Friday, June 16, 2006

1. Introduction to Soteriology

.... Soterilogy is the study of salvation and its associated topics: God's foreknowledge, the questions of election and predestination, and the effectual working of each of these in our lives. But neither salvation nor its supporting spectrum can be properly understood without exploring their testimony of Jesus Himself, and allowing this perspective to define them (Eph 4:13). Here, some of the deepest and most mysterious passages in Scripture will be addressed.
Soteriology has impacted mankind more importantly than any other study in the world, and its effect in the church has always been the most dramatic. Each of the greatest movements in church history have been defined by a new perspective in this regard:

1) Jesus taught salvation through the gospel, rather than keeping the Law of Moses, and the reverberations have transcended the ages.

2) The Protestant Reformation, in restoring the perspective of salvation through faith alone, became one of the seminole events of the church and of all mankind.

3) The rise of Arminianism through the Methodist church became a second, smaller reformation, leading to the evangelism of the world.

.... It is the author’s belief that the Scriptures foretell another reformation, to occur in the end time church, that will spring from a highly successful focus on the person of Jesus Christ (Eph 4:13). This perspective will address every Scriptural question; but as a matter of practicality, the great catalyst for this reformation will be a Christ-centered perspective on soteriology. The following study is an early attempt at this perspective.
(This blog uses a top-to-bottom format, and is continued below)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

2. The True Foundation of Soteriology

.... This study begins by correcting a fundamental error of both Calvinism and Arminianism. In addressing the whole spectrum of salvation and it’s associated topics, both systems begin with the fallen state of man as their premise. Their views on this subject have differed, and the rest of their doctrines have been systematized accordingly:

1) If one accepts that man is totally depraved, and our salvation is 100% God and 0% man, one must, in good conscience, accept the remaining points of Calvinism in turn. They are inescapable conclusions of this premise.

2) If one accepts the ‘Free will’ or ‘Human Ability’ perspective of Arminianism, one must also accept its remaining points in turn. They, too, become inescapable conclusions of this premise.

3) For a fuller description of the five basic points of Calvinism and the five points of Arminianism, in a side-by-side comparison, click here.

.... It seems faulty, however, to begin this study with the fallen state of man as a premise. Such an approach makes man and his plight the preeminent question of salvation, with God only responding to man, rather than Christ having the preeminence in all things (Col 1:18).
The true basis for soteriology should be in the eternal purpose of GOD through Christ, with the plight of man being subordinate and relative to this. Remember that God’s purpose in salvation was ordained before mankind was even created — the Lamb was slain from before the foundation of the world — and only afterward did mankind come, and later fall into sin. Only then did we fit within the purpose that God had ordained through Christ before the ages (Rev 13:8; 1 Peter 1:19-20), so our true standing is in the preparation of the gospel of peace (Eph 6:15).
In the Epistle to the Ephesians, chapter one, Paul portrays the good pleasure of God’s will as the basis for our salvation. Only after this foundation is laid in Chapter 1 does he discuss the fallen state of man, in relation to it, in Ephesians chapter two. This is the true Biblical perspective, so this study will proceed on the same premise.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

3. God’s Will and Purpose

.... The ultimate purpose of God in creation, salvation, and in all other matters, is best understood from His own perspective – and for us, this is most easily comprehended from the standpoint of the Day of Judgment. For in every way God will be vindicated on this occasion, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah:

.... "The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted on that day."

(Isaiah 2:11)

.... * Simply stated, God’s motivation in creation, and in all subsequent acts, was that He desired a day in which He alone would be exalted. This would be a day that counted for all days, when everything would be reviewed, that God might be glorified in relation to everything that has ever been. Aptly it is called ‘the Day of the Lord’. So He orders the events of history with the aim of glorifying Himself in the final reckoning of that Day.
.... Thus, the eternal purpose of God in saving mankind may also be clearly seen from this perspective. For we are told that the Father has:

" . . . committed them all to disobedience that He might have mercy on all."

(Rom 11:32)

". . . that no flesh should glory in His presence."

(1 Cor 1:29)

.... In other words, God has confined the events of our lives in such a way that we cannot prevail in the judgment without Him. This demonstrates our need for Him, which allows Him to be glorified in the mercy He shows in saving us, guiding us, providing for us, etc. Also, on our side of the equation, our dependence on Him leaves us no room to boast (which would have competed for this glory) so it further serves this end. And all of this has been done:

.... " . . . according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory."

(Eph 1:11-12)

.... God has decided that when all is said and done, it will be to the praise of His glory, that He alone may be exalted. This will be accomplished through Jesus Christ His Son, as He orders the progress of our lives with this ultimate intention in mind. Christ is the only mediator between God and man, and He guarantees each of us to the other (1 Tim 2:5). Here the preeminent role of Christ is revealed as filling all in all, and God in Him. We will discuss this further in the next section.

.... * (This perspective may actually be oversimplified, but it is a useful, truthful guide in every practical way since it is a perspective we can more easily understand. And of course, in the end, it will be fully vindicated as true).

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

4. God will be Glorified in His Son

.... If we understand the good purpose of God in glorifying Himself in all things, as outlined in Section 3 (above), we must next understand the mystery of His will in accomplishing this goal:

.... " . . . having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth- in Him."

