Paul's Passing Thoughts


Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 4, 2014

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This will be our ninth and final lesson on election. We will now continue on in our verse by verse study of Romans. We will resume in Romans 14:1. Just three chapters left in our study of Romans. We are not quite ready to relent from our focus on justification in this gospel-illiterate age, so our next verse by verse focus will be Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

I wanted to divert into a temporary journey of discovery regarding election because it is an important part of Paul’s letter to the Romans. As I have stated before, I was comfortable skimming over the subject because of the overall ignorance in regard to justification. I somewhat rethought that position and decided to look at election closer. The first eight parts of our interlude have set forth a mostly logical argument against the idea of salvific preselection of individuals, but I believe our study here nails down a definitive doctrinal argument based on grammatical interpretation.

I have come to believe that individuals are not preselected, but it is the plan of salvation that is elected, and the end of it predetermined. Hence, the certain outcome of God’s plan for the ages is what is predetermined, and that is part of the good news: a hopeful outcome is predetermined, not specific people. Certainly, God knows who is going to be saved, but He does not preselect individuals for eternal life and eternal damnation. I have seen this vaguely in Scripture from time to time, but the first three chapters of Ephesians have convinced me of it.

This is why we are going to move on in the book of Romans; we could spend a lifetime learning about election, but I think basic understanding is enough for now as we will see more of the pieces come together in future readings.

Whenever election appears in the text of Scripture, the subject is almost always Jew and Gentile, and that is what we see in the first three chapters of Ephesians. Election is not about individuals, it is about God’s purpose for groups in His overall plan of salvation. Individuals are not excluded from the plan of salvation. The plan is offered as a gift to man, and there is no other way to be saved. That’s the theme of election—it is the offering of a gift; viz, God’s plan of salvation for all men.

Ephesians 1:3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

“Us” refers to both Jew and Gentile. Jew and Gentile were chosen before the foundation of the earth, not individuals. Paul will also cite the specific purposes of God’s plan accordingly. Two groups of people are in view here, not individuals. As we move along, this becomes clearer and clearer. These groups were chosen “in Christ.” His death made the inclusion possible. These groups will also be adopted sons, or part of God’s literal family.

Ephesians 1:7 – In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

What is elected is Christ and God’s plan for the ages. The “mystery” of His will is according to His purposes set forth in Christ. The purposes are, “to unite all things in him,” which includes heaven and earth, and to make it all “known to us,” that is, Jew and Gentile.

Ephesians 1:11 – In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

“We” is Jew and Gentile. But, “we” in verse 12 are the Jews only who were first to hope in Christ. God’s will is that they be the “praise of his glory.” Note “In him you also” (verse 13) is obviously talking about Gentiles. Individuals are not the subject here. What is in view is God’s plan, purposes, and the groups that He has chosen to bring about those purposes according to the counsel of His will.

Individuals enter into the privileges and purposes of God’s plan when they hear the word of truth and believe. It is when we hear the gospel and believe that we are “sealed.” Hence, it is God’s plan for people groups that is predetermined, individuals are saved in time when they hear the gospel and believe. It is “when” we heard and believed that we were “sealed,” we were not sealed before the foundation of the earth; we were sealed in time when we believed. There is a clear distinction in the text between these two ideas. We enter into God’s family and His plan for the ages “through” faith.

Ephesians 2:1 – And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 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— 3 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. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

“Made ‘us’ alive together with Christ” continues to show the dominant theme of Jew and Gentile and God’s purposes in making both groups joint heirs of God’s salvation and entry into His family. Now, many take note of “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God”…

See! See! Your very faith is a gift. Not only is the plan predestined, your faith is predestined.

So, the question becomes, is it God’s grace (salvation) that is the gift, or faith? Let’s answer the question with Scripture:

Romans 3:22…For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded.

Clearly, it is grace that is the gift, made possible by Christ’s death, and “received” by faith. In both texts, the fact that grace is the gift excludes boasting, not the idea that our faith is predetermined. Also, “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power” (Eph 3:7). Grace is the gift, not faith. Faith comes by hearing the word and being persuaded that it is the way of salvation.

