Monday, May 18, 2009

God's Pursuit of Man - Chapter 3 "The Mystery of the Call"

I want to just say before we begin uncovering the complicated material ahead of us, that I am aware that what we are about to discuss may or may not be the “popular belief”. This chapter touches on the topic of election, the belief that we are chosen by God to be saved, and that it is only through that election that we can receive salvation. This has been an area that I have been researching for quite some time, and while I don’t declare myself to be “an expert” by any means, I want you to know I am not taking this topic lightly. If this is a topic that interest you or that you would like to learn more about I would recommend visiting the Mars Hill Church website or the Desiring God website – Mark Driscoll and John Piper do an excellent job explaining predestination, election and Calvinism as a whole.

“By a complete misunderstanding of the noble and true doctrine of the freedom of the human will, salvation is made to depend perilously upon the will of man instead of upon the will of God. However deep the mystery, however many the paradoxes involved, it is still true that men become saints not at their own whim but by sovereign calling.”

“The master choice is His, the secondary choice is ours. Salvation is from our side a choice, from the divine side it is a seizing upon, an apprehending, a conquest of the Most High God. Our “accepting” and “willing” are reactions rather than actions. The right of determination must always remain with God.”

Theologians have been arguing for centuries the order of salvation – which comes first, faith or grace. Does the act of faith, of “accepting” the gift of grace, complete our salvation or is it grace that gives us the faith to believe in our salvation? Is redemption “accepted” or simply “recognized”? I was raised to believe that we accepted the gift of salvation, that salvation was there for all and that we choose whether we want it or don’t want it. It was only recently that I was even aware that there were other viewpoints.

The words predestination, election, calling, destined are mentioned many times in the Bible, one of the major scriptures is Ephesians 1:4-5 “Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.”

Now some would argue that this verse is referring to the fact that God knew beforehand who is going to choose Him (foreknowledge) so He first chooses them (predestined), I see it differently. I believe that our God is all-sovereign and in His sovereignty before time began (foreknowledge) He simply chose (predestined) some to become holy and blameless. It had nothing to do with us, whether or not we were good enough, or whether we would choose right or wrong – we ALL chose wrong (Romans 3:23) – we have all already chosen death – there is NOTHING we can do to save ourselves, and by this I mean even the act of “acceptance”. It is only through God’s grace and love that we can even see ourselves as sinful and in need of a savior. Without the revelation from the Holy Spirit our sinful flesh prevents us from that realization. Therefore, God does EVERY part of redemption, we simply realize and confess , at this point we may say an “acceptance prayer” (or we may not), but that prayer in no way “saves us” – it is simply an acknowledgement of what He has already done in completion.

The problem with this theory, for most is the contradiction of “free will”. Most of us do not have a problem with the idea that God is sovereign; that He is ultimately in control of all things – the problem comes in when we (even Christians) are faced with the idea that our “free will” may not be as “free” as we thought. When asked if I believe in free will – I would have to say that I do, but I don’t think that our free will is what we have been taught or to the extent that our flesh and pride would like to believe it is. I have written before about the Will of God, which I think helps to clarify what I am trying to say here. When it comes to God’s Sovereign Will, there is nothing that we say, pray or do, that will change His Will – it WILL occur. However, when it comes to God’s Will of Command – we have the choice to obey or disobey. There are certain callings on our life that we choose to follow or not. It’s our choice to do God’s will of command that determines our level of fulfillment and happiness here on earth, and even our rewards in heaven.

I realize that this post is already getting pretty long, so I would like to try to close – I want to leave you with the chapter of scripture that impacted me the most in my study of predestination and that is Romans 9 – other portions of scripture offered a taste here and a taste there, but when I got to Romans 9 I found the entire chapter dedicated to this topic so in closing I would like to leave you with the words from the apostle Paul himself (the key section – for me – was verses 18-23):

1 I am speaking the truth in Christ I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but Through Isaac shall your offspring be named. 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son. 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls 12 she was told, The older will serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 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 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will? 20 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? 21 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? 22 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, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

25 As indeed he says in Hosea, Those who were not my people I will call my people, and her who was not beloved I will call beloved. 26 And in the very place where it was said to them, You are not my people, there they will be called sons of the living God. 27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay. 29 And as Isaiah predicted, If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.

30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written, Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.


Jaime ~ For His Glory said...

Okay so I'll do my best to state what I have to say. I'm not necessarily clear on what your saying but I would like to address predestination. No matter what side of the fence people land on it doesn't really matter because it is God who ultimately decides this whole thing ~ not us. But I like to have an opinion anyway :)

As always, I think it is dangerous to hang a doctrine on a few verses and ignore the whole picture of God and His character.
So here is my statement: God's will is not always done.
I think that is what you mean by will of command vs His Sovergein will and I guess that is where the "hair gets split." I lean more to very few things are part of God's Sovergein will and a lot more rests in His will of command, which we can be part of if we believe. I believe it is the "will of command" of God that all men would be saved.
In my opinion, God "Sovereignly" choose before time to send Jesus ~this was predestined. Again, His desire was that all men would be saved. Acts 2:21 "And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." The key word is "everyone" if it wasn't a "choice" than this verse wouldn't be needed. I think we need to be very careful to not take away from the beauty of the cross and what Jesus did. He died so that whoever called on the name of the Lord would be saved.

