I was given permission and encouragement from a person I have had an email exchange with to post the following. To give you some context to know how this came about I offer the following. The individual with whom I wrote this email to and I have a different view of God’s Sovereignty, Unconditional Election and our ability to “make a decision for God,” otherwise known as mans “free will.” In light of that, we have passed information back and forth and had several face to face discussion regarding this issue. This is a response I wrote a little over a week ago.
Thanks for the email. I take it from what you said that you haven’t fully read the book I loaned you (James Montgomery Boices’ Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace). That makes it tough to have a discussion about it because you can’t take each individual point on it’s own. They all fit together like your hand fitting into a glove.
Also, I just want to clarify that I do not believe that we as human beings don’t have “Free Will.” I do believe that our decisions are our own and that we are held totally accountable for them. If we didn’t have free will, then yes, we would be robots and would have the ability to stand before God and call Him unfair for holding us accountable for decisions we had no choice to make. But, I also believe that while we have free will, God is ultimately Sovereign. Not just Sovereign in a human sense like a monarch of a country, but Absolutely Sovereign in that he is the cause of all. He can do what He wants, when He wants, how He wants, and any way He wants to do it. That is one of those paradoxes that we just can’t fully grasp, like the Trinity. How can God be one, yet 3? Impossible for us to comprehend.
You mentioned taking 6 months to let the Spirit teach me. The point where I am right now has taken 4 years for me to come to. The last year my wife and I were at one of our former churches is where it all started while I was discussing some things with an Associate Pastor. I believe the Spirit began to show me what it meant for God to be Absolutely Sovereign over His creation. That started a chain of investigation on my part (again, my free will, yet under the Sovereign influence of the Holy Spirit) that has lead me to what I now believe. To some degree it seems like you are telling me to trust the Spirit to teach me something that I already believe He has taught me. Is that what you are asking?
As for your interpretation of Jesus dying for all, that really boils down to your interpretation of the word “all”. I find it amazing that we today hold those who wrote the Gospels and those who translated them for us to a different standard than we hold ourselves to. Case in point. I can say that my son ate “all” of the cereal, yet there is about a quarter of a bowl left in the box. I say he ate it all because there isn’t enough left for me to have a full bowl myself. Or, we say that someone went “all” out to win the race, but when we ask them after the race, they inform us that they really didn’t run to their fullest extent, even though to us it might appear that they did. The word “all” doesn’t always mean an all inclusive term, yet that is the way you choose (your free will again) to interpret it in this context. If you actually look at the Greek word that has been translated into English as “all” in John 3:16, it comes from the Greek word “pas” and in the tense that it is used means, “some of all types” according to the Strongs’ online concordance. This, I am finding, is the reason that it is so important to go back to the original Greek in a lot of cases because the words that we read aren’t always what we think they mean. Matter of fact, if you did a study of the word “all” in the New Testament, you would find that it rarely means absolutely everyone or “all” as in all inclusive. More times than not, when you look at the Greek tense on the word “pas” it means “some of all types”, which would infer that God can choose those whom He chooses to save.
Does that seem unfair to you? That sure did to me until I realized that God really had three choices when it came to man’s rebellion in the garden (again a free will choice of Adams that affects us and has given us our depraved, sinful, nature). His choices were to save no one, just do away with mankind and start again if He wanted to. Save everyone by just passing over what Adam did and overlooking it, or choosing to save those who He wanted to. Again, at first glance, that seems unfair, but in reality, who are we to shake our fist at God and tell him He is unfair. Jeremiah 18 makes it pretty clear that God can do what he wants with man. Look at what God said when he chose to destroy the world with the flood. The Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth. The word “man” IS all inclusive and means mankind. So how was Noah found to be righteous? Take a look at Abram. No where in scripture does it say that Abram sought God or made a choice for God until after God came to Him. Why is it so hard to believe that God makes the first move? I can tell you why. It is because we don’t see God making the first move. I believe, and I think scripture bears witness to my belief, that our heart is a heart of stone, totally dead to God because of sin, and before we can even realize our need for a Savior, God must first take our heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh. Read the following:
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.
(Ezekiel 36:22-32 ESV)
God makes it perfectly clear in this passage alone that it wasn’t because of anything the Israelite’s did. They did not make a choice for God, God chose them. He did it all! It was He who took them from the nations. It was He who brought them to their own land. It was He who sprinkled clean water on them and cleaned them from their uncleanness (That alone screams out the act of salvation). It was He who removed the heart of stone. It was He who put his Spirit in them. It was he who caused them to walk in His statutes. It was He who declared that they would be His people. And on and on and on. There is no mention of the people doing anything. It is Grace alone that saves, would you not agree? What is Grace? Grace is unmerited favor. Unmerited means we don’t deserve it, we can’t earn it, we can’t buy it, we can’t decide that we have it. Only God can give that kind of grace that leads to salvation and salvation is a work that only God can do. All we can do is choose to accept it by faith.
But were does faith come from? Do you somehow have the ability to create your own faith? I submit that you do not. The Bible says that faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). So, we hear the word of God and the Word begins to touch our heart. It is the Word of God, that touches our heart! That is the same as saying that God is touching our heart (See Ezekiel above) and it is that touch that turns our heart of stone into a heart of flesh, which is a work of God! But I want to include something else that I just saw for the first time. Read on down in Romans 10, verse 20. Paul quotes Isaiah and says in the context of salvation, which is what Chapter 10 is really about:
Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
(Romans 10:20-21 ESV)
How can one “find” what he did not seek unless it was first revealed to him. Then Isaiah says that it was God who showed himself to those who did not ask for Him. Then Isaiah sums it up by saying that God held out his hands to a disobedient and contrary people. Salvation is first and last and everything in between a work of the Lord. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to look to Jesus who is the founder (author in the KJV) and perfector (finisher in the KJV) of our faith.
You know a lot about being an author. You take words and create a story. You as the author have complete control over what you are going to write. You have complete control over how you want it to develop and come to an end. In the same way, the writer of the book of Hebrews says that God does that with our faith. Even the faith we have is a total gift from Him.
I know that this may be a lot to take in. I know that you might not agree with me and I am perfectly content with that knowledge. Each of us has to make our own decisions regarding our walk in Christ (see, again, free will), but I can say that just by writing this to you, by the Spirits leading, I have come to a much deeper understanding and belief that salvation is ENTIRELY of God and that He has chosen me for salvation. That makes me want to glorify him in ways that I can’t express in words or actions. Again, I think if you just meditate on the passage in Ezekiel and Romans, God will begin to reveal to you why I believe as strongly as I do. And in actuality, because of you writing wanting to have a “discussion” I now believe even stronger.