the weblog of Alan Knox

The Call to Worship

Posted by on Nov 26, 2012 in blog links, worship | 153 comments

The Call to Worship

While we’ve been studying through Ephesians on Sunday mornings, we keep tripping over the word walk. Of course, these instructions about “walking” are actually instructions about living. And, of course again, living is something that take place every day… every minute actually.

When you think about the way you “walk” (or live), do you only think about certain times or certain situations? Of course not. Life never stops. Our “walk” never stops. Whether we are walking in a worthy manner or not, we are always walking.

Just to get the juices flowing… here are the passages that I’m referring to:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 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… (Ephesians 2:1-2 ESV)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called… (Ephesians 4:1 ESV)

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. (Ephesians 4:17 ESV)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)… (Ephesians 5:8b-9 ESV)

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV)

Now, when I was meditating on those passages, I came across the post below on Dave Black’s blog (November 24, 2012 at 8:52 a.m.):

“Now let us prepare our hearts for worship this morning” is perhaps the most-repeated sentence you’ll hear when you enter church on Sunday mornings. It is, of course, completely unbiblical. Worship is 24/7 (see Rom. 12:1-2). We don’t come to church to worship; we come as worshippers.

Theologically, the church has no “place of worship.” God already dwells within the community of His followers. A church building can never properly be called a “worship center” because that title has been reserved, under the New Covenant, for God’s people. For me, having a “call to worship” is a witness to a deep lack of biblical understanding. True worship, real biblical worship, takes place Monday through Saturday as much as it does on Sunday.

I wonder what would happen if Christians stopped seeing a certain time at a certain place as “worship” and understood that every step they took (in their “walk”) is or is not worship. It can be worship… it may not be worship.

I wonder what would happen if Christians began to realize that God is probably more concerned with how they live at other times than what they do when they enter a “church building” (or a home church, for that matter).

It’s about our walk… not about a special time of “worship.”


153 Comments

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  1. 11-26-2012

    I wonder what would happen if Christians truly understood who they were as new Creations in Christ. I wonder what would happen if Christians truly understood the unsearchable riches of Christ that God has given to us in the Mystery of the Gospel. I wonder what would happen if Christians, as Paul prayed, were given strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that they would be filled with all the fullness of God. I wonder…

    Would we even be having this discussion about a “Call to Worship” or “prepare our hearts”? Would “places of worship” simply be wherever there is a Christian?

    Unfortunately, these things are not so. Although Satan and his devils have been conquered in the war (at the cross), they have made and continue to make many little successes in individual battles. Let us, therefore, gird ourselves up with the armor of God and take our positions, and with all gentleness and respect, give people the reason for the hope that is in us. After all, to live is Christ!

  2. 11-26-2012

    You’re right that life is supposed to be worship, but I wonder if we don’t take the wrong message from that sometimes. Even Old Testament believers tell us that from the rising of the sun until the going down of the same the LORD’s name is to be praised (Psalm 113:3), and that heaven itself can’t hold God, much less Solomon’s temple (2 Chron 6:18). So they knew that God wasn’t tied to any particular time or place, yet they also had calls to worship (Psalm 100:2,4; 95:2) and holy places (Psalm 42:4; 2 Chron. 20:28). I may be wrong about this, but I don’t think they were necessarily lacking Biblical understanding. I think back to the times in which the glory of God filled the temple (for instance 2 Chron 7:1-2) or to the incident on the Mount of Transfiguration. Was there any “more of God” present at those places? Were those inherently holy places? Of course not. But were those normal times? It kind of seems like they weren’t. After the glory of God filled the temple the priests were unable to enter it for a time. Granted, God isn’t spatial, but there was something special going on there. People who have calls to worship aren’t denying that all of life should be worship, they simply believe that something different happens when believers purposely, explicitly, and willfully worship God corporately. I’m kinda weird (or perhaps carnal and fleshly) but I can see some precedent for that in Scripture. I will now shut up and listen.

  3. 11-26-2012

    Dwight,

    More good questions. Let’s keep encouraging one another to live each moment as worship to God in Jesus Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

    Ben,

    Yes, there are times when God appears closer – nearer – more present, if you will. However, I do think there is a huge difference between the times you mentioned and today. The difference is that today God indwells his children. He walks with us every day… every moment. Today, the glory of God fills us always.

    -Alan

  4. 11-26-2012

    Good words. Granted, God indwells us at all times, and there is a difference in the Spirit’s ministry under the New Covenant. I guess I struggle with the details though. For example the author of Hebrews seems to be referring to or alluding to Old Testament promises when he reminds his readers that God will never leave us nor forsake us. So I’m not sure if God’s permanent presence with his people is something unique to the New Covenant. I also know that Paul prays that the Ephesians would come to know the love of Christ that passes knowledge that they might be “filled with all the fullness of God”. It seems like we can be filled more than we currently are. Is it possible that that same thing applied to believers in the Old Testament? Maybe they had the Spirit, but not in His fullness? Once again I will shut up and listen.

  5. 11-26-2012

    I wonder too. I can taste it and see glimpses of it! It’s beautiful.

  6. 11-26-2012

    Ben,

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think God ever said that he indwelled his people before the Spirit descended on Pentecost. That seems to be the difference that Paul and others emphasized in their writings. God was not longer just with them, he was not even just among them; he was now indwelling them.

    Randi,

    Yes, and those glimpses keep us pushing forward!

    -Alan

  7. 11-27-2012

    This is where I get confused. Do you think Old Testament believers could be saved without being indwelt by the Holy Spirit? I know that no one gets to the Father except through Christ (John 14:6) and that if someone doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ he doesn’t belong to Him (Rom. 8:9). Yet it seems like Old and New Testament believers sit together at Christ’s table (Matt 8:11). How do understand salvation in the Old Testament? Do you think there’s a difference between “having” the Holy Spirit and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit?

  8. 11-27-2012

    May I? Thanks!

    1. There was a Mystery…
    There was a Mystery that was not known to those in the OT, but kept secret and hidden by God, until His specific revelation to NT apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

    “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” (Col 1:26)

    “the mystery was made known to me by revelation.” (Eph 3:3)

    “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 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.” (Eph 3:4-5)

    2. Salvation comes from…
    …the same thing in the OT as in the NT, faith in God, but the results in this world are different. (After death, to depart from the body is to be present with Christ.)

    OT believers could only be anointed by the Spirit, not indwelt, and that anointment could be removed (e.g. King Saul). OT people did not even know that the indwelling of the Spirit could happen; it was a Mystery kept hidden from previous ages and generations. NT believers are indwelt by the Spirit, and they are given that deposit is a guarantee of their inheritance. (I think many of us do not realize the glorious riches of this revelation, and minimize the grace that God extends to us.)

    See numerous OT references to how the Spirit has “come upon” people for a purpose, and that David prayed in Psalm 51 (et al?) that it not be taken away (because it could).

    3. This OT/NT believer difference IS the Mystery!
    But, full understanding of it is for the mature. Understanding this Mystery is not required for salvation. However, one must be saved first before they can understand it.

    “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” Col 1:28

    “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh.” (1 Cor 3:1-3)

    “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14)

    4. That’s why Paul prays you’ll get it…
    …, because its understanding is not automatic. In fact, it was Paul’s mission not just to save people (“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” 1 Cor 9:22), but also “to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things” (Eph 3:9). In fact, he was in jail for this very reason.

    “I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known” (Col 1:25).

    5. Behold! I tell you the Mystery…

    “To [his saints] God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col 1:27

    Christ was never IN any believer before Pentecost.

    “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20) What day? Pentecost.

    Conclusion:
    Most of the NT epistles are about sanctification, not salvation. Salvation is as easy as John 3:16. Sanctification comes from being transformed by the renewal of your mind with the truth (Romans 12:2, John 17:17).

    The spiritual journey that BEGINS at the new Birth. This journey is entirely Spirit led, but you must be willing to follow. You will not be forced to follow. Instead, we must humble ourselves and walk in the Spirit, so that we will not gratify the desires of the flesh (although we are still saved), for the flesh is against the Spirit and the Spirit is against the flesh, so that we will NOT grieve the Spirit, nor can the flesh comprehend the things of God, so that the Spirit can guide us into all truth.

    Being filled with the Spirit through sanctification, which requires ongoing humility, is NOT the same as being indwelt by the Spirit through NT salvation, which happens the moment you believe in Christ.

    I end with this wonderful news (please read slowly and carefully)…
    Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”– these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (1 Col 2:6-12)

    Amen!!

    In Christ,
    Dwight
    (I hope I didn’t leave any typos!)

  9. 11-27-2012

    Jeremiah 31:31-34(NET) “Indeed, a time is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt. For they violated that covenant, even though I was like a faithful husband to them,” says the LORD. “But I will make a new covenant with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land,” says the LORD. “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people. “People will no longer need to teach their neighbors and relatives to know me. For all of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me,” says the LORD. “For I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done.”

    Whether we like it or not, Jeremiah is giving a word that says it wasn’t that way before. The Spirit IN his followers is new to Christianity.

  10. 11-27-2012

    Ben,

    Dwight and Tom went into much more detail than I would have, but I think they’ve covered most of it.

    -Alan

  11. 11-27-2012

    Ben Dwight Tom Alan –
    This is great!! This topic is apparently the topic of the week for me… I am studying in Genesis – now onto the abrahamic covenant (Gen 12) and it’s been making me re-think what I believe God’s relationship is to Israel now & future.

    Believing what you believe about the indwelling of Christ Jesus in us, the Church, which I agree with…..

    can you give some more insights/scriptures on God’s relationship with Israel still today…. and in future?

    How does God’s new covenant work with the abrahamic covenant? Do you believe that we are going to see a future literal fulfillment of the abrahamic covenant (though we see much of it through Israel’s journey in the OT)…..

    I don’t know what other questions I have… this is just very timely and I could use some insight.

  12. 11-27-2012

    maybe the question I’m asking is..

    how has God’s creation of/relation to the Church – altered His relationship with Israel, if at all.

  13. 11-27-2012

    and even more specifically.

    Romans 11:25-27

    The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation
    25 hLest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers:4 ia partial hardening has come upon Israel, juntil the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
    k“The Deliverer will come lfrom Zion,
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
    27 “and this will be my mcovenant with them
    nwhen I take away their sins.”

  14. 11-27-2012

    Tom,

    Although it carries many similarities, I don’t think that Jeremiah 31 passage refers to “Christ in you.” Why not?

    1. The promise is for Israel and Judah, not Gentiles also. That Gentiles were included in the promise of Jesus Christ through the gospel (Eph 3:6) is part of the Mystery, but not all of it.

    2. The new covenant is for the “whole nation of Israel.” Christians are not Israel, just as Israel is not Christian. Israel has a different purpose and a different inheritance than Christians. This distinction is necessary to understand much of NT scripture.

    3. It is also necessary to understand that Christians are not under the law, but under grace (Rom 6:14; Gal 5:18). “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal 5:13)

    4. Paul made it clear that “Christ in you, the hope of glory” was a mystery, hidden from previous ages, kept secret by God. The Jeremiah passage reveals something. If it’s revealing the Mystery, then either Paul was lying, or what God revealed to the apostles wasn’t really kept secret or hidden.

    Was God hinting about what was to come through the gospel of Christ? Or was God talking about something else? I think it was something else. Another clue is the timing: “after I plant them back in the land.” Although we see Israel and the Middle East in major struggles now, I don’t think it (the law written on their hearts and minds) has happened yet to the “whole nation of Israel.”

    Let me guess… now it’s more confusing! So much for me “making it plain to everyone!” It’s all good, however. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Enjoy!

    Dwight

  15. 11-27-2012

    Dwight

    that was good clarification for me so far… even though you weren’t answering me – it helped me!

    especially # 2 – The new covenant is for the “whole nation of Israel.” Christians are not Israel, just as Israel is not Christian. Israel has a different purpose and a different inheritance than Christians. This distinction is necessary to understand much of NT scripture.

    and

    your ending:
    “Another clue is the timing: “after I plant them back in the land.” Although we see Israel and the Middle East in major struggles now, I don’t think it (the law written on their hearts and minds) has happened yet to the “whole nation of Israel.”

    soooo Dwight can you give me more information/scripture/insight into God’s purpose for Israel future… what you believe will happen.

    I know there are different schools of thought – a literal millenial kingdom where Jesus is literally on the throne in Zion (Jerusalem)… Israel restored during that time.

    so what does that mean for Jews now?? and what happens when they physically die – until that time of restoration?

  16. 11-27-2012

    Randi,

    Ah… Romans chapters 9 thru 11 (including the verses you quoted) are very worthy of careful study. In these chapters, Paul is explaining God’s eternal purpose and sovereign choice specifically in regards to Israel, contrasting His plan for Israel with His plan for the Church. Paul is basically addressing the argument from Israel’s arrogant point of view that Gentiles are not part of God’s plan. Paul is saying His original plan for Israel has not been canceled out by the New Covenant regarding the Church, it was God’s choice to have it that way, and no one can bring a charge against God’s elect.

    Notice this interesting phrase in your quote, “in this way, all Israel will be saved.” ALL Israel? Why? Did they all come to believe in Christ? No, but they are still God’s elect. Different purpose, different inheritance. Israel’s inheritance is always about land… the meek shall inherit the earth. Check it out!

    Romans 9 is often used (incorrectly) to show that God chooses individuals to be saved. However, read those verses in context, several times, and I believe you will see that it’s about God’s sovereign choice regarding His purpose for Israel. He did what He did because He wanted to do it. It’s about His eternal plan.

    Salvation, on the other hand, is not the subject of this chapter. Salvation is the same in the OT as it is in the NT. But, just as God has a plan for Israel that is distinct from the Church, God also has a plan for the Church that is distinct from Israel. That is the subject of this chapter.

    This distinction is also carried out in Revelation. If you read Revelation with the thought that Israel and Christians inherit the same thing, it will be very confusing. Keep them separate. You will see that Israel’s inheritance always was and always is about land. The Christian’s inheritance always was and is about heavenly rewards; “I go to prepare a place for you that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3, run the race, to die is gain, and many more.)

    Hope this helps, Randi! Enjoy your time in God’s Word!

    Dwight

  17. 11-27-2012

    YES YES YES!!! Yes you hit right on the bigger picture of what I was missing. Thank you for handing that to me – that really helped make so many things more clear!

    Can I email you and pick your brain a bit more for some clarity on some other specifics?

  18. 11-27-2012

    Really I guess all I’m seeking now is clarification on when you believe that this fulfillment will happen…. during a literal millenial kingdom?

  19. 11-27-2012

    Randi,

    Praise be to Him who has given us the Spirit to understand the deep things of God!! I would love to discuss this further. First, let me ask Alan about using this blog post or sharing my email address. Second, I need a rest! Lord willing, we will continue tomorrow.

    Alan,
    Would you mind if I share my email address on your blog, or if we just continue our discussion here?

    Dwight

  20. 11-27-2012

    Dwight – Thanks so much for your willingness to talk to me. :) I am originally from New Jersey (morris county) – moved down south for college in 2001 and can’t leave now :)

  21. 11-27-2012

    Dwight and Tom, thank you for your long and thoughtful responses to me. I just got out of work and was surprised and thankful to see how the comments have progressed. Dwight and Randi really got into this stuff!! That’s cool.

    Dwight, I don’t know you, but I think I like you. You’re very passionate about this stuff and I like that. I realize that you’ve been tuckered out by Randi, and I don’t want to increase your workload needlessly with a flood of more questions, but I actually have a flood of questions about what you’ve said. I’ll start with one though. Whenever you get the time, I’m wondering about the thing you said about the separate plans and separate destinies of Israel and the church. Where do you believe the Old Testament believers are right now? Are they in heaven with Jesus?

  22. 11-27-2012

    I’m enjoying this discussion too. I think that Paul’s statement “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (Romans 9:6) is very relevant here, and it muddies the water quite a bit when we are trying to figure out who that eschatological “Israel” is.

    Feel free to continue the discussion here (for now), or you can share your email addresses and continue there indefinitely. :)

    -Alan

  23. 11-28-2012

    How does Hebrews 8 fit into this conversation as well??!! :)

  24. 11-28-2012

    I am pretty much becoming famous now for tuckering people out – so no pressure Dwight… and no offense taken Ben Plummer.

    :)

  25. 11-28-2012

    I’m great at tuckering people out too. I like to think of people like us as the spiritual calisthenics instructors of the church.

  26. 11-28-2012

    I wish blog comments were like Facebook comments so I could just hit “like”. :) “like” to Ben Plummer.

