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Archive for the ‘Soteriology’ Category

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29, 30)

A lot of discussion over the years has been generated over these verses. Who does God predestine? If he predestines a person, then is that person necessarily free to choose Him? And if some are predestined for salvation, does that mean others are not? Let’s have a look at these verses and see what they are teaching us about God and predestination.

To answer the first question, who does God predestine, we need to look at the context of the Bible chapter in which these verses occur, Romans 8. In this chapter, the apostle Paul is discussing those who “walk after the Spirit”. He declares them to be “the sons of God”.

Romans 8:14-17: “(14) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (15) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (16) The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: (17) And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with [him], that we may be also glorified together.”

The Spirit of God dwells in the sons and daughters of God. If we do not have the Spirit of God, we are not Christs.

“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (v9).

We know that the work of Spirit of God is to bring the gift of salvation to us through “regeneration” (Titus 3:5). To be “regenerated” by the Spirit, is to be “born again” (John 3:5). So that it may be said that, those who are Christ’s are those “born of the Spirit” or “born of God”. And what do those that are born of God do?

“…love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1John 4:7).

They love God. Paul refers to them as “children of God” and “joints heirs with Christ”, “saints” (v27) who will be glorified together with Christ. These are those “who are called according to his purpose”. The “born again”, “regenerated” “saints” are the subjects of the verses that follow.

Now look at Romans 8:28:

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God….”

“Them that love God”, the “born again” children of God, are the ones that all things work together for good. But what is meant by “good” here? We have often heard this verse quoted to us as a source of encouragement, particularly when some trouble or calamity comes our way and for which we have no explanation. But it is not often that we hear the full verse quoted. The second half of the verse suggests that there is an explanation for the “all things” that happen to those that love God. “All things work together for good…to them that are called according to his purpose.” When we understand God’s purpose for those who love Him, we will understand what the “good” is that God is working together in us. Understanding this purpose, will also provide a solace in answer to the question “why” when troubles come. So let’s consider the purpose of God, and how it relates to His predestining.

Looking again at verse 28, when it says “called ACCORDING TO his purpose” it means the calling is in harmony with the purpose. The Purpose therefore would precede the Calling.

Purpose -> Calling

Now verse 29 brings God’s foreknowledge into the discussion. Here is where many stumble. People read “foreknowledge” as God’s predetermined will. But this is not the case. Paul introduces God’s “foreknowledge” using the conjunction “for” or “because”, implying that the phrase, “whom he did foreknow” is an explanatory remark related to the previous phrase, “those who are called according to His purpose”.

God foreknows those who are “called according to His purpose”. Paul then says of those ones that God “foreknew”, He “also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son”.

Foreknowledge = Predestined ->To be Conformed to the Image of the Son

The reason for this predestination is “that he [Jesus] might be the firstborn among many brethren” (v29), by the many being conformed to His image. To conform them, they first must be “born again” in Christ. Those who are “born again” have been called in accord with this purpose.

Now we know that the calling of God includes the invitation: “Whosever will let Him take of the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17). This is an invitation to “whosoever will”. Any one that wants to, let him or her drink. This is a universal invitation.

Paul then says, those whom He called, are also justified (v.30). Does that mean that everyone called is automatically justified? No. Jesus has said that He will “draw all men” unto Himself through the power of the Cross (John 12:32). However, in accordance with Romans 3:26, God “is the justifier of Him which believeth in Jesus”. Those whom God justifies are only those that exercise belief in Jesus. That the drawing of God is universal, is further supported by the fact that that drawing includes an unwillingness on God’s part “that any should perish”. God is willing rather “that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God’s purpose then includes a willingness for all to be conformed to the image of His Son. But in between the willingness for all to come and the conforming, is the harmonic:

Only the “whosoevers” that will come and “believe” on Jesus are permitted to take “freely” of the water of life and thus be ultimately conformed to the image of His Son. This freedom to believe or not to believe is the harmonic undergirding all that God does within those whom he calls. In the word picture below, this Harmonic sits between Calling and Conforming:

Calling<=>Harmonic (freely believe)<=>Conforming

The Calling of God does not compromise this harmonic at any step in the process, else it becomes discordant with God’s Purpose.

Purpose = Calling =>Harmonic (freely believe ) =>Conforming If those called do not continue to drink “freely” of the “water of life” by “believing” on the Son, they will not be conformed to His image.

Understanding this harmonic within God’s Purpose, divine foreknowledge then is God foreseeing those who will respond willingly to the call to believe and drink. They will be “born again” in Christ. And those that God did foreknow, Paul goes on to say, He also did “predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son”.

Predestination then is God’s pre-determination that all those whom He foresees responding willingly to the invitation to come and believe, will be permitted to drink. They will be justified by faith in Jesus.

And those whom He has justified, according to Paul, He will also glorify. They are the ones that God will ultimately conform to the image of His Son. As they drink from the water of life freely, God works together all things, in order that they may go on to full conformity to the image of His Son, and thus constitute the many brethren. That is the work of the Holy Spirit within each one who believes. The Spirit that regenerates those who believe, is the Spirit that also transforms them day by day into the same image, “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

What this means for one who is yet to believe is that God’s invitation, “whosever will let him drink”, is an invitation to freely receive the gift of salvation. “Let him drink”. If you are one of those souls, this invitation is for you. Sister White explains,

“The same divine mind that is working upon the things of nature is speaking to the hearts of men and creating an inexpressible craving for something they have not. The things of the world cannot satisfy their longing. The Spirit of God is pleading with them to seek for those things that alone can give peace and rest—the grace of Christ, the joy of holiness.” Steps to Christ, p. 28.

