Sovereign Election, and Man’s Volition.

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God is omniscient. He knows everything. He cannot learn. He has always known who He would save, and who He would not. He did not have to look down the corridors of time to see who would choose Him. He knew before He made them. It is not evil for God to save only the elect. We cannot judge God. He is the infinite, transcendent Creator. We are small, finite, creatures, with limited faculties as creatures, then add on to that the noetic effect of our sin natures inherited from the fall of original sin. In Adam all die. The wages of sin is death. All of us, even the newborn, deserve death and Hell, but God in His mercy saves some. If there are two doctrines that are seemingly at odds, in your understanding, it is not the truth of God that is wrong. If the Bible says we have a volition, make choices, and suffer the consequence, or reap the rewards of those choices, then it is true. If it says that God has determined, or ordained all things to come to pass according to His will, then that is also true. Just because someone can’t justify the two ideas in their small, finite, creaturely, sin sick minds doesn’t negate the truth of God.

We are limited to an existence in space/time. We only experience life in a linear progression through unfolding time, in space. We see our lives as a series of instances, and of choices, and outcomes. Eternity is not like that. God is bigger than space/time. He transcends His creation. He sees all things, perfectly, as the actually are, forever. God made the construct of this material world for us to live in, and for His story to be experienced in. He made it for His glory.

The Bible, the Gospel of Christ, are theocentric, not anthropocentric. In Eternity, God sovereignly chose who would respond to their sin, and the gospel, with repentance and faith. He grants repentance and faith, to those whom He chose. This does not negate our culpability. He says as much in Romans. It doesn’t mean that we don’t experience choices and the outcomes of those choices. Let God be true.

You can read that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, Israel was chosen, Aaron, and Moses were chosen, Hosea, and Gomer were chosen, even the pagans were chosen to work God’s will in their wickedness they were used to punish Israel when they strayed. Christ chose His Apostles. Paul was chosen, and we see that on the road to Damascus. Romans 9, Ephesians 1, God’s sovereign choices are all over the old and new Testaments. We can’t ignore it, or interpret in a way that makes it anthropocentric. Our purpose is to glorify God, not man.

Sanctification is about being conformed to the Word of God and His likeness. A Christian would love for His sinful will in the unredeemed flesh to be gone. It is one of the things we look forward to in eternity, is being in a glorified body, that no longer desires to sin, but entirely desires to do God’s will only. People make the accusation that God wouldn’t make a bunch of mindless robots, but I would love it if I no longer sinned or were tempted to sin. It doesn’t mean that I would be mindless. Election, and man’s volition are both true. Before a man is saved, his will is enslaved to his sinful nature. After he is saved, it is enslaved to the Christ Jesus His Lord and Savior, who died for his sins.

“…and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed…”

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“…and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed…”

Remember, God can save who He wants to save.  The Jews saw the gentiles as dirty compared to themselves.  The next time you are tempted to look down on someone because of their race, or some other reason, and think that salvation can’t be for them, remember the Jews and gentiles.  God will save anyone He has determined to save.  He doesn’t try and then fail.  What He sets out to do, He accomplishes.  Paul was a murderer, not just that, but a persecutor of Christ’s Church.  After his conversion he thought of himself as the chief of sinners, yet he was born again.  Christ put him off his horse, blinded him, while making him see, and then made him an Apostle.  Ananias feared Paul and didn’t want to go to him initially until God told him this, “15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;” Jesus made Paul His slave, and Paul loved his Lord and Master.  Paul brought the gospel to the gentiles with passion and fervor from the Lord, and the Church was built, with Christ as the Chief cornerstone and the Apostles laying the foundation, by the power of the Holy Spirit, according to the will of the Father.

44The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. 45But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. 46Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.

47“For so the Lord has commanded us,
‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES,
THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.’”

48When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. 49And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. 50But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. 52And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:44-52 NASB)

The Will of Man, Transcendent God, and Unfolding Time.

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I know many people have a difficult time understanding how God could have already made everything in our futures a reality without violating our will, or making Himself ultimately guilty for what we do. Just like many of the theological problems we have, I think this also comes from our finite nature as well as being under the noetic effect of sin. I would like to explain how it could be that God has ordained or determined everything in eternity, and we remain culpable for our sin. Remember, this is just one way I think it could be. I am not certain, but it does seem reasonable to me.

We live in space-time. We experience life instance to instance, moment to moment like a line drawn through and connecting many drops of water on a surface. The drops are moments in our lives. The drops ahead are truly there. They are actual, but not yet realized by us. As such, there is truly only one path, not many. There are not infinite numbers of alternate realities, only one actual one not yet realized by us as creatures moving through space and time.

As we pass from one instance to the next, the two are connected. We have lived and are living in a seemingly linear progression to the grave. Once we die we stop experiencing time in this fashion. We move from these many instances to one infinite instance, an age without time, eternity with God. God is the Creator of time. He transcends time, and is not bound by it the way we are as creatures. For us time is an unfolding progressive revelation of what is already actual. For God I think that in eternity He has already done everything. The future, our futures are determined. We don’t experience life that way here in the material world, but in eternity it is fixed.

