Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Proving Our Faith and God's Faithfulness

Romans is a huge book, both in word count and in theological mass. I am currently wading my way through it in my inductive study Bible and truly am being encouraged and strengthened by the study. The last couple of days have found me at the beginning of chapter 5. Paul has been showing that we are all (both Jew and Gentile) under God's wrath. He has further shown that no one seeks after God; we have all pursued sin. He has demonstrated that the way to be right with God after having been at odds with Him is to be made righteous through the channel of faith. The law cannot save you, and circumcision cannot save you.

This brings us to chapter 5. The benefits of being justified by faith is that we are now at peace with God. We are standing in grace. We are able to revel in our future hope of Glory. Yet, Paul does not stop here. He says we can revel or exult in our tribulations. How can this be? Tribulations are supposed to be, well, bad... Why would we exult in them? John Piper has 3 sermons on this that I think really hit the ball out of the park. He posits that there are two concerns being raised here. The first is that concern that our faith might not be genuine. What if we get to the end of our lives only to realize that our faith was not real, just some game we had played all along? This is where tribulations come in and how we can exult in them. Tribulations that are endured produce a recognizable perseverance. If you came through a trial, you persevered through it. Persevering through it leads us to a "provenness," a character that has demonstrated an ability to endure trials. This proven character produces hope, a hope that through these trials my faith has persevered in a consistent, proven way, demonstrating that my faith is real. If I gave up, then my faith must have been a farce. But to make it through with my faith intact gives me more and more hope that it is the real, tested and tried thing.

Now, for the second concern. Suppose that I made it through trials with my faith intact, and that I have hope that it is the real thing. What if I get to the end only to realize that God really does not love me, that God will not keep His promises to me? The next set of verses come to show why we can have hope in God's love for us, a hope that we get to not only know about, but experience. We oftentimes have to be leery of experience, longing for it and trying to glean truth from it. Movements like the Charismatic movement have taught us to be suspicious of experience. Yet, God says here that we can not only know God's love for us, but experience it. How do we have that experience of God's love? He tells us that it is by His Spirit. It is something He does; not something we conjure up. It is also not some mindless, out of body experience. It is based upon the truth of the Gospel, that God loved us enough to send His Son to die for us while we were still His enemies. Who would do that is the obvious question the passage raises. The answer is simple: God. He uses the beauty of the truths of the Gospel mediated by His Spirit to convince us of how much He loves us so that our hope is not in vain.

What majestic truth is this? What amazing love is this love that God has for sinners like us? Oh, may we pray that the Spirit would bring to mind the beauty of the cross so that God's love for us is poured out into our hearts. May we be able to comprehend with all the saints the height, the depth, and the width of the love of God. Praise be to God!

Friday, August 14, 2015

No Ten Commandments... No Medicaid

It has been sad to note the increasing intolerance to religion in our country, particularly toward Christianity. The state of Oklahoma is currently embattled in a desperate attempt to keep a granite statue of the Ten Commandments on their state house grounds. Their state supreme court ruled the statue as being unconstitutional because it is using state money to benefit a religion. The decision is currently being challenged, but the outcome of the Ten Commandments is still uncertain. There could be many non-religious arguments made to keep the statue on site, not the least of which is the fact that the Ten Commandments has been a basis of law for cultures for millenia and therefore has historical significance, but I wish to take this issue right to the heart of the state vs. religion issue.

Those who would argue for a separation of church and state and freedom of religion have effectively moved beyond these premises and now are pushing for freedom "from" religion. It is not enough to ensure the government will never endorse a Christian denomination (the issue at stake in the letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists where the phrase "wall of separation of church and state" is actually found), but now we must make sure that government is completely washed of religion. No influence whatsoever. This seems to be what liberals want: to have no intersection between religion (particularly Christian religion) and the state. The first amendment to the Constitution states that, " Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." The basic language used and the intent it represents means that the government will never establish a country-wide denomination (as had been done in England over which bloody wars had been fought just 100 years earlier) or religion that it requires people to adhere to or participate in. It also promises that people will be able to practice their religion freely, without the government censuring their pulpits or disbanding their churches (again, as had been done in England earlier). However, this protection of the people was never meant to be license for the government or special interest groups to reduce the people's right to express their religion in all spheres of life, including government and politics. The very concept of no religion or no God actually is a religion they are trying to push down our throats. It is atheism.

