Does God have to Investigate the Future?

September 6, 2018 at 9:57 am | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Question: A while back, I was listening to a sermon on Ephesians Chapter 1, and I was having trouble understanding the idea of predestination, even though I couldn’t say it’s not a real thing when I read Verses 3-5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,”

Then, I realized that God can see the future, so He just looked ahead into time, and saw the ones who would choose Jesus, and then He predestined them to be saved. Is that the right understanding?

Answer: I don’t want to discourage your acceptance of the doctrine of predestination, because you are right in saying that it is clearly spelled out in those verses (and others), but there are two problems with your understanding of it.

1. God is omniscient and immutable and eternal. This means that He knows everything, and there has never been a time when He did not know everything, and His knowledge cannot grow or diminish, and, therefore, He can never learn anything new. Your theory has God looking ahead in time to see what people will do, and thereby acquiring some new information, and this is not possible with God (Psalm 147:5).

2. For God to base His decision as to who will be saved on finding out who will make the wise choice to trust in Christ, He would have to accept the merit of human beings in the salvation that He offers by His free grace, and that is a contradiction in terms. We add no merit, including human wisdom or making good choices, to God’s salvation. He receives all the glory for it. Since it is by grace, we have no reason to boast, for we contributed nothing to it. The only reason anybody ever has chosen, or ever will choose, Christ, is because God first chose him or her (II Timothy 1:9; Romans 11:6; Titus 3:5: Ephesians 2:8-9).

Delightfully Intertwined

January 25, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

When I was in elementary school, we used to play a silly little game. One kid would cross his arms in front of him, turn his palms inward to face each other, lace the fingers of his hands together, then pull his hands up and in, turning the wrists over, so that his hands were sort of held together the way we sometimes do in prayer, but reversed.

https://swimthedeepend.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/eb491-steptwo.jpg

The person facing him would then tap one of his fingers to see if he could – while watching the tap – move the finger that was tapped. For most people it’s a little harder than it sounds to move the correct finger right away. I’m sure there is some scientific (and somewhat dry) explanation for why it’s difficult, and it probably involves concepts like hand-to-eye coordination and muscle memory. I’m not saying those things aren’t interesting. I’m sure to plenty of people they are. However, there is also joy and wonder and plan old fun in playing the game and trying it out.

Since you became a Christian (IF in fact you HAVE become a Christian), I hope you have been reading your Bible with diligence, fascination, and delight. I also hope you have meditated deeply on what you have read and are reading. Bible study is one of the key ingredients to Christian growth, and you will never fully experience the fullness of Christ the way He wants you to unless you engage in it.

However, as you read more and more of the Bible, and as you think more and more deeply about God, you are bound to come upon certain concepts which are difficult for the finite mind to reconcile. One of the ones I am most often asked about is the perceived tension between man’s will and God’s sovereignty. In explaining what the Bible teaches about these concepts I find it helpful if I can keep myself from beginning with a frown, a sigh, or a crossing of the arms. Though the concepts of human responsibility and Divine predestination may pose difficulties when it comes to our attempts to “reconcile” them, they are never addressed with consternation or puzzlement in Scripture. In fact, they are spoken of as plainly co-existing in blessed harmony. Therefore, as we speak about them, perhaps we should re-imagine them as something in which to be delighted as fully enmeshed – not separate and distinct and contradictory.

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Psalm 16:11

Fitted by God

October 28, 2011 at 10:28 am | Posted in Romans | 6 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

Romans 9:4

The Holy Spirit here is answering the argument of those who say that it would mean that God is unfaithful to His promise of salvation to the Jewish people if He has given grace freely to all people. In other words, if Gentiles can be saved the same way Jewish people can be saved, what’s so special about being an Israelite?

The Holy Spirit’s response to this challenge is:

1. The Jewish people were adopted as “His people.”

2. He gave them the Old Testament covenants.

3. He gave them the privilege of having His glory dwell among them in the Old Testament.

4. He gave them the Law.

5. He saved them from among the nations, and delivered them from bondage in Egypt.

6. He made them special promises.

7. He caused Christ to come through their “family line.”

8. He gave them all the signs that pointed to Jesus being the Christ: the Messiah.

Even though they rejected Him, and crucified Him, God will remain faithful to His promises to Israel.

