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“14This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 Jn 5:14-15).
All true Christians pray. And all need to pray. Prayer simply defined, is communion with God. Be it the prayerful reading, meditation, contemplation of scripture or the act of petition, supplication, intercession, or praise, thanksgiving, expressions of worship, adoration, declaration, prayer is the human heart expressing to the living God. I have no doubt that all who profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God, both Divine and human in one person, who died on behalf of sinners so that they may receive forgiveness of sin through faith in Him and His atoning work, are all sincere when they pray. I am thankful for praying believers. May God inspire us all to pray to Him. May He also give us mature understanding as to why we do and what our prayers obviously presuppose.
Purpose and intended scope of inquiry
I have become convinced over the years that the subject of prayer – especially in its context of praying for others for salvation, revival, repentance, renewal etc., is absolutely germane to the ages-long debate between the two primary views on soteriology (the study of salvation). That the debate between what is known as “free will” salvation verses “sovereign-grace” salvation, also commonly referred to as the debate between Arminianism (free will) verses Calvinism (sovereign-grace), cannot be properly answered, apart from a careful consideration of the role of prayer in the discussion. People on both sides of the debate have genuine desires to honour the Lord Jesus and further His kingdom. No doubt. So this is not an attack on individuals much less personal motives of any on either side. God forbid! Nor am I morally qualified to judge another’s motives. That role is taken. Jesus alone has the moral perfection and appointment from the Father to judge all men. This is an examination of the theological consideration of the question of prayer for the lost in the specific context of that debate. I am not herein attempting to speak to every context of prayer. Only that specific context. So that without this careful consideration of why Christians are admonished throughout the scriptures to pray to God for others, I say the debate is woefully incomplete.
Axiom: Prayer presupposes the sovereignty of God!
Prayer presupposes certain axiomatic (self-evident) truths about God and what He can do. About His ability to perform what He said He can do. About His ability to back up His own claims about His ability. About His sovereign right to do anything that His people may be asking Him to do. In short, prayer presupposes the absolute sovereignty of God over all circumstances. Which necessarily includes all people. Otherwise, why are we praying to Him about such things then? I’ve often encountered an objection from those who identify as ‘Arminian’ or ‘free will’ in their understanding of the how and means of salvation; ‘If God IS sovereign over all things, why pray to Him?” Of course, the consistent answer from all who understand the scriptures to expressly teach the the truth of sovereign-grace is, If God ISN’T sovereign, why pray to Him? For what possible difference can prayer to a god who is unable to affect change make?!?
“The Lord reigns!” …um, sorta, well, not really…it’s complicated
“The Lord reigns! He is the governor among the nations” (Ps 22:28 KJV). The Psalmist declared these words. I note that the Psalmist did not here merely declare God’s rule in heaven. There is no debate about that. But he specifically declared God rules over the nations of the earth! Was the Psalmist correct? You see, this statement is absolutely packed with theological truth. Truth with far reaching implications and resultant conclusions! This statement does not deny that both fallen angels and fallen sinners inhabit the sphere of mortal men and the spiritual domain around the earth. It does however, affirm the rule of God over all. The Hebrew word “mashal” here according to Strong’s Concordance means “rule, dominion, power”. It could therefore just as easily be rendered in such a way as to speak to all these aspects simultaneously thus; “The Lord reigns. He has power and dominion over the nations”. As we continue on here, this question must be answered: Does Ps 22:28 state the truth? Or is it merely a half truth? Does the scripture say “The Lord wants to be the governor over the nations?” Or that He is?
A proud pagan king’s confession: God RULES!
There is no question as to whether God reigns in heaven. The question is, does He actually have power over, rule and reign over the nations as this passage (and many others state). After having been profoundly humbled by the sovereign hand of God, King Nebuchadnezzar the most powerful man on earth at the time confessed of God that, “He does according to His will in the host of heaven and the people of earth so that there is none who can resist Him”? (Dan 4:35). Nebuchadnezzar did not declare God attempts to do according to His will. Nor, God desires to so do, as so much woefully incomplete and therefore demeaning teaching about God misrepresents Him suggests. No, Nebuchadnezzar boldly declared, God does! Do you suppose God asked Nebuchadnezzar to “allow” himself to be made to think and act like a wild beast? Or, did God just do as He willed? For those who think God does not “impose” His will on humans, I reply read Daniel chapter 4!
As I asked regarding Ps 22:28, I’ll ask again about this; Is Daniel 4:35-37 actually true? A half-truth? False? Or another of these “It’s complicated”? Isaiah boldly declared “For the LORD has purposed and who can thwart it?” (Isaiah 14:27). Is this truth (which reveals a principle that extends far beyond the historic particular circumstance which occasioned the statement by Isaiah) actually true regarding God? Or, are all these mere hyperbolic expressions which don’t and can’t mean what they plainly state is true of God? Are they mere half-truths? Do they teach us anything actually true and necessary about God? Or are they in fact irrelevant in this debate?