In fact, liberals don't want us to repress our religion. They may think they do, but if they really stopped and thought through the full implications of what they push for, they would realize their attack on religion is ridiculous. They want religious people to take office and to make decisions based upon their religious beliefs. They really do. They may rant that this is not so, but it is. They may say to "leave religion out of it," but I guarantee that this is not what they want. The very idea that they have a voice and a right to be heard is a religious one. It is a Christian one, I would argue. The Christian religion states that all mankind were made in God's image and therefore have value. If a person has value then what they say must have value as well. Therefore, it is important that a government not restrict free speech. OK liberals, no religion, then you have no right to speak. Also flowing out of the idea that all men were created in God's image is the idea that all men are created equal. If all are in God's image, then no one kind of person is better or superior to another. This is a Christian idea. Racial issues find their solution in Christianity. OK liberals, no religion, then which ever ethnic group can battle their way to the top has every right to dominate the others. Another big issue is the idea of giving. I don't know about you, but the naturally giving person is the exception, not the rule of society. Most people have what they have and do not give much thought to the needy child or the aging population. There is not a line of people waiting to give money at every soup kitchen or homeless shelter. That is not something we just naturally do, but religion informs us about the need to care for those less fortunate than ourselves. All the major religions speak of the importance of giving. Most assign it as a duty. Christianity teaches that giving should not be from a duty but from a cheerful or willing spirit. It is the religious nature of our country that has taught us to care for those in need. OK liberals, no religion, then no medicare or medicaid, food stamps, or any other government aid. Liberals, if they are honest, do not want people or politicians to leave their religion in their homes or places of worship. They want us to exercise our religion and to express it politically.

We as a country need to be very careful what we ask for. If we truly want a country devoid of the influence of the Ten Commandments in our politics, we very well may get such a country. I don't know about you, but I do not want to live some place where human life, speech, and need among others are completely ignored and suppressed.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Images of God in the Making

This post originally occurred as a comment here: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2015/07/30/some-thoughts-on-life/

Let me first get out of the way the fact that any woman who is going to die or is in incredible risk of dying because of their current pregnancy should have the pregnancy terminated. I think every action should be taken to save both the mother and the unborn child, but when one has to be chosen, sadly the little one will have to go on into eternity. I think this is most consistent with God’s love of life in Scripture.

That being said, we have a fundamentally wrong view of life in general. What are we here for? To have a good, happy, successful life, free of hardship and suffering? Is that the point? To make sure we get our best life now? Are we supposed to make sure that no tragedies or hardships ever come our way, and if they do, make sure and do everything you can to get rid of them? NO! An absolute NO!

What did Jesus say about this life? “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. “After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:21-22. Right now, during this life, we should expect it to be hard. We should expect suffering. We should not be seeking to have our best life now. That is for the next life. Suffering now; best life later. People speak of an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy or even a tragic pregnancy as a hard thing and so that is a legitimate reason to terminate it. Before we even get to the fact that we are talking about babies, let’s put this “hard” thing in context. What about other people who are suffering who cannot abort their hardship? What about the soldier who had his legs blown up and subsequently amputated? Where is his right to terminate his lameness? What about the patient diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and only has months to live? Do they get the right to terminate their doomsday? What about the little girl whose daddy committed suicide when she was only 11? Does she get to terminate her dad-less and question-stained life of suffering? The point is everyone suffers, at least at some point in their life. Many of them have no legitimate way of alleviating their suffering. I am not saying that we should abstain from alleviating suffering when we can. That was a huge part of Jesus’ ministry, and we would do well to mimic it. However, a situation that is perceived as hard and as “suffering” does not automatically qualify it as a situation that should be terminated. Sometimes, God in His eternal plan, calls us to suffer without the suffering being taken away.

So the question comes up: should an unwanted, unplanned, or even tragic pregnancy be terminated because it is hard, a form of suffering? I think the Biblical answer is no. “Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man. “As for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.” Genesis 9:5-7. This passage teaches that God takes life very seriously. He takes seriously the life of animals, and the life of man. Why is the life of man so important? Because he is made in the image of God. God’s image is so important that not only should it not be killed, but it should be propagated in the world.

