The following notes were first embarked upon in response to a request by a lovely woman of God who asked for my read on some verses in Romans 8. Beyond that initial response, I sensed the Lord wanting me to go a little further into the topic of Free Will, Pre-Destination, and related issues. These notes morphed, over a three week period, into a Sunday AM message.
The Volunteer Army Of God;
Our Free Will to love God and Participate in His plans;
Scriptural contradiction to the insanity and jeopardy of thinking you are predestined to the point that no matter what choices you make you will fulfill your destiny call;
Choice wisely, grasshopper
(Good morning Sandi…) This began w a request from a friend to give my take on these verses:
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Verse 28 is fairly obvious, yet worthy of note, as it establishes the launching pad for Paul to write the following verses. We’re told we know that when we are in the will of God (being called according to His purposes) all things will indeed work together for good. Verses 29 and 30 then flesh-out the Paul’s theology of having been so called. It is those two verses that seem to raise the hackles of conversation,
Personally I’ve come to realize the safest way to interpret all scripture is to confirm they do not war against other scriptures AND ESPECIALLY don’t war against the entire CONTEXT of scripture. The Book surely and most effectively testifies of itself. It certainly works for the challenging and likewise controversial end-times subject, causing things to come to clarity as we can figure out not only WHAT something means, but also what it DOES NOT mean.
The verses of discussion do not PRIMARILY center around eschatology, but instead, around salvation, pre-destination, and free will. BUT the theology they espouse:
A. Can easily impact a Christian’s attitude towards their own life decisions in ALL AGES,
B. Will impact last-days evangelism and our outlook towards the lost in those trying times.
We’ll address that later.
Us spending a message looking into this is not simply theological gymnastics.
These verses bring up, and to some believers appear to support, a theological point of view was first officially brought forth by John Calvin (in the 1600’s) who believed men were saved by God who had extended His good mercy to a select number of folks whom He (the Lord) had predetermined for salvation.
The necessarily logical extension of that theory would need be that most if not even all other people were therefore NOT selected by God (for salvation) and therefore “pre-doomed” to destruction. Calvin caused a great stir.
Wikipedia tells us Calvin’s hand-picked successor Theodore Beza then taught this theology to Jacobus Arminius,…
….but Arminius threw a good-sized wrench in the works, and after studying the scriptures, actively disagreed with that teaching and in response wrote an opinion statement that salvation was based upon belief through faith, via grace that was extended to all. Yea, Jake.
I don’t intend this to become a deep theological teaching this AM, but suffice to say that Arminius also appears to have issues in that he accepted Calvin’s “divine election” – God selecting some but not others for salvation, but then states that God only moves upon those whom He knew in advance would exercise choice. THAT statement by Arminius seems a little weird.
Arminius’ proponents were/are referred to as Remonstrants, a word that hasn’t caught on big-time (to describe opponents to Calvinism). Arminius’ teachings were presented as being:
A. An opposing position to Calvin; and also
B. As NOT being something NEW (post Calvinism) but rather as being a RETURN to original scripture teaching.
Personally, I don’t wear a “Remonstrant” t-shirt.
Besides wanting the lost world to see a FUNDAMENTALLY unified gospel message, MORE importantly, what was written +/- 1600 years BEFORE either Calvin or Arminius were twinkles in their parents’ eyes (that would be the New Testament writings of the disciples) does NOT require us choosing the “Arminius Team” or “Calvin Team”.
HERE’S our Team Leader – the One and Only w Perfect Theology: (JESUS SLIDE)
I believe the bible sets out clearly that we are saved by grace through faith, and that the same grace is extended by God to ALL people. There I go, remonstrating just a little – although the deeper you study Arminius, the more you ought to be inclined to go back to the scriptures, and to your place of prayer, and to what was spoken by Jesus and written by the NT authors. The book testifies of itself better than the often distracting theological theories of even well intended men.
Rabbis have been blowing it for thousands of years – even before Jesus’ appearance. We have to come back to scripture. IT WILL KEEP US ON TRACK as the world shakes more and more.
This AM is about OUR CHOICES, and “VOLUNTEER CHRISTIANITY”, about PREDESTINATION and EVERY MAN’S FREE WILL.
QUES FOR US: WHY GET INVOLVED IN THIS THEOLOGICAL DISCUSSION AT ALL?
Some might wonder: “why bother looking into this? As long as I’m praying and reading my bible and trying my best to live holy and love God, I’ll be OK.”
The issue goes deeper though.
The jeopardy of glancing over doctrinal issues is that weak or unsupported doctrine can open doors to bad living, bad thinking, faulty conclusions.
FOR OUR PARTICULAR APPLICATION, we would do well to understand the time we live in.