  27. 11-29-2012

    Thanks for the very kind words, Ben. Thanks for your enthusiasm, Randi. Thanks for getting us started and allowing us to use your blog, Alan.

    I am thoroughly enjoying this conversation. It’s not often I can ramble and someone appreciates it! I didn’t post yesterday because I was not feeling well. Believe it or not, it wasn’t because I was tuckered out. ;-)

    I look forward to continuing and will start by saying this… Hebrews 8? It talks about an old and a new covenant with Israel, where the new replaces the old. The old was highly symbolic (a copy and shadow of heavenly things), but the new, which is more excellent, is the heavenly thing itself, namely the shedding of the blood of Christ.

    The old covenant with all its laws obviously pertains to Israel. We know without a doubt that the Mosaic law does not apply to the Church (although some churches seem to take it upon themselves to emphasize a moral law). The Law is what distinguished Israel from other nations. Israel doesn’t become the Church, neither does the Church become Israel. So, why do we think that when scripture says God “will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” that it doesn’t just mean the houses of Israel and Judah? Why do we think He must mean to include the Church also, or (worse) that He’s talking about the Church and NOT the houses of Israel and Judah?

    Again, I think confusion sets in when the new covenant described here, made explicitly with Israel, is somehow made to include the Church. To me, many verses become clear when I hold this distinction, just as when I make the distinction between salvation (which is by grace and not of works, Eph 2:8-9) and sanctification (which depends on ongoing humility and includes discipline).

    Ben, I owe you a response to your questions, “Where do you believe the Old Testament believers are right now? Are they in heaven with Jesus?” My simple answer to the latter question is yes, but that is not their ultimate inheritance. I’d like to reason from scripture on the above, and will get back to you.

  28. 11-29-2012

    Thank you Dwight. Good clarification.

    I think it’s a great reminder that Hebrews was written to HEBREWS – aka Israelites – aka Jews. Duh, Randi.

    So when we read passages like Hebrews 8 – we must remember who he (Paul?) was writing to – thank you for that reminder. Often times when I forget the bigger picture of what exactly I am reading, I get myself all discombobulated and then find myself saying, “oh yeah.. duh!” when I remember the bigger picture.

    That being said…. I guess I got thrown off by Hebrews 8 because my mind got focused on the Abrahamic covenant since that is what I am studying (and because Abraham was mentioned in 6 & 7)….. You reminded me that the “old covenant” they are referring to here is not the Abrahamic or even palestinian covenant of land/national blessings…. to the people. 8 is referring to…like you said… the old covenant of Law and now the new covenant of Spirit. This was Paul helping the Hebrews understand even deeper how different the new covenant they have been given and the access they have to GOd through Jesus, and nobody, nothing else is needed – yes!!

    We, the Church, do of course benefit from this passage & covenant as well, as it reminds us of the gospel & Jesus’ place of intercession for us.

    Thank you!!

    And your thoughts on the verse Alan gave reference to? Romans 9:6

  29. 11-29-2012

    p.s. hope you are feeling better today.

  30. 11-29-2012

    I’m not sure I understand what the issue is around 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,”). The latter part of the verse, which ends with a comma not a period in the ESV, is a summary of what is described in detail in the verses that follow. I take it to mean that on one hand someone might say Israel consists of anyone descended from Abraham, but that it really means Israel refers to those who are recipients of the Promise made to Israel. Sorry, Esau, that ain’t you! Esau descended, but does not belong.

  31. 11-29-2012

    Dwight,

    Paul’s thought about “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” continues through that whole section of the letter. Later, in chapter 11, he’ll explain that some branches are broken off, referring to those from Israel who did not belong to Israel – i.e., they did not belong by faith as he explains in chapter 9-11. Now, other branches have been grafted in, referring to the Gentiles, and thus creating a new Israel. (Romans 11:17) Romans 11:22-24 explains that the “grafting in” includes any who have faith in God (whether Jew or Gentile).

    This leads directly to the statement, “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:25-26) Notice that he writes, “In this way, all Israel will be saved.” What “way”? By the full number of the Gentiles (by faith) being grafted into Israel (Jews who believe, but not those who don’t believe). So, which Israel is the “all Israel” who will be saved?

    -Alan

  32. 11-29-2012

    hmmm interesting..

    so Alan – I guess you are saying there are 2 different Israel’s. Which I think is clear. A political, ethnic Israel…. and a spiritual Israel. But then that would mean that you’re saying that “Israel” – the spiritual Israel – is synonymous with “the Church” right??? I get hung up there.

    I have heard from others that, “all Israel will be saved” in Romans 11 — will be all those who are referenced in Zechariah 13:9 — that there is a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in (Rom 11:25)… which lines up to what will happen…and at the end of the Great Tribulation…all Gentiles number will have come in, and the hardening of Israel ended… there will be 1/3 of the Jewish people left on earth, and THEY will be the ALL Israel…..a miraculous ingathering of the Jewish people to Jesus, and they shall look on the one whom they have pierced and mourn for him, etc. ettc….

    I don’t know. Just throwing things out there.

  33. 11-29-2012

    Randi,

    I think from Romans 11:25-26, Paul was including the Gentile believers in what he called “all Israel,” which he says will be saved.

    -Alan

  34. 11-30-2012

    Randi,

    You stated, “But then that would mean that you’re saying that “Israel” – the spiritual Israel – is synonymous with “the Church” right??? I get hung up there.”

    Good point. The Church (Christ IN you, the hope of glory) cannot fit into prophecy for Israel because the Church was a Mystery, kept hidden from previous generations until revealed to Paul and others in the NT. The Church is not merely a continuation of Israel, but separate and distinct. Israel was given a different and explicit promise.

    For one, these chapters in Romans, which I’ll break down more in another comment, describe how the nation of Israel is being disciplined because they were not the representative people of God that He intended. So, while their hearts are being hardened, the Church is the visible representative of God. But, that doesn’t mean God will forget His original promise to Israel, nor does it mean that Israel will share the same Mystery as the Church. The two remain different from each other.

    Dwight

  35. 11-30-2012

    I also get hung up where Randi does. When I read Ephesians 3 it seems like the mystery is that the Gentiles are grafted into Israel and partake of their blessings and promises (Eph. 3:6). If you look back to chapter 2, in verses 11-13, Paul speaks about the transformation that has taken place because of what Christ has done. He reminds the Ephesians of what they were (without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, without hope, and without God). The fact that he uses the past tense in verse 12 (ye were), to me at least, seems to imply that those things are no longer true. If that is the case then doesn’t that mean that the Gentile Ephesians now have Christ, are citizens of the commonwealth of Israel, partakers of the covenants of promise, living with hope, and with God? Also in Galatians 3:14 Paul says that the blessing of Abraham comes on the Gentiles through Christ. To me at least, that seems to imply some measure of continuity. I’ve been wrong before though, so I think I will stop my commenting and start listening.

  36. 11-30-2012

    The issues that we’re bringing up now is the reason that I said (earlier) that the term “Israel” is “muddy”… especially in Romans 9-11. :)

    -Alan

  37. 12-1-2012

    Again, not sure why the water is muddy. It’s clear to me that there is One Head, who is Jesus Christ, One Spirit, and One Father. Now, through Jesus Christ who has created the Church of which He is the Head, we are brought near to Him from whom we were far off. He has broken down the wall of hostility with His own flesh.

    How? By abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances. (Eph 2:15)

    Wait! Aren’t the law of commandments expressed in ordinances what defined Israel? Isn’t that what separated them as a people holy to God? If that definition is abolished, then why refer to anything by the name of ‘Israel’ ever again? Now, everything is either Church or not Church, right? Why does NT scripture continue to make distinct references to Israel even after the Church has come into existence and been established where there is not even Jew or Gentile, slave or free, nor male or female?

    Interesting dilemma, that is, until you let God’s word make the distinction that it makes. It refers to Israel for a reason; because there is still a Plan and a Promise that He made specifically for and to them, not the Church. Yes, the Planner is the same, but not the Plan.

    On the other hand, no one outside the Church, including all of the nation of Israel, was ever indwelt by the Holy Spirit. (Maybe if Israel WAS indwelt by the Holy Spirit, then it would make more sense to combine the two.) As a result of the destruction of this wall of hostility, we are joined to the same Planner, but not according to the same Plan.

    We as Christians in the Body of Christ, the Church, have something FAR better than anything God has ever done before. Even the angels long to look into these things! In fact, even in the coming ages, WE are going to be God’s trophy case that display the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:7).

    We are even New Creations in Christ. New! Never existed before! A human being with God’s own Holy Spirit in them, permanently! We have a more excellent glory than Israel was given, which is amazing considering the miracles and signs shown them, the leaders and prophets among them! But, God still has a Plan and a Purpose for Israel, which is separate from the Church, just as He has a Plan and Purpose for the Church, which is separate from Israel. Read on please…

    Giving us His Spirit was not just to get us into heaven; Jew and Gentile alike were saved in the OT without the indwelling of the Spirit. So, why gives us this Spirit? And if being given His Spirit means that we are filled with His Spirit, why does Paul encourage the Ephesians to be filled with the Spirit (and why contrast that with getting drunk with wine)? Why does he tell his audience in a number of letters and in a number of ways to be transformed by the renewal of their minds? Why does He tell people not to grieve the Spirit?

    We have an amazing gift, brothers and sisters. We have been given, by grace, everything we need to intimately know and love our own Creator, even the deep things of God. He WANTS (longs for, desires) us to know Him in this way!

    (Israel did not and does not have this opportunity. This privilege was given exclusively to the Church. To share in this privilege today, a Jew becomes a Christian, not the other way around.)

    As Paul prays in Ephesians 3, let us also pray, that we be strengthened with power in our inner beings to comprehend just how high and how wide and how deep and how long and how awesome is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge itself, and that we may be filled with ALL the fullness of God, who is able to do far more abundantly than all we could ask or imagine. To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen!

  38. 12-1-2012

    Dwight,

    I’m glad that it’s clear to you. It’s still a little muddy to me. For one thing, Israel did exist before the law. And, in Romans 9-11, the term “church” is never used. So, what were the unbelieving Jews broken off from and the believing Gentiles grafted into? (Romans 11:17) (Again, Paul never mentions “church” in that passage.) Or, when Paul writes “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in,” what were they coming into? (Romans 11:25) (Still no mention of “church”.) So, I still say that it is not always clear what Paul means when he uses the term “Israel” in Romans 9-11, and there are obvious cases when he changes what he means in mid-sentence (such as Romans 9:6.

    -Alan

  39. 12-1-2012

    I think one of the reasons that some of us find this stuff confusing is because a lot of different issues come into play here. I think we all would agree that there is only one head of the Church, one Spirit, and one Father. I think we would also agree that there is only one name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12). That name is Jesus, and there is salvation in no other (John 14:6). If that’s the case then it seems like in both testaments people were saved by faith in Christ. I think that Alan is right about Israel predating the law. I think it was the covenant promises which defined Israel not the law. The very reason that God delivered Israel from Egypt was because they were already His people (Ex. 3:6-7). Paul says that the law “was added” to the promise for a certain purpose and for a certain time (Gal 3:19). From what I can tell, Paul seems to argue that that addition neither disannulled (Gal 3:17) nor detracted from (Gal 3:21) the promises. I think its purpose was subservient to the gospel (i.e. to show Israel their sin (Gal 3:19) and to drive them to trust not in themselves but in the coming Redeemer (Gal 3:23-24).

    You said that if Israel was indwelt by the Holy Spirit it might make sense to combine the two.
    I’m not at all certain about this, but it seems like Galatians 3:14 ties the Gentile’s reception of the Spirit back to the blessings of Abraham that come upon us.

  40. 12-1-2012

    Also I didn’t mean to imply that the reception of the Spirit was synonymous with the filling of the Spirit. I’m sorry if I was unclear on that. I agree that those are different things. I just have trouble understanding how the believing Jews can dwell with Jesus in heaven and not possess the Holy Spirit in the light of Romans 8:9. Granted, maybe the Spirit’s work was different in the Old Testament, but the Spirit is the One that opens our eyes to the gospel, and Paul says that the gospel was preached in the Old Testament (Gal 3:8). The Spirit is the One that makes us holy, and Heb 12:14 says without holiness no one will see the Lord. I just think the Spirit was working back there in the lives of believers.

  41. 12-2-2012

    Alan,

    Those are excellent questions. Let’s start with the latter. What are the Gentiles being grafted into? [“So, what were the unbelieving Jews broken off from and the believing Gentiles grafted into? (Romans 11:17)”]

    Is it the Church? Is it Israel? Is it Israel redefined? Is it something else?

    Are Israel and the Church the same thing in these verses? Are Israel and the Church the same thing in most/all other NT verses (except perhaps where OT Israel is explicitly referenced or described)? Is the Church simply Israel plus Gentiles saved by God through Jesus Christ?

    PS – I don’t think Paul needs to use the term “church” in Romans 11:17 because he is addressing the Church in the letter.

    PSS – Quick side thoughts on Israel: an idea (Promise to Abraham), a person (renamed from Jacob), a people (let MY people go), a covenant nation, a representative nation as defined by the law of commandments expressed in ordinances. There is a plan and a purpose for each phase. The phase discussed in Romans 9-11 is the latter, as a representative nation.

    Ben,

    PSSS (what the additional S’s stand for, I don’t have a clue!) – Absolutely: all OT and NT people (Jews and Gentiles) are saved the same way as you described: by faith in Christ. An introduction to the gospel was certainly preached in the OT, as you stated and referenced in Gal 3:8. BUT, the Mystery of the Gospel, the Church, Christ IN you the hope of glory, was NOT preached or even known in the OT. As Paul states in Ephesians 3, this Mystery was kept hidden from previous ages until it was revealed to him and some of his contemporaries.

    Enjoy your worship today! Today is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

    In Christ,
    Dwight

  42. 12-2-2012

    Dwight,

    You left out a few uses of “Israel” in Scripture: the unified kingdom under Saul, David, and Solomon; the northern part of the divided kingdom after Solomon; an ethnic group dispersed after the fall of Jerusalem; the land itself. There may be others. In fact, I see Paul using the term “Israel” to refer to several of the different groups/kingdoms in Romans 9-11… thus, returning to my whole “muddy” statement.

    -Alan

  43. 12-2-2012

    Hi All,

    Just so this comment doesn’t get lost in the thread (rephrased)….

    What are the Gentiles being grafted into? (Romans 11:17-26)

    Is it the Church that they are being grafted into? Is it Israel? Is it Israel redefined? Is it something else?

    What about this verse? “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (Romans 11:25 ESV) Who is Israel? (Remember how the next verse starts… “And in this way all Israel will be saved”)

    The fullness of the Gentiles has come in… into what?

    Are Israel and the Church the same thing in these verses? Are Israel and the Church the same thing in most/all other NT verses (except perhaps where OT Israel is explicitly referenced or described)? Is the Church simply Israel plus Gentiles saved by God through Jesus Christ?

    In Christ,
    Dwight

  44. 12-3-2012

    Hello Dwight!

    I’m thinking your questions were probably directed towards Alan, but I’m feeling frisky, so I’m going to try to take a swing at them. I give no guarantees nor warranties as to the merchantability of my answers. So everyone please pass my words through your heresy checker and reject anything that seems wrong, weird, or unbiblical.

    Whatever the Gentiles are being grafted into is the same as what some of the Jews were being broken off from. Notice that only some Jews were broken off (Rom 11:17) that seems to imply that some natural branches (Jews) stayed put. Whereas all Gentiles incorporated into the cultivated olive tree were grafted in from a wild tree. To me that says this tree is something Jewish. If you take the Church to be something found only in the NT, then I don’t think this olive tree is the Church. Now unbelief is the reason why branches are broken off, and faith is the reason why branches are grafted in. Romans 9:32-33 tells us that many Jews stumbled over Christ whereas the Gentiles believed in Him. So this tree seems to be made up of Christians. However branches once grafted in can be broken off if they persist in unbelief. To me this seems to imply that this tree contains both redeemed and unredeemed people. If those things are correct can we all get along if we simply follow the lead of Rom 9:25-26 and say that the olive tree is God’s covenant people?

    I think it’s possible that the term “Israel” in Romans 9-11 could be borderline static. Throughout the passage Israel is juxtaposed with the Gentiles, which makes me think that “Israel” throughout refers to ethnic Jews. That being said, there is a distinction that Paul makes amongst the Israelites in 9:6, which may be amongst the believing remnant and the unbelieving majority of the Jews. That may create more problems than it solves, but I think it’s plausible, and perhaps this answer will satisfy Dwight…I hope :-)

    Just to clarify I think how we define Israel needs to be determined by the context of the given passage, so I wouldn’t impose my Romans 9-11 hermeneutic upon other passages

  45. 12-3-2012

    Hey Ben!