Tested deeply and profoundly humbled by God, having complained and accused God of injustice, when confronted by God, Job in brokenness and humility made an astonishing confession and affirmation of faith. He said “I know that You can do all things and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). I observe that this like the confession of Nebuchadnezzar, was the confession of a broken, humbled man. I also observe that all objections to this self-evident truth spring from human pride – not humility before God! Think about this deeply. Job’s statement is loaded with theological dynamite! If it is a true affirmation of God – who He is and what He can do, then it is most urgently essential to the debate which has raged for millennia. So friends, while you read on, keep Job 42:2; Dan 4:35-37; Ps 22:28 at the forefront of your mind.
“I urge first of all that prayer be made for all men”
Scripture admonishes prayer for “all men” (1 Tim 2:2). On the surface, this seems self-explanatory. And it of course, raises significant questions about the purpose and power of God to answer these prayers for all men. Since God evidently wants us to be so engaged in prayer for everyone, then we must inquire, why isn’t the will of God being done on the earth? Or, is it? Remember, my sole context for this examination is the question of how and why prayer must answer the specific debate between free-will verses sovereign-grace concerning salvation. It is outside and beyond the intended scope of this article to attempt to answer every single specific other aspect of prayer and God’s will in all its different applications. So, does God actually have the power and the sovereign right to actually answer these prayers for “all men”? If yes, then why is everyone not saved? Surely the church of God globally engages in prayer for “the lost”. Praying asking God to empower their witness in evangelism and all ministry. That being true, why then are more not coming to saving-faith? “God is not willing that any perish but that all come to repentance”, right? We are admonished to pray for all men and promised that whatever we ask that is according to His will, He will answer, right? So then, if all the above are taken at face value and there is nothing more to dig beneath the surface to glean, then as the saying goes “Houston, we have a problem!”
All men in context: Literally or synecdoche?
Paul mentioned “prayer for all men”, but then immediately interprets his meaning and qualifies that term “all” here by the specific naming of “For kings” and “all in authority”. But wait. These were already included in the term “all men”, right? So what need was there to add a specific caveat? So this emphasis seems needlessly redundant by Paul. Unless… “all men” does not always mean what some insist it does. Anymore than it was literally true that in the flood God destroyed “every living thing”, that “all flesh perished” (Gen 6:13; 7:21). Or that literally “the whole earth sought an audience with Solomon” (1 Kings 10:24). Or that literally “the whole world” was following Jesus (Jn 12:19). Or that at the time Paul wrote Colossians the gospel had already gone to literally “the whole earth” (Col 1:6). I could go on and on with similar examples. “All” therefore is often clearly qualified by context and is very often obvious use of the literary concept of synecdoche – A literary device the ancient Jews employed frequently in their culture and in scripture. An exaggerated overstatement, where the whole is put for what is really only a part. That synecdoche is employed in many ‘debated’ passages of scripture, will I trust, become clear as we proceed.
Axioms: There is nothing too difficult for God
Jesus said, “With God ALL things are possible” (Matt 19:26; Mk 10:27).
God said of Himself “Behold….is there anything too difficult for Me ?” (Jer 32:27);
Job affirmed “I know that You can do all things and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
Obviously these are true of God. Or He would not be “God”! They not hyperbolic over-estimations of His ability and power to do “anything according to His will” that could be asked. The postulation of nonsense which irreverently asked “Can God make a rock so big He can’t lift it?”, or any such inherent absurdity has no place in biblical theology. God has no desire or purpose in creating such a rock. What we are here examining is what God desires to accomplish. That which is “according to His will”. That for which His hand is stretched out to achieve. In short, can God fail to attain, achieve His purpose which He sincerely attempts? A contemporary worship song, that is growing in popularity, in one line says “Who can stop the Lord Almighty?” Hence, it affirms these very axioms of God, which I herein argue. Do many believers enthusiastically sing such words in “worship”, only to turn and then deny or debate them in doctrine? What was it they were so enthusiastically expressing as “worship in spirit AND truth” then?!?
Paul goes so far to declare “Unto Him who is able to do exceedingly above all we can ask or even think”! (Eph 3:20). I don’t know about you, but I can imagine and think about quite a lot! Obviously, God Himself, His prophets and apostles had a rather considerable estimation of His ability to do anything that is asked of Him which is consistent with His will. So we are back to the urgent questions; Does God desire the salvation of “all men” literally? If so, Why is everyone not saved then?