I am of the mind this age is coming to a rapid close.
I further believe that the promise/warning of Haggai 2 – God shaking heaven and earth, the sea and dry land, as yet to occur but will occur in its fullness, and is even now beginning.
6 “For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land;
7 and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts.
Verse 6 tells us it will be “a little while” (in eternal-God’s plan)
It will be once.
It will involve a shaking work everywhere in all realms
The intent and purpose, and therefore the result of the shaking work will be to draw people out of every tribe and tongue to the Savior of the world, Who will be revealed and exalted as the One and Only true Desire of all mankind.
I BELIEVE THE JEOPARDY OF STRICT CALVINISM AND PREDESTINATION is that WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND AND BELIEVE that our God wants ALL people saved.
The shaking work IS PURPOSED to get folks praying and repenting.
US THINKING “maybe some/most people simply were never intended to be saved” can undermine and distort much. It is in fact AN ERROR OF OMISSION.
A. We’d write off fallen brethren as never having been saved in the first place (and therefore not worthy of a restoration effort – undermining Daniel 11:35 telling us some WILL fall, to be refined). ANOTHER JEOPARDY is
B. We’d be tempted, in our own challenging circumstances (which WILL come in the shaking) to “MANUEVER AROUND” many less-than-desirable people, writing them off as props in our own little theo-drama, and miss them getting rescued from destruction.
To the contrary Paul tells us he warned every man (Colossians). This is our CHARGE BY GOD. Preach the gospel to every man.
THAT’S WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT.
CRITICAL: Our God is not willing any should perish.
2 Peter 3:9
9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Central to the “Little Flock” prophecy of salvation, is NOT that a FEW are PICKED BY GOD, but that FEW CHOOSE TO RESPOND to the CALL to ALL MEN.
From the lips of our Lord – THOSE FAMOUS VERSES:
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
THE JESUS-ANSWER AS TO WHY MOST DON’T GET SAVED – NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT SELECTED IN A GOD-LOTTERY – it’s about what people choose to love.
19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men (MOST MEN) loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
Paul in Acts (we’ll read shortly) said God calls “All men everywhere”
Calvinists use this verse to argue “SOME”, but NOT ALL:
28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
MANY – GREEK: Polys – much, plenteous, largely, abundant…
The word does exclude the potential interpretation that there is sufficient blood atonement for ANY and ALL who would respond to the call of God.
Another FLAG VERSE FOR PREDESTINATION IS THIS:
5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
THE PLAN OF SALVATION WAS PREDESTINED, as also was the PLAN FOR THE CRUCIFIXION.
Just like Jesus MADE THE DECISION IN THE GARDEN to fulfill His destiny, every soul is invited to respond to God and fulfill his or her own destiny, by MAKING GOOD DECISIONS OF OUR OWN FREE WILL. You CHOOSE to pray, to study, to flee sin, to repent.
We know “whosoever will” is invited to drink of the waters of life freely.
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
Rev 22:17 confirms the Bride-Church being IN AGREEMENT W THE SPIRIT, inviting “whoever desires” (whoever desires). It does not leave room for the bride-church to present a second opinion re: who gets selected for salvation.
We’d therefore do well to question the Bride-Church espousing a Calvinistic opinion that “whoever” (wills) is more accurately understood as “whoever has won the salvation lottery” and lucked out to have been selected by God for the salvation process.
Another jeopardy of predestination is that supporters contend if someone APPEARED to have been saved and then actively embarks upon a life of destruction – that they were NEVER saved. That point of view is required for their doctrine to stand. But here’s scripture w a better explanation of being born INTO a calling God, and still blowing it.
8 Jerusalem has sinned gravely,
Therefore she has become vile…..
9 Her uncleanness is in her skirts;
She did not consider her destiny;
Jerusalem’s predetermined destiny had been for success. Their willful disobedience changed things.
Hosea tells us when God WOULD HAVE healed Israel, He instead observed their sin (7:1).
1 “When I would have healed Israel,
Then the iniquity of Ephraim was uncovered, ...
This models that the free will of all mankind (btw biblically confirmed as applying to both saved and unsaved) will impact the outcome of their relationships w God, including whether one gets saved, stay saved, and/or finishes well.
When Protestantism was birthed during the Reformation many struggled to assure redemption apart from the sacraments of Catholicism. LOTS OF STUFF came out of that need-to-know-you’re-saved dilemma. Still, radical change do not justify pendulum-swinging error.
The question, FOR US, arises as to why folks NOW might embrace Calvinistic pre-destination belief. Some get saved and are taught Funky stuff and don’t go deep enough to question what they are taught. QUESTION IT ALL. Study the scriptures yourself. Question what I tell you. This is why I’m convicted to use so much scripture when I teach. I fear God too much to teach “the gospel according to me”.