(Eph 1:9-10)

.... It is important to understand that God will be glorified on the Day of Judgment through Jesus Christ alone, so that none of us will be able to stand in the Judgment on the basis of our own, personal merit, or by any other credentials apart from Him. For this cause, too, the Scriptures have confined all under sin, which we will discuss in Section 6.
.... In other words, it is Christ the Firstborn who has saved us, indwells us, and conforms us to His own image that He may bring many sons to glory, so that it may be be said: "he who glories, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Cor 1:29-31). He Himself becomes our fruit to eternal life, for God the Father has set His seal on Him (John 6:27). The work is entirely His own (Phil 1:6; Eph 2:10), and His own charge (1 Cor 1:8; Eph 3:21; 1 Thes 5:24).
Thus, any good that appears within us will entirely owe itself to Jesus on that Day, and we will have nothing in ourselves of which to boast (1 Cor 1:8; Eph 2:8-10; Phil 2:13). For "of His fullness all we have received, and grace for grace." (John 1:16); and it is through His own handiwork that we will be: "Renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him . . . Christ is all and in all." (Col 3:10-11).

Monday, June 12, 2006

5. Brief Summary

.... The eternal purpose of God is in glorifying Himself— something that has a particular emphasis on the Day of Judgment.
God will glorify Himself through His Son.
Christ will glorify Himself in us as we are conformed to His image. Because He is our pattern, the firstborn, to Him will be the glory as we are conformed to His image. This is because the work proceeds from Him and reflects Him.
God, pursuant to this purpose, begins by confining us all under sin. This is done that He might have mercy on us at all a later time and through a different way, saving us only through His Son, and thus glorifying Himself in us through Him alone (Romans 11:36). We will discuss this in greater detail in the following section.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

6. Confinement Under Sin

.... Pursuant of His goal to glorify Himself alone, God has revealed His own character and Divine nature through the Scriptures, and this has become His ‘standard of acceptance' for all men. Whatever falls short of His nature ‘misses the mark’, which is the literal meaning of the Greek word for ‘sin’ (hamartia).

.... "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

(Rom 3:23)

.... By revealing God’s character as the standard for mankind, the Scriptures have also set an impossibly high standard for us all. Therefore, as a reflection of His character, with or without the law of Moses being specified, they have forever settled the issue of man’s self righteousness, placing justification by our own, personal merit forever out of our reach (Rom 3:19-20; 1 Cor 1:29). Through the contrast with God’s own character, in the ways we have fallen short of Him, the Scriptures have effectively defined all men as sinners, and thus have confined us all under sin:

.... "But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe."

(Gal 3:22)

.... IIn confining us under sin in this way, God’s intention is not to condemn us, but to save us through His Son as an act of mercy, since this is the approach that would add to His glory (John 3:17; Rom 11:32-33). For the same problem with confinement under sin does not exist with our Lord Jesus, and this allows Him to become our champion.
Jesus alone is able to stand before God on the basis of His own, personal merit (Rev 5:5; 9), for He is not confined by the Scriptures in the same way as we – but rather, it is the opposite. For He Himself is the Word become flesh, the personification of God’s character, and the epitome of His ‘Divine standard’ as shown in the Scriptures. Notice the natural blending of this concept in this pronouncement of Him:

.... "Then I said, "Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of Me. I delight to do Your will, O My God, and Your law is within My heart."

(Ps 40:7-8)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

7. The Election (proper)

.... Bearing in mind the good pleasure of God in glorifying Himself, and the mystery of His will in accomplishing this glorification through Jesus, the next insight should come as no surprise to anyone. For after this, God begins His election.
According to both Calvinism and Arminianism, God has chosen certain persons, from before the foundation of the world, whom He would one day call to Himself for the purpose of their salvation. These persons are referred to as ‘the elect,’ or ‘the chosen’ (based on the same underlying Greek word, eklektos). However, neither system has fully considered the mystery of God’s will, that He be glorified through His Son alone, so they have not viewed the election from the perspective of Christ:

.... "Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights!"

(Is 42:1)

.... "I delight to do Your will, O My God, and Your law is within My heart."

(Ps 40:8)

.... Traditionally, both systems have viewed the election as a process without criteria and without regard to our personal merit. But with reference to Section 6 and the two quotations above, we would more properly conclude the opposite: that the election took place on the basis of absolute merit, and as such it resulted in the choosing of only one Person: Jesus Christ the righteous. For He had this testimony from of old, that the Father delighted in Him.
Borrowing a principle of interpretation from Gal 3:16 and 29, let us carefully note that God does not refer to Jesus as ‘One of the elect,’ as if there were many, but ‘My Elect One,’ which is only one, who is Christ alone. For He alone is the Chosen One of God, and if we abide in Him through faith we shall become elect in Him:

.... "Just as He chose us in Him from before the foundation of the world."

(Eph 1:4)

.... Or again:

.... " . . . but Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God . . . "

(Col 3:11-12)

.... "For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us."

(2 Cor 1:20)

.... Therefore the election of God resulted in the selection of Christ alone, and it extends to us only through trusting in Jesus, the Chosen One, and being joined to Him. But how is this so? Remember that when we believe we become one spirit with Him (1 Cor 6:17). Think of Him as the tree of salvation, and we are grafted into Him through believing the gospel (as in Rom 11:19). Another helpful analogy may be found at this link, and a third analogy at this link.
.... This brings a dynamic change in the traditional understanding of this subject. None of us are saved because we are elect; but rather, we are elect in Him because we are saved.
.... Traditionally, both Calvinism and Arminianism have placed election before all other subjects in soteriology (except foreknowledge), when speaking of a chronological procession of events. But throughout Scripture, election is actually shown to follow such topics as foreknowledge, sanctification of the Spirit, (1 Peter 1:2), abiding in Christ (Col 3:11-12), predestination itself (Eph 1:4-5), calling (2 Peter 1:10), hearing the gospel (1 Thes 1:4-5) and other considerations, in support of the concept described here.

