Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Election?

HeyJules over at Faith or Fiction? has had a very interesting discussion going on regarding predestination. Pop over and check it out.

Her discussion has caused me to do more thinking which in turn causes me to turn to my Bible to see exactly what God's Word has to say on the subject.

It is in the basic nature of men and women that when faced with a decision, our inclination is to take the path of least resistance. Whatever seems easier, whatever seems more pleasing; whatever satisfies the senses is the object we choose. Indeed, the actions of Adam and Eve certainly make this obvious. In Genesis 3:6 these sensual instincts are at work. The proscriptions that God gave to them were quickly swept aside as the sensual took over. It continually amazes me how we are seduced by what looks good, and may in fact be good, but may not be the appropriate thing to have at the time.

So often we increase our folly by justifying our actions intellectually. However, our discernment is perverted apart from God's will. How is it then, that man could, in any real sense and at any real time, discern between wordly enticements and the perfect will of God? A Christian who holds that men and women are completely free to choose must answer this question. Many would advocate that all we are left with then is a human race void of any will whatsoever, that we are puppets on a giant stage, and that God is playing some kind of horrible game. This simply isn't the case. Scripture is quite clear that men and women have a will that is very active, but it is active doing every kind of evil. Has man's character changed in any positive fashion since the beginning of time? God said regarding man, '...every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually'. Where then, has the change in perception and discernment occurred in the minds and hearts of men?

Many would charge then that to believe God chooses who will be saved and who will not makes a mockery of the salvation process. However, man is indeed free. I don't argue this. Man's will is very free and very active. But, this freedom is not inclined toward God. It is a freedom that desires its own satisfaction and that exalts itself above God's will. If man is left to his own devices he will never come to Christ without the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit.

I am not saying that the Holy Spirit beckons and that everyone is on an equal playing field as to believe or not to believe. This cannot be, for man will always choose darkness rather than light (John 3:19). When the Holy Spirit calls the reprobate, they will not take heed; they will categorically reject the gospel. However, in the case of the elect, they will graciously open their hearts and throw themselves upon the mercy of the cross. This will happen because God has purposed it to happen. It isn't that man will not come to Christ of his own free will, but rather that he simply cannot come. Man does not have the spiritual equipment to 'decide' for Jesus.

In the book of Romans, Paul really closes the door on the concept that man is still able to 'decide' spiritually after the fall. Read Romans 3:10-18 in particular: '"...as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE." "THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING," "THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS"; "WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS"; THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, AND THE PATH OFPEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN." "THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES."' Based on this, what decision can man make except toward his own desires and lusts?

Apart from God's divine intervention and sovereignty in all of history, man would be as bad as he possibly could be. Look at the outright refusal to follow the command of God at the tower of Babel. This entire event shows that man's will is alive and well...and quite active. Man's desire, however, is not to obey God's commands in order to be under His protection, but, in fact, to rebel against God. Indeed, man's will is to find a way to become greater than God.

If there is a theme in the New Testament that is clearer than day, it's the concept of our 'deadness' to the call of the gospel. Conversely, if there is any other theme that is just as clear, it is God's electing grace. These two concepts form the 'bookends of scripture.' They hold the thread of redemption together.

The Book of Ephesians is one of my favorites. It stands as a monument to God's election plan and the unity of His work in the church. The first chapter is chock full of His election plan. We are told that He 'chose us in Him before the foundation of the world' (v4), that 'He predestined us to adoption as sons...' (v.5), that 'He lavished upon us the riches of His grace' (v.8); and that we 'have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose...' (v. 11). What could be clearer? Within one chapter of scripture the Lord of the universe sweeps aside man's 'free will' and replaces it with His own...thankfully.

In chapter two of Ephesians, Paul meditates on the Christian's former dead state, and his newness in Christ as it relates to the church. It is evident that the whole salvation process is God toward man, not vice versa.

An excellent verse is John 1:12, 13: "But as many as have received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God...who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God' (emphasis added). Colossians 2:13 is another important verse that has almost identical language to Ephesisans 2:4-5: "And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him...' There is no mistaking that the action being taken is on behalf of the sinner by God. There is no indication that I can see that the object of this regenerative power is 'doing something.' This is not to say that man does not respond, but this response is based upon the faith that is given to him.

I must restate again and again that men and women simply are not equipped to respond in a positive way to the gospel. This is unequivocally stated in Romans 8:7, '...the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so...' (emphasis added). The words 'not even able to do so' can be translated from the Greek, 'does not/neither has the power'. The force of this statement is overwhelming: we are powerless to affect a change in our spiritual situation. It is God...and all God, that does the changing. Man claims nothing in the salvation work of Christ.