“Because of free will” is the common “go-to” answer…at least among those who identify as “Arminians”. None who affirm the truth of sovereign-grace employ this answer. They all reject it as being at best, only a factor in the discussion. But they reject that it is the “bottom line”. I contend this Arminian answer, so far from being a credible answer, is in fact, a woefully shallow, incomplete answer. It is really an evasion of the real question – The question of GOD’s ability to successfully influence or persuade! Of His ability to answer prayer! Any good salesman has been trained in how to overcome the natural objections which normally arise in the minds of potential buyers. The ability to anticipate the objection, and give credible answers to it to ‘close the deal’ are the earmarks of good sales. In a word, the ability to influence or persuade. This being true of men and women who are neither omniscient, nor omnipotent, who can be very successful in the realm of influence, are we really to conclude this is not true of the living God? That He lacks this ability common to fallen, finite people? Really?!
Surely the believing church from Pentecost to the present day has prayed asking God for revival, outpouring, awakening – whatever the preferred term of the day was. Surely the company of believers the last two millennia has passionately asked God for “greater works”, anointing, empowering, favour, blessing on their witness, worship, and work! And yet, though we have the categorical promise that God both can and will answer “all” prayer that is asked according to His will, and we are told that He is not willing for any to perish but that all come to repentance, then IF the Arminian interpretation of such statements is accurate, then we have a monumental discrepancy between what is promised and declared of God’s will and ability with the actual results any believers have ever seen! How then can these things be?
Consistent Arminian theology cannot answer this obvious dilemma
Herein then as I see it, the immediate, obvious, urgent problem for Arminian theology is revealed…and unanswered. The glaring contradiction between Arminian doctrine and interpretation of passages like 2 Peter 3:9 when considered in the light of the categorical promise of 1 Jn 5:20 (and Matt 19:16; Job 42:2; Jer 32:27 etc) , in my honest and reasoned opinion, simply cannot be overstated! Nor ignored. I conclude then, that Arminian/Open Theism theology therefore ultimately ends up with a theology of a defeated god. A god who despite his best efforts and noblest intentions, despite the prayers and witness of his church, despite the giving of His Son to die for literally every person, despite the sending of His Spirit to indwell and empower the witness and work of His church, did not succeed in persuading more (let alone all) sinners to “allow” him to save them. His word went forth from His mouth, but it did “return void” to Him. It did not “accomplish all that He sent it do” , or achieve what He wanted. But such an idea is openly contrary to His solemn declaration in Isaiah 55:11 – “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
The hits keep on coming: Objecton refuted
The counter to this, that could and probably would be raised – that God’s word only intended to give sinners the choice to be saved or not, so His word did in fact succeed (or anything similar), will be easily refuted. The claim that while God may have desired to save everyone, His actual purpose was only to save those who believe (1 Cor 1:18) is false in the light of the unity of perfection and purpose in the living God. Note, God’s purpose was indeed to save those who believe! That is precisely what sovereign-grace has always affirmed! So don’t misunderstand me. I’m not denying the truth expressed in 1 Cor 1:18. I’m affirming it…to the letter! I’m saying that alone was always God’s purpose in sending His Son. This purpose was expressly declared by Jesus in the most famous verse in the New Testament, Jn 3:16. And that purpose was not to try and save everyone. But rather and specifically “so that everyone who believes will not perish, but have everlasting life”. The intent was never to “try” and save everyone. But to actually redeem and save everyone who believes! Thus, the eternal plan and purpose of God was completely realized. Because God cannot fail, therefore any teaching which suggests He can, must be exposed and refuted for being the false, demeaning error it is.
God’s holy desire is not at war with His will. And the very ones who argue against the so called “Calvinist teaching” that there is and can be “two wills” in God – His revealed will by which the standard of living for humanity is contained and His “secret” sovereign will by which He can predestine things to occur, yet still hold men accountable even for what He predestined to happen, show themselves to be guilty of the same tactic here. For to argue on the one hand that God’s purpose was counter to His sincere desire to save literally “all men”, is to create the very type of oxymoron and dichotomy in God that they so often object to as an unreasonable and unbiblical idea among Calvinists. So here is a case of they want their proverbial cake and be able to eat it to, theologically speaking. By the way, not all who hold to the biblical truth of sovereign-grace, are strictly speaking “Calvinists”. I myself strongly disagree with some of the things Calvin both did/advocated for and taught.for example, I don’t defend capital punishment for “heresy”, and I see zero biblical warrant for infant baptism. I see that scripture clearly teaches a water baptism for believers. Regardless of age, they must have a profession of faith. If the Lord showed Calvin the same truth of sovereign-grace as He opened my heart to see in His word, (not Calvin’s commentaries), so be it. I personally am not now nor have I ever been a “follower” of John Calvin. If the truth of sovereign-grace was not expressly revealed in scripture, I would not subscribe to it.
