Posts Tagged ‘predestination

14
May
19

Predestined–But When?

Southern Baptist Traditionalist, Leighton Flowers, along with his merry band of soteriological synergists, has posited a view they call “Corporate election.” The idea is that God has chosen no one but Christ, and believers become God’s elect when they, by their libertarian free will decision, unite themselves to Christ by their faith. Additionally, he states that predestination occurs once a person has made this decision. Once the sinner has made his choice, a choice that he is able to make because he is humbler and more pliable than other sinners, God, then and only then, predestines that he will be conformed to the image of Christ or glorified.

Has anyone noticed that in Romans 8:30, predestination precedes calling—“Those he predestined, he also called?” And, this call is “according to God’s purpose”(v.28). The call could not be according to his purpose [a purpose Leighton argues did not exist antecedently to the sinner’s decision] if the purpose were subsequent to the call.

They have also denied that there is a biblical distinction between the universal call of the gospel and an internal and effectual call. It should be clear to any thinking person that if the call eventuates in justification, it must have been an effectual call. Still, even if one understood the call as nothing more than the hearing of the gospel message, God’s decree to conform his people to his Son, would have to have occurred prior to their being united to Christ by faith and not subsequent to that union having been established.

01
May
19

What the Traditionalists in the Southern Baptist Should Have Written

Several years ago a group of leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention, spooked by the specter of a rising tide of Calvinism within the ranks of the SBC and under the direction of Dr. Eric Hankin, contrived a document they called “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” When one reads the preamble to this document, at least two things become obvious.  The first is that those who wrote the document and those who later signed it are painfully ignorant of Calvinistic doctrine, and the second is that they wrote it for the purpose of counteracting the dreaded plague of Calvinism in their cherished denomination.  This is what they stated in the preamble—“ The precipitating issue for this statement is the rise of a movement called “New Calvinism” among Southern Baptists. This movement is committed to advancing in the churches an exclusively Calvinistic understanding of salvation, characterized by an aggressive insistence on the “Doctrines of Grace” (“TULIP”), and to the goal of making Calvinism the central Southern Baptist position on God’s plan of salvation.”

If that is an accurate assessment of their purpose, one would have expected that the concepts they affirmed would have been teachings that Calvinists deny and the ideas they denied, would have been teachings that Calvinists would affirm.  Interestingly, this was not the case in many of their affirmations and denials. Consider, for example, the following statements from their preamble to which any true Calvinist would say a hearty AMEN!

They wrote,

“Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology is grounded in the conviction that every person can and must be saved by a personal and free decision to respond to the Gospel by trusting in Christ Jesus alone as Savior and Lord.”  And, “Baptists have been well-served by a straightforward soteriology rooted in the fact that Christ is willing and able to save any and every sinner.”

If their goal was to pee on a tire to mark their territory, I suppose they have accomplished what they wished to accomplish. If their goal was to open an honest and meaningful dialogue between themselves and Calvinists, they could not have failed more miserably.

I have reproduced here what they affirmed and denied in their declaration and what they should have affirmed and denied if they wished to address the real issues that separate them from soteriological monergists, A.K.A. Calvinists.  I am not suggesting that everyone who signed the document had sufficient theological understanding to fathom the depths of the issues under consideration. I am not suggesting that everyone who signed the document necessarily embraced all the implications I have suggested that their doctrine entails.  What I am boldly stating is that it is the issues under the heading “What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied” which Calvinists are concerned to address and not the “straw man” implications suggested by many of their affirmations and denials.  In large part, the issues that divide us are seen in the contrast between what they should have affirmed and what they should have denied.  Generally speaking, what they should have affirmed from their point of view is what Calvinists deny, and what they should have denied is what Calvinists have affirmed. These are the real issues we should be discussing if ever we are to find unity concerning these essential doctrines.

Consider the contrast between what they affirmed and denied and what they should have affirmed and denied.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article One: The Gospel

We affirm that the Gospel is the good news that God has made a way of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for any person. This is in keeping with God’s desire for every person to be saved.

We deny that only a select few are capable of responding to the Gospel while the rest are predestined to an eternity in hell.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article One: The Gospel

We affirm that the gospel is the good news that God has made a way of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for every person on the condition of their free will decision but has not secured the salvation of any person in particular. This is in keeping with God’s desire for every person to be saved, a desire that is subjugated to the sinner’s free will decision.

We deny that anyone is incapable of responding positively to the gospel or that God has decreed to permit anyone to remain in their sins and perish.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man

What they affirm is unequivocally contrary to what Calvinists affirm.

We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any [every] person’s autonomous will.

We deny that any person is saved apart from an autonomous free will response to the Father’s ineffectual persuasion.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Three: The Atonement of Christ

We affirm that the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.

We deny that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith. We deny that God imposes or withholds this atonement without respect to an act of the person’s free will. We deny that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article Three: The Atonement of Christ

We affirm that the penal substitution of Christ [that does not actually substitute for any sinner in particular] is nothing but a mere provision that, in itself, did not secure the salvation of any sinner. Though there is provision for the salvation of any sinner who decides to let Jesus’ save him, Jesus’ death was not actually and objectively intended to save any sinner in particular. The sole factor that determines who will be saved and who will be lost is the sinner’s autonomous decision and has nothing to do with God’s design and intention at all.

We deny that this atonement was intended objectively to secure the salvation of any sinner in particular or that God had any specific design in sending his Son apart from making a mere provision. Furthermore, we deny that any sinner will have this provision applied to him apart from the decision of his autonomous will. We deny that Jesus actually accomplished the eternal redemption of any sinner in particular since he objectively accomplished no more in his redemptive work for those who will make their autonomous free will decision to let him save them than he did for those who will finally be lost.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Four: The Grace of God

We affirm that grace is God’s generous decision to provide salvation for any person by taking all of the initiative in providing atonement, in freely offering the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in uniting the believer to Christ through the Holy Spirit by faith.

We deny that grace negates the necessity of a free response of faith or that it cannot be resisted. We deny that the response of faith is in any way a meritorious work that earns salvation.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article Four: The Grace of God

We affirm that the grace of God is not intended to secure the salvation of any favored sinner so that God actually brings salvation to any person based on his prior intention, but has determined to permit millions of sinners to perish in unbelief rather than to violate their autonomous will. We affirm that though the sinner’s autonomous will decision cannot, in itself, merit a right standing before God, that decision that is determined by his greater humility, pliability, spirituality, intelligence, etc., is the sole factor that distinguishes him from other sinners. He and he alone is the one who makes himself to differ from other sinners.

We deny that God’s gracious efforts to save sinners are effectual in any sense but depend completely on the sinner’s autonomous decision to cooperate with God’s ineffectual efforts. We deny that God distinguishes between sinners on any ground other than the sinner’s autonomous decision.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Five: The Regeneration of the Sinner

We affirm that any person who responds to the Gospel with repentance and faith is born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is a new creation in Christ and enters, at the moment he believes, into eternal life.