Think about God’s word and prophecy. When an Old Testament prophet spoke, he said, “Thus sayeth the Lord.” Then, the prophecy came. Some of us might think that when that was happening the prophet was merely telling the future. In a sense he was telling the future, but more accurately he was telling us what God had already determined in eternity about our linear experience of life bound by space and time. Since the Bible is completely revealed to us, and Christ is the word incarnate, we no longer have prophets that speak new things to us. A modern prophet quotes the Bible out loud to people.

Our experience is one where we make choices in keeping with our natures connected to each instance in space-time. When we are fearful of the future, we are saying that we don’t trust God to get it the way we want it. We should be thinking about how we can glorify God in each moment that He has already made actual when we experience it. We experience thinking about what choices to make, what the consequences could be, what the rewards of our choice could bring, and we make decisions, as well as experience the consequences of those decisions.

God is not surprised at all by our decisions or the results. He has every person who has ever lived, all their instances, all of yours and mine, from past, present, and future, all woven together in His sovereign will to work out for good. If we trust that God is truly good, and truly sovereign, and realize how sinful we are contrasted to His holiness, then we can start to see that His will is the best.

The fuller truth about our volitions is that transcendentally they are working according to God’s sovereign decrees and ordinances. The creaturely experience of an unfolding space-time is limiting and useful for God’s purposes. In it, He gives us one moment to the next to learn about ourselves, the world, Him, His gospel, and His elect will respond to the gospel. In the limits He has set for us, we grow and are sanctified. It is a process He determined to use, and is good.

So trust the one true good and sovereign God with your future. Make your decisions, and experience the results, but don’t unhinge your culpability to blame God for your experiences. It is not a paradox to use your will, but ultimately have your will predetermined in eternity. It is only paradoxical if you have a lower view of God, and your own sin.

Let’s face it, our wills are the problem. Our goal is to become more like Christ. I’ve sorrowed over my sins, and truly asked God to replace my wicked will with His so that I no longer desire sin. In eternity when we have our glorified bodies, we won’t sin. Does that mean our wills will be replaced with a Godly one? What would that look like? You can find out. If you haven’t already, repent of your sins. Trust the work of Jesus who while on the cross made atonement for the sins of the elect. He finished the work there and justified those He was saving to God. Repent and believe.

Jesus speaks of Sovereign election in John 6

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
(John 6:37-40 NASB)
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. “It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.
(John 6:44-45 NASB)
“But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
(John 6:64-65 NASB)
So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.
(John 6:67-71 NASB)

Freewill?

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Why don’t we have a problem when God chooses people in some scriptures, but when it comes to salvation we say, “God is a gentleman and would never force us to choose Him against our freewill!”

For instance in Acts 40 we don’t have a problem with God choosing who would see Him after the resurrection.  “39“We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. 40“God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, 41not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.”  (Acts 10:39-41)

But, in Ephesians 1:3-5 when Paul tells us how God chose who would be saved by Jesus before He made the world everybody gets all offended about having their precious sinful, I mean ahem, “freewill” getting violated.  Excuse me, but I’d much rather have a divine intervention and go to Heaven than have a, “freewill” any day.  That is because I understand that before regeneration and justification my will is a sinful will, a curse from the fall, a will that is enslaved to do nothing but evil continuously.  After all aren’t we supposed to pray that the will of the Father be done?  Aren’t we supposed to become more like Jesus and less like ourselves?  Aren’t we supposed to die to ourselves daily and take up the cross of Christ?  It sure seems like our wills should be replaced with God’s will.

I think the problem lies in the sin of pride.  People think to highly of themselves and their abilities to please God, they don’t see how sinful their sin is, and they definitely don’t contrast it with the holiness and righteousness of God.  They need to see God as completely transcendent, totally other, instead they have to elevate man and lower God to protect their notion of freedom.  We should magnify God and humble ourselves.

I’m not saying that we are not responsible for our sin either.  People try to say that it is a mutually exclusive statement.  They say if you don’t have our brand of freewill then God can’t hold you responsible for your sin.  It seems to make sense.  Of course you would have to lower God and elevate man.  We are still morally culpable for sin because we are born sinners and choose it continuously because of our state of being dead in our sins and being slaves to our sin natures.  When God saves someone of His grace and mercy it is exactly that way.  He saves them by His grace (unmerited favor).  They did nothing to deserve salvation.  Matter of fact, everything they have done has come from a corrupted heart.  If God planned it this way then we as creatures have no right to judge Him or His plan.  He owns us and has all rights to us.  He would be just in destroying all of us whenever He wants to.  The fact that He saves any of us is wonderful news.

We make choices that are consistent with our natures.  God is consistent with His attributes.  God cannot be unjust, or evil, or untrue.  In the same way a sinner cannot be desirous of God while yet a slave to their sinful nature.  (Romans 5:8) “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  In their sinful nature they make all kinds of choices that are consistent with that nature.  These choices are allowed by God in His sovereign will to be used by Him for good in accordance with His will.   I would remind you that the problem is pride and how we see God, ourselves, and sin.  He ultimately has ownership rights over all of us as Creator and can do with us as He sees fit.

19You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 22What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. (Romans 9:19-24)