want to and remain in their sins. This is their banal and misguided attempt to derail the Calvinistic doctrine that has regrettably been called “Irresistible grace.”It seems the burden of their question is whether sinners are forced to act like preprogrammed robots who are unable to choose what we desire.

In reality, they are asking the wrong question. The issue is not whether sinners could resist grace if they wanted to; the issue is whether any sinner to whom God has manifested his glory [the sum of his glorious attributes] in the face of Jesus Christ, would desire to resist him. Those whose stony hearts have been made pliable by God’s grace are not forced against their wills to become followers of Christ. Instead, in effectual grace, God has graciously removed the sinner’s persistent and pervasive disposition to resist his offers of mercy in Christ. The issue is that those whom God calls no longer want to resist him.


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The Gospel–A Manifestation of God’s Glory.


Having lost its grip on the biblical gospel, the church has bartered that priceless treasure for a pot of fool’s gold. We have all but eliminated any idea that salvation involves a thorough turning from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, and we have reduced faith to a “decision” and a rather superficial and vacuous decision at that. In our concern to maintain the freeness of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, we have forgotten that salvation is about more than pardon. It involves the deliverance of the whole man, indeed in the ultimate sense the entire cosmos, from the corruption of sin into the liberty of the glory of the sons of God. It is God’s unswerving purpose to “bring many sons to glory” (Heb. 2:10). Augustus Toplady was clearly on target when he wrote about Christ’s redeeming work being a “double cure.” It not only saves us from wrath but it is also intended to make us pure.

Biblical writers and preachers spoke much differently than we about this magnificent message of all-sufficient grace. For them, salvation involved nothing less than a revelation of the resplendent glory of God. It is significant that in Stephen’s vindicatory sermon he began with the words “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham. . . .” (Acts 7:2). It is God’s manifestation of himself as the “God of glory” that turns sinners from darkness to light. When the Scriptures speak of God’s glory they are simply describing the sum of his glorious attributes. It was not without reason that the theologians who framed the Westminster Confession of Faith began their statement regarding God’s decree concerning salvation with the words, “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory. . .” When Jesus described his earthly mission and, indeed, the nature of eternal life itself, it was in terms of knowing God in all the majesty of his glorious being. He said, “I have finished the work you gave me to do. . .I have manifested your name [“name” was more than a mere appellation; it was a description of a person’s character] to the men whom you have given me out of the world” (John 17:4-6).

When Isaiah began to proclaim his message of comfort based on the work of the coming Anointed One, these were the words he used—“The glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5). The splendor of the New Covenant is that it reveals the glory of God in a way the Old Covenant never could. Paul indicated that the glory of the Old Covenant had been so eclipsed by the glory of the gospel covenant that, by comparison, the old had no glory at all (see 2 Cor. 3:8-11). When John described the apostles’ experience with Jesus, he wrote, “. . .we gazed on his glory, the glory as of the uniquely begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” It should be obvious that he was asking us to recall what should be a well-known event in the history of redemption. In Exodus thirty-three, we read the account of Moses’ request to see God’s glory. Jehovah had responded to him that he would allow him to see his back but not his face, since no one could see his face and live. It should not escape our attention that even this inferior revelation was a blessing that was granted by sovereign mercy (33:19). When Jehovah caused all his goodness to pass before Moses and when he proclaimed his name [his character] before him, part of what he declared is that he is “abundant in goodness [loving-kindness] and truth [covenant faithfulness].” This was the near equivalent to John’s words in John 1:14 “full of grace and truth.” What the law revealed in type and shadow, has now been fully revealed in Christ. “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth [fulfillment as opposed to type] came by Jesus Christ” (v. 17).

We must always remember that the biblical gospel does not proclaim Christ in his state of humiliation but in his state of exaltation. The gospel not only “concerns his Son who, according to the flesh was made of the seed of David” but also “who was declared [determined] to be the Son of God with power [the powerful Son of God] according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead” (See Romans 1:3-4). We must never, in our minds, separate “Lifted up was he to die” from “Now in heaven exalted high.” It is not Jesus dying on a cross who saves, but the Jesus who died on the cross who saves. It is the one “who was dead, but is alive.” It is “Christ HAVING BEEN CRUCIFIED.” The Savior we proclaim is one who, as the result of his victorious redemptive work, is now enthroned in majesty and glory as the embodiment of the redemptive work he has accomplished once for all. He is enthroned as the crucified one. He is “the Lamb in the center of the throne.”

The issue of whether coming to faith in Christ is the result of human decision or of divine intervention should be a simple one for anyone who understands what conversion truly is. If conversion is simply “letting Jesus come into my heart so I can go to heaven when I die” it is conceivable that a sinner in a state of corruption could make such a “decision.” After all, who wants to suffer in the lake of fire for eternity? As long as I can continue to be the master of my life, why wouldn’t I go for the goodies? The message of the modern “church” is so far removed from the biblical gospel that it bears almost no resemblance to it whatsoever. Look how the apostle Paul described conversion. He wrote, “If our gospel stands veiled, it stands veiled to those who are perishing, in whom the god of this age [He is “the god of this age” in the sense that the children of this age have chosen to follow him and worship him as their god] has blinded the minds [It is the minds that are veiled by darkness, not the gospel] of those who do not believe with the result that the light of the good news of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God does not shine [the word means dawn] upon them” (2 Cor. 4:3-4). He then describes conversion in terms of a creative act of God for the purpose of making his glory known in the face of Jesus Christ, He wrote, “For it is the God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness who has shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Conversion involves nothing less than God’s creative power by which he manifests his glory in the face of Jesus Christ and only God can manifest himself in this way. We must never forget that the merciful decision to manifest his glory “. . .is not of him who wills or of him who runs but of God who shows mercy” (Romans 9:16).


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