So when it comes to abortion, when it comes to that hard pregnancy, what would God say about ending the formation of His image?

For the unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, please, do not let yourself begin to think negatively about the image of God being formed in the womb. While it may truly be hard or inconvenient, or possibly embarrassing, please do not group yourself in the suffering of those who truly suffer and cannot do a thing about it. For those people who have been raped, this truly is a much harder matter, and while I may have been less gentle in my words previously, let me now say with all the gentleness and sympathy I can muster: I am so sorry for your suffering, for you truly have been wronged and have some serious consequences in your life that were not of your choosing. My heart goes out to you, and my wish for you like the lame soldier or the stage 4 cancer patient is that this hard thing might be taken away from you. Yet, even in this hard thing, God has said that to those who love Him, all things work out together for good, even this little life in you that you did not ask for. That little child did not choose this either, but the child is still there, being formed into the image of God. Do we even in this situation destroy that image in the making? Again, if we are talking about a child that has been raped and the pregnancy is putting her life in danger, then that child who is in the image of God must be protected. But in other cases, the worst tragedy that we could think of may result in the beginning of life. Just like in other horrible tragedies that God brings good out of, could this not also be the same? Even that little life is innocent and should be protected. It’s an image of God in the making.

Abortion is not a complicated issue. It only becomes so when we have elevated our personal plan for happiness over God’s plan for our life, and the life of a child, an image of God in the making.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Third Response to Mr. Grahame Smith

Let me first say how much I appreciate Mr. Grahame for his kind and thoughtful way in which he has chosen to enter this debate. I have been admonished and encouraged by his tact and Christ likeness in his writing, something I hope to emulate more as I write.

Original post here: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2015/07/17/jesus-loves-the-little-children/
Here is my response in blue italics:

Message to Ross Riggins-Intro to comments for Rom 9

While studying Bible passages about Reformed position, God's sovereignty, and man's free will, Romans 9 is often a favourite proof-text it seems. The chapter contains multiple passages, which appear to support Reformed theology. However the entire chapter must be placed in context with other parts of God's word..

Context is king for sure! While Romans 9 and John 6:44 are seemingly favorite proof texts, they are NOT the only ones. They are some of the most commonly referenced and most straightforward so that is why I initially threw them out there, not at all clinging to them as my only basis for my adherence to reformed theology. It is all over the Bible, and in my opinion, the burden of proof falls on those who do not adhere to reformed theology because the language so plainly reads in such a way as to give rise to reformed belief.

Just my opinion, I know.

After careful examining the context of Romans 9, it reveals to me that Paul was really explaining God's right to predetermine and use the nation of Israel to produce the Messiah. From what I can see the Jews profited greatly from this process, however, such a relationship did not guarantee God's mercy unto salvation. 

There is no doubt that there is a context here about the nation of Israel. I do not think the purpose is to primarily explain God's right to predetermine and use the nation of Israel to produce the Messiah. I think Paul/Holy Spirit is wanting to show what God's plan for Israel actually is.

God maintained and exercised His right to use nations to accomplish His promise to Abraham, and furthermore, He demonstrated His prerogative to save individuals as He deemed best.

He demonstrated His prerogative to save individuals as He deemed best?? That sounds very Calvinistic to me.

 As long as Israel would seek to establish their own righteousness by the law of Moses, over-emphasizing their national part in God's plan, they would fail to be saved. God's promise for mercy was ultimately extended to whomever would live by faith, not necessarily those who required the law of Moses, nor necessarily those who descended from Abraham.


The spiritual salvation of individuals, especially a predestined, unconditional election, is not the subject of Romans 9 in my view. Vindication of God's judgment regarding the nation of Israel is the primary point. However, detailed analysis of the immediate context, plus the context of the Old Testament passages, which Paul quoted, clearly teaches that God's mercy has always been conditioned upon man's repentance.

Vindication of God's judgment of Israel is a good way so summarize parts of Romans 9 and 10, even 11. I would say that God's mercy has always been conditioned upon faith in the promise of God. Now, that faith will always have action with it, whether it be repentance or simple obedience. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.