    Thanks for feeling frisky and taking a swing! :-) The questions were sort of directed at Alan, but I think he would agree that anyone is welcome to chime in at anytime, no guarantees or warranties expected!

    “Whatever the Gentiles are being grafted into is the same as what some of the Jews were being broken off from.”

    True. But what could it be that…
    1. Some Jews (natural branches) are being broken off from.
    2. Gentiles (wild olive shoots) are being grafted into.
    3. Natural branches can be grafted back in.
    4. Branches, natural and unnatural, can be cut off.
    5. Grafting and cutting are results of individual faith and unbelief, yet we know that salvation is secure. (Or if you don’t, please ask!)

    My desire is that you come to know these things for certain, not guessing or tossed by every wind of doctrine. In that regard, I offer a few hints for patient and prayerful meditation, rather than direct answers for instant rejection. Think upon these things…

    1. Pay close attention to analogies. The analogy in Romans 11 is an olive tree. While it is the branches that nourish the root, it is the root of a tree that gives the tree life. What (or Who) is the Root of that tree? What is important about the role of the branches on this tree? Where in the world is this tree? What is its purpose?

    2. What is the subject of this section of scripture? Is it salvation? Is it the Church’s destiny? Is it a recipe for Israel with a dash of Gentiles mixed in? Is it end times? Is it God (wink)? Is it God’s wisdom (wink, wink)? Is it God’s sovereignty (WINK, WINK)? Keep the subject in mind as you read through these verses. Paul is not going off on a tangent needlessly talking about natural and unnatural branches, grafting and cutting off. His aim is not to sound lofty and mysteriously confusing. He’s actually quite clear, but you may have to let go of popular (worldly) belief.

    3. If my soul salvation is now His responsibility, and He promises “no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hands,” why is Paul warning unnatural branches, “Hey! Look what happened to the natural branches who were not spared! And you’re from a wild olive shoot at that! So, you’d better not pout (in disbelief)! You’d better not cry (out to idols)!”? What is Paul, as an apostle to the gentiles, warning the Church (his audience in Rome) about?

    4. Leave the finer details to last. These two following questions do not necessarily beg the same answer: “What has Paul written?” and “What is Paul’s point?” I think confusion sets in the worst when we try to understand passages like these in the wrong order. Starting from the terms and trying to gain an inside-out perspective didn’t work as well for me as going outside-in.

    Once the previous hints are addressed, or rather, in addressing them, it should become quite clear what the Gentiles are being grafted into, and who Israel is (the remnant, the ‘some’ that are cut off, etc.).

    Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25-27)

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, in whom all the fullness of Deity is pleased to dwell!

    In Christ,
    Dwight

  46. 12-3-2012

    Thanks Dwight. I’ll chew on the hints that you offered. I will also yield the floor to Alan so you can actually get some better answers to your questions. (God go with you Alan!)

  47. 12-3-2012

    Dwight,

    I think those are some of the same questions that I asked earlier. By the way, speaking of “analogies,” there is a long history (in Scripture and outside of Scripture) of the “olive tree” representing Israel.

    -Alan

  48. 12-3-2012

    This is great, thank you. Appreciate very much the exchange of ideas & questions.

    Dwight – your breakdown with 4 questions to consider was great. My brain actually hurts – maybe it’s the subject or maybe it’s my head cold, I’m not sure which – but I do hope you will share your own specific thoughts to those points to help ease my brain ache.

    Couldn’t Paul have thought of different words to use when talking about *different* groups/ideas? :)

  49. 12-4-2012

    randi :),

    (That’s a comma after your name, not a mole on your chin!)

    Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

    Yes, Paul could’ve used different words for different things, but he’s more concerned about making his point. Sometimes, in explaining an idea I’ll use physical examples to make the idea easier to grasp, like wrapping our hands around a bicycle handlebar. Sometimes, I resort to the same physical example even when moving on to another idea, like now putting our feet on the pedals as we build momentum.

    But, just because I use a bicycle as an example to illustrate a third and distinct idea, doesn’t mean the analogy applies the same way. Sometimes, I’ll apologize for how poorly the example really fits or how it will fall apart if taken too far. But, my main concern is to get my point across. The point is not riding a bicycle; it’s grasping and depending on an idea, and running with it.

    Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. (1 Cor 9:24)

    randi :) & Ben,

    One of the ‘hints’ I mentioned to understanding the context of Romans 9-11 was the olive tree. That symbol may have been used to refer specifically to the nation of Israel in the OT (as were the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, etc.), but it doesn’t mean that Paul is restricted to the same meaning if he uses that term again. Nevertheless, in all of Romans 11, I first wanted to draw attention to what mattered most: the Root of that olive tree. So, forget the branches for now.

    1. Pay close attention to analogies. The analogy in Romans 11 is an olive tree. While it is the branches that nourish the root, it is the root of a tree that gives the tree life. What (or Who) is the Root of that tree? What is important about the role of the branches on this tree? Where in the world is this tree? What is its purpose?

    Consider that it may not be the answers that matter most, but the questions that lead to the answers. I think God loves questions just as much as He loves prayer because He delights in answering them both.

    If it is the Root that nourishes the branches, what is the Root? As a clue, I included the alternative which asks, “Who is the Root?” I hope it is clear now that the Root is none other than our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But, let’s take the analogy further and ask even more questions. How does the Root nourish the branches? What is the nourishment? Nourishment for what? What do the branches, in turn, do for the Root? (This might seem odd now, but addressing these questions
    first can help us understand who the branches are.)

    Another clue as to the point Paul is making is time. Take very special notice of when these things are occurring. In some cases, branches were broken off. In others, branches will be grafted in. Still in others, you have been grafted in. What about the saving of all Israel? That is something that will be. What is the most significant time frame to which Paul is referring?

    Consider again the questions I asked earlier… What are the Gentiles being grafted into? (Romans 11:17-26) Is it the Church? Is it Israel? Is it Israel redefined? Is it something else? Given the most significant time frame, what is the truth about the collection of branches in that time?

    So, in conclusion, I have successfully evaded giving a direct answer, gave randi an even larger brain sprain, made a mud puddle of what used to be only murky water, and answered questions with more questions. I will, therefore, pat myself on the back and bow on exit (until the encore). ;-P

    Actually, that previous paragraph is my way of saying that I am enjoying this discussion immensely and dearly hope you are too. I’m not trying to aggravate anyone, but prompt holy, prayerful thought. You are the light of the world, and the salt of the earth. Let the Holy Spirit enrich your lives with seasoning as the Light of the Morning Star rises in your hearts, as you share with anyone who asks the reason for the hope that is in you. Amen!

    In Christ,
    Dwight

    PS – As an aside, notice that Romans 11 neither mentions the Church directly, as we discussed earlier in this thread, nor does it mention the name of Christ. Yet, they are key objects in this subject matter.

  50. 12-4-2012

    Dwight,

    Thanks for you comment. Perhaps according to your plan I’m more confused now than ever. If Christ is the root that nourishes the branches, are you implying that the nourishment supplied to the branches is the Holy Spirit? He’s the one that makes us fruitful right (Gal 5:22-23)? If that’s what you’re implying then wouldn’t that mean that the Spirit indwelt those who were originally in the vine (i.e. the Jews)? Also if Christ is the root who administers nourishment to the branches, why do some branches fall away? How is that possible in the light of Jude 24-25? I kind of wonder if we’re asking this illustration to teach us things that it wasn’t specifically designed to teach us. I thought Romans 9-11 was built off a question that arises from what Paul said in the end of chapter 8 about the security of the elect (Rom. 8:33-39). If nothing can separate God’s people from the love of Christ, then “What’s the deal with Israel?” seems to be a natural question that would arise. I thought that was the issue Paul was addressing in 9-11.

  51. 12-4-2012

    Dwight,

    I appreciate your questions, and I appreciate that you did not attempt to give a definitive answer. I’ll stand by my previous statement that the issue of Israel is a muddy one. :)

    -Alan

  52. 12-4-2012

    Dear Ben,

    This is lengthy and I pray you will read the whole thing.

    If there is confusion, it may be due to information (assumptions, previous teachings, traditions, etc.) that needs to be replaced. Yes, my hope is to enlighten, but not to confuse. If it’s easier, temporarily suspend your previously understood outlines into which these new pieces don’t fit. If the new outline makes sense to you, throw out the old. If the new outline doesn’t make sense to you, throw it out. One thing is true in either case, however. It is the Holy Spirit who teaches. He guides us into all truth. And it takes humility on our part for learning of the truth to take place. It helps me to remember that His thoughts are not my thoughts, so I might have to trash my thoughts to make room for His.

    I think it’s time for some direct answers. Yet, I know that there are some who will not get or accept these answers because of the lack of clear distinction between Israel and the Church in their minds. Let me be very clear about this: never before the Church (starting at Pentecost) did the Holy Spirit indwell anyone, nor was anyone given a clue that this was part of God’s plan for the Church. PART of God’s plan for the Church. This is part of the Mystery that was kept hidden from previous ages (Eph 3).

    1. “… are you implying that the nourishment supplied to the branches is the Holy Spirit? Yes!

    2. “He’s the one that makes us fruitful right (Gal 5:22-23)?” Yes!

    3. “If that’s what you’re implying then wouldn’t that mean that the Spirit indwelt those who were originally in the vine (i.e. the Jews)?” Nope! Not necessarily. OT believers could be anointed by the Spirit, but they were never indwelt by the Spirit. There is Common and Efficacious Grace where the Holy Spirit can work with anyone. Remember, no one can come to Him unless the Spirit draws Him, but not everyone who is drawn comes to saved.

    Those indwelt with the Spirit are eternally secure: it is the saints in the Body of Christ, His Bride, the Church. OT believers could lose their anointing and salvation. Until the Church, there was no Baptism of the Spirit, part of which was the indwelling in the believer. This is what makes the Church so special. But, even without the Church and it’s ministries, OT Jews and Gentiles could be saved just the same as NT Jews and Gentiles: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. But this is Church only: I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ (John 1:33)

    4. “Also if Christ is the root who administers nourishment to the branches, why do some branches fall away?” Actually, (you’re not going to like this), the question is not accurate. It should be “If we are eternally secure because the Holy Spirit was given to be in us in the Church as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance, HOW is it that some branches can fall away at all, and why are we warned not to lose faith?” Why make that distinction in the question? Because belief in Christ is not the same thing as being indwelt by the Spirit. Salvation comes from faith and is the same to all believers, OT and NT. What’s different since Pentecost is the Church. We know that Christ is the Root, to Israel and to the Church. We know that it is the Spirit’s role to take what is His and reveal it to us. But what we must realize and distinguish the Church from Israel in order to fully appreciate what the Church is (of which we are a part, members of one body), as opposed to Israel: it is that WE in the Church have been baptized with the Holy Spirit; Israel has not. WE are new Creations in Christ; Israel is not. WE are indwelt with the Holy Spirit; Israel is not.

    The direct answer to the rephrased question (“If we are eternally secure because the Holy Spirit was given to be in us in the Church as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance, HOW is it that some branches can fall away at all, and why are we warned not to lose faith?”) is that it depends on what they are falling away from. If salvation, not possible; a saint cannot lose or ‘fall away from’ their salvation. ‘Spiritual’ Israel? I hope I already made the case that the Church is not Israel. If candlesticks and salt shakers, now we’re getting somewhere!

    The Israel discussed here was supposed to be a light to the Gentiles. Were they? Far from it. Instead, they got proud and arrogant. Well, guess what Israel, God had a Plan B all along that you never knew about! (Read about it in Ephesians 1.) So, not only is Israel being disciplined for failing to represent God in the world, but the Church came in to perform that role –salt and light to everyone– and more, much more. Does that mean God’s promise to Israel is out the window? That’s Paul argument: God is sovereign and He WILL keep His promise to Israel, eventually. In the meantime, the Church will be God’s representation in the world. Jews can still get in on the action through Christ, except now they’ll be part of the Church, not Israel. Yet, even we in the Church are warned to remain in His kindness. Why? Because we might otherwise lose our salvation? No! But, because He may take us out of this role: His representation in the world. (Note: Hebrews also talks about taking us out of the world if we are not His effective representatives, and that scripture also offers tremendous encouragement for facing hardship in the world, in this battlefield.) (Another note: I just re-read this paragraph and it is PACKED!! Take it slow and easy!)

    5. “How is that possible in the light of Jude 24-25?” Have no fear! It is not possible for someone truly in the Church to lose one’s salvation. I love these verses and we close our church service with these very words.

    6. “I kind of wonder if we’re asking this illustration to teach us things that it wasn’t specifically designed to teach us.” I hope you can see now that the lesson Paul is teaching us is very relevant. We have been given a wonderful gift. Cherish it!

    7. “I thought Romans 9-11 was built off a question that arises from what Paul said in the end of chapter 8 about the security of the elect (Rom. 8:33-39). If nothing can separate God’s people from the love of Christ, then ‘What’s the deal with Israel?’ seems to be a natural question that would arise.” I think it started with Paul asserting the sharp contrast between the Church and Israel, not just OT and NT believers. “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:3-5) But, as Paul points, God’s promise to Israel has not failed even though the Church is currently in the Light.

    I hope I answered your questions! May I suggest reading these chapters and the comments in this blog post again, prayerfully, carefully, thoughtfully, and test these things to see if these things are true. If you try to test them with popular theology, they will fail, and the truth will still be hidden. I pray with Paul…

    I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Eph 1:16-21)

    :- Dwight

    PS – This comment is HUGE and would have been longer had I included scripture verses. Nothing I’ve said, hopefully, cannot be backed up with scripture. Please don’t hesitate to ask if you’d like to see supporting scriptures for anything I’ve said.

  53. 12-4-2012

    Alan,

    You said, “I appreciate that you did not attempt to give a definitive answer.” I had written and posted my response to Ben before I read your comment. Now that I read it, I don’t understand it. Did you mean for me not to do what I just did? Now I’m the one that’s confused!

    Dwight

  54. 12-4-2012

    Dwight,

    I was simply responding to this statement you made: “So, in conclusion, I have successfully evaded giving a direct answer, gave randi an even larger brain sprain, made a mud puddle of what used to be only murky water, and answered questions with more questions.”

    -Alan

  55. 12-4-2012

    Alan,

    Gotcha! Awesome. Thanks! :-D

    Dwight

  56. 12-4-2012

    This is great, thank you Dwight. Love seeing different perspectives & reasoning. So appreciate you taking the time to do this. When the kids & I are un-stuffed I will definitely come back here with a clear head and really delve into this. Thanks so much for the effort you put in – great seeds here, thank you!! :)

  57. 12-4-2012

    Dwight,

    Thank you very much for the time, effort, and thought that you’ve put into your comments. You’ve given me a lot to think and pray about. I actually used to be a dispensationalist, but trashed it thinking that it was unbiblical. Perhaps I was wrong to do that. I think I’ll keep the trash can handy at all times from now on. :-)

    By the way, could you hook me up with some Scripture for Old Testament believers being able to lose their salvation?

  58. 12-5-2012

    Randi Ben Alan,

    Thank YOU all for the motivation and opportunity to elaborate my thoughts.

    Randi,
    Thanks for your very kind statements! I left a comment on your blog and tried to email you from there. The email bounced back and I don’t know if you’ve seen my comment. Please visit my blog (click on my name in this comment) and email me (view profile), and I’ll fill you in. Thanks!

    Ben,
    I will get back to you about OT believers, and offer some more feedback about dispensationalists. I believe in dispensations (ages) where God clearly says there are ages in scripture, such as Eph 3. However, I do not affiliate with that denomination, which I understand often takes the concept of ages too far.

    Alan,
    Yeah, I know, I know. You’re sticking to your muddy water statement! :-)
    Nevertheless, thank you for being open to allowing me to post my comments in your blog. It’s truly a blessing for me!

    Dwight

  59. 12-6-2012

    Ben, et al,

    Previously, I made this statement: “OT believers could lose their … salvation.” I was wrong to write that. OT believers cannot lose their salvation. (I have a mentor following along with this thread, holding me accountable.) They are just as eternally secure as NT believers. “No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29) is one verse that bears this out. (All scriptures are taken from the ESV.)