Friday, June 09, 2006

8. The Election (of grace)

.... Jesus taught in John 4:22 that "Salvation is of the Jews", and with respect to Section 7, here is the understanding we must reach: that Jesus alone is the Chosen One, yet they are the chosen people (Is 42:1; Deut 7:6); He is the tree of salvation, and they are it’s natural branches (Rom 11:17). In this sense, salvation pertains to the Jews and has always been reserved for them; yet only those Jews who trust in Christ will actually be saved:

.... "Being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory."

(Eph 1:11-12)

.... So at this point our study must branch into two directions: first, concerning those Jews who will believe, and second, concerning those who will disbelieve.

.... First: there is a remnant of the Jews whom God has reserved to Himself, and they have never bowed the knee to other gods (Rom 11:4-5; Matt 20:6-7). By venture, perhaps they may be equated to the 144,000 mentioned in the book of Revelation, who are the firstfruits of those redeemed from among men, and members of the twelve tribes. They are virgins, and in their mouth is no guile. The Father’s name is written on their foreheads (Rev 14:1-5). These particular Jews would constitute ‘the election of grace.’

.... Because they have followed the Lamb wherever He goes, and they have been reserved to God, they are elect in Christ as we’ve previously discussed; and yet they have always stood so: for they are without fault before the throne of God. These Jews constitute the natural branches in the tree of salvation which were never broken off, as metaphorically described in Romans 11:17 (When Paul says that ‘some’ of the branches were broken off, he implies that others weren’t. That would be these).

.... Thus, these particular Jews are always referred to in Scripture as ‘elect’, having always been elect in Christ. They are never referred to as ‘called and elect,’ as in the case of the Gentiles, or in the case of the other Jews who hardened their hearts and fell, but came to repent and believe at a later time.

.... Our next section will address the Jews who did not believe, and God’s further dealings with them.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

9. The Fall of the Jews

.... God intended salvation for the Jews (John 4:22). But they would still have to believe in Christ in order to actually be saved (Deut 32:20; Rom 1:16). In the meantime, they would be like branches that were broken out of a tree, which no longer partook of the root and fatness of the tree, which is Christ Himself (John 15:5; Rom 11:17). * But God is not finished with them yet. (Rom 11:1).
In bringing the Jews to a place of believing in Jesus, God has chosen to challenge them by way of making them jealous:

.... "I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will anger you by a foolish nation."

(Rom 10:19)

.... Through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles (Rom 11:11). Those Gentiles who believe the gospel, putting their faith in Christ, are grafted into the tree of salvation in place of the unbelieving Jews, who were broken off (Rom 11:19-20). In a similar metaphor, Jesus is the vine and they become the new branches (John 15:4-5).
Thus, by the disobedience of the Jews, mercy has been shown to the Gentiles, resulting in a free and universal offer of salvation for all mankind (Rom 11:30; 10:11-13). Greater clarification will be given later.
The free invitation of God remains open until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Rom 11:25). By design, the unbelieving Jews will then become jealous and believe – at which point they will be re-grafted into their own natural tree, and be saved. But how do they obtain this mercy?
When the Jews fell, salvation was offered universally: and if the offer is universal, it applies even to them. Thus, through the mercy shown the Gentiles, they also have obtained mercy. (Rom 11:31).

.... "For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all."

(Rom 11:32)

.... Still, it would be overly simplistic to view all of this as a process and it would miss God’s true intention. So let us focus again on Jesus Himself, to draw as near to God’s heart and mind in the matter as we may, and obtain a proper context:
Recall that the mystery of God’s will is to gather together all in Christ, to the praise of His glory (Eph 1:10-12). Therefore, hardening in part has happened to Israel that a broader opportunity may occur, that salvation should go forth to the ends of the earth (Rom 11:25). God’s purpose for doing this is to glorify Himself through Jesus Christ all the more, in a scale of glory that is actually more fitting for Jesus as well:

.... "And now the LORD says, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, So that Israel is gathered to Him (For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and My God shall be My strength), indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that you should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give you as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.'"

(Isaiah 49:5-6)

.... With all of that said, let’s turn the discussion toward salvation as it would progress in the life of the average Gentile, who is by nature a child of wrath, who is walking in the course of this world, as described in Ephesians 2.
* (Important note: the Jews were ‘broken off’ from the tree of salvation, but were not ‘cast away’- Rom 11:17; 11:1. If they had been cast away, it would not have been possible to restore them – Rom 11:15).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

10. Universal Offer of Salvation

.... Pertaining to salvation, God’s desire has been made very clear: "God our Savior . . . desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:4), for "The Lord is . . . not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9). God’s desire and will for all men is that they repent and be saved.
Because God desires all men to be saved, He has made salvation freely available to anyone who will believe on Him and call on His name:

.... "For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call on Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’."

(Rom 10:11-13)

.... Although this sounds very simple, there is another consideration -- a purely human one -- that will always complicate the matter in practical terms; and because of this complication, God’s offer, left to itself, will always come to nothing. The Lord’s free offer of salvation would be universally ignored or even met with disdain. This will bring us to the next section.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

11. The Fallen State of Man

.... God offers His salvation freely to all who will call on His name. Yet His generous offer runs into a purely human barrier based on man’s weak, fallen nature:

.... "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God."

