Paul's Passing Thoughts

Romans Series Interlude: Predestination, a Potter’s House Journey; Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on April 6, 2014

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“Because the Reformation is the primary commentary on the subject of election, the subject must be thoroughly revisited with stringent biblical evaluation.”

Everyone must agree the doctrine of predestination came from the big three of the Reformation: Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. The doctrine is Augustinian*; Luther and Calvin systematized and articulated it for the Reformation. From my standpoint, after writing fifteen-hundred articles and four books on the Reformation, the Reformers were not biblically right about anything; particularly justification. So, were they right about predestination? That is, the idea that God selected, or predetermined some for salvation and not others; the idea that man has no will or ability to seek God or flee to Him for salvation—salvation is a total work of God; it’s “monergistic.”

This poses some logical problems, and also makes Christianity akin to Hinduism** and Islam which are also heavily predicated on the idea of predestination, but predestination should not be rejected for those reasons alone.  Logically, one is perplexed by the idea that God judges people for not choosing Him when they have no ability to do so. Logically, one wonders why the prophets of God exhorted men with tears to repent when some have no ability to so.

The idea of predestination throws the Bible into confusion for many reasons, for one, God on the one hand states, “Come now, 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 become like wool.” Why would God inject reason into the process when men are unable to reason? One of the favorite Bible passages among the Reformed is the resurrection of Lazarus. “See, he was dead, he could do nothing, he couldn’t make a choice, he came to life by God’s calling alone.” Very well, if all men are like Lazarus, why would you try to reason with dead people? Furthermore, Lazarus was already a believer, so what’s the point? Making this resurrection a statement about justification is sloppy hermeneutics at best.

Let me be clear, I am speaking to the problem of confusion here and am not trying to refute predestination with pure logic, but clearly, the confusion of it all is very problematic for Christians. And let’s face it, especially in regard to evangelism, it is paralyzing. Who does not recognize the difficulty in getting people to evangelize in Christian circles? Clearly, the incentive is lacking. The God is going to do what he is going to do mindset is pervasive in both categories of Christian living and evangelism.

The short answer for all of this via the Reformed camp follows: “We evangelize because it illustrates that choice is all of God, and therefore, God is glorified when men repent, and God is equally glorified when men refuse to come to Him. If God saved everybody, the riches of His grace would not be known, it would be taken for granted, which would rob God of glory.” And in fact, there seems to be biblical precedent for this:

Roman 9:6 – But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

Woe! Seems pretty clear, no? Now, instead of breaking down the context of this in order to refute the belief that this passage bolsters the idea that God has predetermined who will be saved and not saved, let me jettison to another aspect of election, the subject of what we just read. But before I do, I think something needs to be said about the apostle Paul. In fact, the apostle Peter said it:

2Peter 3:11 – Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

By the way, it is very likely that these are the last words that Peter wrote to the assemblies of Christ, and he knew that they were his last words (see 1:12-13). This gives a very eerie tone to his “amen” at the end of this letter.  Think about that. It’s a short book, and I would recommend it as a bedtime or lunchtime devotional for you as you read this letter with that reality in mind. These are the last thoughts that Peter deemed most important for the assemblies to remember.

But the point I want to make is what he said about Paul. I think Peter is being very gracious here as I will confess that Paul is by far the apostle I look up to the most, but yet very annoying. Paul wrote in a way that demands thinking. In regard to making things simple for the simple, he had no mercy. When pastors talk about “keeping the cookies on the bottom shelf,” you can be sure that they have never met Paul. I know many beloved brothers and fellow teachers of the word who are also often annoyed by Paul—I feel their pain.

But yet, the last three years of my Christian life are pretty much about Paul. Please take note of this: Calvinists want to debate me on all of the Bible verses that seem to indicate salvific predestination, but they don’t want to debate me on what Paul specifically wrote on justification. Paul is the Achilles’ heel for Calvinism. I have been turned down, in regard to public debate, by two respected Calvinists on this wise—they dare not get into a discussion of Pauline law and gospel—they are absolutely dead in the water on this issue.

But note what Peter said: many take the difficulty of what Paul wrote and use it to twist the Scriptures. And in regard to predestination, I believe this is the very case. Now, back to where I am going with this. It is easy to assert the idea that man has no choice and is “elected,” but what about the idea that Jesus Christ is also elected? What’s that all about?

Isaiah 42:1 – Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.