Two people I spoke to recently spoke (of their radical salvation experiences) were first met and taught by Calvinists. And at first blush, it made sense to them.
When someone encounters Christ, especially by way of a profound shift of events and circumstances, that dramatic work of the Holy Spirit is clearly a directed work ON ONE PERSON. It is specific, focused, glorious. Accurately, that person feels (and in fact, is) chosen by God for salvation. But here’s the BIG RUB (presented as a question to align that RUB w scripture): can’t our gracious God, NOT WILLING THAT ANY PERISH, visit different people (and in fact all people), at different times and perhaps even many times in their individual lives, to offer them that repentance opportunity? Who would dare say He does not in fact do that? I think He does exactly that. HERE’S the BIG RUB Answer:
Acts 17:26,27 & 30 (NOTE THE INCLUSIONARY WORDING)
26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,
27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;
30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,
This is CRITICAL FOR US IN THESE DAYS, w the Lord having us here on earth during troubling times, times HE is purposely “troubling” to motivate all men everywhere to repent.
SEE THE CRITICAL NATURE OF UNDERSTANDING THIS WELL?
Peter understood God’s often-seasonal moving upon the lives of the people around us, admonishing us to maintain a consistent testimony, since we want that testimony to be glorious, AT WHAT TIME IN THE LIVES OF THOSE PEOPLE?
1 Peter 2:11-12
11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,
12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day (or DAYS, PERIOD – “HEMERO”) of visitation.
EXAMPLES OF FOLKS CHOOSING TO REJECT THEIR VISITATION CALL
Mark 10:17, 22
17 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
(JESUS RECITES THE COMMANDMENTS TO HIM – THEN ADDRESSES the man’s particular sin: Materialism)
22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Ex: A WHOLE GROUP REJECTING GOD’S PRE-DESTINED WILL FOR THEM TO RECOGNIZE AND ACCEPT THEIR MESSIAH:
One might easily consider the Pharisees as the consummate “bad guys” doomed to destruction. Predestined? They were proud, overly-religious and functioned as the anti-Christ component in the crucifixion drama. BUT WHAT DOES THIS SAY?
30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.
I believe Romans 8 is first telling us God foreknew/foreknows everyone NEEDS SALVATION and opened a door to everyone, but (and we know this by our own experiences) obviously not all choose to walk through that door. I have no issue w understanding there are particular people w particular callings:
Like everyone else, JEREMIAH and PHARAOH each were born w unique destinies – Jeremiah (succeeded in his obedience) functioning as a prophet of God, and Pharaoh, fulfilled the destiny to be lifted up as leader at that time – but FAILED to respond to dramatic signs and judgments on himself and his land, and was destroyed by stubbornness and pride. He had hardened his OWN heart so many times, eventually God hardened it, to his destruction.
Would God EVENTUALLY harden someone’s heart and destroy them? (THIS TOUCHES ON OTHER POPULAR doctrines that God is happy with all people and simply is all about LOVE LOVE LOVE.
1 He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
The whole bible is not about men chasing God, but God chasing all men. THE INVITATION TO EACH OF US is to CHOOSE TO CHASE GOD.
From that perspective I see Romans 8 confirming God going after all (granted often w varying degrees of intensity and varying times in people’s lives (days of visitation).
I see God promising good outcome to all who continue to willingly walk in relationship (into their purposeful calling), and I see a call to understanding that the ball is in our court as to whether we finish well. Peter (2Peter 1:10) laid out a progression of growth and said IF you do these things you won’t stumble. Peter knew about stumbling, and knew it was avoidable, in the fullness of God.
Jude confirms this as well – “He who is able to keep you from stumbling”. The jeopardy of a “predestined” theology, when one stumbles and sins, has us warring against those truths and implying that it was God’s purpose for us to sin.
ANOTHER THEOLOGICAL VICTIM OF CALVINISTIC EXEMPLIFICATION, EXPLAINED…
Esau was declared, by Malachi (1:3) and then repeated in Romans (9:13) as being hated by God, but that was long after Esau’s free-will decision to sell out his destiny for the hunger of the now. Nowhere does scripture say Esau was born “pre-hated”.
LOOK HOW THE CHOICE TO SIN IMPACTED ISRAEL:
Isaiah tells us that God’s plan for Israel HAD BEEN to bless them, clearly pointing to a change of action, on our Lord’s part, because of their sin during that season:
18 Oh, that you had heeded My commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
19 Your descendants also would have been like the sand,
And the offspring of your body like the grains of sand;
His name would not have been cut off
Nor destroyed from before Me.”