(Romans 2:10-11)

.... Simply stated, the natural man would never seek God on his own, no matter what was offered to him; not so much as one single person would ever do so. God’s universal offer would be universally declined, resulting in a reluctant standoff. For man is reticent to approach God on account of his own sinfulness:

.... "A scoffer does not love one who corrects him, nor will he go to the wise."

(Prov 15:12)

.... "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed."

(John 3:20)

.... Because it is not in man’s fallen nature to seek God, a further work on God’s part is always needed in order to break the ice and draw us near; to bring each man to a point of repenting, believing, and exercising a saving faith in the gospel when he hears it (Acts 11:18; 13:48; Eph 2:8). The ball is still in God’s court, and He must take another initiative. This brings us to the effective role of predestination.

Monday, June 05, 2006

12. Phases of Predestination

.... As discussed in the previous section, God offers salvation to man freely; but through a purely human barrier, man has trouble facing Him. God’s answer to man’s spiritual reticence is given through an effective working that we call predestination. ‘Predestinate’ comes from the Greek word proorizo, which means ‘to mark out or set a boundary in advance.’
Traditionally, predestination has been assumed to mean certain things and to work in certain ways. By Calvinism it is assumed to be a completely divine working, infallible and irresistible, to bring someone to Christ. By Arminianism, it has been reduced to a mere formality in deference to man’s free will (which brings them to Christ instead). But what qualities do the Scriptures themselves ascribe to predestination? Exactly what is being predestined? Outward circumstances? Inward decisions? End results? What is predestination meant to accomplish?
As this study proceeds, we will attempt to show that three separate and distinct types of predestination are outlined in the Scriptures. These apply to different groups of people at different stages of a relationship with God, and they are intended to accomplish different things. Furthermore, these three seem to be divisible on a time line, having the overall appearance of ‘phases,’ so we will address them in that manner (Phases 1,2,3).
Think of this as a somewhat awkward introduction that, if met with humility, may lead to a warming acquaintance, followed by a time of trial in which a committed friendship may emerge. This, in turn, will deepen into love, as we respond with interest at each step.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

13. Predestination (phase 1)

.... To introduce Predestination Phase 1, let’s review God’s heart and mind toward us, especially in terms of His motivation: "God our Savior . . . desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:4) for "The Lord is . . . not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9).
God’s heart toward us full of His good will, kindness, love, and a desire for reconciliation. And Ephesians 1:11 conjoins with the principle that God predestines in order to work all things according to the counsel of His will.
In other words, if God wills something, He predestines accordingly; and since He wills that we all come to repentance and be saved, He will work through predestination to see the good pleasure of His will accomplished in each of our lives. His own immutability calls for such a work in each and every one of us, and the understanding we reach must fully vindicate His character and desire in this regard. Jesus is the good shepherd who cares for His sheep (John 10:16). And even if not all persons will be saved in the end, in His heart He genuinely desires to reach out to them:

.... "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!"

(Luke 13:34)

.... Both Calvinism and Arminianism have avoided exploring this area, fearing it would lead to a doctrine of universal salvation. While such a conclusion would obviously be unscriptural, there is no need to back away from the point entirely. Perhaps we need only understand some things about it. The dilemma can be resolved if we understand three separate phases of predestination, to whom each phase applies, what they are like, and what each phase is meant to accomplish — as will be shown in this study.

.... Here, then, is the Scriptural premise for Predestination Phase 1:

.... "And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us . . ."

(Acts 17:26-27)

.... The necessary points can be seen from this reading, but let us also return to the original Greek to render these points in their most favorable light:

.... "He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has destined their pre-appointed occasions, and the limits of their conditions, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us . . ."

(Acts 17:26-27)

.... This is the earliest of the three ‘phases’ of predestination, and the oddest of the three. It includes at least three characteristics that distinguish it from the other two phases:

1) Predestination Phase 1 applied to all men — ‘each one of us’ — whereas the other two phases pertain only to specific persons whom God has already called.

2) This phase of predestination does not pertain to the people themselves. In this most basic phase, only their outward circumstances and the occasions of their lives are being predestined.

3) The circumstances in this phase of predestination are designed to give all men a hope that they might seek the Lord and find Him – but they do not guarantee this result. That is another matter. (‘Hope’ that is seen is not hope: for why does one hope for what he plainly sees? -Rom 8:24).

.... In a certain sense, God considers all of us to be His offspring (Acts 17:28). With a paternal care, Predestination Phase 1 is designed to nudge us toward considering God – something we never would have considered if left to ourselves – because of the situations God will bring to pass in our lives, which will make us stop to think about it all. Pursuant to this, God accomplishes several things in the lives of each of us. These will be more fully described in the following sections.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

14. Teaching

.... In preparing sinners to approach Himself, God teaches among mankind universally: "They shall all be taught by God" (John 6:45). But in saying this, Jesus made a clear distinction between those who were being ‘taught’ (universal) and those who ‘have heard and learned’ (specific ones- same verse). Therefore the same passage indicates a graduation, leading to ‘Phase 2’ which we will return to later.
For now, let’s limit our discussion to the universal way in which all men are taught by God. What form does this teaching take? Apparently, God’s lessons involve a two-pronged approach, both inward and outward, working together:

.... First, the inward aspect: "(Jesus Christ) was the true Light, which gives Light to every man who comes into the world." (John 1:9). In some sense, God has placed within every man an inner knowledge pertaining to Jesus Himself (The fact that it happens when they come into the world, or when Christ came into the world, as different translations render the passage, is immaterial to the fact that it happens universally.)