If ‘God has done all He’s gonna do’, WHY do they pray for others?
“But Wait! Both sides agree God intended to save all who believe, but Arminians argue that belief is the choice made by the sinner. God leaves it to men to choose to believe or not”. This is the most common Arminian answer to what I just said regarding 1 Cor 1:18. However, as I intend to clearly demonstrate, this answer is an outright evasion of the real issue in the debate. If God merely “leaves it up to sinners to choose to believe or not”, then why do millions of believers spend time praying TO God FOR His power, presence, anointing, to “change the atmosphere”, “transform society”, “bring revival” etc?!? What exactly are they thinking their prayers are accomplishing then? If anything? If God just “lets men choose”, then what exactly are they asking Him to do by these prayers? Why are such prayers necessary? And what difference does it make anyway?
“God so loved that He gave His only son” is the most famous verse in the New Testament. And unless it does not actually mean what the Arminian insists it means?, then if they are right, His desire was reflected by His gift. And His gift reflected His purpose! “He did not give His Son to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn 3:17). So if “the world” meant and means every single person, rather than obvious Jewish synecdoche meaning more than just Jews, then it’s obvious God has indeed failed! His purpose has not succeeded. His grand enterprise has then in the final analysis, been defeated by a finite, fallen adversary – Satan! And so, we are still at square one. And thus, the truth of Job 42:2 and Isaiah 55:11, was shown in the end, to be false. Or at best, an obvious overstatement.
Friends, as surely as “A” cannot be both ‘A’ and non ‘A’ at the same time, in the same way, so here. One cannot on the one hand argue that God does “rule over the nations”, cannot be resisted, is omniscient and omnipotent and able to successfully answer all prayer that is asked according to His will, and at the same time, argue finite human free will, has, does and will ultimately defeat God’s earnest efforts to save all humanity. I submit, this is (and ought to be), a self-evident proposition. So, something has to give. I submit, the premise upon which the Arminian has built their interpretations of such passages is false and needs to be discarded and replaced by one which does not bring scripture into direct, open and unresolved contradiction to itself.
God’s desire was reflected in His purose. God is One with Himself
God’s purpose in sending His Son, Spirit and Church was reflective of His desire. So if in fact God desires to save all men, and this is a literal truth, not obvious Jewish synecdoche, then there is no way around the obvious: His purpose which reflected His desire and intention, failed. Contrary to the truth expressed in Job 42:2, His purpose has been thwarted. Contrary to His own declaration in Jer 32:27 successfully influencing all humanity to “allow” Him to save them all as He so wanted to do, in the end, did prove “too difficult” for even Him. Contrary to the truth Jesus expressed so clearly in Matt 19:16, what was impossible for man (to be able to influence, persuade all men to embrace Christ and be saved), turned out to also be equally impossible for God too! They can argue it. They can ignore it. They can dodge it. They can attack the messenger. But the truth is, they cannot refute the obvious here.
So, good intentions and personal sincerity of those who hold to Arminian teaching aside, the question remains, Why would any theologically consistent Arminian ever bother to obey the scripture pray for all men then? Human free will can thwart God’s eternal desire and intention that “all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”, so if that statement is not synecdoche but rather literal, then why are they praying to God for all men?!? What exactly are they asking or hoping God will do, that He hasn’t already done? What more can God do? Are they saying His Best efforts in the past fell short, and they are hoping He will now “give it 110%”? Are they hoping He will be more persuasive? More influential? Dare I say it, more forceful in the demonstration of His power, glory and or influence? So what exactly do all their prayers then presuppose? If not that salvation from start to finish is in every aspect “of the Lord”!
Facts are facts
Citing their so called “universal passages” of who Jesus was said (in some texts) to die for, brings them into direct and open contradiction to hosts of others which expressly qualify the extent and purpose of His death (Matt 1:21; Jn 10:16; 11:52-53; 17:2-3; Acts 20:28; Eph 5:25). Jesus died for every person without exception (they say, using passages like 1 Tim 2:6 etc), His church was entrusted with the mission of global evangelism. His Spirit was sent both to indwell and empower his people. And His people did pray for His empowering to do just that! And yet, what have we seen the past two thousand years? From Pentecost until the present? We currently see 3/4’s of the world’s fast approaching 7 Billion people mark, are lost. They are and remain unbelievers. They are thus far unconvinced by the word, witness, church and Spirit of God all proclaiming and pointing to Christ as the only way to the Father. The collective wisdom, gifts, abilities of the church of Jesus Christ globally, as well as the Holy Spirit of God Himself have all fallen pathetically short in the ability to influence more sinners to “choose Christ” as Lord and Saviour.