We deny that any person is regenerated prior to or apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article Five: The Regeneration of the Sinner

We affirm that regeneration is completely unnecessary in regard to bringing sinners to repentance and faith in Christ. The wooing of the Holy Spirit is never effectual in bringing sinners to Christ. There is no real reason for God to change a person’s heart and disposition since those who respond to the gospel are already humble and pliable and willingly respond to the gospel when wooed by the Holy Spirit.

We deny that any person’s regeneration is effected by the work of the Spirit removing his disposition to resist the free overtures of the gospel in response to which he is responsible to repent and believe.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Six: The Election to Salvation

We affirm that, in reference to salvation, election speaks of God’s eternal, gracious, and certain plan in Christ to have a people who are His by repentance and faith.

We deny that election means that, from eternity, God predestined certain people for salvation and others for condemnation.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article Six:  Election to Salvation

We affirm that election to salvation is an invention of Calvinists and Arminians that did not occur at all. We do not believe that God had a gracious plan to save any sinner in particular but only chose a plan according to which he would save any sinner who was sufficiently humble and pliable by nature to make the right decision. We affirm that it is possible that God would never have a people of his own since the outcome depends fully on the sinner’s autonomous will decision and not on any plan that Calvinists and Arminians have imagined that he may have had.

We deny that God has any control whatsoever in regard to the salvation of sinners.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God

We affirm God’s eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation.

We deny that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God

We affirm that though we believe God has knowledge of all that will occur, he has sovereignly relinquished all control of the universe to the sinner’s autonomous will decision, and would rather see millions of sinners perish in their sins than to remove their stony hearts and grant them a new disposition that would cause them to willingly comply with the demands of the gospel.

We deny that God’s sovereignty over all things means that he has the right to deal with his creatures as he has seen fit. We deny that he has the right to pass over guilty rebels and leave them to their just destruction and choose to redeem others who are equally guilty and bring them effectually to salvation.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Eight: The Free Will of Man

We affirm that God, as an expression of His sovereignty, endows each person with actual free will (the ability to choose between two options), which must be exercised in accepting or rejecting God’s gracious call to salvation by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.

We deny that the decision of faith is an act of God rather than a response of the person. We deny that there is an “effectual call” for certain people that is different from a “general call” to any person who hears and understands the Gospel.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article Eight: The Free Will of Man

We affirm that, as an expression of his Sovereignty, God granted an autonomy to sinners that cancels out his own autonomy. It is the sinner’s autonomous will that determines all that occurs in human existence. We affirm that since sinners have responsibility to make proper choices and the ability to make improper choices, they must also have the ability to make proper choices. [We could add “Since we are completely ignorant of what Calvinists truly believe, we do not realize that no Calvinist would ever deny that sinners have the ability to choose between two options”].

We deny that God has any part in actually enabling sinners to believe. Whatever assistance he may give to any, he gives to all so that it is nothing but sinners’ autonomous decisions that determines their salvation.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Nine: The Security of the Believer

We affirm that when a person responds in faith to the Gospel, God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity. This process begins with justification, whereby the sinner is immediately acquitted of all sin and granted peace with God; continues in sanctification, whereby the saved are progressively conformed to the image of Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit; and concludes in glorification, whereby the saint enjoys life with Christ in heaven forever.

We deny that this Holy Spirit-sealed relationship can ever be broken. We deny even the possibility of apostasy.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article Nine: The Security of the Believer

We affirm that God’s purpose and promise to keep and save any believer completely, waits for and depends on the sinner’s autonomous decision to believe. Prior to this decision, God has no purpose for any sinner in particular. Once the sinner responds to the gospel in repentance and faith, God responds to his decision and determines to save him completely.

We deny that there are false professors whose profession and outward conformity to Christian standards may be no different from that of true believers who are in real danger of certain apostasy since they were never truly converted.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Ten: The Great Commission

We affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to preach the good news of salvation to all people to the ends of the earth. We affirm that the proclamation of the Gospel is God’s means of bringing any person to salvation.

We deny that salvation is possible outside of a faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What They Should Have Understood Apart from a Profound Ignorance of Calvinism on Their Part

Article Ten: The Great Commission

Unless one believes in the salvation of infants and the mentally challenged, Calvinists would agree with the last article.

The following are the issues that Calvinists and SBC Traditionalists need to discuss:

The issue in Article 1 that divides Calvinists and non-Calvinists is not the free and universal offer of the gospel but whether God has determined to make the gospel effectual in bringing a chosen people to himself, or has done all he intends to do and has left the issue in the sinner’s hands to determine the outcome by the exercise of his autonomous will.

The issue in the denial of Article 2 is not whether sinners are able to freely choose between two or more options but whether sinners are able apart from divine enabling to choose to love and trust the God against whom they are hostile.

The issue in Article 3 is not whether the redemptive work of Christ is of sufficient value to save every sinner who will repent and believe but whether it was God’s intention merely to provide the possibility of salvation for sinners who would do their part and receive the gospel, or infallibly accomplish redemption for a multitude that no one can number to whom he would effectually apply that redeeming work by bringing them to faith and repentance.

The issue in Article 4 is not whether God has made a gracious and abundant provision for every sinner who will repent but whether his saving work is a mere provision or a saving accomplishment. Additionally, the issue is whether some sinners are more prone to salvation because of their humility, pliability etc.

The issue in Article 5 is not whether sinners are regenerated prior to or apart from hearing the gospel, but whether sinners in a state of pervasive corruption will ever respond rightly to the gospel unless God removes their disposition to resist its demands.

The issue in Article 6 is whether God or the sinner is the final arbiter in the sinner’s salvation. Did God choose a people or a plan and leave the success of that plan to the sinner’s autonomous choice.

The issue in Article 7 is whether God is sovereign over any sinner’s salvation at all, not whether his sovereignty requires him to cause any sinner’s rejection of faith in Christ. Ultimately, the issue is whether God has the right to rule his creation as he desires.

The issue in Article 8 is not whether sinners are able to choose between options but whether they have the ability to choose that for which they have absolutely no desire and to which their entire beings are absolutely averse.

The issue in Article 9 is not whether true believers are secure for eternity but apostasy is a possibility for those who have professed faith in Christ. The evidence of true conversion is a persevering faith.

The issue in Article 10 is that the document implies that Calvinists do not believe in a free and universal proclamation of the gospel and that they believe a person can be saved apart from a belief in the gospel.

12
Jul
18

BATTLEGROUND PASSAGES

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FFN97GY/ref=sr_1_1… Art Galleries

“Battleground Passages,” An Exposition of Pivotal Passages in the Monergist-Synergist Debate, by Randy Seiver is now available at Amazon Kindle.
This book offers a contextual and exegetical consideration of major passages over which Calvinists and non-Calvinists have disagreed. The author offers a fresh perspective on passages that have often been misused by those on both sides of the issue. If you truly wish to understand the issues in this controversy over the nature of God’s saving work, you cannot afford to neglect this book.

