February 25, 2011

Laus Deo 3

Here is the Third piece of my guest blogger Ben Hogan's discussion on Free Will and Grace.  You can read it (and Ben's other posts) in it's entirety at http://www.bzhogan.blogspot.com/.

"Romans 1:18-32 talks about how God has clearly made himself known to all men, even through creation. Not only does it imply that He is a great architect, but his invisible qualities are made known through what was made, so that men have no excuse to ignore God. Here is the kicker and probably the hardest part for people to accept. Everyone has a chance to know of God, somehow or another. Everyone will have made a “willing choice” to either accept or reject Jesus as Lord, but only God can bring a person to the point of being willing. Does that make sense?

People will willingly tell you that they hate religion, hate God, and reject the Bible as truth. People who do this will also tell you that that decision is their own. However, if God opened their eyes to the reality of their decision and called that person to repentance, they would then willingly repent and they would emphatically tell you, “Yes! I DO need Jesus!” Does that help? Apart from God, they are blind, but they also willingly blind.

So, while people may have a mind of their own to make their decisions in what is right and wrong, they are still stuck in their fallen state until God quickens them to repentance, through regeneration of the Holy Spirit. They will never be able to decide, apart from God’s first act, to follow Christ. It’s impossible. [For more on this, download a free copy of my (Tony's) book The Living Image, and read the chapter titled, Conscience and the Holy Spirit

Romans 8:5-8 says, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”

For those people who God does not regenerate, He gives over to their own sinful desires, shameful lusts, and depraved minds (Romans 1:24, 26 & 28). We may think this as being unfair, but, again, the people sinning are doing what they want to do in the first place! They aren’t mad at God for not saving them. The only people that get mad at this idea are Christians who do not believe it is God’s authority to decide who comes to Him. Is that not a little backwards?

Here’s another huge implication of affirming Conditional Election and free will: It denies God’s sovereignty and omnipotence. This is where we get dangerous in what we refuse to believe. You cannot say that you believe God is omnipotent, which means all powerful, over everything, and deny his work in election at the same time. You would be contradicting yourself. It’s a simple matter of definition.

What does omnipotence really mean? An online dictionary will quickly tell you it means having unlimited, or universal power. Scripture easily confirms this attribute of God. Genesis 18:14 asks, “Is anything too hard for God?” Luke 18:27 says, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Paul has a great piece in his letter to the Colossians about the supremacy of God. Chapter 1, verses 15 through 20 say, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

How perfectly explained, the power of God. He is firstborn over all creation, living and dead, so that he is supreme over every possible thing. This means He is in control of everything. Nothing is beyond Him, nor can escape Him. Everything happens as He determines and purposes.

God says “I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God […] I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things” (Isaiah 45:5-7).

We can’t say that God is supreme over everything, holding all power and wisdom, with nothing He doesn’t already know or hasn’t already determined, and then say that he waits to see who chooses Him, so that he can then elect them, like Arminianism claims. He doesn’t wait to find out anything. Are we going to deny that God knows everything? Is He now also no longer omniscient?

Omniscience is another attribute of God that almost everyone will agree to, like omnipotence. Omniscience means knowing everything. Nothing is unknown to God. He knows what has happened and what is going to happen from every wisp of breath to all the hidden plans of man for all ages. He knows how many hairs are on your head and when a sparrow will fall down dead.

We see all throughout Scripture, evidence of God’s omniscience. Matthew 12 shows how Jesus knew the thoughts of the Pharisees, regardless of what they actually said. He knew their motives. John 2:24 & 25 says that Jesus knew all people and knew what was in each person. God alone knows every human heart (1 Kings 8:39). Isaiah says no one can fathom God’s understanding (another reason to not presume on God, or doubt what God says, even if it doesn’t make logical sense), (40:28). Psalm 139 is all about the infiniteness of God in knowledge and presence. Finally, 1 John 3:20 says so plainly that God is greater than our hearts and that He knows everything.

If God had to wait and see who would choose Him and who wouldn’t, then we are also saying that He doesn’t know everything and that he didn’t have a plan for everyone before the creation of the world, thus rejecting the claims of the first two chapters of Ephesians. At what point do we start believing the Bible if we don’t believe this part? Rejecting the doctrine of election is the same thing as rejecting God’s ultimate omnipotence, superiority and omniscience. Christians need to realize the significance of this doctrine and neither reject it, nor turn a blind eye to it due to its controversy.

If God didn’t know who would accept him, then the implications of what he does and doesn’t know are suddenly magnified. It begs tons of questions. At what point in human will does God begin to know us and what point does he not know? How does God know people’s thoughts, yet not have an idea if they will accept Him or reject Him? Why can God be in control of all things and impact people’s lives by hardening and softening their hearts, but have no say in their decision to follow Christ? The problems this creates is overwhelming and it is something that the advocates of the freedom of will to choose Christ do not consider. If they really did, then they would see the huge contradiction in believing God’s omniscience, omnipotence and supremacy, while believing in a free choice for salvation apart from God’s initiation."

I appreciate Ben's Focus on God's glory and Sovereignty.  Christ is our savior and Friend, but He is first and foremost always our Lord and Holy Creator King.  Ben isn't preaching anything new, He is simply articulating, in clear vernacular, what God's saints have wrestled with and proven (Romans 12:2) over the last 1500 years.  Due to the work of people like Paulus, Schleiermacher*, Baur, Strauss, Kierkegard, Welhausen, and Graf, modern day evangelicals are being nurtured in a false message of unconditional love rather than the Biblical transmission of Sovereign Love.  For more on this, you can download a free copy of 12:2 above.  The result is a man-centered theology - which eventually leads to death.  Think about that.  See you tomorrow, God Bless.

With you for His Glory

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