Ephesians 3:11 – Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

This is the “mystery” that is now revealed:

Ephesians 3:1 – For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

And another purpose is stated:

Ephesians 3:8 – To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

The revealing of the mystery and its purposes in Christ is what is elected, not individuals. This is the very theme that is initially stated:

Ephesians 1:3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Again, “us” is both Jew and Gentile—that the two would be one is what is predetermined—not individuals. It is an “eternal” purpose (Eph 3:11). We gain “access” to this purpose and become part of its covenants and promises “through our faith in him” (Eph 3:11). Faith is distinct from the eternal purpose which is elected. God elected the means which are accessed through faith. If faith is the mark of those who have been preselected as opposed to those who haven’t been preselected, why wouldn’t the Bible state that fact in plain terms? This is why some peradventure to make faith a gift in the same wise as grace using Eph 2:8. Romans 3:22ff and many other texts refute that idea—grace is the gift. In one sense, faith is an indirect gift because without grace there is nothing to believe in, but in the biggest sense salvation is a legitimate offer and mankind’s choice to either accept the gift or reject it.

In this discussion, let’s consider Matthew 22:

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Again, the context of election is two groups: Jew and Gentile. Jesus directs this parable towards the Jewish leaders who were rejecting Him and leading the Jewish people to do the same. The original invitation to the wedding feast was to the Jews. When they, for the most part rejected the invitation, and even murdered those who invited them, the King orders His servants to call anyone they can find to the feast (the Gentiles). The one found at the feast without the traditional wedding coat represents a Jew who comes to the feast on his own terms.

What I would like to address is verse 14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Just about everywhere else in Scripture, the same word translated “chosen” here, is eklektos which appears 21 times in the New Testament and translated “elect.” So, a better translation here would be, “many are called, but few are elect.” Jesus was addressing the mindset of the Jewish leaders that they would be a part of the great feast because they were God’s chosen people. In reality, they were being called to God’s elect purposes which included Christ, the elect angels, and the election of Jews and Gentiles both. Their rejection of this elect purpose would condemn them to eternal punishment. The point saturates the context surrounding this passage.

This brings us to the infamous Acts 13:48:

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed (ESV).

Regardless of the controversy surrounding the various translations of this verse, the context is God’s predetermination that the Gentiles would become heirs of the promises made to Israel. There would not be two classes of people in the kingdom—Jew and Gentile would become one body in the commonwealth of Israel. That is the mystery of the gospel revealed in this age. Acts is the historical account of this plan being unfolded. The point in Acts 13:48 is the inclusion of a group, not the preselection of individuals. I do believe that many translations slant this verse towards that conclusion (individual selection), but clearly, it doesn’t fit the context and is off-topic.

It is amazing how we have been conditioned by Protestantism to interpret everything through the prism of individual selection. Every instance of intervention on God’s part is used to assume plenary predeterminism and thereby plunging the Scriptures into total confusion. God “opened” Lydia’s heart, so that means nobody understands anything unless God shows it to them. Hence, all ignorance is predetermined by God. “Study to show thyself approved,” but you aren’t going to understand anything unless God “opens” your eyes like He did to the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

This extreme view of Scripture starts with plenary monergism, and can only lead to one place: a caste system that inserts philosopher kings as mediators between mankind and God. This is also why Reformed theology posits Christ as the primary member of the Trinity with God the Father and the Holy Spirit playing secondary roles: Christ is promoted to the role of Father so that men can assume His role as mediator between God and mankind. This is where a Platonist worldview is essential to the mediation of elitist philosophers construct. God predetermines certain men to rule over the great unwashed masses. This, in turn, leads to absolution and salvation being found in an institution run by elitists.

Yet another consideration:

Romans 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— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Once again, what is the context? In fact, what is the context of what follows in Romans chapters 10 and 11? Answer, the whole Jew/Gentile issue… “even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” Because of God’s elected purpose, neither Jew nor Gentile has reason to boast. And again, it is grace that is elected, not individual choice. Does the Bible ever say directly that individual choice is predetermined? I don’t think so. Rather, freedom to choose seems to be assumed. For certain, what man can choose is predetermined, but the choice itself is not predetermined. Many things such as God’s intervention and helping us in our weakness is interpreted as plenary monergism—I think this is wrong—weakness does NOT equal total inability.

Furthermore, indeed, God hated Esau and loved Jacob before they were even born…or did he? Read the text carefully. Before they were born, he predetermined that the older would serve the younger based on what God knew about these two men and their lives beforehand. Esau would not be selected to further the linage of the coming Messiah because of what God knew about his character beforehand. If you read the Old Testament text that Paul uses to make his point (Malachi 1:2,3), you will find that God hated Esau because of his betrayal of Israel in time, not because God predetermined his behavior.

God elected the plan of salvation and His  purposes for the ages. All men are “invited” (klētos: Rom 8:28; Matt 22:14) to be a part of this plan THROUGH faith. Many are invited, but only those who love God are part of His elect group called out for His specific purposes. The plan, and the way he works all things together for the elect is His “workmanship,” not individuals per se. In other words, God doesn’t predetermine our choices as God’s elect. He may intervene at certain points to bring about our good, but we are responsible for our own choices. Unsaved people are free to accept the invitation or reject it.

