I appreciate books that provide different views on theological issues. (see my discussion on “Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?” Wayne Grudem, ed.) It’s important for objectivity to hear, read and understand opposing arguments or approaches to issues facing Christians today. That challenge is to find people who will communicate in an understandable way and be objective themselves. In this volume, there are four authors approaching Divine Providence: God causes all things, by Paul Kjoss Helseth; God directs all things, by William Lane Craig; God controls by liberating, by Ron Highfield; and God limits His control, by Gregory A. Boyd. Continue reading
God is merciful in all things
Rarely would anyone question God’s mercy. We know God is all-powerful and able to judge. Paul teaches in Romans how the attributes of God are revealed to all men, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (Rom. 1:20)
Yet we only see God’s mercy through His written Word. Paul writes, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,” (Eph. 2:4) In what way do we see God’s mercy?
First, we see God’s mercy through forgiveness of sins. Daniel, in his prayer on behalf of the nation acknowledges God’s mercy, “To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him.” (Dan. 9:9) In fact, David who escaped God’s judgment, proclaimed God’s mercy in Psalm 86, “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.” (Ps. 86:5) Man falls short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) and because of sin, man is separated from God (Rom. 6:23). Consequently, man deserves judgment in condemnation, but because of God’s mercy, God forgives and reconciles the world to Himself through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-20).
Second, God is merciful in correction. When God uses one believer to care-front another person, that correction is merciful. That correction prevents many more sinful choices from being made. James writes, “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”(Jam. 5:19-20) Covering a multitude of sins or prevention of additional sins is a demonstration of great mercy.
Thirdly, we see God’s mercy in judgment of the wicked. God’s judgment on the wicked is actually a form of mercy, because that person or group of people are prevented from committing more wickedness and hence they have less of a harsh judgment than they might have had. Jesus explained that principle when He rebuked the wicked cities,
- 20 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent:
- 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
- 22 “But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.
- 23 “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
- 24 “But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” (Matt. 11:20-24)
Hence, God’s judgment is a tremendous form of mercy. When Joshua destroyed the wickedness of Canaan, that was the mercy of God in action, because it prevented greater wickedness from mounting up and spreading to other people. The wickedness is cut off and the punishment is kept at a lower level that it would have been. Unfortunately, the wicked will likely not give appreciation for God’s mercy. The wicked, however, will bow their knee and confess Jesus as Lord (Phil. 2:9-11)
God is merciful. God is merciful in forgiveness. God is merciful in correction. God is also merciful in judging and destroying the wicked. Have you praised God for His mercy today or thanked God for His mercy in forgiveness of your sins?
This doctrine was left in outline form for ease of discussion.
The Doctrine of the Divine Decree
A. The difficulties in understanding the Divine Decree relate to the finite understanding the infinite, the temporal understanding the eternal, the sinful understanding the perfect.
B. Man has no need to be fearful of God, because God is holy and good. Therefore if something is decreed, then it must be good. It cannot be less than good from the divine perspective. There is nothing more important than your view of God.
The Decree of God is His eternal, holy, wise, and sovereign purpose according to His own pleasure, comprehending at once all things that ever were or will be– in their causes, conditions, successions, and relations– and determining their certain futurition.
A. The decree is eternal in that it was established in eternity past and is certain forever. It can never be changed by man.
B. It is holy–set apart by God, pure according to God’s righteousness, transcendent in character in relation to the cosmos.
C. It was fixed according to the wisdom of God, not whimsical or without thought. It is perfect according to His sovereign will.
D. God`s sovereignty is infinite, eternal, according to His own self-determining will, totally independent of any other being. The decree is purposeful. That purpose is to bring honor and glory to Himself.
E. Everything is according to His pleasure. Without it we rob God of His freedom. The phrase adds the fact that it is personal in relation to His plan. The decree originates in freedom, and is not obligated to His purpose. God purposes without constraint. The only necessity placed on God is what comes from His perfection. The decree wasn’t made by external compulsion or internal caprice. It was not whimsical; it is purposeful. When God acts, He remains free.
F. In the decree God comprehended at once all things that ever were or will be. In God’s omniscience God knew the actual and the possible. God knew when you would believe in Christ or if you would. God knew what would happen if you married this person or that, and the happiness if you would have married a person for their integrity and character, rather than for their looks or lifestyle. God comprehended in eternity past everything that would ever happen. The past was as perspicuous as the present or future to God. We forget about our childhood or instances in our life, but each one is as clear to God as another.