The way I see it from scripture, is man isn't a neutral entity trying to decide between good and evil. Quite the contrary, man is a slave of the devil and sin, and it is God who grants man the grace to 'come to his senses' (cf. 2 Timothy 2:25-26).

The salvation plan of God is one that is carefully and painstakingly detailed in His Word. Just like the precious gift that it is, it must be unpacked carefully lest we break off pieces or fail to see its full beauty. One of the most beautiful things about salvation is that man can claim absolutely no part in it...nothing! He can neither attain to salvation himself, nor add to the finished product. But we, as Christians, can and must do one thing....we must bask in the knowledge that a loving and sovereign Creator has chosen us to be an heir of salvation, and now holds us firmly in His benevolent grip.

8 comments:

Gayla said...

Obviously, I agree. This was very well written and chocked full of truth, too.

Here's what I don't get. Why is it, generally speaking, commenters do not address the Scriptures that are given - over and over - which show this to be the truth? I know it's a bit of a rhetorical question, but I believe it to be simple avoidance, as well as that stubborn refusal, we all tend to possess, to bend to the will of God. If Scripture (and God) doesn't *change* and *transform* us and *renew,* admonish and correct us, then jof what use is it?

I blogged about the sovereignty of God here, where I addressed our ability to give much lip service to His sovereignty, but when it runs contrary to what we like to *think* and *feel* about Him, we simply ignore it.

This is in NO WAY meant to sound harsh, but I'm typing so I want to make that disclaimer. :) People's ability to wax eloquently about their heartfelt thoughts and opinions about God - INCLUDING MY OWN - doesn't hold any authority. We all can espouse our feelings; none of us really likes to encounter a holy and just God. None of us likes to take a good hard look at our depravity. It's tough when God shines the light on difficult things.

But, as I said, if we're to be changed, we really need to listen to Him and what HE has to say about Himself.

It is not a paradox, God isn't *somewhere in the middle* between free will and His complete sovereignty. The mystery of how these work together is His, but we should make no mistake: He is sovereign, this is HIS game (so to speak).

OK, I'm done.

Bob & Claire said...

Very well stated, Aunt Claire! I completely agree!

HeyJules said...

And I am just humbled to have such a wonderful teacher and mentor as you in my life.

I really do think we are predestined by God but I still think there is free will at work, too. I hope that as I study the bible more and continue praying and thinking on the subject that some day I'll be as sure of all this as you rightly are. You can tell you've done your homework and that tends to make me want to jump on to your side of the question and say "bingo!" But I can't do that until He shows me more and I process all this more. (You have to admit...it was quite a discussion!)

I do feel very blessed that He's using YOU to do that in my life. I'll continue to look over what you sent me this weekend and let you know when I need help in understanding this. In the meantime, like I said in the post note of last night's firestorm, I'm just so happy that I trust Him enough that I don't HAVE to know the answer...but it sure won't keep me from continuing the search.

God bless you Claire. What a beautiful and thought out post.

Pilot Mom said...

*blushing* You all are too kind!

Gayla, it is true...WE are the ones who have to align ourselves with God's Word, no matter what it says. Our *feelings* really don't matter.

Claire, I'm GLAD you agree!

Jules, you are too kind. I admire you so much for your willingness to be so open and vulnerable in your desire to know our Lord better. I'm here whenever you have questions, just understand I may not have the answers but we can certainly search the Book together! :)

Dave said...

Just to let you know that Kriss is recovering ok. And Kriss being Kriss didn't take time off work although she should not have gone in on Monday! She had a meeting yesterday [Tuesday] that she wasn't looking fwd to and of course Praise God, the meeting went really well! We should not be surprised when we genuinely give things over to God and the burden is light!
I read this post with interest as myself and Kriss believe that we are coming to a 'crossroads' in our walk with God. I know that as an individual I need to get myself fully into line with His purpose for my life. Kriss is starting to feel a 'call' of some sort. It's not clear yet but for a number of years we have felt that we are not fully in line with Gods' purposes.
We need to seek for God and get in line with His Word so that our life/lives are fully committed to Him in the way that He intended.
Praise God for your thoughts and your writings.

sparrow said...

Great post Claire!

I find a lot of freedom in the fact that I am dependent on GOD to work in me.

Pilot Mom said...

Sparrow, that does remove the pressure, doesn't it?

Dave, I'm so glad Kriss is on the mend. As for the meeting it just goes to show that His grace is sufficient! Praise the Lord!
I will pray for you and Kriss as you seek to align yourselves with the purposes He has for you both. Please keep me posted Dave, so I can pray with discernment. You and Kriss may email me at devore24@aol.com
Joyfully....

Bonnie said...

Great Post! God Bless You.