You see, such a denigrating view of an ultimately defeated god is obviously utterly false! And therefore, all the theological presuppositions behind such a view is and must also be false. According to the scripture, God cannot be defeated! Job said God’s purpose cannot be thwarted. Which means defeated, frustrated, resisted, nullified, brought to naught, futile. A defeated, frustrated god who truly desires and by the death of his Son, the giving of his Spirit to indwell and empower His church in their worship, witness and work – who by means of all this truly attempts to save everyone, but who nevertheless looses to Satan, is not the glorious, omnipotent, sovereign GOD of scripture! Consider these words of a popular contemporary worship “Who can stop the Lord ALMIGHTY” intended by the lyric-writer as an obviously rhetorical question. So all consistent Arminians who will enthusiastically sing such lyrics with hands rands high in “worship”, must turn around and in preaching deny the very essence of what they just expressed was truth! For according to their misguided theology, anyone and everyone can stop the Lord Almighty! I never cease to be amazed at the staggering lack of critical reasoning evident among so many, who evidently do not stop to ever think deeply about, or think through the things they say which are openly contradictory to other things they say.
A God who for all his wisdom and power cannot give a more persuasive reason to the masses to embrace Christ than Satan can give them to reject Him (Satan is then more cunning, wise or powerful than God? ), is most assuredly not worthy of our respect. Perhaps our pity? A god who for all his wisdom, efforts and supposed power can’t be more a positive influence on everyone whom he so desperately wants and hopes to save, than Satan is a negative influence, is not the same GOD portrayed in and by the afore-mentioned portions of His word!
The evasive, slippery, ignore the texts, toss up hypothetical, philosophical humanistic reason rather than honestly deal with the texts, tactics I have so often seen employed by both Open Theists and Arminian’s, is both readily apparent and repugnant to all who honour the living God who spoke the words of Jer 32:27; Matt 19:16; Isa 55:11. Some passages leave no room for doubt or debate. These are certainly among them! Nothing is “too difficult” for the living God! Period.
The church does pray for “ALL men” in each local representation where it lives (which obviously includes the lost). So WHY are all not saved? If free will is the answer, and can ultimately thwart God’s intention and desires, WHY does the church bother to pray for all men then?
It was never about “coercion” or being “robots”. All about INFLUENCE:
The only way they can even attempt to answer here is by their appeal to “free-will resisting what God wants”. The “we’re not robots!” objection they always toss out, which is in fact, a total non-answer. For what it really ends up boiling down to in the end is this: Satan – a finite, created, fallen being is therefore, obviously far more successful at “influencing” the free-will of men than God is! To use a popular reality show phrase, Satan “Outwits and Outplays God”. So much for the categorical truth expressed in Jer 32:27; Matt 19:16; 1 Jn 5:20-21 then!
But the truth is, it was never a question of “coercion” as those antagonistic to the truth, often either sincerely misunderstand or deliberately twist it to mean. It was never a question of whether we are mere “robots” or not – another totally false charge levelled against the truth of sovereign-grace. It’s always been about the ability to influence and whether God can do better than Satan! Most people it seems are actually unfamiliar with what this word means. Influence refers to the power or means to successfully bring about a change in the actions, attitude or behaviour of another. If I’m trying to persuade or influence you to not commit a crime you were intending to commit, and as a result you don’t, then it could rightly be said that I influenced you not to do so. If your other friends, exerted more influence than I did and they persuaded you to commit the crime, then their influence was more successful than mine. If the allure of what you might gain by the crime was more influential on your mind and heart than the risk of what you might lose, then again, you were influenced by someone or something.
Even if you did not fully comprehend what or who influenced you in the moment, you were subject to the power of influence! To deny it is to deny the obvious and to show that one truly has no clue as to the subject matter at hand. You were never a “robot” in the equation. You still made a choice. Never in doubt. But that is the most superficial way of looking at it. Why do believers spend so much time praying asking God to “enlighten”, “convict”, “draw”, “change the atmosphere” etc only then to turn around and claim that spiritual choices occur in a vacuum? That neither Divine nor satanic influence actually “moves” the will? Oxymoron anyone?
If the influence of God was successful, then the will of the one so influenced, “chose” to embrace Christ. To therefore credit the will of the sinner rather than the God who provided the saving-influence, is an outrageous contradiction. And it utterly demeans GOD by robbing Him of the credit and glory He deserves for what He did by granting that influence!
When Paul saw the evidence of faith among people, he thanked God for it! Saying that was what we ought to do! (2 Thess 1:3). It ought to be obvious that since we “ought” to so thank God for faith among people proves entirely that He is responsible for it! Otherwise we are thanking God for a thing He did not do!