G. Their causes refer to what brought about the circumstances you face. The causes refer to what preceded the event or thing.
H. The conditions refer to the surroundings, environment, and the set up in which the event or thing takes place.
I. Successions relate what precedes and what follows. It relates how each fits into the chronology of history.
J. Relations state how each event or thing is related to those around it.
K. Determining their certain futurition means that by comprehending all that ever was or will be, God made the sovereign choice concerning the events in history according to His direct, indirect or permissive will. It means that God’s will is not intimidated by man. God does not coerce man, but God knew how man would decide and God fixed the decree. Man does not change history in time, man lives out the history as it is fixed in eternity past as God saw history from eternity past.
L. Everything God does is for His own glory.
II. The omniscience of God is the key to understanding the Decree.
A. God has three types of knowledge.
1. Self-knowledge whereby God knows himself perfectly and completely. He has never had to learn about Himself.
2. Omniscience whereby God knows the actual and the possible for all things in human history and beyond. The possible could have happened had God programmed that into the decree, but only the actual was programmed.
3. Foreknowledge, which is the subcategory of God’s omniscience, related only to the decree.
B. God’s omniscience is a giant computer, which has the storage capability of every fact and possibility of divine history.
1. God never tampers with volition. Human history is as you have thought it and acted.
2. God knows which way you will choose, even though you are confronted with 20 choices. The choice you make is in the decree.
3. God knew all that would have been involved had He adopted an infinite number of plans of action.
4. God knows all the consequences had you chosen a different course of action that you chose.
C. Out of the computer comes a printout, which is the foreknowledge of God.
1. The foreknowledge makes nothing certain, but acknowledges what is certain.
2. Foreknowledge was not known, until it was first decreed. It first had to come out of the computer. God had to choose what plan or system would be reality for the believer. God knew in Eternity Past what decisions you would make and every decision is perspicuous, because He has the printout from the computer.
3. Foreknowledge is based on the sovereignty of God and His right to choose.
4. Foreknowledge does not determine nor affect any event. The cause is your freewill. It is what you decide.
5. Foreknowledge is the reality of life, what actually would happen.
D. The decree does not coerce the free will of man. The following five points are from A.A. Hodge. God’s decree determines only the certain futurition of events, it directly effects or causes no event. But the decree itself provides in every case that the event shall be affected by causes acting in a manner perfectly consistent with the nature of the event in question. Thus in the case of every free act of a moral agent the decree itself provides at the same time–
1. Every agent will be a free agent. No coercion on the will of the creature.
2. What precedes will be what it is. Once something happens, nothing can change it.
3. The conditions for the act will be what they are. God will not change the physical laws spontaneously. Therefore we can depend on the consistency with which all things happen. Will they happen by chance? No, all things happen by the grace and immutability of God.
4. The act itself will be perfectly free on the part of the agent.
5. The act will be certainly future. It is recorded history before the event occurs. Therefore, it must take place as recorded according to the Foreknowledge of God.
a. This means that Hyper-Calvinism is wrong because God does not predestine anyone to go to heaven or hell. People go because of their choice. You go to heaven because you choose to go to heaven. You were elected in eternity past and God knew you would go to heaven in eternity past and God chose you to go to heaven in eternity past, but God did not turn your decider to positive so you would go to heaven.
b. This means that Arminianism is wrong because man’s volition is not beyond the control of God. Man cannot cause things that are not in the decree. Man is not elected or chosen the moment he believes in Christ.
6. Application: When you witness, every person is first of all an unbeliever, but has the potential to become a believer. No one but God knows whether they will believe in Christ, or not. Therefore, you witness to every person God brings your way.
a. What was known about the person who rejected God is that they were not elected in eternity past. That person has lived out the pre-recorded printout of history. But the person chose to reject salvation.
b. What was known about the believer is that he/she was elected in eternity past. Their salvation was sure, that it would happen, but the manner or the time is completely unknown to us. Death bed conversions are a reality.
III. Evidence for the Divine Decree.
A. All things are included in the decree.
1. Is. 14:26,27, “This is the plan devised against the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations. For the Lord of hosts has planned and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand. who can turn it back?”
2. Is. 46:10,11, “Declaring the end from the beginning And from ancient times things which have not been done. Saying My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure; Calling a bird of prey from the east The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.
3. Dan. 4:35, “And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing. But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth. And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, What hast Thou done?”