12
Jan
18

Reason’s Obituary

I just listened to a few minutes of a Youtube video in which the speaker was arguing against the idea that God has chosen a people for himself and predestined those people and those alone to inherit everlasting life. After listening to what this man had to say, I concluded that the ability to reason must have died. If a person could stand behind a pulpit and  teach such bilge and no one listening to his absolutely erroneous arguments called him to account, there is little hope.  
 
His “argument” was that God has predestined everyone to everlasting life but only who choose to be saved are actually saved. His contention, based on Romans 8:30, was that if we can discover who is called, then we will know who has been predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. He then read several verses that made reference to the universal call of the gospel. I saw several problems with his argument that were so obvious that anyone thinking person should recognize immediately. Let me just list a few of his errors:
 
1. He has ignored the fact that the “calling” Paul speaks of in this verse is according to God’s purpose and that being called according to that purpose is his description of believers alone. It is true of those who love God, but of them alone (Romans 8:28).
 
2. He has ignored the fact that “called” is used in two distinct ways in the New Testament. It is used of the sincere, universal call of the gospel and it is used of that internal call by which God unites his chosen people to Christ (1 Cor. 1:9). Paul wrote, “but to those who are called, Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). One need only ask himself if everyone who is invited by the gospel message (“called” in that sense) regards Christ as God’s wisdom and God’s power.
 
3. He argues that if we can show who are the called, we will know who has been predestined, but he has ignored the fact that he would, in that way, limit God’s predestinating decree to those alone who have heard or will hear the gospel.
 
4. He argues that if we can show who are the called, we will know who has been predestined, but he has ignored the other side of that link in the chain. There is an inseparable link between all the links in this golden chain, so that Paul’s argument boils down to this—God will glorify all those he has purposed to save. The chain spans God’s entire work of redemption from his purpose in eternity past to glorification to his act of glorifying his people in eternity future. Everyone who is predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ will be glorified. What this gentleman has overlooked is that not only can we show who has been predestined by learning who has been called, but we can show who has been called by showing who has been justified. Paul wrote, “those he called, he also justified” (Rom. 8:30). According to this man’s argument, everyone who is called [invited] by the gospel will be justified. I suspect that is not a conclusion he would wish his hearers to draw.R
04
Dec
15

Calvinistic Evangelism–Chapter Thirteen–God’s Eternal Purpose

If we adhere to the biblical pattern for evangelism, our understanding of this doctrine will make little difference in the content of our message. If we preach only what the apostles preached, we will be on solid ground. Still, an understanding of God’s eternal purpose in the salvation of an elect people will not only enable us to understand the apostolic message but will also prevent erroneous statements in our presentation of what we imagine must be the gospel. We are often asked how a consistent Calvinist can tell sinners, indiscriminately, that God loves them and Christ died for them. We can answer those questions with no reference to this doctrine at all. The answer is simply that we find no such statements in apostolic preaching.

 

The reason this doctrine will make little difference in the freeness of our proclamation is that Calvinists can preach God’s offer of mercy in Christ no less freely than those who tout the sinner’s free will. The terms of the gospel are clear—If you wish to be free of your sins, repent and God will forgive you. There is mercy in God and virtue in Christ for the vilest sinner who returns. We do not proclaim God’s good news to elect sinners but to sinners as sinners.

 

The reason I include this doctrine as foundational to biblical evangelism is that it provides a valuable assurance of the success of the gospel to those who proclaim it. If the free will doctrine were true, it is conceivable that all our evangelistic efforts could be fruitless. Since the free grace doctrine is true, we may be confident that God’s Word will not return without success but will accomplish the purpose for which God has sent it (see Isa. 55:11).

 

Additionally, this doctrine is of great practical value to those who have believed the gospel. The Philadelphia Confession of Faith states,

 

The doctrine of the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election; so shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel (Chapter 3, article 7).

 

Our Lord assured his hearers that he will bring all his elect sheep to his fold. He said, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16). It seems clear that he is speaking of the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s great fold. Additionally, it should be clear to any unbiased reader that the sheep of which he speaks have not yet come to faith in him. He said, “I must bring them also and they will [future tense] listen to my voice.” They are his sheep though they have not yet believed. “I have other sheep.” He did not say “I will bring them if they are willing,” or “I am going to do everything I can to bring them.” He said, “I must bring them also.” He is proclaiming the certain success of his mission. Later in the same chapter he told some of his hearers that the reason for their unbelief was that they were not among his sheep (see v. 26). He did not say they were not among his sheep because they did not believe, but they did not believe because they were not among his sheep.

 

Remember the Lord’s words to Paul to encourage him concerning his mission in Corinth. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that when he came to them, he did so “in weakness and in much fear and trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). When the Lord spoke to him, it was not to tell him that he should never be afraid, but to tell him that he should stop being afraid [μή with the present imperative]. What remedy did he offer to allay Paul’s fears? It was this, “I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:10). Since Paul had just arrived in the city, it is unlikely that the Lord meant there were already many believers in the city who would come to his aid and protect him. Additionally, he could not have merely meant that he had foreseen that there would be many who by their free will would become his people. Based on what we have learned in the previous chapter, their free choice would not make them his people. Instead, it would leave them in a state of condemnation. Genuine faith does not grow in the soil of corrupt nature. Based on what God saw when he looked down from heaven, “there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God” (See Psalms 14:2). As we shall see in greater detail in a subsequent chapter, faith results from God’s call. That call is always effectual (“Whom he called, he also justified”), and that call is according to his purpose (See Romans 8:28-30). For this reason, we should conclude that what the Lord intended in these words of encouragement was that it was his purpose to save a people for himself in Corinth and that he would certainly protect his servant until his purpose was realized.

 

Biblical Words Related to God’s Purpose

 

It should be clear to anyone who has read and studied the Bible that God is in control of even the most seemingly insignificant details of life. Jesus told his followers that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without their Father (See Matthew 10:29). He did not merely mean that such events do not occur without the Father’s knowledge but that even the most insignificant event imaginable does not occur apart from the divine purpose and without divine superintendence. Even the most seemingly fortuitous events are disposed by him.  The wise man wrote, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD (Proverbs 16:33). Additionally, the biblical writers make it clear that this divine disposition of all things is according to his purpose.