.... Second, the outward aspect: God teaches all men through the witness of nature, revealing even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (see Romans 1:18-23). "But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: 'Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.'" (Romans 10:18; compare Psalm 19:1-4).

.... As the inward and outward lessons are joined together in their testimony of God to the sinner, an overall concept emerges. It is very similar, in fact, to the description of prophecy that is provided in 1 Corinthians 14:24-25.
In that passage, an unbeliever hears the word of prophecy going forth (an outward testimony), and the thought of his heart is revealed (an inward witness). The two match, so his immediate conclusion is: "falling down on his face he will worship God and report that God is truly among you." (v 25).
In a similar way, as the eternal power and Godhead is made known through the witness of creation (an outward testimony), it should stir in the heart of an unbeliever, touching upon the knowledge of Christ with which God enlightened him when he came into the world (an inward witness). The two should match again; and as the thought of his heart is revealed, he should acknowledge God and glorify Him. (Romans 1:19-21). Paul says that he would be without excuse for not doing so (vs 20).
Please note also, that every bit of this initiative is born from God Himself, in His own efforts, and is at no point a device of man, except to acknowledge it.

Friday, June 02, 2006

15. Ordering Occasions and Circumstances

.... In addition to generally teaching all men, as described in Section 14, God is willing to work in more specific ways in the life of each person. As Predestination Phase 1 continues, He ordains certain circumstances and occasions in the life of each one of us to bring us to the place of seeking Him:

.... "He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has destined their pre-appointed occasions, and the limits of their conditions, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us . . ."

(Acts 17:26-27)

.... Perhaps we will have a narrow escape from death, or some other form of rescue beyond hope, or something else that would stir our thoughts towards pondering God in a personal way -- perhaps for the first time. Apparently the event itself can take place on an individual or a national scale, or at any level in between. (Wider events with personal implications, such as wars or natural disasters, are probably prime candidates for these purposes. But positive applications such as unique opportunities may also be possible).

.... Regardless of what form this working takes, remember that only the outward circumstances are being predestined, and the people themselves are not predestined. No results are guaranteed. One person may respond to God, and another not; they are only being stirred towards seeking Him as a hope, that perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him as a result of pondering these circumstances.

.... We will discuss the element of God’s personal care in the following section.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

16. Drawing

.... Jesus said,

.... "and I, if I be lifted up, (crucified) will draw all men to Myself."

(John 12:32)

.... God works through Jesus to draw everyone to Himself by a goodness and lovingkindness that effectively counters our reluctance -- by which we never would have taken the initiative to seek God on our own (Is 64:7; Rom 2:4; 3:11). This is such a necessary initiative that Jesus said in John 6:44, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him."
In our previous section we saw that God ordains circumstances to stir up our thoughts, and that sometimes these circumstances can be formed from tragedies. But Drawing seems to be a more edifying counterpart that speaks of His personal care for us, possibly in the midst of those very same situations:

.... Thus says the LORD: "The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness-- Israel, when I went to give him rest." The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you."

(Jer 31:2-3)

.... But this drawing, however loving and kind it may be, can also be resisted, with results that we will describe in the following section:

.... "Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, to the oppressing city! She has not obeyed His voice, she has not received correction; she has not trusted in the LORD, she has not drawn near to her God."

(Zeph 3:1-2)

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

17. A Foundation for Evaluation

.... Through a combination of initiatives described in the previous four sections, God will do everything that is necessary, in the life of each person, to bring them to a place of seeking Him in the hope of finding Him — though He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:27). Yet we still know from the Scriptures that not everyone will be saved.
Therefore it is important to consider: God’s desire to see all men saved is apparently satisfied through the efforts He makes in Predestination Phase 1. He has truly done all that is necessary, and in fact His invitation remains open throughout our lifetime. He has also taken a further initiative to meet each one of us where we are at, in the circumstances of our lives, that He may draw us with cords of love. He may even do so again, and perhaps a third time, as we will discuss in Section 19. So if any of us fails to respond by the end of our lives, we will simply have no excuse for it. Through all this, a basis for evaluation has been formed:
.... To demonstrate this basis, let’s return to the dual testimonies described in Section 14, which pertained to the witness of creation (outward) and the enlightenment of Christ (inward), which we theorized would work together in their testimony of Jesus. God’s hope and intention was to stir our thoughts to seek Him. But conversely, for those who ignored this testimony, they will combine again to effectively condemn them:

.... "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)
"And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."
(John 3:19)
.... Furthermore, a basis for evaluation is promoted through the events that God predestines in our lives (which we described in Section 15). If we respond to them humbly and learn from them, He will ‘call’ us, and press on to ‘Predestination Phase 2’ in our lives, which will lead to our salvation. But even if we fail to respond, these efforts will not be wasted. They will still glorify God Himself in the Day of Judgment, which is His eternal purpose, and those who fail to respond will be justly condemned in this light. The underlying principle may be found in this passage:

.... "If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the LORD will reward you."

(Prov 25:21-22)

.... Through Predestination Phase 1, God’s hope and intention was that a good basis for evaluation would result. He doesn’t want to see anyone condemned (Ezek 33:11). But on His own side another threshold has been reached, through the same efforts, pertaining to His respect for His Son. The humility that Christ has shown on behalf of mankind calls for a humble response from each of us in return, if God is to proceed in our lives:

.... "You will save the humble people; but Your eyes are on the haughty, that You may bring them down."