This is why many of the Reformed make it a point to call the gospel an “announcement,” “herald,” or “proclamation.” The idea that the gospel is an “invitation” creates huge problems for them.

The so-called “church,” ekklēsia, is the “out-called,” ek (out) – klesia (called). It is not an institution; it is a calling to Gods purposes for the ages and an invitation to be a part of it. You are being called away from all other plans to God’s plans that have a certain end—you can also call that “repentance.” You are “persuaded” by the invitation and believe it.

You are then part of God’s elect.

The Potter’s House: Law and Grace; Romans Chapter 4

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on September 5, 2014

Potters House logo 2  Originally published January 2, 2013

We now come to chapter four in our study of Romans. Thus far, Paul has emphasized that all men, whether Jew or Gentile, are saved by faith alone. This salvation is a revelation of God’s righteousness, and is imputed to us when we believe in Jesus Christ. We have learned that the gospel is the full counsel of God which of course includes the death burial, and resurrection of Christ. We have learned that Paul was very concerned with a spiritual caste system that would render the Gentiles as second-class citizens in the church. Though the church is uniquely Jewish, God shows no partiality in regard to race and gives the various gifts of salvation to all men freely.

What we have in the book of Romans is a radical dichotomy between justification and sanctification; or said another way, salvation and its imputed righteousness set against the Christian life as kingdom citizens living on earth as aliens and ambassadors. However, there is NO dichotomy between law and gospel. Why? Because both are the full counsel of God. In the Bible, “law,” “truth,” “gospel,” “Scriptures,” “holy writ,” “the law and the prophets,” and other terms are used interchangeably to speak of the closed canon of God’s full counsel for life and godliness. Christ as well as Paul made it absolutely clear: man lives by every word that proceeds from God and ALL Scripture is profitable to make the servant of God complete in every good work.

Now listen: though the life application of some Scripture changes with time and circumstances, it still remains that all Scripture informs us in regard to our walk with God in the way we pray, think, and act. We do not stone rebellious children in our day. Nay, when we have a rebellious teen in the church, we do not gather the congregation together and stone him/her to death. With that said, does the fact that God at one time instructed the Jews to do so inform us in regard to many applications for teen rebellion in our day? Absolutely. Oh my, the contemporary applications in our day are almost endless. Not only that, Old Testament ritual and symbolism offers a built-in protective hermeneutic for the Scriptures as a whole. What do I mean by that? Well, you can mess with words, but symbolism is very difficult to mess with. If it’s a lampstand, it’s hard to change that to a Honda Civic. Right?

Paul delves into a paramount truth for Christians in the book of Romans: The relationship of the law to the unsaved verses the saved. And here it is: the lost are UNDER the law, and the saved are UNDER grace, but informed by the law. Let me repeat that: the lost are UNDER the law, and the saved are UNDER grace, but informed by the law. And we can see this right in the same neighborhood of the text that we are in.

Romans 3:21—But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—

That verse pretty much says it all. We are justified apart from the law, and as we will see, Paul means totally apart from the law. But we are informed by it. Paul states in Romans 3:28:

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Now note what he states after a few verses following in Romans 4:3,

For what does the Scripture say?

Paul strives to make the point in this letter that law is not even on the radar screen in regard to justification. And this is extremely important to know in our day for many teach that law is on the justification radar screen and therefore Christ must keep the law for us in order to maintain our justification. Not so, there is no law to keep in regard to justification—a righteousness APART from the law, the very righteousness of God has been imputed to our account in full. Paul even writes (and this is very radical) that Christians are sinless in regard to justification because there is no law in justification to judge us:

Romans 7:1—Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?

Romans 7:6—But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive….(v.8) Apart from the law, sin lies dead.

Now, the law can judge our sin in our Christian life, but that can’t touch the fact that we are “washed.” Therefore, in sanctification, we only need to wash our feet to maintain a healthy family relationship with our Father God and Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ. Turn with me and let’s look at this in John 13:1-11:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Clearly, “washing” refers to salvation, and differs from needing the lesser washing of the feet. The example is set against the unregenerate betrayer among them. Note that Jesus said that even though we needed to wash our feet, we are still “completely clean.” My, my, what a strong contrast to much of the teachings in our day; i.e., the idea of “deep repentance” that is the same repentance that saved us and keeps us saved—as long as we are in a Reformed church where such forgiveness is available. (more…)