 

Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “In him [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” (Ephesians 1:11). When he speaks of those who have obtained an inheritance, he refers to those who have already come to faith in Christ as the following verses make clear. They have received this inheritance [I understand Paul to be saying they have received the inheritance not that they are the inheritance] because they have been predestined to do so. He has introduced this idea in verse five where he wrote, “In love, he has predestined us for adoption as sons [lit. son-placing] through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will.” When we find the word “adoption” in the New Testament we should think in terms of that act of a father in which he granted his son his inheritance when he came of age. Paul used this custom as an illustration of that period of Israel’s tutelage under the Law during which they were treated as underage children (Gal. 4:1-4). This “son-placing” occurred at “the time appointed by the father.”  Paul referred to this as “the fullness of the time;” (Gal. 4:4) the redemptive-historical moment at which both believing Jews and Gentiles began to receive the predestined inheritance. He makes it clear in several passages (e.g., Rom. 8:23-25; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 1:13-14) that the grant of the Holy Spirit is the first part [first-fruits] of that inheritance that guarantees the granting of the full inheritance. The apostle makes it clear that Jesus’s accomplishment of all Israel’s covenant obligations and his ratification of the New Covenant by the shedding of his blood has granted believing Jews the promised inheritance (see-Galatians 4:4-7; Hebrews 9:15). Believing Gentiles have become heirs to God’s promises because he has brought us into union with Christ, the seed to whom the promises were made and the consummate Israelite. Paul tells that believers have been made heirs because of God’s predestined purpose.

 

PredestineΠροορίζω/ορίζω (proorizŌ/orizŌ)

 

The word translated “predestined” in Ephesians one, verse eleven (προορίζω) is used for the marking out of a boundary beforehand. God has drawn a boundary line between what he has determined by decree either to permit or cause or to restrain and prevent. All that occurs in time has been previously ordained in eternity.  Please note that God does not cause to occur everything he has ordained. Instead, he has decreed to permit and use the wicked actions of evil men to accomplish his purpose. For example, he did not cause Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles and the people of Israel to perpetrate the most wicked crime in human history, yet Luke stated clearly that in the perpetration of that wicked act they were doing what his hand and his counsel determined beforehand (predestined) to be done (See Acts 4:27-28). He did not cause Joseph’s brothers to act wickedly but he predestined [intended] their wicked actions and the ensuing results to effect his good and holy purpose.

 

The Philadelphia Confession of Faith 1742, stated the following concerning God’s decree,

 

  1. God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken way, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree (Philadelphia Confession of Faith,1742, “Of God’s Decree” Chapter 3).

 

Purpose or Plan—Πρόθεσις (prothesis).

 

Ephesians 1:11 teaches us that God does not govern his universe without a previously determined plan or purpose (πρόθεσις). This plan is to God’s providential governing of all things [he “works all things according to the counsel of his will.”] what an architect’s blueprint is to a building. Everything that occurs in the construction of God’s building is in accord with his eternal blueprint. If an event occurs, we can be certain that it is not without divine purpose. Nothing that occurs in time in the construction of the building is missing from or contrary to God’s architectural blueprint.

 

We must not conceive of God as the cosmic custodian who comes in to clean up our mess after the party is over. He is not the “fixer.” The party and the consequent “mess” was in his plan from the beginning. He not only uses the evil intentions of wicked people to accomplish his plan, but he intended to use those evil intentions for his glory and his people’s good long before the evil machinations were contrived. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph said to his wicked brothers, “As for you, you meant [intended] evil against me, but God meant it [intended it] for good. . ..”  He saw in the same wicked act an evil intention and a good intention. God did not merely fix what had occurred; he had intended it all along and planned to bring good out of it.

 

Counsel–Βουλή (boulē)

 

This word along with the following (θἐλω) refers to the same plan or purpose of God but each word emphasizes different characteristics of that purpose. Βουλή “counsel” refers to the decree in general but emphasizes that God’s purpose is based on wise counsel and is not arbitrary.

 

Will– θλω (thelŌ)

 

θἐλω refers to God’s purpose and emphasizes the volitional character of that purpose. God does what he does because he has decided to do it. Nebuchadnezzar said, “. . .he does according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and none can stay his hand or say unto him ‘What have  you done?’ ” (Dan. 4:35).

 

Good Pleasure–Εδοκία (eudokia)

 

Εὐδοκία, often translated “good pleasure”emphasizes God’s freedom and his delight in the execution of his purpose. In Ephesians one, verse nine, Paul wrote, “Having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself.” Paul had already written in verse five that God’s purpose to place us as sons was according to the good pleasure of his will (v. 5). He now tells us that this mystery has been revealed.  Remember that a “mystery” in Scripture is not an enigma that we cannot understand but a truth that was heretofore hidden but has now been revealed. It is a truth that was not previously known and could not have been known apart from divine revelation. This term also occurs in such passages as Matthew, eleven, verse 26. In the execution of his purpose, God acts as the sovereign potter who fashions vessels as he pleases.

 

It is in such terms the biblical writers described God’s gracious purpose in governing his universe and in dispensing his favor. He does as he pleases, and his creatures have no right to question him. Paul wrote, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this’” (Romans 9:20).

 

The Nature of God’s Purpose

 

When we speak about the purpose of God, we are referring to the will of his eternal decree that will infallibly come to fruition in time. Paul asked an important question in anticipating an objection to his teaching. He wrote, “You will then say to me, ‘Why does he still find fault, [How can he hold people responsible for their actions?] for who has resisted his will” (Rom. 9:19)? It should be clear immediately that he was not referring to God’s will revealed in the Scriptures since all at some time or another resist that will by our disobedience to it. He must have been referring instead to God’s eternal purpose that is certain to be accomplished. The objection is this—If all our actions have been ordained by God so that even in our acts of wicked rebellion against him we perfectly fulfill his decree, how can he hold us responsible for our actions? Would this not have been a perfect opportunity for the great apostle to have informed his objectors that God has in his sovereignty relinquished his sovereign rights to the libertarian free will of man? God could have governed his universe but instead he has decided to let human decision govern. He could have told them that God can hold people responsible because everything is determined by human free will and not by divine decree at all. Instead, he doubled down on the truth that God is the sovereign potter whose decisions must not be questioned. I want you to read and get the full impact of his answer. He wrote,

 

Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, – in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory- – (Romans 9:21-23).

 

He basically answers his objector by saying “You need to understand that God is God and you are not.” If he wants to use your free, rebellious and culpable actions to accomplish his purpose, then judge you for your rebellion, it is his prerogative to do so. He is the Sovereign and you are the subject.

 

In this section, it is my purpose to consider God’s decreed purpose as it relates to all his creatures and all their actions. Then, in the following section I intend to narrow the focus of our study to consider God’s saving purpose of grace and what the Scripture has to teach us about that purpose. In both sections, the focus of our attention will be on the nature of God’s decreed purpose.

 

The Divine Purpose is One Decree

 

We often speak of the decrees of God as though he had made a series of decisions, each one following on the heels of and logically dictated by another. In reality, the decree of God is one. Additionally, his decree did not come into being at some point in eternity past.  All he has purposed to effect in time has been in his great mind for all eternity. Though theologians may speculate on what must have been the order of his decrees from a point of logic based on biblical statements, the reality is that there was no temporal priority of one divine intention above another. There is one all inclusive plan that embraces all that is to occur in time.