(2 Sam 22:28)

.... In the next two sections we’ll discuss this criteria in greater detail:


* Thus, salvation is offered universally, as Arminianism would teach; God truly desires to see all men saved, and His love for man is fully vindicated in His efforts toward them, with the understanding that His love for Christ remains Supreme and cannot be disallowed. But beyond this phase, mention of God working universally among men toward their salvation disappears from Scriptural counsel (unless God repeats this phase in someone’s life, as in Job 33:28-30). Beyond ‘Phase 1’, the Bible speaks of predestination only in regard to specific individuals who are ‘called’ (Phases 2 & 3), and is more agreeable to Calvinism.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

18. Those who will be Given to Christ

.... After Predestination Phase 1, God evaluates the response in each person’s life to decide whether or not He will give them to Jesus and press on with Predestination Phase 2, the phase that will actually bring them to salvation (John 6:37). In our previous sections we discussed some of the more general parts of His criteria, but now let’s focus on the heart of this matter. Let’s look for an actual identification between Jesus Himself, as the Elect One of God (Isaiah 42:1), and those whom He will choose. For we know that He came into this world:

.... "having no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised and we did not esteem Him."

(Isaiah 53:2-3)

.... Also, remember that Jesus was crucified in weakness (2 Cor 13:4). In every way, He came to us as one emptying Himself of reputation, taking the form of humility (Phil 2:5-8), and trusting in His heavenly Father (Heb 2:13). In response to this, God honored Him and exalted Him to His own glory (Phil 2:9-11), providing the perfect example of His eternal purpose, that He be glorified through His Son alone.
.... The Psalmist would summarize by saying:

.... "The stone that the builders rejected became the chief cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes."

(Psalm 118:22-23)

.... Jesus became the firstborn, the pattern, the Elect One of God; and those whom He will choose for salvation, who will become elect in Him, are the ones who identify with His own example:

.... "Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones ..."

(1 Peter 2:4-7)

.... Or as Paul said to the Corinthians:

.... "For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence."

(1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

.... So the identification goes beyond mere coincidence and is actually a form of criteria, for these are the sort of persons Jesus can ultimately be glorified in: "For My strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9); and this understanding perfectly harmonizes with the mystery of God’s will, that He be glorified in us through His Son. Since we have nothing of which to boast, but Christ Himself is the pattern: "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Cor 1:31). This is the most Christ-centered perspective for the subject to be found.
* Does any of this change the fact, that God foreknew which of these people would be adoptable, and that He would be calling them at the end of His efforts? "And in your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them." (Psalm 139:16).
.... There is perfect harmony between these two points. But God must still begin such a work in their lives because no one is able to come to Him unless He does so. Even if He knows the end result, He must work in their lives toward obtaining that result.
* Please notice that no one was called or refused because of their own works, will, or efforts (John 1:13; Rom 9:16). God had mercy on them because of the humility He saw in them: and even this was the result of His own efforts in teaching them, drawing them, and working through their pre-appointed occasions, and outward circumstances (see Eph 2:10).
.... In other word’s God’s criteria is in our lack of criteria. This will not seem strange to those who understand that God has confined us all under sin that He may mercy on all (Gal 3:22; Rom 11:32). This is simply a furtherance of the same concept for the same eternal purpose.
* One last point. Paul says that ‘not many’ wise, mighty, noble, etc., are called, but he doesn’t say ‘not any’. Some will be called. Actually, this brings us to the true heart of the matter:
.... Those of the wise, mighty and noble who are called know better than to trust in themselves; they know they must empty themselves and place their trust in God alone – for this fulfills God’s eternal purpose. Paul summarizes with the real point two verses later by saying: "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord." (1 Cor 1:31).
.... It’s simply that a foolish, weak, base or despised person – a nobody – is more likely to reach a humble conclusion about himself, and trust to God instead (1 Cor 1:27-28) See also Job 22:29; Luke 14:11; 18:9-14; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:6.

Monday, May 29, 2006

19. Those who are Rejected

.... At the end of Predestination Phase 1, God seems to evaluates man’s response to His efforts. Some of us will be accepted and called, and given to Jesus as we have just described; but others will be rejected at this point. Unless God repeats Phase 1 in their lives (Job 33:28-30), no further efforts on His part are shown towards them in the Scriptures. In other words they will remain vessels of wrath, which is man’s natural state (Eph 2:3).
.... It is evident first of all, that God truly did work in their lives at one time (see Rom 1:18-32); They did know the truth, for God has shown it to them: but they have responded by suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (vs 18-19). Instead of responding with humility (as in the case of those who were called), they have responded with an unbowed pride:

.... "because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools . . ."

(Rom 1:21-22)

.... Because they have suppressed the truth as described above, God will give up on them and give them over to uncleanness (Rom 1:24-26); and the wrath of God will be revealed from heaven against them (Rom 1:18-22).