Think about it
Why are they praying for people then?!? Just what is it they are asking GOD to do in that situation He supposedly hasn’t already done? Are they asking Him to give 110% since 100% was not sufficient? If they are not asking God to coerce people, then exactly what are they asking of Him if not that He successfully influence? Surely they are not praying hoping God will UNsuccessfully influence! You see, all prayer for others presupposes the sovereignty and ability of God to accomplish what He is being asked to do! Otherwise, while in some way prayer might still be beneficial for the person praying, it would be practically irrelevant for the ones we are praying for!
No choices occur in a vacuum of influence
There are reasons why you made that choice in that circumstance. Someone and or something brought sufficient influence to bear on your heart and mind. The way many talk about there “not being anything behind the will moving it one way or another”, in point of fact, reveals only how little they understand the process of choice…and prayer! From the moment we are born and the environment we are raised in, and the behaviour we see and therefore learn to mimic, our minds and hearts are bombarded with sinful influences. To say that none of these affect choices, is both ignorant and foolish and is to deny the obvious. It also denies the scripture – “The wicked go astray from birth. They come forth from the womb speaking lies” (Ps 58:3). The Psalmist correctly understood that all sinners are “born in sin” (Ps 51:5-6) – into a sinful world, where the influence of sin permeates every aspect of life and with a natural tendency to not only sin, but to desire to do so!
Why do companies spend untold billions collectively on advertising? And I’m here only talking about natural choices, not spiritual ones! Did Eve’s choice to eat the apple occur in a vacuum? Hardly. The fruit was “good for food, pleasing to the eye, desirable to make one wise” the scripture says (Gen 3:6). And never forget the presence of the tempter. Paul says “the woman was deceived and so ate” (1 Tim 2:14). Satanic influence was therefore a primary cause of why she ate! Remove the deception brought about the tempter and we have no reason to believe Eve would have eaten anyway!
“The woman You gave me ate…”
You think Adam’s choice to eat following Eve’s choice, occurred in a vacuum? C’mon! I’m personally convinced that many have completely misread Adam’s comment to God “The woman You gave me, bid me to eat and I ate” (Gen 3:12). They suppose Adam was here trying to shirk responsibility. I am convinced they completely misread the text because that is the way it was always taught them. Adam, I’m convinced, was really saying “You gave me this woman to be my wife. We are one. Once she ate, I was compelled to. We are in this together”. In the vernacular of older English, ‘In for a penny in for a pound’. The ship was sunk once Eve ate. There was no going back for humanity. Fully half of the human race had sinned when Eve sinned. And here is the mystery, ALL of human nature fell when she fell, for she was fully human and “the mother of us all”. Once she did, the death process had begun. There was no way to re-create another physical human race at that point. God’s physical work of creating humanity “male and female” was over. And the woman had now eaten!
It is certainly true that “For by one man sin entered the world” as Paul said (Rom 5:12), which on the surface could seem to suggest that Eve had not sinned. Only Adam had. This is of course, completely incorrect! Eve did sin. But the cycle was not complete until Adam also did so. Being the “head” of the woman and the federal “head” of the race, Paul in the patriarchal pattern of his culture speaks of sin entering the world through Adam. But make no mistake about it. As was cited earlier, Paul said “The woman being deceived (influenced) fell into transgression” (1 Tim 2:14). To “transgress” is to sin. For “sin is transgression of the Law” (1 Jn 3:4).
“But the command not to eat from the tree of knowledge was given only to the man. Eve wasn’t even created yet” (Gen 2:17), I can almost hear someone object. It is true that the command was spoken to Adam before Eve was created, but let’s not be coy here. The command applied to her as well. Using the same argument we could then say “We weren’t even born when the 10 Commandments were give to Israel. So they don’t apply to us then”. But that would of course, be untrue. Why do you suppose Adam shared the command God gave him with her? She was aware of the command in her encounter with the “serpent”. And Paul says she transgressed. So again, once she had sinned, Adam knew the gig was up. The Titanic was surely going down. She was the woman God gave to him and she had now eaten. And so, Adam did likewise.
The following speak to reality of the need for Divine influence
Why is it necessary to become a “NEW creation in Christ Jesus”? Why does God need to give a “NEW heart”? To “put His Spirit in us to cause us to keep His commands”? (Ezekiel 36:24-26). Why does God need to “give a heart to know Him”? (Jer 24:7). What was the point of David asking that GOD “sustain him with a willing spirit”? (Ps 51: 12). Shouldn’t David have just chosen it himself? Why did David ask God to grant him an “undivided heart so that as a result David would fear Him”? (Ps 86:11). Couldn’t David, by his free will just choose such on his own? Why is it necessary for God not merely to command a thing, but to be actively “at work in us both to will and do His will”? (Phil 2:13). Why is it necessary that “He work in us that which is well pleasing in His sight”? (Heb 13:23). In short, why does God need to so actively influence those with a “free will”?
