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.

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.

So You Still Don’t Believe That God Chooses Who Will Be Saved?

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I’ve seen people try to explain away Romans 9, by claiming it was about Israel only, and not individual believers. I don’t agree with them. I’ve seen them try to wriggle out of several other passages in the Bible that to me look like rock solid support for God’s sovereign election. I would be curious though how they get around Acts 9. Let’s take a look at Acts 9.

Acts 9:1-22 NASB “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, (2) and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (3) As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; (4) and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (5) And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, (6) but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” (7) The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. (8) Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. (9) And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (10) Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” (11) And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, (12) and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” (13) But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; (14) and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” (15) But 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; (16) for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (17) So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (18) And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; (19) and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, (20) and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” (21) All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” (22) But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.”

Now, I think you can see that it is just silly to try to say that Jesus was waiting for Saul to ask Him into his heart. I think it is equally silly to say that Saul wanted to be saved, before the encounter. It also appears obvious that Saul did not have a choice in the situation. We know that he was hunting believers and persecuting the Church. Verse 1 starts out with, “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” Safe to say, he wasn’t a nice man. He certainly didn’t like Christians. After his encounter with Jesus we read in verse 15 God has a conversation with Ananias, where He explains that Saul is chosen by God. “But 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; (16) for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Interesting to see God choose someone who was violently against Him. Then changes his mind and thinking, and turns him into someone usable for His purposes. God used Paul to give us much of the New Testament. So much of our theology is from Paul’s Epistles. So, my freewill friends, how do you explain this one away? I better not hear any of you saying Saul could have refused and God would have just went on to try another man.

God is Sovereign, and uses Men and Nations.

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Some folks have the notion that the Bible, and Christianity, is all about them, and getting saved by Jesus because He loves them soooooo much.  Don’t get me wrong, Jesus does love those He has been given by the Father, but you know what He loves more than sinners saved?  If you said anything other than the will of the Father, you might try again.  That’s right, He loves the will of the Father.  So much so, that He loved sinners, while they were yet sinners, so much that He died for them.  So if Jesus loves the will of the Father, why do we seem to love our own wills so much?  Why do we seem to put this inordinate value on our own volition and liberty?  Why, when Christ our Savior, submitted His will to that of the Father, by dying on the cross, do we refuse to bear our cross?

I believe the answer is this man centered hermeneutic when reading the Bible.  It seems to be intrinsic to a large part of American Christianity.  So when we read a passage like this one, where God is using the Assyrians to punish the Israelites as judgment against them, we see it as mere history.  We completely glaze over the obvious fact that God has used them like a weapon.  Even the Assyrian king didn’t give God the glory.  He wasn’t humble at all.  In his impudence, he thought that he was the one who did all of those things to Israel.  Just read the passage, and I’ll be there when you are done…

“Isaiah 10:12-15 NASB So it will be that when the Lord has completed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, He will say, “I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness.” (13) For he has said, “By the power of my hand and by my wisdom I did this, For I have understanding; And I removed the boundaries of the peoples And plundered their treasures, And like a mighty man I brought down their inhabitants, (14) And my hand reached to the riches of the peoples like a nest, And as one gathers abandoned eggs, I gathered all the earth; And there was not one that flapped its wing or opened its beak or chirped.” (15) Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it? Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it? That would be like a club wielding those who lift it, Or like a rod lifting him who is not wood.”

Finished?  If you’ll notice how arrogant and proud the king was, it is obvious that he suffered the same self-delusion that many Christians suffer from today.  We think we are just the center of the Christian world.  Oh sure, we give lip service to Jesus, just like some musician on an awards shows thanks Him, along with their entourage and momma.  I encourage you to look at what God says about this arrogant man.  Look at verse 15.  In verses 12, and 13, God says He is going to punish the king after He is done using him.  We then read why God has determined to do these things,

“Isaiah 10:16-22 NASB Therefore the Lord, the GOD of hosts, will send a wasting disease among his stout warriors; And under his glory a fire will be kindled like a burning flame. (17) And the light of Israel will become a fire and his Holy One a flame, And it will burn and devour his thorns and his briars in a single day. (18) And He will destroy the glory of his forest and of his fruitful garden, both soul and body, And it will be as when a sick man wastes away. (19) And the rest of the trees of his forest will be so small in number That a child could write them down. (20) Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. (21) A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. (22) For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, Only a remnant within them will return; A destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness.”

God is the author, His glory is the point, His Holy One is who it is all about.  God chose Israel to demonstrate this through, just like He chose us in Him before creation to demonstrate this through.  Be honored to be used by God in your lowly state as a vessel of honor.  Don’t think that there is something about you that warrants this utilization, not your works, not your choice, not your fallen faith, not your fallen repentance, no there is nothing about you that would make you appealing to God.

“1 Corinthians 1:22-31 NASB (22) For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; (23) but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, (24) but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (25) Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (26) For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; (27) but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, (28) and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, (29) so that no man may boast before God. (30) But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, (31) so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.””

It is all about Jesus.  God grants the new birth, the saving faith, the saving repentance from dead works, to Christ, God is the author of our salvation, for His glory, amen.

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)