... But if this is true, at what point does God draw the line, and give up on someone? "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years" (Gen 6:6).
.... By His foreknowledge, God knows if a time will ever come in which a person will believe; and if that day could still come then God, by His own character, would probably be patient and hold out for it: "The dimly burning flax He will not quench" (Matt 12:20).
.... But if He knows that such a day will never come, He either cuts them off at the point when they should have fully know better (Rom 1:18-32), or else He leaves the invitation open throughout their lifetime, until the clock runs out on them (1 Cor 13:7).
But this, in turn, raises another question. Since God knows by His foreknowledge who will believe and who won’t, why even try in the case of those He knows will never believe?
.... According to the true principle of Proverbs 25:21-22, God will be glorified for making these efforts, and justified also, as He rightly condemns them in the judgment. Once again, this is His eternal purpose, that He be glorified on that Day (see Proverbs 16:4).
.... Finally, as we have noted, God may decide to work Predestination Phase 1 in their lives again a second time, and possibly even a third time (Job 33:28-30). Each times He does so it is another hope; but in the sense of two or three occasions, it also combines to confirm their condemnation if they refuse to believe each time (as in 2 Cor 13:1-2)
.... If God does work in their lives again, of course that would be a wonderful opportunity. But in fact, it is sufficient for each person to think back to the first occasion when God worked in their lives, and to finally repent and acknowledge Him, even after all these years (Ps 143:4-8).
... But what about Scriptural references to people like Pharaoh, who’s heart was hardened to disbelieve? (Rom 9:17-23); or false teachers, who are marked out for condemnation? (Jude 4). We will discuss them in the following section.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

20. Pharaohs and False Teachers

.... The Bible speaks of certain persons, such as Pharaoh, who’s hearts were hardened to disbelieve (Rom 9:17-23); or of false teachers, who are marked out for condemnation (Jude 4). God has hardened their hearts that He may be glorified in them, as occasioned by their disobedience (He is glorified in fighting against them.) But is that the final word for them?
In relations to false teachers, Paul wrote:

.... "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work."

(2 Timothy 2:20-21)

.... Paul went on to say that perhaps God would grant them repentance so that they might know the truth and escape the snare of the devil (vs 25-26). So there is still hope for them.
.... Because Paul compares God’s working to that of a potter, both here and especially in Romans 9:21-23, perhaps we may hark back to the original analogy, found in Jeremiah 18:1-10, where Paul seems to be drawing his own argument from. When a vessel was marred in the potter’s hand, he took it up again and made it into another vessel as it pleased him. And God proclaimed:

.... "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?" says the LORD. "Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!"

(Jer 18:6)

.... If God makes a vessel for dishonor, marred in His hand, let His purpose be fulfilled in it; but can He not remake it into another vessel afterward, once His original purpose is completed? If it pleases Him to do so, can He not do with men as did this potter?
This would allow for our earlier quotation that ‘God our Savior desires all been to be saved’ (1 Tim 2:3,4), and it would also fit our quotation from 2 Timothy 2:20-21 (above). Once God’s purpose is fulfilled in their disobedience, they may yet cleanse themselves, becoming vessels of honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
But the Scriptures include a third instance of some who were appointed to disbelief:

.... "They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed."

(1 Peter 2:8)

.... This passage probably refers to the fall of the Jews, as described in Section 9 of this study, because Peter is quoting the same verse as Paul when Paul makes this point (compare 1 Peter 2:8 to Romans 9:31-33). As we saw before, their heart have been hardened temporarily so that salvation could come to the Gentiles – but they may still be saved in the end (Romans 11:25-27).

Saturday, May 27, 2006

21. Predestination (phase 2)

.... In Predestination Phase 1, God worked with all men toward their salvation, and afterward reached a decision based on their response (Section 17). Through the teaching and drawing process of that phase, some persons had both heard and learned from the things He taught them, so He made a decision to ‘call’ them and give them to Christ. This is not the same thing as their being saved, since only faith in the gospel can save anyone (Rom 1:16). But it will prepare the way by drawing them near:

.... "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me."

(John 6:44-45)

.... "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out . . ."

(John 6:37)

.... Once these persons are ‘called’, a new phase of predestination will commence, to actually bring them to the adoption as sons unto God by Christ (as in Eph 1:5). In other words, God will now begin a specific work that will bring them to the place of hearing the gospel, facing the truth, receiving Jesus and being saved. This intermediate process, from their calling to their conversion, is what we will call ‘Predestination Phase 2 ’.
.... Once Predestination Phase 2 begins, these persons will infallibly come to Jesus. Scripture leaves no doubt that this will be done infallibly (John 6:37, 44-45); but God must still do a great deal of work in our lives in order to bring this to pass. For Paul writes:

.... 'God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth'

(2 Thessalonians 2:13)

.... This verse brings two very important distinctions that will help us understand Phase 2 better. The Greek word that is used in this passage for ‘chosen’ (haireomai), is a different Greek word than the one normally used in the New Testament. It’s special meaning is ‘to choose by the act of taking’ (with reference to Section 18), so it is not the same as the election in the sense that we become elect in Christ (Eph 1:4).
This brings us to our second important distinction. It has been widely assumed that Biblical phrases such as "chosen from the beginning" refer to a time before the world began. However, passages such as this one seem to indicate the time of a person’s calling as their beginning point. They are ‘called’ as soon as they are chosen for salvation (haireomai), at the end of Predestination Phase 1.
Passages about foreknowledge also point toward the time of one’s calling as the beginning point in their relationship with God (e.g., Rom 8:28-29). In Phase 1, these persons have responded to God for the first time, and so a relationship of sorts has begun – and Phase 2 will bring this relationship to fruition. Predestination Phase 2 commences with specific workings which are described in the following sections.

Friday, May 26, 2006

22. Sanctification of the Spirit

.... As Predestination Phase 2 begins, the sinner is destined to come to Jesus but he still has a big problem. The evil deeds he has accumulated throughout his lifetime weigh heavily on his heart, making him reluctant to approach a holy God for fear of the reproof he will suffer in facing his own sinfulness. It should be emphasized that this debilitation is purely human in nature, self-imposed, and not imposed by our heavenly Father at all. But because of it God must always do another work, by the Holy Spirit, to help us overcome our fear:

.... "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."