Friends, it was never question of “free will” alone. For the choices of the unbeliever have never occurred in a vacuum of spiritual influence! From Eden to the present, Satanic deception, blindness and bondage are all very real parts of the equation. And in fact even more so, since the fall of Adam and Eve. No spiritual choice ever occurred in a vacuum. Satanic deception is so great it requires nothing short of the similar power of God unleashed in creation to give the light of the gospel to a heart depraved in and darkened by sin (2 Cor 4:4-6). Just think about the obvious analogy Paul used to describe the process of how we who do “see the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus” do so. It is nothing short of the same type of creative power unleashed at creation by the command of the omnipotent God! “For God who commanded light to shine in darkness has made His light to shine in our hearts to give us the knowledge of the glorious gospel of Jesus” Paul said (2 Cor 4:6).
“Well God gives the same measure of grace and opportunity to everyone to believe”, says the Arminian apologist. Not true says Paul! For in contrast to those who do “see the light of the gospel”, Paul just prior had said “The god of this world has blinded the eyes of those who do not believe so that they cannot see the light of the glorious gospel” (2 Cor 4:4-5). Jesus expressly declared that among the mass of humanity who “hear the message of the kingdom” that there are those who “hear and do not understand it” (Matt 13:19), whom He contrasted with “those who hear and do understand it” (Matt 13:23). The latter alone – those who do hear with understanding, of all who receive the seed, as per the parable of the “Sower”, are said by Jesus to bring forth good fruit.
Obviously since only those who “hear the message and understand it” are said to bring forth good fruit, the ability to understand is absolutely essential to and for saving faith! Which is why prayer that God will “enlighten” (Eph 1:18), “open the heart” (Acts 16:14), “open the mind to understand” (Lk 24:45) for all men is necessary! It is also why these examples like Lydia in Acts 16:14 and those on the road to Emmaus, are in scripture. They tell us what God has done and therefore, what God can do! They instruct us how to pray “for all men”.
Just because Satan ends up in fire doesn’t mean he didn’t beat God
Satan therefore, in Arminian theology, wins! “But Satan will end up in the lake of fire, so he didn’t win. God wins”, they will say. But their answer shows how shallow their thinking on this subject is. I don’t say this intending to be rude or unkind. Just factual. Think about it: Just because Satan will ultimately join the untold billions of souls he deceived in the lake of fire, doesnt mean he did not beat God! Knowing He could not defeat God personally, satan’s purpose was to take as many of God’s creation down with him as he could. So, his purpose succeeded! If God’s purpose was to save everyone, sorry. He has failed…miserably! If a pyschotic person intends to murder someone or a group of people, and knows that in the end he also will be killed, but does so anyway; Then regardless of whether or not he ends up dead, if he succeeds in his mission to murder whom he intended, then he succeeded! Who would say at the funeral of a murdered family “Well, the police beat the muderder. The murderer didn’t win”? It would be obvious he did! Otherwise they would not be grieving the loss of the family that was murdered! You see, these types of common answers which have always sprung from the theological mindset referred to as “Arminianism”, are woefully incomplete and fundamentally both illogical and unbiblical. Regardless of the personal sincerity or integrity of those who hold such views, the views themselves are totally false, shallow and utterly demeaning to who GOD is and what He can do.
God’s purpose reflected His desire. The Results Speak
If God’s desire was reflected by His purpose and He sent His Son to die for, and His Spirit to effectively bring His desire about, but in the end, the vast majority of those who he wanted and tried to save, still ended up lost, then satan’s power to influence was far more effective and successful than God’s! What God wanted and attempted to achieve, he failed to realize because in the end, he simply wasn’t as cunning, smart or inventive as Satan was. Satan’s ability to influence and deceive was far greater than god’s was to enlighten and convict! There is simply no escaping this “bottom line”. OR,
God’s eternal purpose to save some through Christ has succeeded
“The proof is in the pudding” as it were and God does save everyone He chose to save as and when He chooses! (Rom 9:14-18). In other words, as was true of Paul who said he was the prototype of all who would come to faith after him (1 Tim 1:16), as he said of his own conversion that it occurred “When it pleased God to reveal His Son to me…” (Gal 1:15), so it is true for all whom God chooses to save. They all get saved when via the witness and work of His Spirit, church and word, HE reveals Christ to all of His own. He infallibly draws them all to His Son and therefore, all whom He purposed to give to His Son will come to Jesus in real time…exactly as Jesus plainly said (Jn 6:37). It it still as true today as when Luke first wrote “And the LORD was adding to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Who was doing this adding? Human free will wasn’t adding. God was!