4. Eph. 1:11, “Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”
B. Special things and events are included.
1. Stability of the physical universe Ps. 119:89-91, “Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness continues throughout all generations. Thou didst establish the earth, and it stands. They stand this day according to Thine ordinances.
2. Length of human life Job 14:5, “Since his days are determined, The number of his months is with Thee, And his limits Thou hast set so that he cannot pass.
3. Mode of our death Jn. 21:19, “Now He said this signifying what kind of death he would glorify God.”
4. Circumstances of nations Acts 17:26, “And He made from one, every nations of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation.
5. Free acts of man Eph. 2:10, “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Gen. 50:20, “And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive.”
C. Salvation of believers Eph. 3:10,11, in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.
D. The nature of God.
1. The sovereign, eternal and omniscient God implies complete order to history.
2. God can be sovereign and still allow man to have freewill.
3. Man cannot intimidate God with His decisions.
If there is anybody or anything that is absolutely free, referring to will, you do not have a sovereign God.
(1) Divine foreknowledge implies fixity, which implies a decree.
(2) Divine wisdom operates according to a divine plan.
(3) Divine immutability indicates that there can be no increase in power or knowledge.
(4) Divine benevolence requires that both the course and end of history be determined by God`s will rather than by chance or the creature’s will.
(5) That fact that God is eternal means that His purpose is eternal.
IV. Characteristics of the Divine Decree.
A. The ground of the decree is God’s grace, love, and good pleasure
1. Matt. 11:25-26, “At that time Jesus answered and said, I praise Thee, O Father. Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight.”
2. Luke 12:32, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.”
3. Eph. 1:5,9,” He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ in Himself according to the kind intention of His will. . .He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.
4. Rom. 9:21, “Or 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?”
5. Application: It doesn’t arise from outside of His nature. For example in a puzzle, all the pieces are in the box, but only when all the pieces are put together can you get the full picture. God knows all the pieces before the puzzle is assembled.
B. It is eternal
1. 1 Cor. 2:7, “but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory.”
2. Eph. 1:4, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”
3. 2 Tim. 1:9, “who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”
4. 1 Pet. 1:20, “for He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.”
5. Application: every event is related to another, no event can be isolated from the whole.
b. Death of Christ–personal faith–salvation.
C. It is wise
1. Rom. 11:33, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways.”
2. Eph. 3:10,11, “in order that the manifold awisdom of God might now be bmade known through the church to the crulers and the authorities in dthe heavenly places. This was in aaccordance with the 1eternal purpose which He 2carried out in bChrist Jesus our Lord, “
3. Ps. 104:24, “O Lord how many are Thy works! In wisdom Thou hast made them all: The earth is full of Thy possessions.”
4. Application: nothing is irrational or arbitrary, although it may be beyond our comprehension at the moment.
D. It is free.
1. Is. 40;13-14, “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord Or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge. and informed Him of the way of understanding?
2. Rom. 11:36, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
3. Application: His determinations are influenced by no other. No one was present when He decreed the decree.
E. It is unconditional.
1. Is. 46:10, “Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.”
2. Acts. 2:23, “this man delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”
3. Eph. 1:11, “also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.
4. Eph. 2:8, “for by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourself it is the gift of God.
5. Application:There are no contingencies. Nothing is uncertain. Nothing in the decree is conditioned by anything not in the decree. God is not waiting for anything to happen in order to know the outcome of the event.
F. It is all-inclusive.
1. Eph. 1:11, “ This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He 2carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, “.
2. Acts 17:26, “And He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation.”
G. It is immutable.
1. Ps. 33:11, “the counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.”
2. Is. 46:9,10, “Remember the former things long past. For I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like me, Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying My purpose will be established and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.”
H. It is efficacious.
1. Is. 14:27, “For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?”
2. Application: the works of God always succeed in having their intended effect.
3. Some things God has decreed to do Himself immediately–direct cause.
4. Some things He has decreed to do through the agency of natural laws–indirect cause.
5. Some things God decreed to do through the exercise of the will of moral creature moral agency.
6. Shedd in his Dogmatic Theology, “If God does not first decide what shall come to pass, he cannot know what will come to pass. An event must be made certain, before it can be known as a certain event.”
I. It is permissive regarding sin.
1. Ps. 78:29, “So they ate and were well filled; And their desire He gave to them.” God did not cause them to sin. God did not cause them to crave for the food. God permitted them to sin. God cannot cause something to happen contrary to His own character or He would be denying Himself.