 

The Divine Purpose Belongs to Eternity

 

Though God’s decree is integrally related to those events he effects in time, the decree itself belongs completely to eternity. God has saved his people according to his purpose that was in his mind from all eternity (See Acts 15:18; Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9. As there is no succession in divine thought, so there is no succession in the divine decree. All God knows, he has known for eternity. All he is effecting in time, has been his purpose since “before times eternal.”

 

God’s Purpose is Based on His Infinite Wisdom

 

A common caricature of the doctrine of the divine decree is that God has acted arbitrarily in framing his purpose. In reality, there was nothing arbitrary about God’s decree at all. His decree resulted from his infinite wisdom that would be manifested in his creation and in his acts of providence. Nowhere is that wisdom more resplendently demonstrated than in his plan, accomplishment, and application of redemption.  Paul wrote,

 

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, (Ephesians 3:7-11).

 

In the proclamation of the gospel, God’s brings to light his manifold [many sided—one might say intricate and variegated] wisdom that was hidden for ages. None but an infinitely wise being could have devised such a plan the details of which would never have entered into the human heart apart from divine revelation. In Romans eleven, the apostle marvels at the inscrutable wisdom that is displayed in God’s judgments [decree]. He writes,

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33).

 

How humbling it is when we plumb the depths of our human understanding and wisdom and quickly hit the bottom, but the depths of God’s wisdom and understanding are impossible to sound. “. . . his is understanding is unsearchable” (Isa. 40:28). Though God’s design and all his works may be beyond human comprehension, there is nothing in them that is random or unreasonable. “The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens. . ..” (Prov. 3:19).

 

God’s Purpose is Universal

 

God’s decree extends to all his creatures and all their actions. Paul tell us in Ephesians one, verse eleven that he works all things according to the counsel of his will. The word translated “works” means to be energetic, effective, to accomplish. God accomplishes all he has planned to do. Daniel said to Belshazzar, “. . .the God in whose hand is your breath and whose are all your ways, you have not honored” (Dan. 5:23).  He described Jehovah as “the Most High God [who] rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will” (See Dan. 4:17; 5:21). Isaac Watts wrote,

 

There’s not a sparrow or a worm,

But found in his decrees;

He raises monarchs to their throne,

And sinks them as he please.

 

“God hath decreed in himself, . . .all things, whatsoever comes to pass.” If an event occurs or an act is perpetrated in God’s universe, we can be sure it has happened according to God’s eternal purpose.

 

God’s is Sovereign in the Framing of His Purpose

 

When we say that God is sovereign, we mean he the absolute ruler of the universe, the only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). He acts as he pleases and is beyond the reach of human judgment. No one has the right to question his decisions or impugn his actions. No one can say to him, “What have you done? (Dan. 4:35).  No one has been his counselor or taught him wisdom.  He reigns supreme in his universe.

 

The Philadelphia Confession of Faith begins by saying “God has decreed in himself, from all eternity. . ..” From this we should understand that his decisions were not determined by anything outside of him. He acted sovereignly in determining what would occur in his universe.

 

Though there is no question that God knows all things future as though they were present, his decree was not based on what he foresaw. Instead, he foresees what will occur because he has ordained that it will occur. It is not as if he merely saw what would happen and decided to rubber stamp it. God’s purpose was sovereignly fixed long before he spoke and created light out of darkness. To suggest that God has merely decreed what he foresaw would occur is to deify the creature and humanize the Creator. It was by the wise and holy counsel of his own sovereign will that he freely decreed all that comes to pass. His decree depends exclusively on his good pleasure which he has purposed in himself (See Eph. 1:9).

 

The purpose of God is unconditional and independent of any circumstances outside itself. The means by which it is to be accomplished are decreed no less than the ends God intended to effect.

 

God’s Purpose is Effectual

 

God’s purpose will certainly and infallibly come to fruition. He does not long to accomplish his decree but find himself frustrated by his creatures.  Consider the following passage from Isaiah’s prophesy:

 

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose, calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isaiah 46:9-11).

 

Though these words refer specifically to God’s purpose to deliver the Jews by Cyrus, they nevertheless have a broader application to all that God had purposed. If he has purposed an outcome, he will infallibly accomplish it. Nothing can thwart his purposes.

 

This does not mean that God is causally involved in bringing about all he has decreed. He does not need to force sinners to rebel against his revealed will, and he does not, as in the case of the regenerate, work in them to purpose to do what he has decreed. At the same time, we should not think that God merely permits sinners to have their sinful way but has no control over their actions. His decree, though not causing their violations of his revealed will, guarantees that those violations will occur. He has made this certain by determining that he will not prevent their acts of sinful rebellion. Additionally, he has determined to control the results of their sinful actions and bring out of them the holy result he has decreed.

 

God’s Purpose Is Immutable

 

The writer of the Book of Hebrews penned these words concerning God’s purpose, “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath,” (Hebrews 6:17). The word translated “unchangeable” was used of legal rulings, documents, or contracts that were incapable of being set aside or invalidated.

 

There are several reason we human beings might and often do change our plans. It could be we simply have not taken our plans seriously enough to consider the cost of pursuing them. Maybe in the midst of our project, unforeseen circumstances will arise that will require that we abandon our purposes. Perhaps we will find that we lack the resources necessary to execute our plan. It could be we discover that our original plan was faulty. Any of these issues, or perhaps a combination of them, could force a change in our plans.

 

It is impossible to imagine any of these difficulties in relation to God and the realization of his purpose. He lacks no strength of resolve. There are no circumstances that are unforeseen to him. He has abundant resources. There are no flaws in his plan. In short, there is no reason for God to change his eternal plan. His purpose is immutable.

 

God’s Salvific Purpose

 

When we read that God works all things according to the counsel of his will, that “all things” includes his salvific purpose in Christ.  The apostle Paul makes it clear that God saves and calls his elect people according to his purpose (See Rom. 8:28 and 2 Tim. 1:9). There are three aspects of that salvific purpose that I would like to explore in the remainder of this chapter. They are foreknowledge, election and predestination.

 

Foreknowledge

A proper understanding of the Bible’s teaching about “foreknowledge” is essential to an understanding of God’s predestined plan or purpose. The way in which we view this issue will determine how we understand the biblical doctrines of election and predestination. If we rightly understand the biblical doctrine of human depravity or inability, the idea this verse teaches that “foreseen faith” forms the basis of God’s choice of certain individuals for salvation is out of the question. That is to say, if we believe in the innate inability of an unregenerate person to seek God, the idea of God foreseeing a faith that is produced out of depraved nature, a faith that could not exist apart from divine intervention, is unthinkable. The divine call produces faith and that the call is according to God’s eternal purpose, plan, counsel which was formed before time began. The order is, God’s purpose produces the call [God calls people because he has purposed to call them] and the call produces faith. In the scheme of those who believe in “free will” and not in “free grace,” what God purposes is determined by what he foresees will happen, and the call is unnecessary since the issue is determined by the sinner’s free will decision and not by God’s free grace. What is certain is that a sinner’s faith cannot be, at the same time, the determining factor in what God decides and the result of what God has decided.