Thus, to still deny (as many do) the sovereignty of God in dispensing His mercy as He wills as (Rom 9;16-18 expressly state), and fall back to the “free will thwarted God’s best intentions and efforts to save everyone” is, in the light of these obvious truths of God, simultaneously both logically absurd and theologically absolutely errant. It is in fact, an outright denial of the truth of Jer 32:27; Job 42:2; Matt 19:16 and 1 Jn 5;20-21! I don’t mean to be rude…just factual here. Regardless of how many protestations, evasions, “What if…?” Or “What about..?” that Arminian’s and Open Theists toss into the mix; Or how many proverbial “red-herrings” they bring up to try and side-track, the core issue of God’s ability to do what He says He can do, is and always has been the bottom line. God is GOD! Which is why we admonished to pray to Him! Prayer for all men therefore presupposes this obvious axiom. This self-evident truth that “With God ALL things are possible” therefore underlies ALL prayer for others. It is the premise on which prayer is predicated. Otherwise prayer to Him for all men, is an exercise in futility. So, as was asked at the beginning, was the affirmation made by Job in Job 42:2 true? Or false?
I have good news. God does answer every prayer that is asked which is “according to His will. His word promises just that! And He cannot lie. God also saves every person He desires and intends to, which is every person He in eternity purposed to “give” to His Son (Jn 6:37; 17:2, 9, 20-26); Those whom He appointed to eternal life (Acts 13:48), whom He “predestined to be adopted as His children” (Eph 1:4-6), whom He “foreknew” (1 Peter 1:2; Rom 8:29-30) from both Jews and Gentiles – all of these constitute His “elect”. They comprise the church of God which He (Jesus) purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28), whom He was said to specifically both “love and give Himself for” (Eph 5:5, 25). These are His people who He was declared to come to save them from their sins (Matt 1:21). These are those of whom Jesus said “I have other sheep…I must gather them. They will hear My voice and there will be one fold and one shepherd” (Jn 10:16). In the present tense, Jesus said “I have”. Not “I will have”, nor less “I hope to have”. These are those who were chosen “according to the election of grace” (Rom 11:5-6). He said they needed to be gathered. And notice who He said will do the “gathering”. He said I must gather them. He works in and through His church. But make no mistake about it, He is the One who is gathering His people to Himself. This is His mission, in His own words.
Chosen by grace. Not who chose grace
Not “those who chose grace”. But those chosen by God’s purpose in grace. His purpose in election (Rom 9:11-18). In this election of grace, God’s choice was not predicated on or determined by the works of those whom He chose. His own purpose in election “not of works” was the criteria “And if by grace, it is no longer of works otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Rom 11:5-6). And so it was summed up and concluded by Paul that “It is not of human will or effort, but of God who shows mercy” (Rom 9:16), and again, “So then He (God) has mercy on whom He chooses and whom He chooses, He hardens” (Rom 9:16).
Why such sorrow in Rom 9:1-3 If election is only to earthly vocation?
It is also evident from the way Paul started Romans 9, saying he had great sorrow in his heart for his fellow Jewish countrymen and could almost wish himself accursed from Christ IF it could mean their salvation (Rom 9: 1-3). Was Paul so grieved over loss of merely an earthly vocation here? Did being “cut off from Christ” here then refer merely to earthly vocation? Please! The lengths the pride of man will go to in their desperate zeal to expunge the truth of sovereign-election in scripture, evidently knows no bounds. Election to salvation is absolutely, undeniably the subject under examination by Paul in Romans 9! And it is only the sinful pride of man objecting to God’s right to dispense His mercy as He wills, that rails against the obvious. The very objection Paul anticipated in the chapter, for which he rebuked the arrogance of man for ever presuming sinful “clay” the right to challenge the Divine “Potter”, of course also verifies the obvious; Paul was speaking of election to salvation – to obtain saving mercy. Not merely earthly vocation. The objection Paul anticipated and rebuked is irrelevant if all that was being set forth by the Apostle was what type of earthly position one is designed for. As if God choosing to have mercy on someone in context, is talking about whether or not one is a CEO or a common labourer! As if Paul’s concern throughout is not gospel-related? Please!
And so quite contrary to all the objections in Arminianism which teaches that election in Romans 9 is not to salvation, but merely to earthly vocation, Paul’s summary remains absolute! That it was in fact election to salvation in Romans 9 is expressly evident from the way Paul applied these very truths in context of Romans 9 to the believing Gentiles who once were “not loved but now are loved, once were not His people but now are children of the living God” (Rom 9:24-26). Does this language not refer to salvation? To saving-relationship to God as His beloved children? Is this expressive of mere earthly vocation? Seriously?!?
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