Paul's book to the Romans was written to a church containing both Jewish and Gentile Christians. Their opposing backgrounds presented difficult problems for the congregation. Paul developed common solutions for a common need, in spite of their cultural differences. He elaborates on God's nature and justification, and he reminds them of their responsibilities to God as well as to each other. Paul anticipates the questions and reactions of each side and replied accordingly. In my view his letter is extremely logical, moving from one issue to the next along a consistent theme of justification by faith in the gospel for the Jew and Gentile alike. The main points I gleam from this chapter are:
1. Introduction of theme, and Gentiles' condemnation for descent into depraved idolatry.
2. Jews' condemnation for disobedience to the law of Moses.
3. All stand guilty before a just God. Therefore, justification by His mercy and our faith.
4. Justification by faith apart from perfect keeping of Jewish law.
5. Hope and comfort by faith through God's love and Christ's sacrifice, contrasted with death, guilt, and condemnation introduced through Adam's sin, perpetuated by all.
6. Dead to sin through baptism into Jesus' death, and resurrected for new life in God' service.
7. Jews freed from bondage of law of Moses, through Christ's death, and all freed from bondage to sin through Jesus' deliverance.
8. Free from carnal mind to walk after the law of the Spirit. Security in God's love in the face of tribulation.
9. God's right to reject national Israel for salvation after using them to produce the Messiah.
10. Israel's rejection of a universal call to both Jew and Gentile to believe on the Lord.
11. Israel's fall through unbelief, Gentiles salvation by faith, and salvation of a Jewish remnant through grace.
12. Moral Applications: Therefore, be transformed and live sacrificially, devoted unto God.
13. Submit to the government and neighbours - put on Jesus Christ.
14. Do not condemn or cause brother to stumble, based on scruples as a Jew or Gentile.
15. Serving others and glorifying God with one mind - Paul's personal plans.
16. Paul's salutations and warning to avoid divisive amongst the brethren.
Romans 9 is immediately preceded by the profound encouragement, promise, and hope of security in the Lord. (Please read Romans 8:31-39 for background.) 

I have to give credit to my parents for having us kids memorize Romans chapters 6 - 8 when I was 15, and credit to my church which had me later memorize chapter 5 and 6-8 again. So thanks to them I am aware of the context.

After Paul's, both Jew and Gentile readers might have questioned him based on the case of then current Israel. At that time, Jewish persecution was increasing. Their rejection of the Lord was becoming more complete, while the Gentiles were turning to the Lord in droves. Yet, it was clear at that time, that as a nation, the Jews were rejecting God and being rejected by Him. Both Jew and Gentile might ask, "Had God not elected and predestined Israel?" Paul seems to have anticipated such a question, because he moved from a proclamation of God's love and the elect's victory in Christ to the situation regarding God's elect nation, Israel, in chapter 9.

I agree with all of this last paragraph. Where we differ is in what Paul accomplishes in Romans 9. Yes, he very effectively gives a defense of God's rejection of the people of Israel, but how does he do that? By getting very specific, to the person specific, in how he chooses to show mercy or hardening. If he sovereignly chooses even at the individual level, He most certainly does so at the national level. We know it is the individual level because He mentions specific, individual persons. We know it is not just roles He is referring to because the language He uses is very soteriological: the promise (faith in the promise which yields righteousness), love, hate, mercy, compassion, hardening, and especially vessels of wrath for destruction and vessels of mercy which receive the riches of His glory (sounds like more than just earthly reward for role service) and then finally Paul identifies himself in the group of these vessels of mercy whom God called out of the Jews and gentiles. There is too much soteriology and individualism to assume a fly-over summary conclusion that this is only nation talk.

Ross the theological basis for this summary I will email to you as it will be much too long for the blog to handle. Blessings..