Look at our Lord’s own words re choice:
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
Jesus told us (above) that the world was already condemned, including all who would continue to choose darkness over light.
THIS “CHOOSE-WHICH-GROUP THEME IS IN BOTH TESTAMENTS.
And in fact, consider the great mercies of God in, although Israel was already found guilty (sins already declared as having been evident) He continued to offer to reason with His people):
18 “ Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
I personally chose darkness for years. I know NOW what group I had been in. then grace touched me and I made a good choice. I am charged by God TO CONTINUE MAKING GOOD CHOICES. AS ARE YOU.
There are PREDESTINED GROUPS – NOT PREDESTINED PEOPLE
By much grace we transfer out of one terrible group into the other, great group.
Both groups are predestined for their destiny. Whether you remain in a group is up to the person. And it is without question God’s great grace that allows us to GET saved, and provides us with strength and even desire to STAY saved. STILL, we always have FREE CHOICE. And God grants His grace, often at different times and through different circumstances. There’s His sovereignty.
For us to designate masses of people to predestined destruction is ONLY SORT OF accurate, WITH THE MOST EXTREME CAVEAT that if/when ANY person prays and repents, repent, everything can change: they are transformed from one group to the group that has been elected by God to be THE GROUP. It’s an open group. Whosoever wills.
Further, it would seem theologically contradictory for a God who told us to (a) preach the gospel to every creature, but also to (b) redeem the time, if it was already predetermined we’d waste precious time preaching to the masses who were predestined to damnation.
From a personal, life-journey outlook, I further contend there are no “life props”, no people put on earth simply to function as a “cast of millions” in our own religious journeys. That sidebar-component of Calvinism, to try to explain away the purpose for a person “predestined to destruction” has to be viewed as self-centered and selfish – it’s an outlook of lucky exclusivity. To the contrary: I see scripture telling us each and every person is a soul for whom Christ died, and He wants them all. OUR CALL IS TO WIN AS WINNING AS POSSIBLE.
From that clearly substantiated biblical text position, we can conclude Romans 8 assuring us that any person choosing by their free will to serve and live for and die for the One who died for all, can and will succeed.
This biblical perspective coexists perfectly with an end times lens-of-understanding that the children of God will indeed remain on earth, as the light of the world, to point the shaking lost to their Savior. The intent of the troubling is to draw all nations to the Desire of the nations. (Haggai 2 – which we read earlier).
We have a huge say in the success and failure of our own souls.
We have a huge say in the salvation of the souls around us.
This is a love story.
Love requires complete free-will.
There is a HUGE WAR within that love story.
And we are told by the psalmist that in the days of our Lord’s power, when He returns, His people will be VOLUNTEERS.
Psalms 110:3, 5, 6
3 Your people shall be volunteers
In the day of Your power;
THAT POWER DAY is the season at the END OF THIS AGE
5 The Lord is at Your right hand;
He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath.
6 He shall judge among the nations,
He shall fill the places with dead bodies,
He shall execute the heads of many countries.
Whosoever will, let him come drink of the waters of life freely.
I believe there is an underlying JEOPARDY and VULNERABILITY to embracing a doctrine that tells us MOST (even SOME) people are predestined to destruction.
And there’s JEOPARDY and VULNERABILITY to embracing a doctrine that tells us we have NO CHOICES to make in the outcome of our salvation or the fulfillment of our destiny.
GOD WANTS VOLUNTEERS LOVERS to stand beside Him in these great days, consistently MAKING DECISIONS OF OUR FREE WILL to live a life conducive to holiness, and holy intimacy with a God who made us to love Him, willingly.
“I WILL serve God. I WILL to serve God. Lord, I surrender MY WILL to You”
“When you pray say: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (MOST PERSONAL: “Your will be done in me, Lord”)
THE JESUS MODEL – Our Lord, in the garden of Gethsemane, revealing His personal will for survival and pain avoidance, and then His response to grace, accepting the fact that the will of God was His choice, and His destiny. Thank You Jesus. It was Your personal decision to not succumb to Your own free will that provides us this opportunity to come to salvation, :
42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.”
Ps 118 – “bind the sacrifice with cord to the horns of the altar”
THAT is the crux of the issue. We’re invited and exhorted, each day, to bind our wills to the altar, recognizing (without condemnation) that each and every day our free-will wants to escape that altar of sacrifice. So we bind it again. That is both the holy tension, and the glory of free will, and provides us with something to offer God each day. The enormity of this daily (hour by hour) act of the saints infuriates and testifies against our Adversary, and he wars against the concept of free will. Fortunately, the scriptures are clear.
All scriptures NKJV – I love that translation….
Calvinism and its doctrine: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvinism
Arminianism and its doctrine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacobus_Arminius