    More specifically, salvation is about righteousness, satisfying the righteousness of God. We read in Romans 4 about how righteousness was credited to Abraham because of faith…

    For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3)

    …not because of works…

    Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness… (Romans 4:4,5)

    …just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (Romans 4:6-8)

    In fact, when this credit was given, Abraham wasn’t even circumcised yet. So, technically, he was a Gentile, not yet made a Hebrew by a sign of the covenant, when he was saved. This made Abraham the perfect example for both Jew and Gentile. Paul asks this very question…

    Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. (Romans 4:9)

    That is, is this blessing only for the Jews, or also for the Gentiles? Well, we just established Abraham was saved by faith. But when this happened would be significant in establishing Abraham as an example, the “father of all who believe”?

    How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:10)

    Before he was circumcised, before receiving the sign of the covenant, before being made a Hebrew, Abraham was a Gentile, since there were no Jews yet, and that is when he was saved.

    He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. (Romans 4:11a)

    The sign of the circumcision was a result of the righteousness that had already been credited to him will he was still uncircumcised. In the same way, Abraham could now be the leader in demonstrating that one is saved by faith, not by works, both Jew and Gentile.

    The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:11,12; emphasis added)

    The above examination of Romans 4 may help to better understand the significance of this oft quoted verses, Romans 3:9 and following…

    What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:9-12, emphasis added)

    In conclusion, both OT and NT, Jew and Gentile, are saved the same way. And once saved, no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. Ben, and anyone else reading these comments, I sincerely apologize for the mix up about eternal security. Forgive me.

    In Christ,
    Dwight

    PS – However, I still hold fast to the part of my statement about OT believers possibly losing their anointing of the Holy Spirit: “OT believers could lose their anointing…” Eternal security is not dependent on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a Church-only thing and has a different purpose. But that’s for another comment on another day. ;-)

  60. 12-6-2012

    Dwight,

    Thanks for the clarification. What you said makes a lot of sense. I’m wondering how you would handle 1 Peter 1:10-11 in the light of what you said at the end. Do you think there is a difference between having the Spirit “in” you and being indwelt by the Spirit?

  61. 12-7-2012

    Ben,

    “Do you think there is a difference between having the Spirit “in” you and being indwelt by the Spirit?”

    Excellent question! What do you think? If there is a difference, what do you think that difference would be? How did OT prophets operate? Not all OT believers were prophets. What was the difference between them (prophets -vs- non-prophets)?

    Actually, the answers have HUGE implications for us as ‘New Creations in Christ’. Becoming aware of this distinction begins to separate those who drink the milk of the word versus those who feast on the meat of the word. We’ve read that term ‘New Creations in Christ’ over and over and think, “Yeah, I know what means, it means now I’m going to heaven instead of the lake of fire.” Yet, I submit that it means SO much more!

    Even on the surface, consider that in 1 Pet 10:10-11 they still weren’t sure, they ‘searched and inquired carefully’ about what these things meant. There were many prophesies of the Christ suffering and then coming into glory. But no one knew or was able to figure out or even imagine what this really meant, or how it was going to happen that we would share in those sufferings, not until it was reveled to the Church.

    If what this meant was known, prophesied, and revealed, then this couldn’t possibly be the Mystery kept hidden from previous generations (Eph 3). So, what was the purpose for having the Spirit of Christ “in” them? (It is appropriate you have that word in quotes, because it tells me you may recognize that perhaps it is not the same thing as indwelling.)

    Another related and larger question is what do you think John the Baptist meant when he said, “I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.'” (John 1:33)

    What does it mean to be ‘baptized with the Holy Spirit?’ Has anyone ever baptized with the Holy Spirit before? What are some of the results the disciples received from this baptism that came on Pentecost?

    Nevertheless, before we investigate the walls of this structure, the ‘whole structure’ God is building in us…

    So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph 2:19-22)

    …let us first make firm the foundation, the rock, upon which God builds the structure.

    For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 3:11)

    First, I have asserted that OT and NT believers are saved the same way, AND (after correcting myself) they/we have eternal security as a result. Second, I have asserted that the indwelling of the Spirit is a Church-only thing.

    So, first things first, what, exactly, is the way that OT and NT believers are saved and have eternal security? It may seem like we’ve already established that, but I’m going to take a sledge hammer to the answer we develop. The hammer should shatter, always! Yet, there will be scripture that seem to raise doubt. (We’ll get back to the indwelling in a bit.)

    Dwight

  62. 12-8-2012

    Wow, re-reading for the 10th time. This is an awesome conversation & I love what you’ve shared here Dwight. May God bless you abundantly for how you have poured out & planted here. I will definitely bookmark this to be able to come back to it when this topic comes up on my mind for one reason or another.

    So my summary:

    Christ is the root. (Did you quote this verse anywhere? “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” Isaiah 11:1 and 11:10 as well)

    Israel & Church are distinct yet sometimes individuals cross over between. The Lord has different purposes for each (which I look forward to seeing fully finished). Salvation is through Jesus alone. The Church has the distinction of being indwelt by the Spirit. Salvation is secure once you’re saved, you can’t be unsaved (yes!!).

    I still don’t know what, “all Israel” that is going to be saved is specifically referred to in that passage, and I’m okay with that.

    The biggest takeaway I actually have from the whole conversation – is the same thing my church & community has been focusing on together – which is – the indwelling of the Spirit. It really is such an amazing gift! Praise God – we just finished Jesus Manifesto by Frank Viola – with my ladies group and it is definitely one of my top 5 books! The indwelling of the Spirit – making us each a Jesus Manifesto – WOW! How could I have gone for so long without truly understanding this indwelling!?

    I am shocked how little it is understood, preached, talked about. It IS a very hard concept to grasp unless you have experienced it. Changed desires, changed tastes, deep understanding & comfort that we are His child & He is our loving Father, most importantly an inner awakening & hunger & thirst for Jesus plus nothing minus nothing! The indwelling IS what saves us from morality & self-righteousness & religion.

    With the indwelling, all I see is Jesus. He is all, that’s all! I really don’t hold on to tightly to anything anymore. After this indwelling occurred, He has loosened my grip on so many things…. including theology, doctrine, preferences, personality, cultural & political traditions, religious traditions, anything – except Him.

    THANK YOU Dwight & each of you for this conversation. Very enjoyable. God is so cool amazing mind blowing awesome uncomprehensible yet very close & personal!!!! <3

  63. 12-9-2012

    Major dittos Dwight,

    I’m sorry for not continuing this conversation for the past couple of days. Things got a little hectic this weekend, and I’m going to hit the sack right now in hopes of powering up for the coming week. I’ll try to get back to you tomorrow night, Lord willing. If anyone else wants to jump in, feel free!!

  64. 12-10-2012

    Saw ur comment by the way dwight and I do hope we can email back and forth more… Loved ur insight and willingness to share here. Email will b easier for me because the cross conversation does lose me sometimes hehe. Or perhapd its the 3 little ones pullin on me… Hehe…Its hard to get uninterrupted computer time right now to concentrate!!! My internet is down and computer is at the doctor so I am only able to comment from hubby’s bberry every so often. I will get in touch w u eventually! Thnx again and for the comment. God bless each of u..thanks for the kind deep discussion to each.

  65. 12-10-2012

    What a tremendous blessing it was coming back from a long weekend to your very kind words, randi and Ben. Thank you SO much! Yes, we will continue!

  66. 12-10-2012

    Hi,

    I want to say thanks again to everyone that has contributed to this discussion. I have enjoyed this. I honestly wish Randi would hop in here more. I checked out her blog a couple of days ago and she has a lot of very practical, “balm-for-the-soul” stuff to say. I’m not sure but I think her blog might be indwelt by the Spirit. (Is that even possible?!) For whatever reason I can’t access your blog Dwight. I don’t know if my tablet is screwed up or if your blog moved, but I’m getting the “Blog not found” message when I click on your gravitar thing (which is a shame!).

    Anyway, you ended your message to me with the question “What, exactly, is the way that OT and NT believers are saved and have eternal security.” I don’t know if I can put it any better than you did when you went through the Romans 4 passage, but I’ll (reluctantly) throw out some thoughts so you can whack them with your sledge. :-)

    For starters I think regeneration is a work of the Spirit in both testaments, because I think our sin problem is the same in both testaments. Our sin problem stems from what occurred in Eden (Rom. 5:12-19). Granted this problem compounds as time goes on because we add to our guilt by actively engaging in willful sin as soon as we are able to, but I see people as sinful and depraved in both testaments. Paul’s description of our lost condition in Romans 3:9-18 comes almost exclusively from the Old Testament. So I believe our lost condition is the same outside of Christ: we do not seek God (Rom. 3:11), we do not fear God (Rom. 3:18) we do not want God (Rom. 1:18-2:1). Since the disease is the same, and the outcome is the same (we sit together in the kingdom of heaven–Matthew 8:11), I believe the remedy is the same as well. As such, salvation in both testaments begins with God’s gracious condescending love. For example in Ezekiel 16:3-8 God describes how he brought Israel to life and to Himself, how He nourished her, and blessed her, and entered into a covenant with her. None of this was due to Israel’s seeking God out. It was all God seeking out Israel. Even in the Old Testament we find God sovereignly working in people’s hearts (Proverbs 21:1). He hardens (Exodus 4:21), He quickens (Psalm 80:18), He teaches (Psalm 86:11), He enables people to serve (Exodus 35:30-35). So I believe salvation in it’s totality is, and always has been, the work of God. As such, I think the Spirit has to be engaged in this. I think He brings us to faith, whether it’s His work alone or the work in the Triune God, I’m not really sure, and I’m not sure that it really matters all that much which person is doing the work, so long as the work gets done. I don’t know why this work wouldn’t get done by the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, but I can’t think of a verse right now to establish that it is done by Him. (I think all of their works are probably connected in some way, but that could be wrong.)

    I think you’ve established from Romans 4 that the instrumental cause of justification in both testaments is the same (i.e. faith in the promised Seed–Christ), as is the meritorious cause of justification in both testaments (i.e. the righteousness of Christ imputed to believers). If that is the case, then we are secure. If God justifies, who can condemn us? (Rom. 8:33-34).

    You asked a bunch of other questions, but maybe it would be best to leave those for a bit until I get a chance to see what happens to the above comments when they meet your sledge. :-)

  67. 12-10-2012

    Thanks so much ben plummer… I too wish randi would participate more in this convo (and so many others)…that time will come again I guess…. Apparently God has some different plans for me right now…the music has slowed and I’m slowdancin with my Father…was feelin pretty dry and blah and a bit hamsterwheelish in life so i am enjoyin reconnecting with Him… even got off facebook!!… Anyway, thanks for listenin to that ramble…. I got a good hearty laugh from ur comment and kind words about the blog… I appreciate the encouragement…I know one thing.. If my blog is indwelt by the Spirit…it is great proof that He is totally okay with typos grammatical errors and misspellings :)… Its all about the heart! Ha :) thnx again

  68. 12-11-2012

    Hi! I’m not sure what’s happening with access to my blog. Try going directly to it at http://www.RevelationsForLife.com. You might be disappointed, posts are far and few between, and a lot of rambling. I’m motivated to post about the very things we’ve been discussing, but I’m enjoying the actual discussion itself! (Also, in the ‘view profile’ of my blog is a link to my email. Feel free to send me your contact information if you’d like.)

    Unfortunately, my time is short this morning, and for some reason the bottom of this post is behaving strangely for me. I’ll get back to you soon. I, too, appreciate the humor of a blog indwelt by the Spirit. That was funny!

  69. 12-12-2012

    Ben,

    I’d like to start off by addressing a single statement you made in your above comment, and expounding from there. The comment was, “Our sin problem stems from what occurred in Eden (Rom. 5:12-19).” I agree wholeheartedly. This is what I would call ‘Original Sin’. Those born in Adam have this condition, and this includes all people except Christ (who was conceived from the Holy Spirit so that He would be born without this condition).

    You then stated that this condition gets worse as time goes on. I would agree with that also simply because that is our nature: that is what we do because (as a result of) that is who we are. I would categorize these acts under the term ‘Personal Sins’ and further clarify that they come from this condition we were born with. Having been born from ‘Original Sin’ we have a ‘Sin Nature’. We sin because we are sinners, not the other way around. God would not expect differently, because He, in fact, set it up this way.

    Let’s recap:
    ‘Original Sin’ – this is the root cause of our problem.
    ‘Personal Sins’ – these are the symptoms of our problem.
    ‘Sin Nature’ – this is the condition of who we are as a result of ‘Original Sin’ (this is NOT the result of ‘Personal Sins’)

    It sounded to me like you would agree with the above, but let me know if you like me to elucidate any point or definition I gave.

    Now, having established that, I can make this assertion: ‘Personal Sins’ are NOT an issue in Salvation. Why? Because they are merely symptoms of a root cause, which is actually ‘Original Sin’. ‘Original Sin’ is what demands God’s justice, and it is only through God’s righteousness that one is justified.

    That assertion took a while to sink in, but now I see no other way to describe it. After it began to sink in, I could sense how many others were not making this distinction between Original and Personal Sin. They talked about us having responsibility and guilt for both simultaneously. Yet, it was key to my understanding what Christ paid for.

    Give it a moment and let me know what you think about this assertion, and the distinction between Original and Personal Sin. If you agree that Personal Sins are NOT an issue in Salvation, what then is the issue? If not Personal Sin, what condemns a person to the Lake of Fire?

    I may have been too brief in making this assertion. There are MANY scriptures people use to show that we must demonstrate evidence of being born again, show my faith by works, and that we can’t ‘go on sinning’. But, this is where the sledge comes in. We must know, rock solid, that this assertion is true. So, please, by all means, throw whatever you can and want against that assertion and let’s see if it holds up.

    Dwight

  70. 12-13-2012

    Hello Dwight,

    Thanks for the question. I apologize for taking so long to respond. I’ve been roofing a house, and as a result I’ve been having energy issues (which is not cool by the way). In the light of that, I appreciate the fact that we seem to be slowing down and trying to clarify this sin issue before we proceed. It seems like what we believe about this will have ramifications on a bunch of things.

    That being said, I think I might need some elucidation on what you said, because I don’t think we’re on the same page on this stuff just yet. I agree with you that there is a distinction between original sin and personal sin, and that personal sin flows from original sin. But I’m not sure about the part where you said that personal sins are not an issue in salvation, and that they don’t condemn a person. My mind jumps to passages like Ephesians 5:5-6 and Colossians 3:5-6 where Paul seems to list various personal sins and then says that it’s because of these sins that the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience. Along a similar vein there are passages like John 5:45 where Jesus says that Moses will accuse the unbelieving Jews to the Father on the day of judgment. Since Moses was the promulgator of the law (the standard which delineates personal sins) and he is said to accuse unbelievers to the Father, it makes me think that personal sins are going to be an issue for some people on the day of judgment. Then there’s the lake of fire passage in Revelation 21:8 which talks about who goes to the lake of fire, and John says it’s for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and the murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolators, and the liars. Also in Romans 2:5-6 Paul says that because of our hard and obstinate hearts we treasure up unto ourselves wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, “who will render to every man according to his deeds.”

    If God is judging according to deeds then as near as I can figure we’re totally screwed unless we can get our bad deeds off the books and some good deeds in the books. Now since we can’t erase the past and have nothing good within ourselves to offer I think that’s why the gospel and the Spirit’s ministry is necessary in both testaments. As near as I can tell Christ erases the guilt and imputes the righteousness to believers that we need to stand before Him whether we’re in the Old or the New (Rom.4:5-8, 16). In order to get us to the point where we repent and believe I think the Spirit needs to work in our hearts. In order for spiritual growth to occur I also believe the Spirit’s ministry is necessary. That was all I was really trying to say in my previous comment, but I fear that I may have opened an entirely different can of worms here. Sorry about that.

    By the way, I attempted to email you through your yahoo account the other day, but my tablet chose not to cooperate (I think my tablet has issues). Anyway, if you wanted to send me an email at ben@seedmongers.com I think I could probably reply to it and it could actually get sent…I think. If you’d rather continue through blog comments, that’s fine with me as well.

    Thanks for the time and energy that you’ve invested into this Dwight. I admire you.

    I will now go and get me a V-8, because I’m pooped. Blessings!!

  71. 12-15-2012

    Greetings Ben, and grace be with you!

    “If God is judging according to deeds then as near as I can figure we’re totally screwed unless we can get our bad deeds off the books and some good deeds in the books.”

    You’ve touched on a huge aspect of the problem, Ben. That’s also a great analogy: books. Actually, I call it one book, or account. Righteousness needs to be credited to our account. We cannot earn it; salvation is a gift from God.