Looking forward to the email. I cannot promise a speedy response as just these short blurbs are taking enough of my time as it is. Again, I appreciate the spirit of these exchanges and wish us both a greater understanding of God's Word.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Second Response to Mr. Grahame Smith

The initial blog/comment thread can be seen here: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2015/07/17/jesus-loves-the-little-children/comment-page-1/#comments

Here is my response:

Ross my intro to Romans 9 more to follow as promised. Big chapter big topic......
Paul was explaining to the Jews that if God wanted to use and save the Gentiles that God in His sovereignty had that right. In order to understand what God is saying through Paul one has to read what is before and what is after chapter 9 to get the big picture. Rather than taking one passage from Romans one must look up specific words to see what they originally meant and also what they meant in context of what was being discussed and to whom it was being addressed. You have to consider the entirety of God’s word and not just certain passages or chapters. IM sure you know this. When put in Biblical and historical context there is nothing in Romans 9 in my view for those in the Reformed Theology position to justify the doctrine of predestination.

Wrong. Paul clearly gives his reason toward the beginning of chapter 9 for why he is about to say what he says. Romans 9:6,7 - But it is not as though the word of God has failed (meaning that since many of the people of Israel have rejected Christ over which Paul is in great sorrow, see vs 1-5, and then he goes on to say why it has not failed). For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring... Paul's reason for all the rest of the chapter stems from these verses - showing how the word of God has not failed because it's not just the physical children, but through the children of promise, vs. 8. Paul goes on to show several things in the following verses
  • The promise was Sarah will have a son (as opposed to the child of the flesh, of Abraham's trying, Ishmael)
  • God chose Jacob before either had done good or bad, why?
    • That God's purpose of election (choosing) might stand
      • Which is not because of works but because of God's call
  • God loved Jacob, but Esau He hated
    • The Greek word hate here is miseo meaning hate, love less, even a semitic form of divine choosing of one clan over another; in other words, God chose to at least love Esau less, or at most, hate him.
Now if all that is not enough, if you think you can still twist it to mean God does not choose some individuals as opposed to others, Paul raises the objection he would only raise if what I am saying he meant was what he really did mean. Romans 9:14 - What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. If his words to us were less provocative as you claim they are, then he would not have raised this possible objection.

 For example: Predestination, and election are always connected with foreknowledge. Romans 8, “whom he foreknew he predestined” not to salvation, but to be conformed to the image of his son. Predestination and election are always unto a blessing never unto salvation in my understanding.

This is incorrect. Just a verse later Paul writes, "And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." Right there you have predestination grouped with those who are justified and glorified. If that does not mean salvation then I cannot fathom what else it means. To be saved, to have salvation, means to be justified and then when we die, to be glorified. So to be predestined is to be predestined to salvation according to the Bible.
Why even mention foreknowledge if God just does it? No, the ones that he knew would respond to his grace and to the gospel, he has marked out blessings for them.

Where does it ever say that? It never says in the Bible that God chose based upon what we would do or how we would respond to His Gospel. In fact, the opposite is declared. Back to Romans 9:11 "though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad..." It is pointed out that God's decision is NOT based on anything we do or don't do. 

Now these vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, these are the ones that God knew what they would do. He knew their evil hearts. He knew their rebellion. 

Again, Romans 9:11. Not that God did not know what they would do or not do, but this verse declares that His choice is irregardless of what they do or don't do.

If you go back a ways to Pharaoh, it wasn’t that God made Pharaoh be the bad person that he was, but God knew the heart of Pharaoh and he arranged for Pharaoh to become Pharaoh, just to be there at that time. It does say that he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but on the other hand, Pharaoh hardened his own heart before God did that. And if you go back and read the story God tells Moses one of the first things he says is, “I know he won’t let the people go.” Well then why does God harden his heart? If Pharaoh is as Reformists teach totally depraved, God wouldn’t have to harden his heart. Pharaoh is scared to death because of the plagues that have been released onto the Egypt's so out of fear he let the people go. However his heart wouldn’t have changed as demonstrated he chased them with his army. So if you go back in the Hebrew, the word for “hardened” means “strengthened”. He strengthened; he gave him the courage to be his true self.

The Bible tells us that both happened so we believe both happened. Reformed theologians would say that God hardened his heart, but that he hardened his own heart as well. There's no discrepancy in God doing it and man also doing it. If God brings a trial into my life, and I persevere through it, there is a sense in which I did it. I persevered. Yet, I know that God was giving me the Grace to do so. Therefore, He ultimately did it. Pharaoh hardened his own heart. But God ultimately did so as well. Whether God actively hardened his heart in a point in time, or He just left pharaoh's heart to do what all of our hearts naturally do on their own when it comes to God's will, that's open to conjecture. If I don't mow my grass for weeks, it has grown wild and out of control. What's the difference in saying the yard is out of control, or Ross does not take care of his yard? It's really a matter of perspective and just how you wish to say it.