 

Three Ways of Understanding “Foreknew”

We can think of the idea of foreknowledge in three ways. First, we can think of foreknowledge simply in terms of God’s omniscience of all things future. To my knowledge, the word is never used in this sense in the Bible though the idea that God knows all things future is clearly there. There is nothing “future” to God. God knows what will occur before it occurs. He dwells in eternity and sees every event as present. Isaiah 46: 10 informs us he “declares the end from the beginning and from ancient times things that are not yet done.” He knows about everything that is going to happen before it happens and he knows what his creatures will do before we do it. He knows about all his creatures and all their actions. In this sense, God foreknows everyone. Keep that thought in mind because it will become very important when we discuss the meaning of “foreknew” in Romans 8:29. The question is, does God determine what is going to happen because he foresees it, or visa versa? I believe the answer is he foresees what he has determined or purposed.

 

That brings us to the second sense in which “foreknowledge” is used. It is knowledge beforehand based on a divine decree. Jesus was handed over by the “determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (see Acts 2:23). Notice the order in which Peter mentions counsel or purpose and foreknowledge. It is not simply that God sees ahead of time what is going to happen and decides to go with it. We have already learned that God is actively involved in governing all his creatures and all their actions according to his purpose. The idea that God merely foresees what is going to happen and decides to “rubber stamp” it is foreign to the teaching of the Bible. The issue, then, is not whether God foresees the believer’s faith and final perseverance, but whether his foresight of that faith and perseverance is the reason he decided to choose them.

 

Third, we can think of foreknowledge as an intimate, loving, approval of people beforehand.

 

What Does “Foreknew” Mean in Romans 8:29?

What does the Text Actually Say?

If we simply read the plain text of Romans 8:29, do we find the words “Those in whom God foresaw faith?” Of course, unless you are reading from a paraphrase of the biblical text and not the text itself, you will not find these words. The text says absolutely nothing about God foreseeing anyone’s faith or perseverance. The text teaches that God foreknows people. Paul does not write about what he foreknew but about whom he foreknew. In fact, the word “foreknow” in the New Testament if always used of God’s knowledge of people and never of people’s actions.

God “Foresees” Everyone’s Actions and Responses

Let us assume for the moment the text actually reads “‘For whom God foresaw’ or ‘For those whose actions and decisions God foresaw,’ he also predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son.” What would that mean? Since God has foreseen all events and all actions of all people, and since the text indicates nothing that limits what God foresaw, it would make Paul mean that God has predestined everyone without exception to be conformed to Christ’s image. God foresaw not only the actions and responses of those who will at some point believe the gospel; he foresaw everyone’s actions and responses. Even understanding that God’s knowledge extends to an intimate, penetrating, extensive acquaintance with every person’s inmost being and personality does not alleviate the problem. He knows everyone in this way. Unless we believe God has predestined everyone to be conformed to the image of Christ, we cannot consistently believe Paul is merely speaking about God’s extensive knowledge of all people, future events and future actions.

What Does God Foresee About All Sinners?

If God’s decree to save some (i.e., restore his image in them and bring them to glory) and pass over others was based on what sinners will invariably do when confronted with the gospel, he would have decreed to pass over everyone. As we have shown, [foreseen] faith cannot be both the basis or cause and the effect of God’s decision to save. God cannot decree to save people based on his foresight of a faith that would never exist if he had not purposed to bring it about. Do passages like Psalm 14:1-3 say anything about God seeing some who would be willing to understand the things of God and seek a loving, believing, obedient and worshipful relationship with him? Of course, the answer is that God sees exactly the opposite. God sees that no one will seek such a relationship apart from his enabling grace. Nothing short of God’s inward call and his regenerating grace will cause sinners to seek after him.

The Importance of Context

Let us assume again that Paul intends us to understand that God has predestined to conform some people to Christ’s image based on his foresight of their persevering faith. How would that idea fit into the context of Paul’s argument in this passage?

The main point Paul continues to make in these verses is that if God has justified a person, he is certain to glorify that person. He has adduced argument after argument in support of that proposition. His argument in these verses is that the believer’s glorification is certain because the entire work of salvation, the work of bringing his chosen people to glory, is God’s work in fulfillment of his eternal, electing decree. That work has been likened to a chain that is anchored in eternity past and extends to the end of time. Every link in that chain represents some aspect of God’s work. It began with his sovereign purpose to redeem a people marked out for himself. He loved these chosen people before they ever had being and determined beforehand that he would conform them to the image of his Son. Then, according to that divine determination, he calls them out of the world, effectually uniting them to his Son. Since they are in union with Christ, he declares them righteous in his sight. Additionally, he guarantees their glorification because they are in him who has already entered into his glory.

Everything in these verses concerns God’s work of bringing his chosen people to glory. Paul does not even mention God’s work of sanctification. I would presume he omits any reference to that work because, unlike justification, it brings within its scope the believer’s works of obedience which, in this life, will never be perfect. God has promised that he will ultimately bring the believer to complete and perfect holiness, but that work is anything but complete in the present.

The point is these verses are about what God does, not what believers do. It would be completely incongruous to introduce the believer’s faith into this context. God does not love sinners because he foresees we are going to love him. We love him because he first loved us.

Use of the Words “Know” and “Foreknow” in the Scriptures

The Greek verb translated “foreknew” is the aorist tense (point action, usually past tense) form of the verb proginōskō. It is a compound verb made up of the words pro-before and ginōskō to know by experience, to regard with love, approve. The word ginōskō is used to translate the Hebrew (yada) in the LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew O.T. Consider a few examples of this word’s usage in the Old and New Testament Scriptures.

Genesis 4:1 “Now Adam knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain. . . .”

Psalm 1:6 “The LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

Amos 3:2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities.”

Nahum 1:7 “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.”

Matthew 1:24-25 “. . .he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. . . .”

Matthew 7:23 “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of iniquity.”

John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,”

2 Timothy 2:19 “ The Lord knows those that are his. . . .”

It is obvious this word is used of a knowledge that goes beyond awareness of facts about a person. Instead, it is used to express intimacy and approval. It carries with it the meaning “to regard with love.”

Consider also the use of the word proginōskō in the New Testament Scriptures:

“God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew” (Romans 11:2a).

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you (1 Peter 1:1-2).

Notice the text reads “according to the foreknowledge of God,” not “based on the foreknowledge of God.” These people were not scattered abroad because God foresaw it would happen.