    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9)

    [We are] are justified by his grace as a gift… (Romans 3:24)

    But, I’d like to focus for the moment on the part where “we’re totally screwed.” We cannot move an atom’s width in the direction of righteousness by any deeds we do. In fact, any reliance on our own deeds is just arrogant and moves us further away from God. By relying on our own deeds, we are heardening our hearts against Him. In that case, we are engaging in self-righteousness, and our best work is like filthy or polluted rags to God. How can we say, “I believe in You,” while we continue to ignore the very real gift that He has given us, and instead try to ‘be good enough’ to be accepted or ‘moral enough’ to qualify for His approval?

    For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)

    Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. (Romans 4:4)

    Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16. Notice in thisd verse there is no in-between; you are either slaves to one or the other.)

    For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation… (part of Romans 5:16)

    …one trespass led to condemnation for all men… (part of Romans 5:18)

    I should also add here, while I’m at it, that we are spiritually dead. We cannot even comprehend the things of God. Check these verses out…

    as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)

    The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor 2:14)

    Etcetera and so forth. So, not only are our works totally useless in getting righteousness credited to our accounts, there are other problems with our condition that need to be addressed before we can be saved. In saying that Personal Sin is not an issue in salvation is not to imply that it’s not part of the problem that needs to be solved. However, I am saying the problem of Personal Sin has already been solved, so that it is not an issue we need to deal with in salvation. (More about that in a subsequent comment.)

    Allow me to summarize the major points of the problem of our condition which need to be overcome, we are…
    1. Imputed with Original Sin
    2. Slaves to a Sin Nature
    3. Having No Righteousness of Our Own
    4. Standing Condemned or Under Condemnation
    5. Spiritually Dead
    6. Sinners by Nature, an Imputed Condition

    I hope this helps us realize that the problem is MUCH worse than we usually give thought to. It’s not just a sin problem, it’s lack of righteousness, no justification, slavery to sin, and spiritual death as well.

    But, thanks be to God that what the Righteousness of God demands, the Justice of God executes. He solves the problem for us. We simply need to trust His solution. Stay tuned for that solution to be revealed next comment!! But, let us first thoroughly understand how bad the ‘Bad News’ is, so we can truly appreciate how good the ‘Good News’ is.

    Once we start covering the comprehensiveness of His solution, we will begin to understand why Paul, for example, lists Personal Sins to make a point (Eph 5:5-6, and Col 3:5-6). Remember, the important thing is the point, not the list. Otherwise, we’d be left curious as to why the list changes in various scriptures. Besides, we should know without a shadow of a doubt that we cannot do anything to overcome these in order to earn salvation, whether the list includes murder (oh, I don’t do that) or lying (um, better keep my mouth shut here).

    In Christ,
    Dwight

    PS – I sent you an email, Ben, and it did not bounce back, so I assume you got it. Are you able to email me? Part of the message I sent was just to say that I’d like to continue in this blog post for as long as we are able. I know that randi is peeking on occasion, and that at least one friend of mine is following our conversation. Let it be a blessing to them, too!

  72. 12-15-2012

    Hello again Dwight,

    Thanks for the first installment of your elucidation. It “elucidated” some stuff, which is good. I think we’re closer to an agreement than I thought. I’m looking forward to the sequel. By the way, I did get your email and tried to respond, but mine bounced back. I don’t know if you know about computers, but what’s going on if I can send to some people but not others. Is that a software issue or is it a problem with my email provider or what? I’m befuzzled.

  73. 12-19-2012

    Rough week, for time has slipped. I overslept 2 days in a row. Shame on me! (But it felt good!)

    Anyway, back to the matter at hand: news, bad and good. As we saw, the bad news is not only yucky, but we’re stuck in it, too. Unless God does something about each one of these problems, our lost condition won’t change. (I transferred the list of problems from my earlier comment for easy reference.)

    The major points of the problem of our condition which need to be overcome, we are…
    1. Imputed with Original Sin
    2. Slaves to a Sin Nature
    3. Having No Righteousness of Our Own
    4. Standing Condemned or Under Condemnation
    5. Spiritually Dead
    6. Sinners by Nature, an Imputed Condition

    Item #6, the first ‘issue’ I want to deal with, refers to Personal Sin; we sin because we are sinners. We are sinners by nature. It is natural for us to sin. The Sin Nature that causes us to sin was a condition we were born with. We had no choice in the matter. God Himself made it that way. It was by His design. Without Him providing the solution, we’re stuck!

    The assertion I made, however, was that Personal Sin is not an issue in Salvation. What we really, really have to understand is that we are utterly powerless to do anything about these symptoms because we can in no way do anything about the root cause: the Original Sin that gave us a Sin Nature. ALL born in Adam are born with a Sin Nature. None are righteous! No, not one! (Romans 3:10)

    So, what happens to Personal Sin? I’m saved, but still I sin. What’s up with that? From man’s perspective, this is a huge problem. Many struggle with morality as if it were a measure of the assurance of their salvation. (You’ve probably noticed many people who call themselves Christian and yet still struggle with the assurance of their own salvation because they are repeatedly convicted of Personal Sin in their lives, or doubt they pray enough, or have the right attitude in church, are not always ‘good enough’, or are trying to be good, etc.)

    But, have these same people truly been transformed by the renewing of their minds? Are they able to test and discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable, and perfect? (Romans 12:2) Do they not know what God has freely given us as a gift by His grace?

    From God’s perspective, the only one that truly matters, this ‘issue’ of Personal Sin is quite dead. Most assuredly, just as Christ conquered the grave, it is no longer an ‘issue’ in Salvation. How many times has Paul asked, “Do you not know?” He is letting us know in absolute terms that we can and should adopt God’s thoughts! And what are His thoughts about this? Allow me to first address a common objection.

    Ah, but His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). Some use this as an excuse saying, “See? It says right here. How can we know something that God knows if His thoughts are on another level than ours?” But again, Paul erases this objection by telling us plainly that no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God, and that God has freely given us this Spirit!

    For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (1 Cor 2:11-12, the NIV says, “In the same way” to compare how only the spirit of a man knows his thoughts, and “in the same way” we can know the thoughts of God because He has given His Spirit.)

    This was to explain that God HAS revealed to us the things God has prepared for those who love Him.

    …as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”– these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. (1 Cor 2:9-10)

    Note that Salvation is not “the depths of God.” It is the milk of the Word, not the meat of the Word. The ‘depths of God’ are for the mature in Christ. This is made clear by the passages that surround the ones I gave above. But the same principle applies: we can know His thoughts.

    Before…
    Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. (1 Cor 2:6-7)

    After…
    And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (1 Cor 2:13)

    In addition, Paul caps off the point with this summary statement: “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:16)

    Finally, I get to my point! Thanks for reading thus far and waiting ever so patiently! How is Personal Sin NOT an issue in Salvation? From God’s perspective, He is satisfied that a full and perfect sacrifice for sin was made for ALL. There is no other sacrifice needed, ever. It is finished!

    He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)

    This little verse is packed with power to save! Propitiation means that God was fully satisified. He was fully satisfied by the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as payment for any and all sin, yours, mine, and theirs, past, present, and future; for the sins of the whole world! (Not just the world of the elect, but the whole) world.) There is no other possible sacrifice to be made. There is no other name given among men by whom we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

    Remember this: Jesus IS the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. John the Baptist announced His arrival with these words… “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin [singular, the root cause of sin] of the world!” (John 1:29,36)

    Sacrifices made by man to God would never suffice. God had to provide His own sacrifice and He did in His Son!

    And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. (Gen 22:7-8) Recall, God provided Abraham a ram to sacrifice instead of his son, not a lamb. The Lamb of God was yet to come.

    So, both Original Sin AND Personal Sin are taken care of, completely eliminated, and abolished. God removed that barrier in the reconciliation of us to Him. How is that so? Does that mean all people are saved then? How does a person become saved? What makes a person condemned if it’s not sin? Firmly accepting and understanding God’s Word, His perspective, and His requirement will make clear and more powerful the foundation upon which He can build a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Eph 2:19:22)

    The answer to the above questions is easy, profound, and familiar. But I urge you to read them again, prayerfully, in light of the wisdom God has given us about this ‘issue’ in Salvation.

    What is God’s requirement for salvation? Belief, faith, trust in Jesus Christ.

    And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)

    “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

    For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)

    Whoever believes in him is not condemned… (John 3:18a)

    Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life… (John 3:36a)

    Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30-31)

    The ‘issue’ as you should see clearly is not Personal Sin. It is belief in Jesus Christ, trusting in Him to be solely responsible for the salvation of your soul. But, isn’t Sin the reason people are going to the lake of fire? After all, not everyone is saved, right?

    Absolutely not! Sin is not the reason people are going to the lake of fire. So, why are they condemned? Why do they not have eternal life? I have already made it clear that we are utterly powerless to overcome sin, and that God has provided His own Lamb and is fully satisfied with that sacrifice. Also, God desires that ALL men be saved (1 Tim 2:3).

    So, why will many not have salvation? Let’s see what scriptures, God’s word and His thoughts, have to say about that.

    Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (Johb 3:18)

    Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36)

    Since we know that we are powerless to overcome sin, we should realize that ‘obey’ in the ESV may not be an adequate interpretation of the Greek that accurately expresses the point being made in scripture. In the KJV, the term ‘believeth not’ was translated from the Greek which means, “to disbelieve (wilfully and perversely): – not believe, disobedient, obey not, unbelieving.” (Strong G544)

    So, the ‘issue’ is not Personal Sin, but wilfull disbelief, or resistance to believe. The lack of salvation is because of exactly the opposite of those who do have salvation. In other words, resistance to the Holy Spirit to believe the Good News.

    Please let me know your thougths on the above. I realize it may be controversial or at least uncomfortable, but I encourage you to read those scriptures and pray for the Holy Spirit to give you clarity. Do not depend on traditions and denominations or doctrines of men. Trust the Spirit, for He will guide you into all truth! (John 16:13)

    Next, let’s take a look at those other scriptures you brought up in light of this revelation. Do we have a sledge hammer or not? Let’s see if this holds up to the test of God’s truth: His word is truth.

    In Christ,
    Dwight

    PS – Yes, Ben, I know about computers. But, resolving email and tablet issues remotely might not be easy. I’ll email some questions to you separately.

  74. 12-19-2012

    Hello Dwight,

    As always, thanks for your comments. Your comments got me thinking (which is something that I don’t do enough of). I think I see where you’re coming from and part of me wants to agree with you, but I’m just not there yet. So let me throw some stuff to let you know where I’m at and lets see where that takes us.

    For starters, let me say that I used to believe something similar to what you’ve just explained. My version was much less technical and a whole lot less thought out than yours is, but regardless it was somewhat similar. John Owen’s book on the atonement changed my views on this stuff, actually it was just his conundrum that did it. After the conundrum had wreaked it’s havoc upon my understanding of the atonement I finally plowed through his book. His conundrum short and simple but it stopped me in my tracks, and eventually turned me into a Calvinist. Let me try to throw it out here and get your thoughts on it. It goes like this:

    God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for,

    1. either all the sins of all men,
    2. or all the sins of some men,
    3. or some sins of all men.

    If the LAST, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved; for if God entered into judgment with us, though it were with all mankind for one sin, no flesh should be justified in his sight: “If the LORD should mark iniquities, who should stand?” [Ps. cxxx.2] We might all go to cast all that we have “to the moles and to the bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty.” [Isa. ii. 20, 21]

    If the SECOND, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world.

    If the FIRST, why then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, “Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.”

    But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not?

    If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not? If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins?

    Let them choose which part they will.

    That’s the conundrum in all it’s glory. How would you handle it? I’ve seen two main responses to it. Some people argue that unbelief isn’t a sin per se, but a state. My issue with that answer is that John 16:8-9 seems to explicitly say that unbelief is a sin. Also Revelation 21:8 lists unbelief right along with a bunch of other personal sins, and says those who commit these things will have their part in the lake that burns with fire. But even if I’m wrong there and unbelief is a state, don’t we have to ask whether unbelief is a righteous state or a sinful state? Can “states” or “conditions” be neutral, neither righteous nor sinful? I don’t think that’s possible is it? I’ve also seen it argued that this conundrum frames the atonement in a penal way, which plays into the hands of the Calvinists. They would argue that the problem is that the atonement wasn’t penal at all. Jesus never “paid” for anyone’s sins, He simply made provision for the remission of sin. I think 1 Cor. 7:23 and Acts 20:28 militate against that view. Christ purchased a people on the cross. That which was purchased gets redeemed according to Ephesians 1:14. If He purchased everyone, then I think that passage would teach that everyone would be redeemed. We know that’s not true from the lake of fire passage. I’m sure that there are other responses, but I’m just not that well read on these things. I’d be interested to hear your thought on this stuff, because I think I’ve probably said too much already.

    If I’m completely misunderstanding this stuff please feel free to whack away with your sledge. I figure whatever won’t hold up deserves the wrath of the sledge anyway.

    Blessings.

  75. 12-21-2012

    Greetings Ben,

    Thank you for your comments. Awesome! I really appreciate your willingness to look into these matters. Remember that even after hearing Paul and Silas, the Bereans still searched the scriptures to verify eveything they said. May we have the humility, perseverence, and patience motivated by love to do the same.

    Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

    In addition, we must know that God is not trying to trick us or be unreasonable. On the contrary, He is very reasonable. And so we must take to heart the same attitude. Thanks be to God, the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who rewards those who diligently seek Him.

    Hovering your mouse pointer over these scripture references to ‘reason’ should popup a little window with the entire verse: Acts 17:2; Acts 17:17; Acts 18:4; Acts 24:25; James 3:17; 1 Peter 3:15.

    Hopefully, I’ll keep this comment relatively short. (Ha! Not likely!) I’d like to address two specific topics: 1) labels, 2) the sin of unbelief.

    First, I know that it is incredibly common for people to identify with a denomination, but I think there can be a subtle problem with that. How often do we hear people say, I’m a Baptist, I’m an Episcopalian, I’m a Reformed Presbyterian, I’m 7th Day, or I’m a Calvinist?

    I noticed you may have done something similar with the phrase you used in conclusion to reading John Owen’s book where you were ‘turned .. into a Calvinist’. If we were face to face, Ben, I’d more fully understand how you are using it. It may just be a very loose reference to the influence of being presented with the conundrum. But, as gently and unoffensively as I can, I wish to present a warning, and that is, we can unintentionally become focused on the label more than the Ingredients.

    For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Cor 3:4-7)

    So, in terms of growth, it only comes from God. The Ingredients are perfect! We may have to look closer to notice that the label has torn edges, is pealing away, or is hardly effective in giving us the experience of ingesting the Ingredients. We may even have to let go of the label altogether once we recognize they were only useful to pointing to the Ingredients.

    For reasons of wanting to be able to discuss scripture with all people, I intentionally do not identify with a label (e.g., denomination), so that I am not in turn labeled. I will use labels to say what I am not, such as I am not a Catholic, or I’m not 7th Day, but to say what I am. Instead, I use the same terms found in scripture: Christians, saints, believers, brothers and sisters in Christ, followers of the Way, etc.

    Uh, I guess it’s getting too late to keep it short! Sorry!

    Second is the sin of unbelief or disbelief. I wanted to clear this up first because I think it causes the wrong question to be asked, and that something is assumed to be true when giving the answer. It’s kind of like soemone asking me, “So, do you still beat your wife every morning before work?” I can’t just answer, “No!” because it doesn’t erase the doubt that I am beating my wife some other time of the day.

    You reference to John 16:8-9 is perfect and key to understanding the sin of wilfull disbelief, because they refuse to believe. So, yes, it is clearly a sin. (Clearly stated, “No! I don’t beat my wife at all. Period!”)

    Now, is this a problem because we say Jesus died for all sins, yet this one seems to have slipped by? This is where I think the assumptions are misguided. The real question that needs to be asked is, “Why?” after understanding what this offensive action really is. Asking these questions give us insight into what is going on with this singular sin, rather than merely engaging in a ‘sin, not a sin; paid, not paid’ tug-of-war. Remember, God is reasonable and wants you know the truth (1 Tim 2:4).

    First, let scripture clearly identify for us what sin will not be forgiven…

    Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:31-32)

    And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. (Luke 12:10)

    Clearly, ‘blasphemes against the Holy Spirit’ are what will not be forgiven. It is an action, not a state. In fact, it’s always intentional by the one who commits that sin.