2. What about Pharaoh. God did not cause the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. God hardened His heart by allowing Pharaoh to make the decision, which God foreknew would happen in eternity past.
3. Ps. 106:15, “So He gave them their request, But sent a wasting disease among them.“ God did not cause them to have the desire. They had the desire by their own freewill.
4. Acts 14:16, “And in the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways.”
5. Application: The decree renders the future sinful act certain, but does not hinder the sinful self-determination of the finite will.
6. Permissive does not mean passive (which would imply that something was beyond his control).
7. It does not mean compulsion (which would negate free agency and place the responsibility with God.
J. The decree to act is not the act itself.
1. @@ The decree to create is not creation itself.
2. The decree to redeem is not redemption itself.
K. The purpose of the decree is the glory of God.
1. Eph. 1:6,12,14,” to the praise of the glory of His grace which He freely bestowed on us in the beloved; v. 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory, v. 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession to the praise of His glory.”
2. Rev. 4:11, “Worthy are You our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power, for Thou didst create all things, and because of They will They existed, and were created.”
L. The decree is all comprehensive.
1. Not the slightest confusion could exist as to one of even the smallest events without confusion to all events.
2. The decree does not eliminate the need for prayer. God in His omniscience saw what believers would pray. The effective prayer is what God can answer in the affirmative. Is. 65:24, “It will also come to pass that before they call. I will answer and while they are still speaking I will hear.”
V. Application of the divine decree to us.
A. The decree is the sum total of God’s plan and purpose in eternity past, and centers around the person of Christ.
1. Eph. 1:4-6, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him, In love he predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the kind intention of His will to the praise of the glory of His grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
2. 1 Jn. 3:23,”And this is the commandment that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He commanded us.”
B. Therefore the free will of man must face Jesus Christ before and after the cross.
C. Without violating free will, God designed a perfect plan for every believer.
D. There are primary, secondary, and tertiary functions within the plan of God. All of which affect you in every decision you make.
E. God is not unfair and He deals with reality.
Dedicated to many great teachers who have gone before.
Doctrine of Election
God has three types of knowledge. They are all a part of the knowledge of God and the distinctions help us understand election.
First, He has self-knowledge; He knows Himself. In His dialogue with Moses, “And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel,`I AM has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:14)
Secondly, God is omniscient, which means He is all-knowing. God knows the actual and the possible, especially in relation to His creatures. The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13)
And thirdly, God has foreknowledge, which is His acknowledgement of what is in the Decree of God. David recorded in his famous Psalm 139,
For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
2You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.
3You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.
4For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
5You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it. (Ps. 139:1-6)
This foreknowledge of God means every minute detail is completely known in eternity past. Every minute detail is in the mind of God, therefore the future is clear. God’s knowledge is not subject to change, development, or reasoning. God’s omniscience fed into the decree the actual facts. The decree is fixed, but does not fix. God’s foreknowledge is a printout of those elect ones. The elect ones experientially become elect at salvation. The elect ones are elect from eternity past.
Election depends on God’s sovereign application of the free will of man to God’s plan. John wrote, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Election becomes experientially real at the point of salvation. Election was made in eternity past as Paul writes, “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” (2 Thes. 2:13) God chose, or elected, every believer through means of the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work that happens at the moment of salvation. Paul also writes, “[God], who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, (2 Tim. 1:9) There was nothing we could do for salvation. That is why faith is non-meritorious, that is, there is no merit for man. God does all the work through Jesus; we just accept that work on our behalf. The choice is to humbly accept the work, rather than think we can do or become something of value on our own before God. We cannot. We can only accept what God has done on our behalf.
Scripture teaches Unlimited Atonement. There are many passages that declare God’s unconditional sin payment for the human race by the blood of Jesus. For example,
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
John Calvin says of this verse: “He uses the word sin in the singular number for any kind of iniquity; as if he had said that every kind of unrighteousness which alienates men from God is taken away by Christ. And when he says the sin of the world, he extends this favor indiscriminately to the whole human race.” Additional verses in support of Unlimited Atonement are:
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:3-4)
5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, (1 Tim. 2:5-6)
For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. (1 Tim. 4:10)
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Pet. 3:9)
And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 Jn. 2:2)
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. (1 Jn. 4:14)
It would seem these are very clear that Jesus’ death was a substitution for the entire world – all the ungodly – those who would believe and those who would not.