I think the translation hardened is a good one because the idea of "made strong" applies to being hard. It is further confirmed by the word Paul chooses to use in Romans 9:18, which is definitely translated hardened. A little NT commentary on an OT passage!

More later if you wish.....

I would like more, but more of what I requested which was a serious dealing with Romans 9. The comments you made were really cursory: you made a summary of the passage which the text shows as incorrect and then really only came back to Romans 9 to talk about pharaoh. There's a LOT more in the passage than just pharaoh.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Response to Mr. Grahame Smith

The original post can be found here: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2015/07/17/jesus-loves-the-little-children/

Ross here is my first response more may be necessary. I’m sure it will generate further debate. Blessings..

The verse you mention opens up a a large doorway to explore…..Jesus said "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up on the last day.'' (John 6:44). Now this verse speaks the truth that we cannot find God on our own. Very true. God does initiate the call to us through God the Holy Spirit. But the context is in relation to who Jesus is speaking to…the Jews! He wants them to let go of their rules and the law so they can get to God through Jesus.

Blessings to you, and I am grateful we can have this conversation. I will be first one to say that proper exegesis will always involve an awareness of the speaker and the audience, but in the context of this verse, it does not seem to be relevant. He has just fed the 5,000, they are wanting to make Him king because He feeds their bellies, and He is telling them to not work for any old food, but for the kind found in Him which brings eternal life. He could have said the same to really any group of people.

Rom 9 31-32 where it says they couldn’t get their because of their mind set on works. In my understanding of Calvinism God only grants salvation knowledge of Him to preselected few.

As predicted no real treatment of Romans 9, but moving on to other verses. Perhaps you are planning on coming back to this passage.

But that is not what this verse is saying. John 12:32 clarifies what Jesus is saying here, when I am lifted up from earth I will draw all men to me. The lifting up Christ was referring to was being crucified. In the Greek meaning the drawing part is not salvation but rather conviction of sin, righteousness and judgement by God the Holy Spirit. So All people are drawn because Jesus said so but conviction doesn’t mean acceptance of what is being offered ie forgiveness and salvation. Free will has to be added to it by us. In essence this verse is about God having to reconcile us to Him through Christ before access was granted to all men because of the cross…. Then this is followed by the drawing of all men to a decision point to believe or not to believe in Christs salvation.

You are correct that when Jesus says being lifted up means crucifixion because the crowd questions Him saying the Christ was to remain forever so how could He be lifted up (die). However the context of John 12:32 has been completely missed. It is not trying to dissect what Jesus means by "drawing". The point of the passage begins in verse 20 when some Greeks came to the feast to worship and began asking to see Jesus.What? Gentiles seeking Jesus? Jesus sees the birth-pangs of the church age of Jews and gentiles breaking in upon the world which immediately encourages Him to give a discourse on His up coming death in which He will "draw all men to Himself"... all men meaning Jews and Gentiles. Its very plain from the context of what is motivating Jesus speech here. For you to say that this passage delineates what the drawing entails is reaching. Imposing free will on to this passage is just that: imposing. Simply not there.

The context of all this is further expanded when you consider (John 6:45) which reveals how God draws men unto Himself. "It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me." Note the words "taught" and "every man" (all drawn the same way; by being taught) and "hear" and "learn" and "come". These are not presdestination words. They are common, everyday words which are used to describe how it is that people are drawn to Christ.

What is it that is taught and heard and learned? The means or method by which God "calls'' or "draws'' all men is the Gospel. "And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." (II Thessalonians 2:14). There is no special, mystical anointing of the Holy Spirit, but rather, the Holy Spirit calls men through the gospel; and it is the gospel that is the power (Romans 1:16). God draws people unto Himself through the teaching of the gospel. The preaching of the gospel is God's power, his drawing power, to save (I Corinthians 1:18-21). Therefore, all people, when they hear the gospel, at any moment, have the ability to respond to God's gospel call. They also have the ability to reject it (Acts 13:45-48).