    But what does that mean? What are blasphemes against the Holy Spirit? How did this get translated to the sin of disbelief? Most of all, why is this one sinful action not forgiven? Does this jive with what we have already established that all the problems of the ‘bad news’ need to be resolved in salvation, and were? What about my assertion that personal sin is not an issue in salvation? What could be more personal than it being intentionally committed? What does it mean that the action is not forgiven?

    Talk about a conundrum! What’s worse, is I have to get back to work now and will continue later (if the world doesn’t end first)! Sorry, to leave you hanging. Got answers? Give them a try! ;-)

    Abundant blessings to you, your family, and all readers of this thread!

    Dwight
    PS – So much for keeping this comment short!! ;-P

  76. 12-21-2012

    Thanks for your time and effort Dwight. Thankfully the world didn’t end so you’ve got plenty of time. If you don’t mind, I’m going to leave your conundrum be. This is like a flippin’ Amish puzzle. Whenever I try to solve those things pieces end up broken and scattered throughout the room.

  77. 12-21-2012

    That was funny, Ben. Thanks for the chuckle! No worry, I’ll answer my own questions. My best writing time is in the morning. I’m hoping tomorrow morning before my son’s basketball game or Sunday morning before church will work. It all ties together, and when you see it, it makes perfect sense, and God gets the glory!

  78. 12-23-2012

    Good Day, Ben! Merry Christmas!!

    I brought up the the ‘sin of disbelief’ and the ‘blaspheme of the Holy Spirit’, and discussed the analogy of asking the wrong question (about wife beating) because I believe it is very relevant, in fact, it is crucial to understanding biblical salvation.

    Previously, you had brought up three possible cases for which Christ underwent the pains of hell:
    1. either all the sins of all men,
    2. or all the sins of some men,
    3. or some sins of all men.

    Then you proceeded to make the assumption, I gather, that if #1 is the case, that if Christ paid for all sins for all men, that the logical conclusion should be that all people are thus saved. Yet, we know that not all people are saved, hence tug-of-war commences.

    Consider the alternative which I attempted to establish earlier. Is it possible that Christ did pay for all sins for all people of all time, past, present, and future, yet not all people are saved? How is that possible? Look again at the scriptures I brought up before and see how this doctrine fits…

    1. Christ died for all sins of all people of all time because it is God’s perspective that matters, not man’s, and God is totally satisfied with the debt payment. Christ died completely and fully for our sins (believers) and not ours only, but for the sins of the whole world (unbelievers, too). 1 John 2:2

    2. Then why aren’t all people saved? Simple: the ones who are not saved are condemned already because they did not believe in the only Son of God (John 3:18). In fact, this is wilfull disbelief, not merely a result of ignorance (John 3:36; the original Greek used in that verse, apeitheō, means to “wilfully and perversely disbelieve”).

    3. Yet there remains one sin that will not be forgiven: the sin of unbelief. There is also the blaspheme of the Holy Spirit. They are different in degree of offense, but similar in that the result is the same. Whether someone mildly disbelieves or someone wickedly blasphemes the Holy Spirit, both go to the Lake of Fire. Why? Same reason: they are condemned already because they did not believe in the only Son of God. John 3:18, John 16:8-9

    There is more to understanding the difference between the ‘sin of unbelief’ (John 16:8-9) and the ‘blaspheme of the Holy Spirit’ (Mark 3:28-29, Luke 12:10), but that can be addressed separately. It is enough for now to know that the result is the same.

    Another way to simplify this conclusion is to say that…
    1. Christ died for all sins of all people, and God was propitiated. (1 John 2:2)
    2. If you believe, you will not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
    3. If you do not believe, that is ‘wilfully disbelieve’, you are already condemned for that very reason: you wilfully disbelieve. (John 3:18)
    4. Salvation depends on not wilfully disbeliving in Christ, and it is the role and responsibility of the Holy Spirit to make His work and person known. To call the Holy Spirit evil is to blaspheme beyond wilfull disbelief. (John 16:8-9; John 16:13-16)
    5. Therefore, it is wholely by the grace of God that salvation comes to any human which He made possible by giving us His only Son, Jesus Christ. Believe! (Eph 2:8-9)

    This, I believe, is the essence of a rock-solid Foundation that can withstand the pounding of a sledge hammer swung at full force. But even if I say it’s clear to me, you may have many questions as I did, and still do. Please ask! When I saw how this Foundation doesn’t budge and even becomes profoundly deeper, my love for God’s Word grew, I am humbled, and His grace continues to get even more amazing!

    God Bless!
    Dwight

  79. 12-24-2012

    Hello Dwight and merry Christmas right back at you,

    Forgive me for the delay in getting back to you. Things have been busy. I imagine that they are getting busy for you as well, so feel free to enjoy your family this Christmas and also feel free to take your time in responding. These things can sit for a couple of days if you’d like. Also I want to thank you once again for the time and effort that you’ve put into these things. I know we’ve wandered a bit from where we started, but I think this is good. We’re talking about issues that have ramifications on lots of other things, so I’m okay with the winding course of this conversation (I just hope Alan is as well–I don’t know if we’re hogging his bandwidth).

    Anyway, I also want to thank you for addressing Owen’s conundrum. It’s a tricky little bugger, and a lot of people try some diversionary tactics to get out of it. You didn’t take that course and I appreciate that. I should probably start off by saying that I totally agree with you that unbelief condemns a person. We can commit all sorts of vile and heinous sins, but if we turn in true faith to Christ all is forgiven (past, present, and future). I totally agree with you there.

    Where we run into trouble (I think) is in our understanding of our sin problem. If I’m understanding you correctly, you seem to be saying that Jesus eradicated original sin for every person that has ever lived. Is that right? If it’s not, you can skip the rest of this comment because it’s probably going to be somewhat misguided. However, if I understood you correctly and that is what you were saying, that raises some questions in my mind. For starters, if Jesus’ death eradicated original sin, would you say that original sin no longer has an influence upon people since the cross? If so, I’m not there yet. I believe that original sin still impacts people today. If that weren’t the case, I don’t understand why babies would die in the womb? I thought that Scripture taught that death is the result of sin (Rom. 6:23). If infants die, then, in my mind at least, sin has to have been imputed to them. (That was my main point, but as a side note, just to clarify, I’m not saying that dying infants go to hell. I am saying that dying infants have sin imputed to them therefore they don’t get a free pass to heaven. They have to be redeemed by Christ. They have to have their original sin forgiven, and the righteousness of Christ imputed to them in order for them to be saved. After all, nobody gets to heaven except through Jesus (John 14:6). I believe that God can and does work in their hearts. I have no idea how that works, but I know that John the Baptist leapt in Elizabeth’s womb at the presence of Jesus in Mary (Luke 1:41-42), and that he was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). I don’t know if I’m understanding that correctly, but the message that I take from that is that God is sovereign over all hearts, even one’s in the womb. I don’t know if that muddied the water more than it cleared it, but regardless, my side note is done.)

    Now I don’t want to press this point too hard in case I’m misunderstanding you, but if you’re saying that original sin is eradicated for everyone, (which you may not be saying, but if you are) then in what sense are we “by nature” children of wrath (Eph. 2:3)? The natural proclivity of our hearts is still evil until we are redeemed, and even after redemption we still war with our old nature (Gal. 5:17).

    As near as I can tell, the fruits of Christ redemption don’t flow to all people that have ever lived. For example, only those who are “in Christ” are the ones who are free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1). Those who are in Him are redeemed and forgiven (Eph. 1:7). Colossians 2:13 seems to say that forgiveness is accompanied by a “quickening.” Perhaps I’m wrong, but I just assumed that the quickening was synonymous with being born again (John 3:5-8). This passage (John 3:8) also tells us that those who are born again are the ones who are born of the Spirit. That makes me think that those in Christ have everything: redemption, forgiveness, regeneration, the Spirit’s indwelling, and no condemnation (and a whole lot more, I’m just lazy and didn’t follow this throughout the Bible). If that is right then I don’t think we can just take one or some of these blessings (i.e. forgiveness and/or redemption) and apply them to the whole world without having the others get sucked along as well. They seem to be tied together, in my mind at least. If that’s the case then the people who are outside of Christ are still unforgiven, and as such they will die in their sins (John 8:24) Notice that the word “sin” is in the plural form in this verse–they die in their sins (plural). If Jesus paid for every sin but persistent unbelief how can anyone be said to “die in their sins”? When I read John 3:18-20 it seems like the wrath of God has never been lifted from the unbeliever. As such they still live under the power of Satan (Acts 26:17-18). He holds them captive (2 Tim. 2:26) and blinds their minds lest they should believe the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). As such the world still lives under the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:18). If every sin has been atoned for how can these things be? Wouldn’t Satan’s power be broken for everyone? I’ve been reading Colossians 3:5-6 and Ephesians 4:5-6 in the light of the above and have therefore been concluding that the wrath of God comes upon believers for all of their sins including their unbelief. I believe once someone believes all of their sins are forgiven, but until the Spirit moves them to believe and unites them to Christ all of their sins remain and the wrath of God continues to abide upon him (John 3:36).

    Now I realize that there are verses that universalize the atonement (John 1:29; Rom. 5:18; 1 Tim. 2:4-6; 4:10; Heb. 2:10; 1John 2:2 along with others). I very well may be misunderstanding those verses, but I agree with you that those verses are completely true. I’m pretty sure we understand them differently though. I believe that there is more than one way that we can understand a universal statement. Sometimes universal statements refer to all people without exception, but other times I believe that they refer to all people without distinction. That’s a subtle but important difference. When I dig into these verses I probably understand the universals in a different manner than you do. For example I know you mentioned 1 John 2:2 and understand the verse to be saying that Jesus was the propitiation not only for the sins of believers but also for the sins of unbelievers. I understand propitiation to mean “to appease by taking the wrath”. If my definition is correct (which it may not be) and Jesus made propitiation for unbelievers then I don’t understand how can the wrath of God still abide upon them according to John 3:36. How does that work? Also in John 1:29 it says that Jesus took away the sin of the world. If world here means “every individual without exception” then I don’t understand how can people die in their sins (John 8:24). How is that possible? In Romans 5:16-18 Paul speaks of only two representatives: Adam and Christ, and only two verdicts: condemnation and justification. Adam’s work results in condemnation of all men, Jesus’ work results in justification of all men. Romans 8:29-30 tells us that those who are justified get glorified. If Jesus represented each and every individual that ever lived upon the cross then, in my mind, the resulting verdict (justification and therefore glorification) should flow to each and every individual as well. We’re know from the book of Romans itself that this doesn’t happen. There are vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy. If all those who are represented by Christ get justified, and Christ represented all humanity on the cross how can any be condemned?

    Then if you look at the purchasing aspect that I metioned previously in Acts 20:28 more questions need to be asked. Did Jesus purchase everyone? We know from Ephesians 1:14 then the purchased possession will be redeemed. Can we universalize Christ purchase and then limit the redemption, and if so, how? I guess all that I’m saying is that an unlimited atonement raises a lot of questions that I don’t know how to answer. I may be wrong, but I believe that there are other ways to understand these verses that take the texts seriously but that don’t lead to these kinds of questions. Then again the sledge may say differently. If it does, I yield to the sledge. I can do no other.

  80. 12-27-2012

    Hey Ben,

    Lots of questions… that’s good! Until the foundation is established and set properly, we will have reasons to wonder about the structure that is built on it, never fully knowing if we’re looking out the window or into the oven. I could address each of the ‘issues’ you raised, or I could direct our focus on making absolutely sure that the foundation is set in such a way that it withstands the sledge hammer, before we attempt to build on it. Does the latter sound better? I hope so! Let’s approach it that way: let’s focus on the foundation, building on what we do know already.

    Ultimately, it is my hope that you will see there is no ‘wiggle room’ in God’s plan. That is, doctrine cannot be true in some cases, and the rest up to personal interpretation so that variations are ‘okay’. Rather, variations in interpretations, usually denominations based on the emphasis of certain incomplete principles, are degrees of maturity, and maturity is the goal (1 Cor 14:20; Eph 4:13; Php 3:15; Col 1:28; Col 4:12; Heb 5:14). Scripture says what it says, and says it for a reason. Our faith is based on knowledge, not ignorance. Let’s see what scripture reveals to babes and hides from the learned and wise (Matthew 11:25).

    “Well, whadya know?” First, let’s make sure we absolutely agree to certain doctrines. If that knowledge and faith is not 100% unshakeable, let’s revisit them. Here are a few things to start…

    1. God wants us to know Him and His thoughts. (1 Tim 2:4; 1 Cor 2:11-12)
    2. His thoughts can be known through scripture. (2 Tim 3:16-17; 1 Cor 2:9-10)
    3. The role of the Holy Spirit is to guide us into all truth. (John 14:26; John 16:13)

    (I’m skipping over some more fundamental principles that come even before that, such as the Bible being the word of God, and it is inerrant in its original language, etc.)

    Even though items 1 through 3 seem easy enough, the significance of them being rock-solid cannot be understated. Many people, for example, will have an issue with item #1 and dismiss difficult or confusing scriptures as something mysterious that God will reveal to us only after we get to heaven. Yet, in doing so, they often miss the riches He has for us here and now in this life!

    For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2:1-3)

    Let’s eventually seek to discover what these ‘riches’ and ‘treasures’ are, but only after we know that we will not be tossed around by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:11-14).

    So, if we agree to the three items listed above, the next thing to establish as undeniable in order to view Christ and scripture in their correct places is that ALL sin must be judged, both original and personal.

    Is there is any sin that does not get judged at all? Has ANY sin slipped by Christ’s sacrifice without being judged? Is any sin so bad that Christ’s sacrifice is not adequate for it? For any reason at all, is there sin remaining that is yet to be judged? Is there still a sacrifice for sin that needs to be made? Is Christ’s atoning sacrifice not complete yet? Is God not quite satisfied with the sacrifice made for all sins?

    All those questions are related, and they are all answered by a single thought, a basic doctrine of God revealed to us in scripture and made understandable by the Holy Spirit. It is the doctrine of Unlimited Atonement. All those questions in the previous paragraph can be wrapped up into one… Was the atoning sacrifice of Christ for sins limited or unlimited (complete)?

    If the atoning sacrifice of Christ was limited, many other scriptures, such as the ones you brought up, will defy resolution. Did Christ die in order to offer salvation to some and not others? If so, how do you interpret John 3:16? Did Christ pay the price some sins but not all? If so, how do you interpret 1 John 2:2?

    Many verses will remain confusing, and there will be explanations given and heard such as, “well, that verse doesn’t really mean what it says.” John 3:16 has got to be the most quoted verse, yet some will say that even though it says ‘world’ it doesn’t really mean ‘world’. It supposedly means ‘world of the elect’ or something similar. (I’ve even heard this explanation used with 1 John 2:2.) Other verses will be taken out of context in order to ‘prove’ the limitations, such as claiming Romans 9:15 is about particular salvation.

    If, on the other hand, the atoning sacrifice of Christ was unlimited and complete, other scriptures will eventually fall in line. I say eventually, because we often have to give up popular but innaccurate interpretations. Why will they fall in line? Because the answer to all the above questions is scriptural and consistent, and the answer will ALWAYS point to Christ, and Christ will NEVER be anything less than the all-in-all. Christ is the foundation that is rock-solid! I doubt we doubt that! Also, scriptures will be seen to clearly mean what they say, a reference to the ‘world’ does indeed mean the ‘world’. Paul’s description of God’s Sovereignty in Romans 9 will not be reduced to having salvation as its highlight. A reference to Christ as the Savior of the world, ‘especially’ those who believe, will make profound sense (1 Tim 4:10).

    I would invite you to read what I’ve written previously in the comments of this blog post as well to see if the doctrine of Unlimited Atonement is consistent. Look afresh upon scriptures that you’ve heard time and again: John 3:16, John 3:18 (the REAL reason why the unsaved are condemned), Eph 2:8-9, 1 John 2:2, John 12:48 (again, the REAL reason why the unsaved are lost, and many more.) These very basic and fundamental scriptures that not only say what they mean, you can fully trust them and stand on them.

    After the doctrine of Unlimited Atonement is made solid, then we can begin to build on it. Then we can ask questions such as those that follow without grasping for straws.

    If all sins of all people, past, present, and future, have their perfect sacrifice in Christ Jesus, the Savior of the world, the Lamb of God, why then do people go to the Lake of Fire? If it started out as sin being the problem, and God solved that problem completely, that is, His justice executed what His righteousness demanded, what is the problem that remains and why are some ‘condemned already’? If people are ‘condemned already’, then, is it for a different reason other than their original or personal sins?