But God will not force you to accept Him nor will He deny you if you are willing to believe in Jesus and accept His forgiveness for your sin. He will pardon you, and justify you freely “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

What this means for those who do believe in Jesus is that God will accomplish His purpose in you. He will conform you to the image of Jesus. All He asks is that you freely exercise your faith in Him constantly. Don’t let the present difficulties discourage you in the Christian life. Take up the battle in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Remember, Paul recognised that the sufferings of the present, are to be expected of those who are children of God and joint heirs with Christ (v17). If Christ suffered, then so shall we. But note, Paul’s attitude to sufferings in view of God’s ultimate purpose:

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time [are] not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (v18).

So no matter what happens to you, no matter what trials or tribulations come your way, no matter what sufferings you may be called to endure, you can have confidence, founded in God’s determined purpose, that He is working ALL things together for your ultimate good—His predetermined purpose—that your life will be conformed to the image of Jesus.

–Paul Chapman

 

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by Ellet J Waggoner

(First published in “The Signs of the Times”,  May 19, 1887)

This petition cannot well be considered apart from that which immediately follows it: “but deliver us from evil.” Both together form a fitting climax to this wonderful prayer, for they indicate, if used understandingly, the soul’s desire for purity of heart.
There are two senses in which the word tempted is used in the Bible. The apostle says: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” James 1:2. Again he says: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” Verse 14. Now it is evident that the apostle would not exhort men to count it a joyful thing to be drawn away of their own lust, and enticed into sin; therefore the temptation of the second verse is different from that of the fourteenth.

The temptation of the second verse is that which is successfully met, and which leaves the individual stronger than ever. It is the trying of faith. In Eph. 6:16 we learn that faith is the shield by which the darts of the wicked may be quenched. The office of a shield is to protect the person. If a missle is received upon the shield, the person at whom it was aimed receives no injury; he does not feel it. The temptations, then, which work patience, and which strengthen, are those which meet with no response in our own hearts, but which are instantly repelled.

The other temptations are those which are entertained in the heart. The sin presents itself, and the mind goes out towards it, and longs for it. It may be that the overt act is never committed, but since “the thought of foolishness is sin” (Prov. 24:9), the one who only in imagination does the sinful act is in the sight of God accounted guilty. Such temptations as those are natural to every human being, “for from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts.”

The petition “lead us not into temptation,” must be understood as meaning, “suffer us not to fall into temptation;” and it must also be understood as referring to the second class of temptations,—those which proceed from within. The reason is (1) that we are not to ask freedom from trials, but rather to count them a blessing, and (2) that God cannot and does not lead people into sin. The prayer, then, is “suffer us not to fall into foolish and hurtful lust, but deliver us (keep us back) from evil.”

This cannot mean that God will not allow a man to act out the evil that is in him, for that would be impossible; if evil is in the heart, it must show itself, and we are expressly told that at one time God left a man to do what his heart prompted him to do. The man was Hezekiah. After he had been healed, the Babylonian ambassadors came to congratulate, and he showed them all the treasures of his kingdom. 2 Kings 20:12, 13. This action was prompted by pride. 2 Chron. 32:24, 25. The historian, speaking of this, says: “Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.” 2 Chron. 32:31. We must therefore conclude that the petition “lead us not into temptation” does not mean that God is to interpose his mighty power to miraculously preserve us from the wickedness that is in our own hearts.

There can be, then, but one conclusion, and that is that the prayer implies a renunciation and hatred of sin, and a desire to have the heart cleansed from it, and to be strengthened against allowing it to pass the shield of faith, and gain access to the heart. This is the only way that temptations can be instantly repelled, since, as we have read, evil thoughts are natural to the human heart.
It was to effect this that Christ came into the earth. It is not enough that we be freed from the guilt of sin,—from past transgressions,—but we must be freed from the love of sin. Paul says that Christ “gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.” Gal. 1:1. This “present evil world” does not mean the physical creation, but “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” 1 John 2:16. Again we read that he “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Titus 2:14.

This is what God wants to do for us; it is what we are to ask him to do for us, for he will not do it against our will. What is there to hinder his doing it? Nothing, if we offer the prayer in all sincerity, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We cannot cleanse ourselves from the defilement of sin, however much we may desire to be freed from it (Prov. 20:9); but if we do earnestly desire to be kept from sin, God will work in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Phil 2:13), and that will be to make us perfect in every good work to do his will, working in us that which is good. Heb. 13:21.

But while this is in one sense a passive state, in that it is an entire yielding of self to God, it is by no means a state of inactivity. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7. “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” Luke 13:24. There is to be a constant watchfulness against the insidious assaults of the enemy. A reaching out after God implies a drawing away from sin.

This part of the Lord’s prayer cannot be uttered from the heart, except of him who with the psalmist can say, “I hate vain thoughts, but thy law do I love.” And this cannot be done until the individual realizes that fellowship with God is the only thing to be desired,-that the loving-kindness of God is better than life. Every man in the world will have just what he wants. If he loves the pleasures of sin, he will be left to its lusting enjoyment; but if his heart and his soul cry out after God, the promise is that he shall be filled. W.

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by Paul Chapman

Beecher wrote, “Temptations are enemies outside the castle, seeking entrance.  If there be no false retainer within who holds treacherous parley, there can scarcely be even an offer.  No one would make overtures to a bolted door or a dead wall.  It is some face at the window that invites proffer.  The violence of temptation addressed to us is only another way of expressing the violence of the desire within us.  It costs nothing to reject what we do not wish; and the struggle required to overcome temptation measures the strength in us of the temptable element.  Men ought not to say, “How powerfully the Devil tempts!” but, “How strongly I am tempted!” (more…)

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