“He [Jesus] was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you (1Pet. 1:20).

In these verses, it is the people who were foreknown, not their actions.

Conclusion

What should we conclude about the idea Paul meant to convey in Romans 8:29? When we consider the actual words of the text without reading our own ideas into them, the context in which they are written, and the usage of the words “know” and “foreknow” in the rest of Scripture, there is only one conclusion we can reach. The word means to regard with loving approval beforehand. Paul could have well written, “For whom God loved before hand, he also predestinated. . ..” God’s choice of sinners to be conformed to his Son’s image was not a cold and arbitrary decree, but was according to his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses (see Eph. 2:4-5).

 

Election

 

The words “elect,” “election,” “choοse,” ¨“chosen” are translated from such words as the verbs  ἐκλέγω (eklego) and ἐκλέγομαι (eklegomai)  and the nouns ἐκλεκτός (eklektos) and ἐκλογή (eklogē). The verb αἱρέομαι (haireomai) is used in  2 Thessalonians 2:13. It is important to note that in that verse it is salvation that is through sanctification and belief of the truth and not God’s choice that is through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.

 

All these words have at least three characteristics in common:

 

  1. The choice in view is made from several objects that could be chosen.
  2. The person choosing is free to choose as he wills.
  3. The person choosing has at his disposal the objects chosen.

 

Types of Election in Scripture

 

It is important that we understand that not everyone who is referred to as “elect” has been chosen for spiritual and eternal blessings. For example, Israelites should not believe they have been chosen to spiritual and eternal blessings and blessedness because they are members of God’s chosen nation.

 

The Scripture speaks of several different types of election, but only one of those secures eternal blessedness.  They are:

 

▪                 National election— (Deuteronomy 7:6).

▪                 Election to Office:

▪                                   Kings, priests, prophets (1 Samuel 2:28, 10:24; Jeremiah 1:5).

▪                                   Apostles (John 6:70).

▪                 Of Good Angels (1 Timothy 5:21).

▪                 Of Christ (Isaiah 42:1).

▪                 Unto Eternal Salvation (Ephesians 1:4; John 15:16; 2 Thess. 2:13).

 

We would define election to eternal salvation as follows:

 

Election is the eternal, sovereign, unconditional, and immutable decree of God, whereby, according to the wise counsel of His own will and for His own glory, He has selected for Himself some individual sinners from among all mankind, and of every nation, to be redeemed and everlastingly saved by Christ.

 

The issue in the debate over election is not over whether the Bible says anything about God’s choice. Instead, the issue is what or whom God chose and the basis of that choice. Please consider the following observations:

  1. The texts that speak of election say nothing about God choosing a plan. Instead, we read such statements as “he has chosen us” and “chosen you.” There is no question that God has chosen a plan, but the texts under consideration have nothing to do with that choice. They speak, instead, about God’s choice of sinners.
  2. The texts that speak of election say nothing about foreseen faith and perseverance as the basis of God’s choice. God’s choices are made “according to the good pleasure of his will.” There was nothing in the objects of God’s choice that moved him to choose them. “It [God’s decision to show mercy]is not of him who wills or of him who runs but of God who shows mercy” (Rom. 9:16).
  3. The texts that speak of election say nothing about a believer becoming a part of the “corporate elect” when he believes. This should be clear to anyone who carefully and exegetically considers what the Scriptures teach about the order of election [God’s purpose], calling, and faith. It is through faith that we are united to Christ. It is through calling that we are brought to faith. As we will see in a later chapter, everyone who is called is also justified (See Rom. 8:30) and no one is justified apart from faith. It follows that everyone who is called will become a believer. We are called “according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). God’s electing and salvific purpose is antecedent to the believer being brought The biblical order is 1. God’s purpose, 2. calling according to his purpose, 3. faith and union with Christ. Since this is true, it is completely irrational to think that we become a part of God’s purpose when we choose to be in Christ. We would never have chosen to be in Christ apart from God’s effectual call, and we would not have been called effectually apart from his saving purpose.
  4. The texts that speak of election say nothing about heaven or hell since this is not the issue in salvation. Instead, they speak about God’s purpose to make his people holy and blameless before him. They speak about bringing sinners to glory and conforming us the Christ’s image. Those who argue that God’s electing and predestinating purpose is not about salvation, simply do not understand what salvation is.

 

Characteristics of Election to Eternal Salvation

 

The biblical writers teach us the following about the nature of God’s choice of sinners to be conformed to the image of Christ. Notice the similarity between this list and the characteristics of God’s broader predestinating purpose.

 

▪                 It is eternal (Ephesians 1:4, 3:11; 2 Timothy 1:9). It was not determined by anything in time but was settled before time began.

▪                 It is sovereign (Matthew 11:25-27; Romans 9:15-18).

▪                 It is unconditional, i.e., not conditioned on anything in the creature (Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Romans 9:11, 11:5-6; Ephesians 1:5).

▪                 It is immutable (Isaiah 14:24, 46:10-11; Romans 8:28-30; Hebrews 6:17).

▪                 It is wise (Romans 11:33).

▪                 It is individual (Romans 16:13).

▪                 It is for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 1:31; Ephesians 1:4-6, 12).

 

Predestination

 

When we read in the Scriptures that God has predestined us to certain blessings, we are simply to understand that he has made certain beforehand that those he has chosen for himself will become partakers of those blessings. He has not only set his everlasting love on the objects of his choice, but he has determined to rescue us from our sins and grant us an inheritance in Christ. It is on the basis of this gracious purpose that God can make exceeding great and precious promises to his chosen people.

 

The alternative is either that God learns and grows along with us or that he has merely foreseen [or sees now from the vantage point of the eternal present] that everything will by some strange quirk of fate or chance and apart from any interference or intervention on his part, turn out for the best. Perhaps God has merely witnessed all the pieces falling into place by the fortuitous working of blind chance so that he can confidently promise us that apart from any purpose or design on his part and apart from any control he exerts in his own universe, all things are going to work together for good to those who love God. If this were the case, God would no longer be God; he would be reduced to a helpless spectator who could wish us well but could do nothing to save us. This is a far cry from the biblical representation of our glorious God who sits in the heavens and has done whatsoever he has pleased (See Psalms 115:3).

 

It is because of his predestined purpose that God is able to assure us he will glorify all whom he has justified (See Rom. 8:28-30). He who has given up his Son to die for us will most certainly grant us everything else that belongs to our salvation including glorification (Rom. 8:32). He has determined beforehand to grant us an inheritance in Christ (See Eph. 1:5, 11). He has determined beforehand to conform us to the image of his Son (See Rom. 8:29). He has appointed us to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (See 1 Thess. 5:9). He has prepared beforehand that believers would walk in a pattern of good works (See Eph. 2:10). The apostle Paul told the Corinthians that the wise scheme of redemption that had been hidden for ages, i.e., God’s hidden decree, had now been revealed in the gospel he preached. Additionally, he told them that God’s secret decree concerned their glory. By this he meant that all the glorious blessings that believers enjoy in Christ find their source in the divine decree (See 1 Cor. 2:7). Charles Hodge commented on these words, “. . .the scheme of redemption, which the apostle here calls the wisdom of God, was from eternity formed in the divine mind, far out of the reach of human penetration, and has under the gospel been made known for the salvation of men. . .” (Hodge, 1997, 56).

