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Tag Archives: Election

Predestination, Election and God’s Desire for All to be Saved

So, here’s an easy topic today, huh?  How are we to understand this verse…

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 (ESV)

in light of this verse…

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:29-30 (ESV)

Many people are very puzzled when they compare the teaching of predestination and election (hard enough to accept, and yet taught in Romans 8 & 9, Ephesians 1, John 6, etc.) to other texts which teach that God desires everyone to be saved or is “not wishing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).

In an article written in 1995, called Are There Two Wills in God, John Piper refers to an essay written by Robert L. Dabney which seeks to solve this question, one of the most difficult in theology. It’s a story about how George Washington was faced with doing something he most definitely didn’t want to do – sign the death warrant of a treasonous soldier:

“A certain Major André had jeopardized the safety of the young nation through ‘rash and unfortunate’ treasonous acts. Marshall says of the death warrant, signed by Washington, ‘Perhaps on no occasion of his life did the commander-in-chief obey with more reluctance the stern mandates of duty and of policy.’ Dabney observes that Washington’s compassion for André was ‘real and profound’. He also had ‘plenary power to kill or to save alive.’ Why then did he sign the death warrant? Dabney explains, ‘Washington’s volition to sign the death-warrant of André did not arise from the fact that his compassion was slight or feigned, but from the fact that it was rationally counterpoised by a complex of superior judgments . . . of wisdom, duty, patriotism, and moral indignation [the wide-angle lens].’

“Dabney imagines a defender of André, hearing Washington say, ‘I do this with the deepest reluctance and pity.’ Then the defender says, ‘Since you are supreme in this matter, and have full bodily ability to throw down that pen, we shall know by your signing this warrant that your pity is hypocritical.’ Dabney responds to this by saying, ‘The petulance of this charge would have been equal to its folly. The pity was real, but was restrained by superior elements of motive. Washington had official and bodily power to discharge the criminal, but he had not the sanctions of his own wisdom and justice.’ The corresponding point in the case of divine election is that ‘the absence of volition in God to save does not necessarily imply the absence of compassion.’ God has ‘a true compassion, which is yet restrained, in the case of the . . . non-elect, by consistent and holy reasons, from taking the form of a volition to regenerate.’ God’s infinite wisdom regulates his whole will and guides and harmonizes (not suppresses) all its active principles.

“…God’s expression of pity and his entreaties have heart in them. There is a genuine inclination in God’s heart to spare those who have committed treason against his kingdom. But his motivation is complex, and not every true element in it rises to the level of effective choice.

In the article, Piper speaks about how we know that there are certain things that God desires and yet in his sovereign will allows something else to come to pass. Most famously, for instance, in the death of His Son, God truly desired that the Romans and the Jewish leaders obey the Golden Rule and treat His Son as they would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12). But in a greater sense, He also desired that His Son offer Himself as a sacrifice to save the world. So, our Sovereign God…had two desires, or two wills, as John Piper describes it…

“Therefore we know it was not the ‘will of God’ that Judas and Pilate and Herod and the Gentile soldiers and the Jewish crowds disobey the moral law of God by sinning in delivering Jesus up to be crucified. But we also know that it was the will of God that this come to pass. Therefore we know that God in some sense wills what he does not will in another sense. I. Howard Marshall’s statement is confirmed by the death of Jesus: ‘We must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen.'”

It’s a difficult topic all in all, but I have been helped by John Piper’s article, and I commend it to you.

For tomorrow, Friday, August 28th: 1 Timothy 3

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Part I Played in My Salvation

I have this high school memory: it was likely junior year, maybe a late morning in the fall – band class, and I was walking outside to the football field with some other marching band members. I was pontificating about Jesus – foolishness about how maybe he did exist and maybe he didn’t. Like I knew what I was talking about. I don’t remember the reaction of my small audience. I hope they thought I was an idiot.

It’s this scene that comes to mind when I sing the song, All I have is Christ…

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost

You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

There I was a rebel…helpless…hell-bound…mouthing blasphemies about the Savior…from the grave.

But God.

In his book, The Elements of Eloquence, author Mark Forsyth – though as far as I know not a believer – speaks glowingly of the beauty of Bible words. And Ephesians 2 is prime example – an arresting yet piteous look at our lot before Christ raised us up…

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:1-5 (ESV)

He did it. I played no part. That’s the message of the passage. My salvation was not a revival but a resurrection. I didn’t one day realize that I was in the grave and start digging my way out. I was not Peter’s mother-in-law; I was Lazarus. And so were you.

But God made us alive.

And that’s why they call it grace.

 

For tomorrow, Thursday, June 25th: Ephesians 3

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Doctrines of Grace

Sinclair Ferguson says the key truth of the Bible is found in Jonah 2, verse 9, where from the belly of the fish, Jonah prays: “Salvation is of the Lord.” And it is, of course, and often even more than we imagine.

Salvation is totally by grace.

In contrast, many Christians tend to think that they are finally responsible for their salvation. Now, don’t get me wrong. Of course to be a Christian I must understand that Christ has paid the penalty on the cross, that my “righteous” works had nothing to do with it, but in the end, we tend to believe that we are the ones who “made the decision”.

In this we assume that somehow we are fundamentally different than the Apostle Paul, who clearly was plucked from a wicked trajectory on the Damascus road and MADE a servant of God. No question about that. And again, we assume that Abraham was a special case when God appeared to him and called him out of Ur of the Chaldees to be the Father of a new nation in the Promised Land.

But from our vantage point, these two must be special cases, as we clearly had a big part in the drama of our own salvation. There’s no getting around it, we assume. And so, what makes us different from our non-believing friends? Ultimately…us. We decided for Christ, and they? Well…they didn’t, or haven’t yet, at least.

But what if we are more like Paul and Abraham than we imagine? What if God “plucked” us from a wicked road too, and what if God also called us “irresistibly” to the ultimate Promised Land? That’s what Paul is saying in Romans 9:16…

“So then, it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy.” (ESV)

There is much more that could be said of this, and when I preached Romans, I gave four messages in this powerful chapter. But for now, suffice it to say that this idea is a cornerstone truth in what theologians have come to call the “Doctrines of Grace.” Salvation is of the Lord, totally and completely. And we? We are objects of His glorious mercy and grace.

 

Tomorrow, April 2: Romans 10

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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