(John 3:20-21)

.... As shown in the passage above, those who come to the light have a certain testimony: that God began works of truth in their lives even before they approached Him, in order to assist in drawing them near. In our own human mind set, these works of truth form enough of a ‘counter balance’, to help us overcome our natural reluctance based on our sinfulness. This preparatory work is called the sanctification of the Spirit for obedience (1 Pet 1:2).
But what is this preparatory work of truth like? Jesus told us that when the Spirit of Truth had come, He would convict the world of righteousness, sin, and judgment (John 16:7-13) and this gives us our first practical clue. But let’s explore the specifics through a Biblical typology:
.... In a very curious passages, the Bible speaks of John the Baptist by saying: ‘that all men through him might believe.’ (John 1:7). Of course John was not divine, but this quality very nearly is. That is because, in the days before the Holy Spirit was given, John was the one through whom God convicted the people of righteousness, sin, and judgment, in relation to Christ who was about to come.
In other words, John’s ministry was a foreshadow of the Holy Spirit’s ministry, and this is why he was called the greatest of the prophets (Luke 7:28). As such, he taught the people such lessons as these:

.... "He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise . . . Collect no more than what is appointed for you . . . Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages."

(Luke 3:11-14)

.... Of course, no one would actually be saved by doing any of this. It’s purpose was more fundamental. For the one thing it could do was incline the heart of the hearers toward works of righteousness, to 'turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.' (Luke 1:17).
.... As this new appreciation and change of heart developed, these persons could face the Light of Christ with anticipation rather than feeling reproved. Thus, when the time came for John to cry out: "Behold the Lamb of God!" his disciples could immediately follow Jesus. (John 3:35-36).
So in a practical sense, persons in Predestination Phase 2 may actually be marked by very astute Christian observers, because of the telltale conduct in their lives. Truth will matter more to them. Justice, mercy and such concepts will become important to them. In a purely practical sense, these persons often embark in some form of self-improvement such as dieting, exercise, or volunteering with social organizations, as a way of finding an outlet for these pressures and/or desires. They will worry about their sin, and possibly be defensive about it; yet they will become increasingly open to hearing about the Lord if this is discussed in a non-threatening way (for instance, if framed in terms of ‘all’ having sinned). Their time is getting close, which leads to the next section.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

23. The Gospel Presentation

.... Once the working of the sanctification of the Spirit is completed, as described in Section 22, the sinner is called into the fellowship of God’s Son through faith in the gospel (This is also known as their ‘effectual calling’). Again, an inward and an outward working come together to effect this end. The sanctification of the Spirit prepared the sinner for obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:2), and this inward preparation will now be coupled with an outward calling as the gospel message is presented.
Once again, according to the ‘principle as prophecy’, when an inward and an outward witness match, it will produce a certain result: the sinner will be convicted, and will fall on their face and worship God, confessing Him (1 Cor 14:24-25). Apparently this principle is true of the effectual calling as well, as the hunger that is produced through God’s preparation finds a perfect satisfaction in the gospel of Christ and their moment of truth arrives.
After the sanctification of the Spirit progresses to a certain point, the gospel will be presented. At this point the Lord will also grant repentance to the sinner (Acts 11:18), and saving faith (Eph 2:8); as part of His own inward calling.
Once the sinner believes, he is justified and he is glorified. (Rom 8:30. See also John 17:22). He attains to the adoption as sons, and Predestination Phase 2 is completed in his life (Eph 1:5).
There are myriads of other things that occur at the point of salvation, but the most basic thing to consider is that when they are joined with Christ, all further things are true from this perspective. In other words, these things are true of Christ, and true of the person as he abides ‘in Christ’.
As we begin the discussion on salvation itself, a whole new situation will begin to unfold. But like the preparation itself (Predestination phases 1 & 2), salvation is an ongoing work. Here, we begin Predestination Phase 3.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

24. Salvation

.... What exactly is salvation? Webster’s defines it as ‘a spiritual rescue from sin and death,’ and this describes its purpose accurately enough (Matt 1:21). We know what we are saved from, but what is salvation itself? An action? A decision? A reckoning, a property, or an empowerment? With respect to Webster’s, how would the Bible define salvation?
In Luke chapter 2, Simeon looked on the Baby Jesus, took Him up in his arms and spoke of Him, saying:

.... " . . . for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all people . . ."

(Luke 2:30-31)

.... Simply put, Jesus Christ is the salvation of God. For Isaiah writes of Him: ". . . that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.' (Isaiah 49:6). David adds, in the Psalms: "I will praise you, for you have answered me, and have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone . . . ' (Psalm 118:21-22).
Essentially then, since Jesus Christ is the salvation of God, our state of salvation directly depends on our unity with Christ by abiding in Him (Christ within us is the essence of our salvation). Through this abiding we are saved from both sin and death, all made possible through His own death, burial, and resurrection, into which we have been joined through faith in the gospel of Christ, and represented in our baptism.
Here is a specific point to be made now, for the sake of clarity. When the sinner becomes a believer and trusts in Christ, he receives the adoption as sons by Jesus Christ unto God (Predestination Phase 2 completed). He is joined with Christ, the Elect One of God (Isaiah 42:1); and because he now abides in Christ, he is chosen in Him. This chronology agrees with Ephesians chapter 1:

.... ‘ . . . just as He chose us in Him . . . having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself . . .’

(Eph 1:4-5)

.... Predestination, adoption by Christ, and election in Christ is the proper chronology.