Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Response to Mr. Grahame Smith

The original post can be found here:

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.

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