You were on to something when you said, "we are just accepting what Jesus did." Jesus has paid the price for all sin already (those saved and not saved). What we will be judged upon "the unforgivable sin" is the "rejection of the Holy Spirit," the offering by the Holy Spirit for the gift of salvation.

I typed "God's will" and "will of God" into Bible gateway and there are only 28 NIV verses that show up with that exact phrasing...and there wasn't any significant "theological" verses attached to those phrases. I truly believe God has given us free will and He has given us freedom to choose or reject Him.

Okay, so here is some "theology" I have come up with from Romans 9 that I haven't passed through anyone so it could be totally bunk. "Isaac I loved, Esau I hated." "God will have mercy on whom He has mercy." This whole chapter ends talking about how the Gentiles were saved ~ which was no where on anyone's radar until after Jesus died. I personally don't think God "hated Esau" but rather this is how it appeared to man by Him being chosen. The "irony" of it all is that God revealed that He chose those whom we thought God rejected and hated but in the fullness of time it was revealed that even "those hated (the Gentiles)" were saved by the grace of God. "God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy." Through Jesus, who sits on the mercy seat, all are entitled to mercy and yes it is dependant upon us to choose that gift.

So that is my two cents worth.

Amber said...

Jaime, thanks so much for your comment and thoughts. I knew you would have something to say about this chapter :)

While I also want to make sure that you all know that I agree and say that it doesn't matter what you believe regarding HOW salvation works - what matters is that you know your Lord and Savior, the rest is just "discussion"

I also want to say that I agree that hanging doctrine on only a few verses is dangerous, for the sake of time and space I mentioned two (Romans 9 and Ephesians 1) however there are many more that I will post in a separate post this evening.

I also completely agree with your statement "God's will is not always done" and I also agree that MUCH more falls into the category of God's will of command than sovereign will - I just think that Salvation falls under the sovereign will.
The verse that you used (Acts 2:21) that says "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" is obviously a factual statement (it is in the Bible) but the word you pulled out was "everyone" where as I think the focus is on "calls on the name of the Lord" I think that it is only THROUGH the REVELATION from the HOLY SPIRIT that a person is able to "call on the name of the Lord." (note: the caps were for emphasis, not yelling -- don't know how to bold a comment).

I wanted to touch on what you said “I think we need to be very careful to not take away from the beauty of the cross and what Jesus did. He died so that whoever called on the name of the Lord would be saved.” And say that I agree that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, I don’t disagree with the fact that God saves those who long to be saved, I’m saying that God CHOSE certain ones to call on His name and be saved. This is called “Limited Atonement” (it is a theological term, not one directly found in the Bible) The question is posed – What did Christ’s death accomplish? Did it accomplish EVERYTHING that is needed for salvation OR did Christ just make all men savable? If you believe that it accomplished everything then you would mean it includes even the mercy necessary to bring them to faith (believing) in their salvation, completing salvation. If you believe that, but that it was for EVERYONE then how would you explain those that DON’T come to salvation? Either everything was accomplished or it wasn’t?

If you believe that Christ’s death in essence made a way for all men to come to salvation then you are admitting that in a sense man must save himself by way of “faith” or “belief”, meaning Calvary completed PART of salvation, the other part is ours to complete. Another way to say it is do you believe that Christ’s death created the opportunity for salvation of all or the complete salvation of some? You can’t have it both ways.


Amber said...

(cont'd from before)

Some verses that I wanted to leave you with that helped further my understanding of limited atonement were:

John 10:15 “I lay down my life for the sheep.” (v. 26) “You do not believe, because you are not part of my flock.”

John 8:47 “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

John 3:27 “John (the Baptist) answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

2 Timothy 2:24-25 “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God MAY GRANT them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.

John 6:65 “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.

Acts 16:14 “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”

The only other thing I wanted to comment on was your comment regarding the verse “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated.” and you said “I personally don't think God "hated Esau" but rather this is how it appeared to man by Him being chosen” that verse is actually a quote from Malachi 1:2 where the Lord is actually talking about choosing Israel and how the Lord continues to lay ruin to their (Esau’s) country and that He will be angry with them “forever”…. it doesn’t seem like it was Israel’s interpretation, but God’s rather.

Okay, seriously, I will close now, I know this got a little long but I just wanted to clarify anything that I may have left out in my earlier post and to address all of the very valid points that you brought up as well, Jaime. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and if you have any other points I would love to learn more from what you know…

LOVE YOU LOTS Jaime, and make sure you tell Josh I’m not mad ;)

Michelle said...

I know this post was forever ago... but wow. I am so amazed. I have very few friends that believe this way.

I believe doctrine is VERY important and even this doctrine. I have concerns that the doctrine of free will is the falling away from grace the Bible speaks of and the "other Jesus." Not saying that people that believe they "accept Christ" are not saved, but that they may be at a different point on the road. I can't help but see that most of the people who are truly seeking God eventually come to the point of seeing grace alone.

Again, you did a great job of explaining it. Something we tend to lean towards also...if Christ died for everyone, then He died for the man in hell. If he died for the man in hell, then his death was in vain.

I am really looking forward to following your blog!