Purpose of Guarding the Treasure

The purpose of this blog is to encourage readers to invest their time into the Word of God and "Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you." Paul wrote these words to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:14) in his presumed last letter before his execution. May we be those who see the word of God as a treasure, guarding it with our lives, investing in it with our hearts and minds, and reaping the fruit of an abundant life while getting to know the God who loves us and created us for His marvelous pleasure and glory.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Some Thoughts on Election and Predestination

Some have questioned these doctrines and suggested that they downgrade the importance of evangelism. I have chosen not to put myself under a particular label such as a "Calvinist" or an "Armenianist" and rather let the Scripture speak for itself. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I am seeking the truth as inspired by the Holy Spirit and with an open mind.

So should we evangelize?

The simple is yes because God commands us to evangelize. In writing Timothy, Paul wrote, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2)

God has chosen to use humanity to share His message of reconciliation with the world. Paul preached the gospel everywhere he went (Romans 1:15, 1 Corinthians 1:17, Galatians 1:16, Ephesians 3:8). Paul also lays out our responsibility to share the message of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” We are Christ’s ambassadors to the world, imploring people to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 4:5, John 1:12, 1 Timothy 1:16).

Another amazing passage is Romans 10:14, “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? Faith comes from hearing the truth about Jesus Christ (Romans 10:17). But there has to be a preacher willing to preach the word so that others can hear it and believe it and then call upon the name of the Lord.

Another amazing thing about salvation is that God is pursing us. We are not naturally in pursuit of Him, but rather like sheep gone astray caught up in ourselves and our pursuit of self-gratification (Isaiah 53:6, Ephesians 2:1-3). Yet God in His love, mercy and grace draws us to Himself for salvation, convicting us through His Spirit regarding our need of reconciliation (John 6:44, 16:8-11). From this, I gather that God draws all humanity to himself. He woes us throughout our lifetime to seek Him for salvation. But He also honors our choice to reject Him. How does He woe? In amazing ways. Scripture says He woes through creation (Romans 1:20), through missionaries at home and abroad, through even personal encounters (Acts 9:1-9). God works in mysterious ways, but He is drawing all people to Himself as His desire is for all to be saved (John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9-10, 1 Timothy 2:3-4).

Now the hard part about election/predestination and God’s sovereignty coupled with the free will of man and our responsibility for our choices as humans is that in the finite human brain they seem contradictory. But the truth is that Scripture, the God-breathed word, teaches that both are absolutely true. As humans, we like everything to fit in a nice little box and have it all make logical sense. But our logic cannot explain the supernatural or the ways of God (Isaiah 55:8, Romans 11:33, 1 Corinthians 1:25). Theologians have tried, but wound up going from one extreme to the other trying to make God fit into their theology. The product is Calvinism and Armenianism. Neither completely matches the fullness of Scripture. We must choose to be Biblical and the Bible teaches that both are true. Faith is required to believe in something beyond ourselves. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Here is my take on election/predestination, for what it’s worth. From man’s perspective, I think this concept should be a comfort to Christians, knowing that God made us with a predetermined purpose in mind, that we matter to Him, He has a good and perfect will for us and that He loves us (Ephesians 2:10). I believe that He makes all people with this intention. But He also gives humanity freedom to choose Him or reject Him. He goes out of His way to draw us to Himself and gives us every opportunity to choose Him, but God also respects our free will, never forcing our hand, allowing us the freedom to made choices in this life, choices to which we are ultimately accountable to Him.

From God’s perspective, He is omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipotent (all-powerful). Nothing takes Him by surprise because He is not limited by time. David speaks of God’s sovereignty in our life, “Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139:16) He is our life and He can take us out of this world if that is His will. When we doubt God’s justice or fairness, we must stop and go back to truth. God is holy. God is just. God is righteous. God is truth. There is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11). No one will stand before God and be able to say, “I wanted to be saved, but never had an opportunity or because I was not one of the elect.” All can be saved and all who believe in Jesus Christ for eternal life are saved (Romans 1:16). Those who refuse are without excuse (Romans 1:20-21).

So can we really comprehend the idea of election/predestination? Not really. But just because we cannot fully understand election does not mean that it is not true. Sometime I think our desire to understand something that cannot be fully understood is really an expression of our desire to be in control rather than to simply trust God and relinquish full control of our lives to Him. We cannot argue with Scripture. Scripture clearly teaches that all believers are the elect and called and were so before the foundation of the world. Scripture also clearly teaches that we must believe in Jesus to receive eternal life and that all humanity is accountable and will give an account to God (John 3:18, 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Here is a good quote from a favorite theological book of mine entitled, “Major Bible Themes” by Chafer/Walvoord, Chapter 34 – Divine Election, page 230, “Scripture reveals God as an absolute sovereign who by His own will has chosen to create the universe and to direct its history according to a foreordained plan. That God should be sovereign and should be able to execute such programs as He may be pleased to determine is in keeping with the concept of an infinite, omnipotent God. Human comprehension of such a program, however, presents innumerable problems and, in particular, how man can operate freely and responsible in a programmed universe. Systems of human thought have tended to go either to one extreme where God’s sovereign purpose is made absolute or to another extreme of magnifying the freedom of man until God is no longer in control. In attempting to resolve such a difficult problem, the only solution is to appeal to divine revelation and attempt to interpret human experience on the basis of what the Bible teaches.”

In closing, we do not know the elect, but do know that the gospel must be preached to the entire world. May we have a balanced biblically-based understanding of election/predestination while not neglecting our responsibility in our relationship with Christ and the world. May God bless you as you evangelize those in the world whom God has called you to share the gospel with so they might hear, believe and be saved! Thanks for your question!

For further study on election/predestination in Scripture. Greek words used:

eklego - to select - Mark 13:20; Luke 6:13, 9:35, 10:42, 14:7; John 6:70, 13:18, 15:16,19; Acts 1:2,24, 6:5, 13:17, 15:7,22,25; 1 Corinthians 1:27-28, Ephesians 1:4, James 2:5

proorizo - to predetermine, foreordain - Acts 4:28; Romans 8:29-30; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:5,11

progino sko - to know beforehand - Acts 26:5; Romans 8:29, 11:2; 1 Peter 1:20; 2 Peter 3:17

ekloge - a divine selection - Acts 9:15, Romans 9:11, 11:5,7,28; 1 Thessalonians 1:4, 2 Peter 1:10

haireomai - to take, choose - 2 Thessalonians 2:13

kaleo - to call - hundreds of Scriptures, 2 Thessalonians 2:14

eklektos - select, by implying favorite - Matthew 22:14, 24:22,24,31; Mark 13:20,22,27; Luke 18:7, 23:35; Romans 8:33, 16:13; Colossians 3:12; 1 Timothy 5:21; 2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1, 2:4,6,9; 2 John 1:1,13; Revelation 17:14

proetoimazo - to prepare before - Romans 9:23, Ephesians 2:10