1Peter 2:4 – As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:

Isaiah 28:16 – “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”†

The only way this makes sense is if Christ is the chosen means of salvation; in other words, the means of salvation are elected, but man still has an ability to choose the means. There is no salvation in any other name but Christ. Secondly, as a means of spreading the good news among the nations that God supplies a way to be reconciled to Him, he chose Israel as His nation to represent His name among the nations:

Exodus 19:3 – while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

Isaiah 8:8 – But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; 9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; 10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.††

Though all of Israel are Abraham’s offspring, not all within Israel will be saved. The linage, or offspring God chose was according to the miraculous promise not the conniving of Abraham to help God out (Gen 15-17, 21, Gal 4;21-31). God chose a certain linage within the national kinsmen of Abraham from which Christ would come. In the case of Isaac and Ishmael, Isaac represented God’s means. In the case of Jacob and Esau, Jacob was the chosen one to continue the lineage of promise. As we just read, God hated Esau and loved Jacob before either did anything bad or good.

Or did he? Actually, Rebekah was told “The older will serve the younger” before either of them did bad or well. God later hated the descendants of Esau (Edom) for their austere wickedness.‡  Did God appoint Edom to wickedness, or did he choose Jacob to continue the lineage of promise based on what he foreknew? That passage in Romans 9 is often described as God hating Esau and loving Jacob before they were born, but that is not the case at all. Paul was merely saying that the Edomites were not the nation from which the promise would come.

The point that Paul was making in Romans 9 is that the promise was still through Israel even though God had temporarily turned His back on Israel in favor of the Gentiles. Hence,

Romans 9 – But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but

Gen 21:12 – “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

This is not about individual predestination at all, this is about making it clear to the Roman Gentiles, and Gentiles in general, that Israel is still God’s chosen people. And indeed, this is not a message that Gentiles have understood well regardless of Paul turning himself into a pretzel to make the point in Romans 9-11. Read these chapters yourself, the election of Israel and its eventual salvation is the clear thesis. As Christ said, “Salvation is of the Jews.”

God’s plan of salvation involves the election of Christ and Israel. I am not going to take room here to expound further on this point, but let me also add that God elected apostleship (the ministry of the 12 apostles) and gifts as well. These are things mankind has NO control over. In John 3, of course the Spirit is like a blowing wind that man has no control over—of course man has no control over the Holy Spirit’s role in salvation, but can mankind choose to believe the truth about those works? I think he can.

Before I move on to why I think this is the case from a biblical perspective, let me mention a few of God’s purposes for election. First and foremost, God’s purpose of election is to completely eradicate works from justification:

though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls

Let’s pause here for a moment to think about something. Suppose God did elect certain individuals while condemning others. At least for the elect, they could be completely assured of their salvation because it was completely determined by God before the foundation of the world. How can you mess-up something that was determined by God umpteen years before you were even born? Many, many biblical texts could be cited to give this positive note to the presumed Reformed position on election. Problem is, Calvin believed that there are three forms of election: non-elect, temporary elect, and the truly elected. And therefore, assurance of salvation is not possible.‡‡ Of course, this defies the very purpose of writing 1John as stated by John himself (5:13). Because the Reformation is the primary commentary on the subject of election, the subject must be thoroughly revisited with stringent biblical evaluation.

Let’s look at another purpose of election in regard to Israel:

Deuteronomy 7:7 – It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

God chose Israel to demonstrate His power, promises, and protection through one of the smallest nations in the world. It makes no sense at all that a nation Israel’s size could survive in the midst of so many formidable enemies. This is the very manifestation in our day of God’s future promises for Israel.

God chose the lower classes of people in the world to demonstrate His wisdom through them:

1Corinthians 1:26 – For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written,

 Jeremiah 9:24 – “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

A problem that James confronted in the assemblies as well was the inclination of Christians in that day to capitulate to the rich and powerful. Paul reminds them that God chose their class to confound the pride of the rich and powerful, so a capitulation to the upper class circumvents the purposes of God in that aspect of election. This isn’t saying that the rich and powerful cannot be saved, but it is irrefutable that God chose the lowly in general by virtue of who He targeted in His ministry endeavors. A pattern of means and purposes in election is what we see developing in our study. This doesn’t exclude individual choice by any means.

