Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Will And Grace:

(An Excerpt from I Know Who I Have Chosen) 

Free Will & Sovereign Grace:  What is this ancient debate all about? Is it about God’s sovereignty? That God is ruler over all creation? Hopefully not! Denying His sovereign reign as God of all creation denies the God of the Bible. Every believer should acknowledge the absolute sovereignty of God over the universe. There is no God but God Almighty, YHWH, Jehovah, the triune Deity.

Is it about whether man has a will? Hopefully not! To deny that man makes choices is to deny the obvious. God made Adam with desires, intellect, emotions and a will, an ability to choose. After he sinned he still had desires, intellect and emotions but they were fallen, affected by his sin and depraved. Wasn’t Adam’s will fallen as well?

So what’s the problem? Simply this: How do we reconcile the absolute sovereignty of God with mankind’s ability to make choices? Some say God overrides the will of man and predestines everything to the point that man is just a pawn of fate. Others say that God limits his power to allow man to keep a totally free will. Some go so far as to say God limits his foreknowledge and omniscience. What does the Bible say?

First, let’s look at the Biblical examples where God requires humankind to make choices.

The Old Testament:
Joshua 24:14 “... fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River ...15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, ... But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Isa 1:16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, 17 Learn to do good; ... 18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow... 19 If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land;

The Gospels:
Matt 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem ...How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks... but you were not willing!

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

John 7:17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God...

Book of Acts:
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ ...

Paul’s Letters:
Rom 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.

Also: 1 Cor 9:17; Phm 14; 1 Peter 5:2 

Now this is only a sample of many like verses, but it is evidence that begs the question, how much of our salvation is up to us and how much is up to the grace of God? Why does God tell us to seek and to choose if our ability to do so is damaged in the fall and disabled by our depravity? And how does ‘whosoever believes’ and ‘election’ go together?
There are other verses that people cite in contrast (not contradiction) to these, which seem to elevate the role of God’s choosing and election in salvation, and in other things pertaining to God’s will. Consider these verses:

The Old Testament:
Gen 25:21 … and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 But the children struggled together within her … 23 And the Lord said to her: “Two nations are in your womb … One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.”  (see Rom 9:10 later)

Malachi 1:2 I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? Saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, 3And I hated Esau… (see Rom 9:13 later)

Deut 7:6 “... the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, ... 7 The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people... 8 but because the Lord loves you…”

Neh 9:7 you are the LORD the God, who did choose Abram, and brought him forth out of Ur

Psalm 65:4 Blessed is the man You choose, And cause to approach You…

The Gospels:
John 15: 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you …

John 6: 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; ...45 ...Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.

John 13:18 “I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen…

John 17:6  “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they kept Your word.

Book of Acts:
Acts 2: 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, ...be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ... 39 For the promise is to you, your children, and ....as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Acts 13:48 when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad ...And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

Paul’s letters:
Rom 3: 10 “There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 ... none who seeks after God.

Rom 8:29 whom He foreknew He also predestined ... 30 ...whom He predestined He also called; whom He called He also justified; and whom He justified He also glorified.

Rom 9:10 ... (for the children not yet born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand ...), 12 it was said...“The older shall serve the younger.” 13 ...“Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” ...15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

Rom 10:20 But Isaiah is very bold and says: “I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was shown to those who did not ask for Me.”

1 Cor 1:27 God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, God has chosen the weak ...28 and the base ...and the despised things God has chosen ...29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

Eph 1: 4 …just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world... 5 having predestined us to adoption ...according to the good pleasure of His will... (cf. Eph 1:11)

Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

James 2: 5  Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith...

1 Peter 1:1  Peter, ...to the pilgrims of the Dispersion... 2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God...

2 John 1  The Elder, To the elect lady and her children…

Jude 1  Jude, ...to those who are called, sanctified ...and preserved in Jesus Christ:

Once again there are many scriptures on the ability and need to choose to repent, believe, be baptized, etc; and many scriptures on God’s choosing. So the ancient question remains. How do we reconcile God’s sovereign election and man’s need or ability to make choices?

Some have said election is not individual. It just means all of those who have believed are in Christ and He is the elect one. It is true that Jesus was chosen by God to be the Messiah, but this view doesn’t do justice to the many verses on election of us individually. (Eph 1:4-5)
It is a belief that is well with-in the pale of orthodoxy and held by respected Bible Scholars. But it appears to many others that there is a richer, more personal, approach to God’s election.

Some have said, God saves people in spite of themselves and man’s choice only “seems” to be involved. (This is commonly seen in the view called hyper-Calvinism.) It doesn’t do justice to the scriptural call on us to repent, believe, and call on the name of the Lord. (John 3:16)

Think for a minute about the three primary states in which mankind has existed. In the garden, Adam and Eve were perfect. Their intellects, emotions, desires, and choices were all perfectly pure and unblemished for a time. Then sin came, and in every way we know, humanity was fallen; living in a state much less than perfection and without hope. Our desires became evil, our emotions and minds were darkened. Why not our will? I would say our wills were damaged, too.[1] Not completely done away with, any more than our brains or emotions were.

Now, people find themselves born again; forgiven and changed. This is the third human condition. The Bible says we are new creatures. So are you perfect now in all that you do? No? Can you make choices independent of the bondage to sin that you once were in? I think so. Do we always love the Lord with all our hearts, minds and strength? No, but are you able now to love the Lord at all? You can and do if you have been forgiven of sin, regenerated, and born again. We’re not like we will be in glory, but we’re better than we used to be when we were lost.

This is where we find ourselves then. God knew us intimately (Rom 8:29ff)[2] before we were born, before the world began He didn’t just know about us, He - Knew - Us.

(For the Booklet:) 
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[1] Rom 11:7 ...Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see, ears that would not hear, down to this very day." 9 David says, "Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; 10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever."
[2] Rom 8:29 for those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son... 30 And those whom he predestined he called, and those whom he called he justified, and those whom he justified he glorified.

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