    If we don’t believe in Unlimited Atonement, and many don’t, we would never be resolved about the reality of the sin problem and the goodness of the Good News. We would have to chip away at and twist the scriptures that say Christ IS the one and only sacrifice ever needed, and that God WAS completely satisfied with that sacrifice once and for all. Yes, His wrath remains, but it is not because of sin! I can’t overemphasize John 3:18 enough to prove this from scripture.

    If, however, we DO see clearly in scripture that all sin was judged in Christ, what remains to be judged? Rejection of God’s solution to the sin problem, that’s what! Notice the One and Only pivot point in this saved/unsaved position according to scripture: Rejection of Christ! Believe on Him and you will be saved! Reject Him and you are already lost.

    Does it begin to answer your own questions? The fruits of Christ redemption don’t flow to all people that have ever lived because those people who are lost have rejected Him. The wrath of God remains on those who have rejected Christ, not the whose sins are not paid for. There is one unforgiven sin, the blaspheme of the Holy Spirit, which is more than just the rejection of Christ; it says that the Spirit’s ministry, which is to point people to Christ, is evil. People die in their sins because they have rejected God’s solution to the sin problem, which is in Christ. Have babies rejected Christ? Who said they go to hell? David knew he would go to his son from Bathsheba (2 Sam 12:23.)

    Are you with me here? ;-)

    Dwight
    I wonder how many typos I’ll find after I hit ‘Submit’!

  81. 12-30-2012

    Hello Dwight,

    Once again, thank you for the time and effort that you’ve put into this conversation. Once again, forgive me for taking so long to respond. I also want to apologize if my questions and comments are beginning to annoy you. I just reread our conversation and had to laugh when you said “I think God loves questions as much as He loves prayer because He delights in answering them both.” I think I might have changed your view on that one! LOL. I’m actually not trying to annoy you. I think the problem is that we view some basic things differently, and in as far as we’re consistent in working out our those basic beliefs we seem to be consistently seeing things differently…which is understandably annoying. Actually this issue of the atonement was the thing that inadvertently launched my journey from a more dispensational approach to Scripture to a more reformed approach. For example if you really believe that we’re dead in sin outside of Christ, that seems to take you eventually to the dreaded land of Limited Atonementville. Then if you actually believe that man’s condition is hopeless since the fall and that no one gets redeemed outside of the work of Christ, you begin to start finding continuity between believers in both testaments. If the gospel is the same (Gal. 3) and the method of its application is the same–faith in Christ (Rom. 4) and the means of acceptance is the same–the righteousness of Chrsit imputed (also Rom. 4) then you start seeing the Spirit’s regenerating and indwelling work as something necessary for salvation and sanctification in both testaments (Isaiah 63:11-13). Granted the Spirit’s ministry is deeper and greater and more profound in the life of New Testament believers but the Spirit and the word were alive and well and working the the lives of Old Testament believers (Isaiah 59:21). Believers in both testaments are heirs of the same promises (Gal. 3) share the same destiny (Matthew 8; Rev. 21:9-27). Once you go there that influences the way you interpret prophecy and view ecclesiology, which in turn influences your views on the sacraments/ordinances. So we’re talking about stuff with tentacles here. So even if it doesn’t seem like a ton of progress is being made, I do think discussing this stuff and trying to carefully work through these things will have ramifications. His word does not return to Him void and it accomplishes what He pleases. Hopefully as we keep working back our views will converge and there we can start building together.

    So for starters let me say that we agree on your three starting premises, (Hooray!!) namely that God wants us to know His thoughts, His thoughts can be known throuth Scripture, and the Spirit is the teacher who guides us into all truth. I also believe that the Bible is the word of God and is inerrant in it’s original language. In a strange twist of affairs, it was the acceptance of your premise that ALL sin must be judged, both original and personal that pushed me to believe in a limited atonement. I realize that that probably sounds weird, so let’s stop right there and let me try to explain where I’m coming from.

    Before I do that though, let me try to clarify my position a little because the words “limited atonement” carry a lot of baggage and can be easily misunderstood. The very reason that I believe in a limited atonement is because I believe in a “complete” atonement. I noticed that you used that term to describe the unlimited view. I think it was Spurgeon who said that the limited atonement is like a narrow bridge that goes completely across a river. It’s path is narrower but it gets the people across safely and soundly. He compared the unlimited view to a wide bridge that doesn’t quite make it to the other side. All the people on this bridge may make it to the other side, however the bridge brings none of them there. They need to go as far at the bridge goes and then jump for their life. Some take the jump, others do not. Granted that’s not a perfect illustration, but I think it helps to illustrate that both positions limit the atonement in different ways. I believe Christ’s atonement brings some people all the way home, I think you believe it makes it possible for all people to get home, though actually procuring it for no one. Is that basically correct?

    I believe that Christ’s work completely redeems people. There is no work to perform, no hurdle to jump, no satisfaction to make to perfect or complete what Christ has done. Christ’s work completely saves. The fact that there are conditions to salvation (faith for justification-Acts 16:31; holiness for glorification-Heb. 12:14; Rom. 8:13) doesn’t mean we need to accomoplish those things in order to be saved. It means that those things need to be accomplished in us in order for us to be saved. If Chrit’s mission was to seek and to save the lost, He was engaged to supply everything necessary for our salvation. As such He grants us faith (Phil. 1:29) and works in us that which is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ (Heb. 13:20-21). He meets every condition. He is our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). He is our life (Col. 3:4). He is our peace (Eph. 2:14). He is our hope (1 Tim. 1:1). He is the fountain from which every blessing flows.

    If I’m understanding you correctly, I think we might be in agreement that unbelief is sinful. Maybe you’d rather call it “rejection of God’s solution to the sin problem”. That’s fine with me. Call it whatever you wish. My point is simply that if rejection of God’s solution to the sin problem is the thing that condemns us then this rejection is sinful. God won’t condemn something or someone that isn’t sinful. Where we’re different is that I believe that Jesus died for this sin for believers. I think everyone who has ever lived has committed this sin. This is something that we all did constantly (I mean actually non-stop) until we turned in faith to Christ. We rejected, and rejected, and rejected, until one day we stopped rejecting. How did that that vicious cycle stop? Why did it stop? I believe that it was the work of Christ in us and for us that stopped this mess. I believe if He hadn’t stepped in and stopped our rejecting of Him, we never would have stopped, therefore we never would have come to Him. I think we touched on this before, but we were born in sin (Psa. 51:5), slaves to our lusts, (John 8:34; Eph. 2:3) enemies of God and friends of His enemies (Rom. 1:28-2:1). We had no desire for Him. The reason we came to Him is because He came to us and gave us life (1 Pet. 1:3). Eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart of flesh to understand, fear, repent, and believe are not things that we brought to this equation. Those were things that He gave to us (2 Cor 4:4-6; Acts 16:14; 2 Tim. 2:25; Phil. 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:20-21). Those are things that He gives to everyone who comes.

    But not everyone has these things, therefore not everyone comes.

    There’s our problem. Why does God not open everyone’s heart? Why does He not grant everyone repentence? Those are hard questions. Most proponents of an unlimited atonement, in an attempt to justify God, will deny that God bestows life, that He opens hearts, that He grants repentance and faith. They’ll deny that He purchased anyone, because to affirm that He does these things is to open themselves up to the charge that God is capricious and unjust. I understand their apprehension, and their desire to show that God is none of those things, but, for me, denying these truths is not a viable option. The Scriptures do teach these things.

    Granted proponents of an unlimited atonement have Scriptural justification for their view. There are verses that say Christ’s atonement was universal in extent, that He desires the salvation of all, that He is not willing that any should perish, etc., but using those verses as leverage against the ones I quoted above in an attempt to eradicate them is not a responsible course to take. Even if there are universal verses about the atonement (and there are) we can’t deny one truth in order to affirm another. They both have to go together.

    I guess while we’re talking about these issues, let me stop here and address one of your questions. Sometimes the questions we ask assume things that need to be established. For example the question: “Did Jesus die to make salvation possible only for some?” I think we need to step back here and ask “Where does the Bible say that Jesus died to make salvation possible?” When the Bible describes Jesus’ mission I don’t think it says that Jesus came to make salvation possible. I think it says that He came to save (Matt. 1:21; Luke 19:10; John 17:2) Again that’s a subtle difference, but that’s basically the diffence between the limited view and the unlimited view. The limited view believes that Jesus’ work procured salvation, (i.e. Jesus purchases (Acts 20:28) redeemes (Rev. 5:9-10) and justifies (Rom. 5:9) people by His blood.) The unlimited view generally believes that Jesus’ work made salvation possible (i.e. it purges sin but procures no saving benefits). A limited view actualizes the atonement, whereas an unlimited view generally potentializes it. Again, your position might be different here. If it is, please let me know.

    Which brings me to your questions. I do believe that John 3:16 speaks about the world (all without exception). As such, I believe the gospel can and should be offered to everyone (Matt. 22:9). This is generally where people put the line between Calvinists and hyper-Calvinists. Generic Calvinists generally believe in the free offer of the gospel (that the gospel can and should be offered to everyone on the planet); whereas “hyper-Calvinists” do not. If that is the definition of a hyper-Calvinist, then I am not a hyper-Calvinist.

    1 John 2:2–I think the way we understand this verse hinges on how we understand propitiation. You said that propitiation means that God was fully satisfied. Yet if you believe that people who die in unbelief had all their sins propitiated, you’re saying that God rejects people whose sins have been fully satisfied for. If He is fully satisfied how could He reject them? If you grant that presistent unbelief is a sin that we all commit and a sin that Jesus didn’t die it, in what sense is God be “fully” satisfied with them? I believe a full satisfaction would remove every obstacle. If you leave one sin unremoved, one sin that Jesus didn’t pay for, don’t you loose the “fullness” of Christ’s redemption? I try to take a different course here. I know that there is precedent in Scripture for the word “world” referring to Gentiles to the exclusion of the Israelites. In Romans 11:11-15 Israel’s fall brought blessings to the world (i.e. to the Gentile nations). We know from Galatians 2:9 that John ministered primarily to “the circumcised” (i.e. the Jews). I think it’s possible in the light of that that John could be saying that Jesus’ propitiation isn’t for us only (the circumcised Jews) but also for the whole world (people from every tribe, tongue, kindred, and nation). That interpretation resolves the propitiation issue, and there is warrant for that understanding of the word “world” in Scripture. I may not be right, but that’s how I handle the passage.

    1 Timothy 4:10–For starters, on this one we have to ask “In what sense is Jesus the Savior of people who never “get saved”?” It says Jesus is their Savior, not He will be their Savior, or that He offers His saving hand to them. If we view this verse salvifically, then we’re driven to the conclusion that the people that Jesus saved can end up condemned in hell. What kind of salvation was that? If Jesus saved me just as much as He saved them, yet I don’t go to hell and they do, then the reason for my salvation lies in something that I did. This brings merit into the equation. I agree with what you said earlier: “any reliance on our own deeds is just arrogant and moves us further away from God. By relying on our own deeds, we are hardening our hearts against Him.” An unlimited atonement leads ironically to an incomplete salvation, one that requires us to meet the conditions. This is what drove me from the unlimited atonement position. In the most crucial spots it robs God of the glory for our redemption. In the light of that, I don’t view God’s saving of unbelievers salvifically. I tend to view God’s salvation of unbelievers as a providential protection, preservation, and deliverance from earthly calamity (Ps. 36:6). If you look back to verse 8 we find Paul referring to “the promise of life which now is and of that which is to come.” I don’t know if that refers to the promise of life given in Genesis 9:11-12 given to every human since Noah or if it’s something different. I’m not sure, but I do believe that God protects, saves, and delivers unbelievers for His own plans and purposes. I don’t believe that He saves anyone incompletely.

    I agree with you that unbelief is reason for people’s condemnation. In essence I think all sin is at it’s core unbelief (Rom. 14:23). Ralph Erskine, called unbelief “your sin, your leading sin, and mother of all sins: for herein lies the formal nature of unbelief, that you do not, you cannot, you will not look to Christ and be saved…”

    More could be said, but this is four pages long already, so I’m going to stop here and shut up…finally!!

  82. 1-2-2013

    Ben,

    No, your questions are not annoying me (yet). I have young children who top you by far in that regard. ;-) Likewise, I hope my tendency to be long-winded is not annoying you either. Thanks for sticking with me on this topic, which I believe is critical for a solid foundation to build upon, on which God will build a structure as a dwelling place for Himself (Eph 2:19-22)

    I’m glad we are getting to the point where we can clearly identify where we agree and where we don’t. Let us always treat each other with brotherly love as we discuss the wonderful things God has done for us, and seek the unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:1-6)!

    I still want to spend more time digesting everything you said in your latest comment. So, please don’t be afraid that I’ve discounted that by what I’d like to do now, which is ask a few simple questions. In many ways, unlimited atonement seems to suggest that some pretty significant scriptures don’t really mean what they say. There’s always a “Yeah, but” or “not quite” that weakens its strength as a direct statement.

    Here are a few examples of what I would consider to be whacks of the sledge hammer…

    Does John 3:16 mean really what it says? Does it really mean “whoever believes will not perish” as in absolutely anybody in the world? Or does it mean only those who God would choose to be saved, in which case “world” doesn’t really mean that either without revising the verse with something like “the world of the elect”?

    Is John 3:18 stating a true condition based on “if” someone believes? Or, is it only making an obvious statement equivalent to “whoever God chooses to believe will believe”? If obvious, why state it?

    Was God’s solution to the sin problem total, or only partial (some men, and/or some sins)? If partial, as in limited, was God satisfied with this partial payment even though 1 John 2:2 says Christ was the propitiation for not only our sins, but for the sins of the whole world? Does “whole world” not mean the whole world?

    Did Christ, called the “Lamb who takes away the sin of the world” not really take away all sin as a barrier to salvation? If His sacrifice only takes away original sin, was it only for some of the world? Also, is the removal of personal sin still dependent on repentance and/or confession? Why? Didn’t God already choose? If Christ’s sacrifice takes away both original and personal sin as a barrier, same thing, was it not really for “the sin of the world” as God’s word declares but only some?

    Why are we, as Christ’s body and soldiers in this spiritual battle, to give the gospel to someone who has no chance whatsoever of being saved, unbeknownst to us, since God did not choose them for salvation? Are we not lying to them if we say, “believe and you will be saved,” and yet God knows it? Or is it ‘okay’ to lie because we did it in ignorance? Does He somehow prevent us from giving the gospel to someone He did not choose for salvation so that we don’t lie to them? Or perhaps, a person who rejects Christ will never ask, “how can I be saved?” and we should never tell them unless they ask?

    If God chooses who will be saved, what is resistance of the Holy Spirit, or the rejection of Christ? If God is choosing who will be saved, then isn’t He by default the One rejecting those who will not be saved? Who’s rejecting who?

    A friend of mine wrote this analogy (I added to the end of it)…

    When the Titanic was sinking, there were limited boats, certainly not enough to save all. How did they decide which ones would be saved? All life is precious. They made a decision that women and children would be saved first. It was not a great outcome in the end. There was certainly class discrimination, and not all the boats were filled to capacity! Many more could have been saved, for sure. One thing to note, everyone knew there were not enough boats. There was 2223 passengers on board. The lifeboats should have been able to save 1178 people, but only 706 survived, less than a third of the people. This event is viewed as a tragedy and the decisions made about who to save were questioned relentlessly. Were those 706 saved glad they were chosen, yes. Were they sad about the rest? Absolutely. But, we know that man is not perfect and makes mistakes. We would have hoped for a better outcome, but we are glad some were saved. It is a tragedy.

    Limited atonement says that God could have saved everyone on the ship, all, men, women and children, but decides to save only some, a fraction. (Is that decision arbitrarily? Based on merit? Based on change? Who knows! Just be glad if you’re one of them!)

    Unlimited atonment says that God is perfectly capable of saving everyone on the ship, and even told them how. However, many refused to believe and trust in His ‘Life Boat’. In that sense, it wasn’t merely being on the ship (original and personal sin) that resulted in them being lost at sea. It was that they refused God’s provision for salvation. He loved everyone on that ship, and wanted them to be saved. I can’t imagine the pain and anguish of having the expression of my love trampled on the ground and kicked around, my motivation falsely charged with bold lies and in utter rage called evil, and then being spit upon, punched, scourged, and horribly killed for even suggesting such a thing… but Christ can and did, willingly.