Therefore, all members of the human race are potentially elect by the Father under the concept of Unlimited Atonement. Paul writes, “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Tim. 2:10) The Greek grammar is important here. The phrase, “that they also may obtain” is a hina + subjunctive of tugchano- which means it is optional and dependent on man’s volition—man’s choice. Paul did not exclude anyone from this choice. Just above, we saw from 2 Peter 3:9 that the Lord was “not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.” Some people will say that those whom God calls will be saved. So in this verse if God wishes for all to be saved, is God’s wish different from God’s call? If God wishes for something, would not that happen if He wanted it to happen? Could God wish for something and it not happen? It would not, if God allowed for His glory man’s choice to enter into the picture.
Election is the present and future possession of every believer. Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. (John 15:16) On his own, man would not choose God. If it were not for the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, every man would turn from God. It is only those to whom God calls and convicts, which is everyone, do they have an opportunity to make a choice. The saving is not of anything on man’s part. He only makes a non-meritorious decision, selfish as it may be, to receive the gift of salvation. He does this by faith. His purpose then becomes bearing fruit. Paul states our purpose after salvation, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; (Col. 3:12) Once we are saved, our focus becomes bearing fruit for Jesus’ sake. That becomes a life-long pursuit of sanctification, because of our position in Christ.
Every believer shares the election of Christ through positional sanctification. Even Jesus is elect, according to Isaiah, “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.” (Is. 42:1) Jesus, however, is not elect as we are. He was chosen to be the sin-Bearer and our Substitute. All those in the church of Corinth were believers as Paul writes, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours… But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God– and righteousness and sanctification and redemption… (1 Cor. 1:2,30) We are sanctified in Christ and as we grow in our relation with Jesus Christ we become experientially sanctified.
We can trust God in everything that He takes us through for our sanctification. Paul writes, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose… He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”(Rom 8:28, 32) Why can we trust Him? He chose us, elected us, from the foundation of the world, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” (Eph. 1:4)
This means that of the 1000 other decrees God could have chosen He chose one where you would believe in Christ (if you have). Give thanks to Him! It means that God is sovereignly in control of all history, not that He directly controls all history, because we cannot say God directs sin. That would be contrary to the character of God. However, He does allow sin in His permissive will and chose the decree in which there is sin. That decree allows many wicked things to occur, which exposes the wicked evil that is in the world and ultimately reveals that only when God is in direct control, is there serenity and calm. What do you remember about the love of God?
God gives and God corrects (1 John 4:9-10; Heb. 12:5-6). It means I share in the destiny of Christ, I share His election. That is confident expectation of what lies ahead and is reason for us not to become frustrated about what we face now. It means every person may be elect, therefore we are under obligation to witness and give the gospel at every opportunity. Are you taking advantage of the opportunity?
Words: Godly vs. Ungodly Results
In the Garden of Eden, Adam enjoyed perfect environment. He was never concerned with rubbing his eyes from air pollution, testing the water for contaminants, or listening to foul-mouthed neighbors. Everything was perfect, because he was made in the image of God and sin had not become a part of his nature or the world around him.
Scream forward to Genesis 3 and the serpent allures the woman into a conversation, to which she can’t resist.
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, `You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden;
3 “but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, `You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'”
4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
5 “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Gen. 3:1-6)
At that moment, because of disobedience to God’s command, sin enters into the human race. Now, instead of perfect environment, thorns and thistles grow, sweat becomes normal and childbirth is overcome only by the joy of new life. This initiates the contrast of godly and ungodly results.
Take for example the following chart.
C.S. Lewis, “Messiah”
Refreshing the spirit and body
Stimulating lust Instant gratification
There are four columns and four examples. The first column identifies a component at its basic level. For example, chemical elements can be hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. The second column identifies the particular discipline or category of study or function which comes from the “component.” From chemical elements comes a discipline of “chemistry.” From that discipline, there will be two types of uses of that discipline: a proper use or godly result and a sinful use or ungodly result.
There are many proper uses of chemistry. One example is to use chemistry to create vaccines. Another is to develop prescription drugs, like pain killers for after surgery. However, chemistry can be twisted in a sinful use or ungodly result, for example to develop poisons to hurt people.
Each of the components has a resulting discipline and then a proper use or sinful use. It depends on whether God is behind it or whether man’s sin nature is behind it. If you understand this, you’ll understand why there is evil in the world and not be shocked when wickedness develops. What other examples would you suggest to continue lengthening this chart?