 

Application

 

The relevance of this doctrine to evangelism should be clear. Nothing should give us confidence in proclaiming God’s message as much as the truth that God guarantees the positive result of our gospel presentation. God has not left the matter to the caprice of the human will. He has promised that his Word will not return to him empty; but it will accomplish that which he purposed, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (See Isaiah 55:11). What God has intended to accomplish by our preaching is none of our business. Our task is to be faithful in proclaiming God’s message in his way and leave the results to him.

 

 

 Hodge, Charles, An Exposition of II Corinthians,  (Albany, OR: Books for the Ages) 1997.

 

05
Jan
13

Arminian Presuppositions

More often than not in theological discussions people argue over their conclusions instead of taking time to examine their presuppositions. I recently spent some time in a forum in which several Arminians [they don’t like to be labeled that way even though that is what they are, at best] and Calvinists were engaged in an intense discussion regarding the theological order of faith and regeneration. Of course, as is usual in such discussions, there were a number of theological rabbits that ran across the trail, causing the participants to lose their focus and run off in all directions at once. As the battle continued, I observed a number of beliefs on which the Arminians seemed to base their conclusions on the issue. There is no doubt we Calvinists also have certain presuppositions on which we base our conclusions. What we must all do is be certain to test our presuppositions in the light of Scripture before we use them as the foundation of our belief system. The following were some of the presuppositions I observed in the course of that discussion:

1. God loves all sinners equally and in the same way. God doesn’t show favoritism in any way.

2. The terms, “world” and “all” always refer to every single member of the human race without exception.

3. God would not be fair unless he at least gave everyone a chance to hear the gospel and believe. He owes everyone an opportunity. If God has chosen some and passed over others, then God is not being fair or acting fairly.

4. God would never command or invite sinners to do anything they are unable to do. If God calls sinners to believe the gospel, sinners must have the ability to believe it.

5. Sinners are not condemned because of sin, but only because of unbelief. Based on this presupposition, they believe if Jesus didn’t provide salvation for all, God would have no basis on which to judge sinners.

6. If God has truly chosen who will be saved and determined that they will certainly believe the gospel, there is no need to preach the gospel to anyone.

7. The Holy Spirit convicts all sinners in the same way, and it is this conviction that causes some sinners to believe the gospel.

8. The terms “call” and “calling” refer to the general and universal invitation of the gospel.

9. Some sinners are worse, by nature, than others.

10. Some of these “free will” believers seem to believe, along with the Pelagians, sinners do not have Adam’s guilt imputed, or even his nature transmitted to them.

11. Choice and “free will” are synonymous. If a person acts freely and voluntarily, he must have “free will.”

12. If God has predetermined anything that will occur, then he must “force” people to act against their wills.

It is altogether likely I have omitted some of their presuppositions in this list. If you can add to the list, please let me know. My assumptions concerning these presuppositions are based on plain statements the proponents of “free will” have made during debate. If you feel I have represented this position unfairly, please let me know and we can discuss the issue.

My intention over the next few days and perhaps weeks is to examine these presuppositions in the light of Scripture. I invite you to engage in the discussion. If you can produce verses of Scripture in their proper context to show these presuppositions are true, I would love to discuss those Scriptures with you.

Please follow the rules for commenting here and please don’t expect me to respect your opinions any more that I would expect you to respect mine.

24
Dec
12

Ignorance on fire.

I recently read the following excerpt from a book written by a man who claims to be a “former Calvinist.” My experience has been that those who claim to be “former Calvinists” never understood our doctrinal position in the first place. This is what he wrote:

Realize that a Calvinist and Non-Calvinist do not share the same meaning of words. This is true even though probably neither one of them realizes they do not share meaning. Remember, Calvinism is merely the invoking of associative meaning, not real meaning. By “not real” I mean that the meaning is destroyed in the overall thought of the clause or sentence. For, of course, at one level the Calvinist understands the general meaning of words. But when he strings them together in such a way that it forms an idea that is false, then at another level he overthrows the meaning of such words.* For example, when a Calvinist uses the term ‘God’ in defending the absolute sovereignty of God, he is making nonsense statements. This is what I used to do as a Calvinist. I liken these non-sense statements, or propositions, to the riding of a rocking horse. As a Calvinist rider, I would throw my weight forward toward my belief in the absolute sovereignty of God until I could go no further, whereupon I would recoil backwards toward my belief in human freedom. Thus I would go back and forth in seesaw motion, lest on the one hand I find myself accusing God of insufficient sovereignty, or on the other hand find myself accusing God of authoring sin. All the while, there remained an illusion of movement towards truth, when in fact there was no real movement at all. At length I would allow the springs of dialectical tension to rest the rocking horse in the center, and then I would declare as harmonious propositions which, in fact, were totally contradictory to each other. Calvinist riders still ride out this scenario.

He is quite right in his assertion that, often at least, Calvinists and Non-Calvinists do not share the same meanings of words. This is why I insist on a definition of terms before engaging in debate over some point of theology. It is an absolute waste of time to engage in debate when the two parties in the debate are using terms differently. The point at which I disagree with him is when he accuses Calvinists of stringing words together to form a false idea. Have you ever noticed these guys never provide citations from those with whom they disagree? One would think they would at least make an effort at substantiating their scurrilous lies. Of course, then everyone would know their charges are baseless.

I found his rocking horse analogy interesting. Can you imagine a theologian sitting astride a rocking horse, vacillating between the doctrine of Christ true and full humanity and his full and true deity, then deciding he must reject one or the other of these revealed truths because he could not logically reconcile them in his partially sanctified and finite mind? What a recipe for heresy. Imagine what would happen if we rejected everything in Scripture that we could not fully understand.

The truth is, a real Calvinist would have understood that God, in his absolute sovereignty, does not need to cause to occur everything he has decreed. For example, God clearly decreed Jesus’ crucifixion, but he did not cause any of the parties in that heinous act to perform as they did. They all acted freely, volitionally and culpably. The truths of divine sovereignty and human freedom [please note I did not say “free will” since that is another issue altogether] are often found side by side in the same verse of Scripture. E.g, ” this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). One need not rock back and forth trying to decide which of these truths he will embrace. He must embrace them both since they are both revealed in God´s Word.

This man, in his ignorance, can now boldly state he no longer believes what he never understood in the first place. It is a crying shame ignorance isn´t painful.