These words could not be more "predestination" words as you put it. The whole idea of God predestinating is Him having the choice and Him taking the initiative, which the latter is completely spoken of in this particular verse. A few verses back, He refers to the former: "But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." John 6:36-37. Jesus speaks of the reason why some people hear and come and why some hear and do not. He does not say free will. He says the clincher, the deciding factor in that is whether they are the ones the Father has given to Him. Could not be more clear. I could not agree more that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation. As far as Acts 13:45-48, this could not support what I have said more. Jesus words from John could equally be applied to Paul's audience here in Acts: the reason you do not believe is because you are not of the ones the Father has given to Jesus. This is further affirmed by the end of verse 48 which says that as opposed to those who were not His and therefore rejected, as many as were appointed (were His) they believed. It's all right there!

Furthermore when you consider the terms of elect or the chosen they must be considered in light of the earthly connotation of the Old Testament meaning coupled with the spiritual meaning in the New Testament message. When you do that it’s clear God never defined in scripture that the elect term meant some people will be predestined to be saved while others miss out. Hebrews 4:1-10 helps with this conundrum.

The Promise of Rest

4 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them,[a] not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. 3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said:

“So I swore in My wrath,

‘They shall not enter My rest,’”[b] although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; [c] 5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.”[d]

6 Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, 7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said:

“Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.”[e]

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

It seems clear here that while the promise of salvation remains anyone need not fear coming short of it. Simply the only way you can miss out in entering His rest is also declared here ie through the lack of faith, hardening of hearts and because of disobedience ….all human choices and actions not Gods predestination. Thus Predestination is not mentioned here as a pathway into heaven, the pathway is defined as the preaching of the word, the hearer believing, then expressing faith in Christ mixed with conviction (Holy Spirit) who then can enter the rest. Thus through obedience to Christs call they were saved.

I am not really sure the reason for the Hebrews passage here. Anyone who adheres to reformed theology would agree with this Hebrews passage, that we need to make our calling and election sure. God's electing, predestinating work does not in any way preclude man's responsibility to respond in faith. So a hearty amen to this passage. You make a mistake when you see a passage like this weighing in heavily on man's responsibility and therefore assume that God's sovereignty clearly laid out in other passages could not mean what the context clearly indicates. God's Word teaches both, so we need not neglect both. They may seem to contradict, but that is just part of the beautiful mystery of Grace. You make a mistake also when you say "Simply the only way you can miss out in entering His rest is also declared here ie though lack of faith, hardening of hearts and because of disobedience..." as though it is all up to us, and God is not involved. One great example of this is Acts 16:14 where Lydia is presented the Gospel. It is not merely a choice she makes to harden or accept. Instead, God gives us a brief window into His Sovereign work: "Lydia... was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul." The obvious other conclusion would have been had God not opened her heart, she would not have believed. We are all in state of rebellion and deadness in sin as Romans 2 tells us. Until God "opens our hearts" to believe, we will keep unbelieving.

This is further supported by God declaring that His desire is that no one should be lost. No one! God is "...patient, not wishing for any to perish." (II Peter 3:9). God is "compassionate" (Matthew 9:36; Psalm 86:15) God is "...just" (Romans 3:24-26). God is "Sorrowful" that many are lost (Ezekiel 18:23; 31,32; cf. Matthew 23:37). To suggest that man cannot respond to God's gospel apart from a special anointing or calling that God gives to them that He does not give to all others makes God responsible for the lost being lost. But that does not fit with the Biblical description of God's character and nature. God made salvation available to all. Salvation is available for all men, not just a select few. Jesus died for everyone (Hebrews 2:9; John 3:16). God wants all to come to know the truth (I Timothy 2:4). The invitation is open to all He has already issued His call, and it has gone out unto the whole world. Any of us can choose to answer it, or not.

I agree with these passages about God's desire and His compassion. They are what the Bible tells us about God and His character. But to assume that just because this is His description means that He does not still do what the Bible in other places tells us He does is a mistake. 1 Peter 2:7-8 tells us: "This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, 'The stone which the builders rejected this became the very corner stone,' and 'A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense'; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed." While God's character is compassion and a desire to love all, it is clear from His word that He has sovereignly chosen not to extend that to everyone. Why is His own business. We cannot ignore the rest of what the Bible says about God because we do not like it.