As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

Romans 9:13-14

In the history of the Church and in Christian theology this has been a controversial passage of Scripture. People don’t like to think that God could “hate” anyone. Some theologians feel that this refers to “national election.” In other words, God “chose” the nation of Israel (Jacob’s descendants) over the nation of Edom (Esau’s descendants). Others feel that God “hated” Esau only in relation to Jacob. In other words, they say that God didn’t really “hate” Esau – He just really loved Jacob a lot, and therefore His great love for Jacob made His feelings for Esau seem like hatred in comparison. I have to say that I find very little warrant in Scripture for this second interpretation. It seems to come from the dogmatic assertion (and Christian cliche’) that God hates sin but loves sinners. This assertion, we might say, has “some truth” in it, but on its face it is contradicted by Scripture (Psalm 11:5; Psalm 7:11). Part of the confusion comes from a misunderstanding of hatred. Most people who are aware that God is love (I John 4:8) and know that God is immutable can not reconcile in their minds how God can be loving and hateful at the same time. What they fail to perceive is that love and hatred are not mutually contradictory, nor are they even opposites. The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference. God is certainly not indifferent! It might surprise many modern evangelicals to learn that the Greek word translated as “hated” in Romans 9:13 means – quite directly – “hated.”

Now, let’s think about Esau for a second. He’s the one who made the decision to sell his birthright – his heritage as a primary heir of God’s covenant promise to the children of Abraham and Isaac. And even though Esau made this “decision” he was at the same time under the decree of God Who had predetermined that Jacob, and not Esau, would be the heir of the promise. The Holy Spirit brings up the example of Pharaoh to support the way God works out His sovereignty and providence in the affairs of men. Pharaoh hardened his own heart – in a sense – but the serious student of Scripture can not deny that God also hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

Romans 9:17-18 (emphasis added)

Pharaoh made the decision to reject God and His mercy, but God was plainly ruling over this “decision.”

The Holy Spirit anticipates sinful man’s reaction to this revelation of God:

Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

Romans 9:19

How can God find fault in us for the way we are, when He made us that way?

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Romans 9:20-21

Does the clay argue or talk back to the potter? “You should have made me a dinner plate instead of a cup! I didn’t want to be a cup!” The potter had every right to make the clay into a cup instead of a plate. He could have made the clay into a toilet bowl if he wanted!

For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.

II Corinthians 5:12

God does not show favor based on His surprise at finding us “worthy” in our outward deeds or appearance. God is omniscient. He can’t be surprised. And He can’t “learn” anything. He makes some vessels unto honor, and some to dishonor. No vessel decides for itself with what it’s going to be filled. As living, breathing vessels, with souls and consciences and consciousness, God made us so that we can think and make decisions. Some vessels are “fitted” to destruction the same way that some spoiled and angry and rambunctious children are said to be “fit to be tied.” Whose fault is it that they need to be tied?

The Gentile vessels, compared to the Jewish vessels, did not have all the advantages outlined above. But God, in order to show His goodness and His longsuffering to the vessels who insisted on being filled with wrath, decided that those who are His vessels will be filled with mercy, instead of wrath.

I will not pretend that these truths are easy to explain. They get us into the sticky doctrines of election and predestination, which, by the way, are Bible terms. For a Christian teacher to say “I don’t believe in predestination” is to seriously call into question his view of Scripture and, therefore, his qualification for teaching. Some people believe God made us like wind-up toys, and that we are mindless puppets. That is not the teaching of Scripture. Others believe that God could not have chosen according to the good pleasure of His Own will to save some people from the penalty for their sin, and not others, because that would violate our “free will.” As finite creatures, we are not going to be able to grasp all the eternal decrees or wisdom of God. God is eternal and infinite, and His ways far above our ways. Here are some things we know for sure:

1. God is righteous, not unrighteous.
2. God is just, not unjust.
3. God is good, not evil.
4. God keeps His promises.
5. God tells the Truth in His Word.


Entries and comments feeds.