Let’s begin to look at the individual. Mankind has an intuitive knowledge of God:

Romans 1:18 – For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Furthermore, mankind is created with the works of the law written on hearts along with a conscience that administers that law by either accusing us or excusing us:

Romans 2:12 – For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

So…

Romans 1:32 – Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Man knows God, and knows right from wrong. He deliberately suppresses the truth in unrighteousness. Man is judged by God with a giving over to more enslavement to sin. This is a clear progression throughout the Bible. Even though God rose up Pharaoh to display His power and love for Israel, Pharaoh initially hardened his own heart, and that resulted in God further hardening the heart of Pharaoh. See, Exodus 7:3, 7:13, 7:22, 8:15, 8:19, 8:32, 9:7, 9:12, 9:34, 9:35, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:9 (the purpose), 14:4, 14:8, 14:17 (hearts of all the Egyptians hardened). I don’t believe God hardened Pharaoh’s heart against Pharaoh’s own will, I believe God made use of what He knew Pharaoh was going to do, and made Pharaoh more resolute in it via judgment. The Hebrews writer implored the people to not harden their hearts (Heb 3:8).

Clearly, man’s decision to not obey God and His gospel is a well-informed decision, but ultimately, will man always refuse to come to God unless God intervenes? Is his will in bondage unless God chooses to break that will?

As mentioned earlier, the traditional Protestant view of predestination must be rejected because it is fruit from the poisonous tree. The laity must seek out a biblical understanding of predestination because after all, “election” is in the Bible and is a biblical word. We are compelled to do this because it is our calling as the lowly of the world, and we are in darkness because we have capitulated to the academic elite.

We have looked at some of the big-picture aspects of election, and next week, we will bring this down to a more individual level. We will examine several verses in light of the big picture that do in fact seem to indicate that individual salvific fate is predetermined. We will also look at several verses that contradict that idea, and Lord willing, we will see the balance and truth in it.

But let me close with an important note on individual gospel appeal. One of the elements of Protestant predestination is the idea that Christ only died for those God preselected. This is known as “limited atonement.” My concern is that this doctrine greatly dampens the gospel plea of Hebrews 10. The idea there, is that the “Spirit of grace” will be “outraged” if such a “great salvation” is “neglected” (Heb 2:3). This indicates that Christ did die a horrible death in order to offer salvation to all. Hebrews 10 paints a terrifying picture of those who reject this salvation offer secured for them. Certainty, even if individuals are predetermined, we would be contradicting the apostolic office if we downplayed the terror of neglecting this salvation offered to all:

2Corintinthians 5:11 – Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.

Next week, we continue this journey and we invite you to come with us.

The Potter’s House Home Fellowship.

Endnotes 

*This is a point widely conceded by the Reformed camp. One source among much conspicuous data is Dave Hunt’s classic work, What Love is This? pp. 56-60.

**Karma is the infant stage of Hinduism where saints believe they are responsible for their own actions, but as growth moves forward, the mature saint…

He becomes convinced that God has been doing everything by using his body, mind, energy and the senses. He feels that he is only an instrument in the hands of God, and whatever God has been doing to him is for his ultimate spiritual good. At this high level of spirituality the doctrine of predestination becomes the only valid doctrine to him. To him the doctrine of karma ceases to be a valid doctrine.

Therefore, these two doctrines, even though apparently contradictory to each other, are valid for people at different stages of spiritual growth.

~ Swami Bhaskarananda: Chapters IX to XI of the book “The Essentials of Hinduism,” Heading; “Predestination.”

†Also see Isaiah 48:14-15, 49:1-6, 61:1.

††Also see Isaiah 43:1, 44:1,2, 45:4, 48:12, 51:16.

‡Paul cites Malachi 1:2,3 which pertains to God’s hatred of Edom because of their wickedness and persecution of Israel. The Edomites were allied with Babylon and took part in the destruction of the first temple.

‡‡ Let us, therefore, embrace Christ, who is kindly offered to us, and comes forth to meet us: he will number us among his flock, and keep us within his fold. But anxiety arises as to our future state. For as Paul teaches, that those are called who were previously elected, so our Savior shows that many are called, but few chosen (Mt. 22:14). Nay, even Paul himself dissuades us from security, when he says, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor. 10:12). And again, “Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee,” (Rom. 11:20, 21). In fine, we are sufficiently taught by experience itself, that calling and faith are of little value without perseverance, which, however, is not the gift of all (CI 3.24.6).

Calvinism derived its 3 classes ultimately from the 3 classes in Valentinian Gnosticism (see Ireneaus’ five books Against Heresies):

1. Pneumatics (spirituals) – The elect of the elect.

2. Psuchics (soulys) – The average elect.

3. Hylics (carnals) – The non-elect.

Online source: http://wp.me/pmd7S-2LF

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on April 6, 2014 at 8:15 AM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.

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