Sinners are saved by God's grace when they respond in faithful obedience to the gospel that draws them to God (Matthew 7:21). God is always ready for men to repent and obey (Acts 17:30). It is those who will do so are spared His wrath and obtain salvation through Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:9). This is an important concept to recognize. God has not predestined individuals to be saved or lost, but rather, His bride is predestined to be with Him and He has also predestined the method by which we are saved. If we obey the gospel, we are baptized "into Christ" (Romans 6:3,4). God has also predestined all those "in Christ" to be "blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:3). But it is up to us as to whether we will obey or not.

I confess I am running out of time before work to really treat these last two sections, but just quickly, for you to say that the elect is not individuals but just a group seems to be really reaching in the text. Where does it say it is just a hypothetical group? It does not clearly state this so I would be hesitant to use it as base of argument. I appreciate the debate. Hopefully, I will have more time in the future.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What Are Trumpets Known For?

An orchestra is an amazing assembly of instruments. The way so many can come together and contribute to a single piece of music is mystifying and intriguing. Each section and each individual instrument follows the music under the direction of the conductor and the result is a unified theme, resounding in the concert hall. Each instrument is unique and add its own color to the music. Each instrument is known for certain qualities and sounds. The violins add their vibrato, carrying the music theme often, and will occasionally go to the higher register, hitting some shrill notes. The woodwinds seem so gentle, carrying along the melody in an almost sweet way. Then there is the brass which can be played quietly, but is often used to produce a bombastic march. In particular, the trumpet, is usually thought of as a particularly loud and all-consuming sound. I cannot escape the similarity between this instrument and the current forerunner in the Republican presidential nominee race.

Donald Trump is loud. He is vitriolic. He is needlessly obnoxious. I would let politicians be politicians, but this man has gone a bit too far. When he spouted off his less than savory and thought out immigration remarks, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and was willing to accept that he did not mean that most of Mexicans are rapists, but that he meant the Mexican government was sending such types over the border. I gave him that. I appreciate him taking on a hot topic very strongly. However, his most recent remarks about John McCain are just too much. I do not know much about John McCain. I do not know his record with any credible certainty. I could not speak to his work or lack thereof for veterans. I will even admit his reference to Trump supporters in Arizona as "crazies" was wrong and McCain should apologize for ever referencing any group of Americans that way. BUT, I do know that McCain served our country in the military. I do know he was captured and tortured. I know that lasted 5 years. I know that makes him a military war hero. No questions asked. Whether you were captured or not, you don that uniform and risk yourself by serving in a war in any capacity then you are a hero. Trump did concede amid boos that McCain is a war hero, but the line of "I like people who don't get captured" is just disgusting. In what I think is an attempt to "get back" at McCain for his crazies comment, he has made a statement that appears to say that Trump only likes winners and since McCain was captured, he's not a winner. Trump seems to be implying that he only likes winners perhaps like himself. How proud can you be to think you belong to some group of people who are always winning and never lose?! I cannot read his mind, so I do not know if my judgments of his thoughts is anywhere near correct, but something is amiss in his mind, especially if the general public receives his comments negatively and he still refuses to apologize.

My wife and I were discussing Trump a week or so ago, and we were discussing what appears to be just a very prideful demeanor about him. The thought that came to my mind was that "pride goes before a fall". Trump has been so busy pointing the finger at people, calling people names, saying what a horrible job people have done, while simultaneously proclaiming how he will do so much better (with very little real detail I might add). He has been so caught up in pushing himself that I believe he has really had a "fall" with this statement. The main problem for conservatives at this point is that we are faced with Hilary Clinton on the Democratic ticket. We need someone to really give her competition. If Trump does lose support, he has left the door open for him to pursue a Ross Perot 3rd party option which will ensure a Clinton victory. Conservatives are almost forced to continue to support him to avoid what would surely follow. I am grateful that God is in control of kings and all such as are in authority. May we pray that even as Donald Trump continues to bulldoze his way through this primary, that God will humble his heart, not his resolve. May God temper his tongue and not conservative policy.