    In this case, as a believer, I know I freely chose to believe Him, eventually, in humility, when he sent His Spirit to convict me of belief in Christ. He made it possible to be saved. He told me how to be saved, and He rewards those who diligently seek Him. He even guarantees His sin problem solution with the deposit of the Holy Spirit. It is not by chance I have been saved, it is by grace, nor is it by merit, it is a gift of God; I have nothing to boast in except this: His gift, given by grace, makes everything rubbish by the comparison of knowing Christ Jesus.

    Dwight

  83. 1-2-2013

    Typo #1: My statement should be…

    In many ways, limited atonement seems to suggest that some pretty significant scriptures don’t really mean what they say.

  84. 1-3-2013

    Dear Ben,

    Christ died so that we may have life and have it abundantly. Unfortunately, my time before I need to get to work is not in abundance. ;-)

    I want to address one thing at a time starting with 1 John 2:2, and by pointing out that we don’t have the luxury of making a verse mean something other than what it says. I don’t mean to offend, but I am going to address some things I believe you may have said in error, which I will highlight below, and, because of their fundamental foundational significance, I believe these errors need to be corrected and clarified.

    Ben, you had said, “1 John 2:2–I think the way we understand this verse hinges on how we understand propitiation. You said that propitiation means that God was fully satisfied. Yet if you believe that people who die in unbelief had all their sins propitiated…”

    I believe the error you made was in attributing that which was propitiated to sins – “had all their sins propitiated.” Sins were not propitiated, God was. What was the source of that result? Christ. Christ is the propitiation. I repeat the verse here…

    He [Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 ESV)

    Easton defines ‘propitiation’ as follows: That by which God is rendered propitious, i.e., by which it becomes consistent with his character and government to pardon and bless the sinner. The propitiation does not procure his love or make him loving; it only renders it consistent for him to exercise his love towards sinners.

    Easton further explains: In 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10, Christ is called the “propitiation for our sins.” Here a different Greek word is used (hilasmos). Christ is “the propitiation,” because by his becoming our substitute and assuming our obligations he expiated our guilt, covered it, by the vicarious punishment which he endured.

    So, 1 John 2:2 is saying that God is completely satisfied in Christ being the one and only substitute for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. Is there any other substitute required? No. Can there be any other substitute? No. Is God only partially satisfied in the substituting work of Christ? No. Is God sending people to the lake of fire because Christ only partially made the debt payment, and therefore there is a payment that remains unpaid? No. Are people lost because Christ’s work is not good enough or complete enough or unfinished? Absolutely not! There is no other name given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

    So, what is God saying in His word? That people who are lost are going to the lake of fire because they were born in Adam? Isn’t that everybody? Yes! Is everybody going to the lake of fire? No! Is it that people who are lost are going to the lake of fire because of personal sins? Doesn’t everyone commit personal sins, even those who are saved (1 John 1:8,10)? Yes! Is everyone going to the lake of fire? No!

    If everyone is born with original sin in Adam, and everyone commits personal sins, and people who are lost are said to be ‘condemned already’ (John 3:18), how can anyone be saved? How does Christ actually become the Substitute for us? What does scripture say very clearly is the Only Way to salvation? Believe in Christ and you will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Whoever believes in Him is not condemned (John 3:18). Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life (John 3:36). Believe in Christ and you will be saved. (Acts 16:29-31)

    That’s it? Believe in Christ? Yes! That what scripture says quite clearly and plainly. I think we can reply on God’s word to mean what it says.

    Bonus Section!

    The rest of your sentence is completed with, “…, you’re saying that God rejects people whose sins have been fully satisfied for.”

    Not quite… God is not the one rejecting. ‘Whoever does not believe’ is rejecting God as in John 3:18 and John 3:36, for example, because it is clear who is refusing to believe – whoever. (Recall that in John 3:36, whoever “does not obey the Son” means in the Greek to wilfully or perversely disbelieve. ) Also, we see that God is obviously not the one resisting the Holy Spirit as in Acts 7:51.

    Quite… have their sins “been fully satisfied for”? Yes! Is God fully satisfied that the sins of the whole world have been judged in Christ? Absolutely! The barrier to God for anyone and everyone, which was sin, original and personal, has been permanently and completely removed!

    But, just because the barrier has been removed, and God is completely satisfied that Christ is the only substitute, the propitiation, doesn’t mean everyone is willing to accept His solution and step into the salvation circle. ‘Whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the Only Son of God.’ (John 3:18)

    I spent more time than I reall… Well, actually, I enjoyed every minute of it! I hope you do to, Ben. Take care and God bless you abundantly!!

    Dwight

  85. 1-4-2013

    Greetings Ben,

    You wrote a lot in your last comment that I’d like to address, but it’s too much for me to do at one time. Mostly because I’d otherwise keep writing all day! But also because I need to manage my time before work.

    You said, “In a strange twist of affairs, it was the acceptance of your premise that ALL sin must be judged, both original and personal that pushed me to believe in a limited atonement. I realize that that probably sounds weird, so let’s stop right there and let me try to explain where I’m coming from.”

    I understand that you continue the thought in the next paragraph to clarify what you mean by the term ‘limited atonement’ as it carries “a lot of baggage.” But I want to clarify something else first. Notwithstanding the sin of unbelief, and even though there was “acceptance of your premise that ALL sin must be judged,” do we agree about how, when, and where ALL sin is judged?

    1. Do you believe that ALL sin was imputed to Christ by God, that ALL sin was judged in Christ on the cross, and therefore ALL sin WAS judged?

    I believe this leads to unlimited atonement. Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. It is not sin that sends the lost to the lake of fire, it is wilfull disbelief (rejection of Christ, blaspheme the Holy Spirit, the sin of unbelief).

    2. Or, do you believe that some sins remain to be judged at the Final Judgment (Rev 20:11-15) causing some to be thrown into the lake of fire?

    I believe this leads to limited atonement. Some sins, in addition to the sin of unbelief, remain to be judged, and that is what will condemn the lost to the lake of fire. Some sins were judged in Christ, and others will be judged in the Final Judgment.

    I believe you are clearly saying Q&A #2 applies to where you’re coming from. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Q&A #1 applies to me. It is clear and simple in scripture where the critical hinge is believing in Christ, and that is something the Holy Spirit is at work in the world to get people to do. But, they still have to make that choice themselves. Once they do, in that moment, they are saved. And even after you are saved, conditions like “if you love Me” indicate that we continue to have a choice to grow in Him. We can even become stagnant or try to earn our way up the ladder, yet still be saved. (1 Cor 3:11-15)

    To me, Q&A #2 raises a LOT of questions, especially about the lost. Why were they not chosen, especially since everyone starts from the same condemned location (through the trespass of one man, all sinned)? What good is it to tell them gospel if it doesn’t apply to them? Why give them hope when there really is no hope and never was? Why would one murderer be saved (such as Moses and David) and not another? Why should some people pay for their sins and not others? Is this a compassionate and merciful God who gives physical life to millions of people born condemned to the lake of fire, who can never have any hope whatsoever? Do we share the gospel with those who are perishing to mock them? To feel better about ourselves? To lie to them about being saved by something they cannot do: believe in Christ?

    You had said, “I agree with you that unbelief is reason for people’s condemnation.” But then you added, “In essence I think all sin is at it’s core unbelief (Rom. 14:23).”

    I think a distinction is necessary. In the first statement, this condemnation is what remains on people who reject Christ and are therefore not saved (John 3:18). In the second statement in which your referenced Romans 14:23, that “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” is not talking about salvation. Is a person condemned to the lake of fire because he doubts when he eats? Absolutely not!

    Or, wait a minute… maybe limited atonement allows for this sin to be an eternally condemning sin because ‘doubt’ is mentioned. But that would mean any Christian who ever doubted is really not saved because doubt equates to unbelief, and the sin of unbelief condemns a person to the lake of fire.

    To me, this doesn’t make sense. Someone who is Born Again has just been born and needs to grow up! They should graduate from milk to meat, mature in Christ, and grow to the full stature of Christ (1 Cor 3:2, Heb 5:12-13, Eph 4:11-14). I think it’s a given that there will be some doubt and confusion along the way. Can a Christian doubt and still be saved? Absolutely! Can a Christian murder and still be saved? Absolutely! Can a Christian doubt God and still be saved? I know my answer. What’s yours?

    Dwight

  86. 1-4-2013

    Hello Dwight,

    Thank you for gracious responses. These issues can get heated sometimes, so I appreciate your desire to continue this conversation in brotherly love endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. You are a patient man, and for that I am thankful. Also extend my thanks to your children because I’m guessing they’ve increased your threshold for pain via their annoying questions. So may God continue to bless both you and your children.

    Before I try to simultaneously take a swing at your questions and dodge your swinging sledge, I want to try to take a step back from these issues and just talk about God’s nature for a little while. As Christians we believe that God is the Creator. As such we affirm that He exists prior to, and independently of, His creation. That means that He is eternal and unchangeable. The attributes He possesses are therefore also eternal and unchangeable. That means that His knowledge is also eternal and unchangeable. So regardless of your doctrine of election, as Christians we believe that God from eternity past has eternally known everything that will transpire. That knowledge by definition includes knowledge of who will be saved and who will be lost. So every Christian should believe that God wants us to preach the gospel to people whom He knows will not believe. If this is a dilemma, this is not a Calvinistic dilemma-this is a Chrsitian dilemma.

    But I’m not entirely convinced that this is a dilemma at all. Are we lying by telling people indescriminately that if they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ they will be saved? I don’t see how we are. Whoever believes will be saved. Whoever does not believe will not be saved. We’ve simply told them the truth. Are we lying to the world by telling them that God loves them? Once again, I don’t think that we are. Jesus commands us to love our enemies that we may be sons of our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:44-45). God makes His rain fall and His sun shine indescriminately upon everyone. I believe this is a demonstration of His common grace. I do believe that God loves the world.

    I should probably leave it there, but you’re smart and I think you’re going to ask me some questions about this, so I’m going to try to jump the gun and address some stuff that you haven’t asked yet. Doesn’t this mean that God loves everyone equally? and if that’s the case then doesn’t that kill the doctrine of election? For starters, I think we need to make sure that we’re getting the whole story on God’s love. There are passages that seem to say that God’s love rests in a special sense upon a special people. For instance, in the Old Testament God chose Israel from amongst the nations and made them special recipients of His love (Deut. 7:6-16; 10:15; Isa. 43:1-4). No other nation had God so close to them. Those texts explicitly say that God loves some people differently than He loves others. So I believe that while there is a commonness to his providential love, there is an exclusiveness to His electing love. Carson talks about this a little bit in the first chapter of his book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (for free at http://www.monergism.com ). He’s smarter than me, so if that’s something that interests you (or disturbs you for that matter) I’d refer you to him.

    About John 3:18-I’m not completely sure if I’m understanding your question, but I think faith is a true condition for justification. The fact that the future is foreknown and/or foreordained and that Christ creates faith in believers (Phil 2:13) doesn’t deny that, I don’t think. Then again, perhaps it does and I’m simply misunderstanding you on this one (which is very possible).

    I guess I didn’t do a very good job in explaining what I believe about the atonement before. Forgive me for that. I tried to say that I believe that Jesus completely redeems us. He leaves no conditions for us to fulfill on our own. Your reference to John 10:10 in your second to last comment was a response to that, I’m guessing. Are you saying that the subjunctive mood here is conveying the idea that the success of Christ’s mission is uncertain? I am amazingly dumb about all things Greek, but I think the subjunctive mood can be used in a variety of ways, some of which do not express uncertainty (as in Matthew 2:23 or John 6:40). But regardless, I’m dumb about Greek and I know it, so I’m going to try to stay with the simple stuff. If you look at the John 10 passage, who do you think His sheep are? and how do you handle John 10:14 and 10:26?

    Your question about who is rejecting who is a fair one. Biblically, I don’t know this stuff is completely one sided. Think back to Pharaoh. God told Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart before Moses even returned to Egypt in Exodus 4:21. Yet as the story progresses Pharaoh’s heart grows harder (Ex. 7:22) and he has a hand in hardening his own heart (Ex. 8:15). Did God reject Pharaoh, or did Pharaoh reject God? As near as I can tell, the answer is “Yes.” You find the same thing in Acts 16:45-48. The Jews reject the word and judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life, so Paul goes to the Gentiles and as many as had been ap:pointed to eternal life believed. There is a similar thing in the gospels. In John 6:44 Jesus says that no man can come to Him unless the Father draws him. Yet we’re also told in John 5:40 that people will not come to Him that they might have life. They cannot come, yet they also will not come. So all unbelievers are willing in their rejection. They are unwilling to come to Him, and also unable to come to Him unless God draws them. Those whom the Father gives to Christ are the ones who come, and those who come are not cast out (John 6:37-40).

    Your Titanic illustration sort of assumes some stuff that I’m not sure if you meant to imply, but regardless, it assumes some stuff that I’m not too comfortable with. For starters it seems to assume that God’s creation somehow got out of His control. Evidently a horrible mess occurred in Eden, and now God is trying to salvage this deal by saving as many people as He can. I think that isn’t the picture that gets portrayed in the Bible. In Scripture there are times when the devil and his demons have to get permission to act (Job 1;Matt. 8:31-32). So I don’t believe that the devil can thwart God’s intentions. The devil is God’s creation, therefore God can take him out whenever He sees fit. But for the time being, the devil, inadvertantly and perhaps unbeknownst to Him, is serving a purpose in the plan of God. God is demonstrating His greatness in destroying him and his works (Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). Remember that Paul tells us that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). I could be wrong here, but I take that to mean we were chosen in Christ before the fall occurred. If that’s right, redemption is not an after thought or a “plan B”. It’s what this thing was about from the beginning, even before the fall occurred. Think back to Titus 1:1-3. Remember how God promised eternal life before time began. How can there be a promise of eternal life before the beginning of time? and who did He promise it to? Those are good questions, and this verse is one reason why reformed guys talk about the covenant of redemption in eternity. They believe that there was a covenant between the persons of the Trinity to redeem a people for themselves. As such this whole thing, the angels, the fall, heaven, hell, the whole shabang exists to bring glory, honor, and praise to to the Triune God. As such, God does not apologize for hell. There is a sense in which He is glorified by it. That sounds strange to us now, but I believe that we’ll get it then (Ps. 149:5-9).

    Another thing about your illustration, that I know you didn’t mean to imply, but I’m going to address it just because it disturbs me. You said “unlimited atonement says that God is perfectly capable of saving everyone on the ship, and even told them how.” People have to save themselves in your illustration. If they get in the life boat they’re safe, but simply providing life boats saves no one. See right there is where you’re losing me. If I’m dead in sin, instruction doesn’t help me. I need life. If I hate God, I don’t need someone to tell me about God’s love. I need my heart of stone removed and I need a heart of flesh implanted. Then and only then will I respond to God’s love. A good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit. The tree needs to change before the fruit can change. This Titanic analogy doesn’t do justice to the condition of the people on the boat. Everyone on that boat is a hardened hater of God. You said previously that “we cannot move an atom’s width in the direction of righteousness by any deeds that we do.” I agree with that. When you said that I was hopeful that we were pretty close to an agreement on this stuff. Now it seems like your saying that we can move in the direction of righteousness by our good decision to trust Christ. Again, at a very crucial spot, you seem to be denying your previous statement. Please don’t do that. That makes me sad. I believe an unlimited atonement teaches that man is responsible for his own salvation. For that reason I do not like. I do not like it, Sam I Am. I do not like Unlimited Atonement.

    About 1 John 2:2–Propitiation is a big word and evidently I didn’t know what it meant. Forgive me for that, and thank you for correcting me. I do appreciate that. Let me try to translate/alter my jibberish so that hopefully it’s somewhat more coherent. When I referred to sins being “propitiated,” I should have said “expiated”. Easton does say that Christ “expiated our guilt, covered it, by the vicarious punishment which he endured.” So please (in your mind…because I can’t edit my previous post) read “expiated” instead of “propitiated” in that sentence.

    With that hopefully clarified, let me try address some of your responses to 1 John 2:2. What I’m not totally clear on is if you believe that rejecting God is sinful. I believe that it is. You said that it is not sin that sends the lost to the lake of fire, it is willful disbelief. Why is willful disbelief not a sin? After all we are commanded to believe in Christ (1 John 3:23), and breaking God’s commands is sinful, therefore isn’t it sinful to willfully disbelieve in Christ–God’s solution to the sin problem. I know you said that this is the wrong question to ask, but, honestly, I didn’t really understand why you said that. I know you also said this is the unpardonable sin. Once you go there though, you lose the unlimitedness of your atonement. You have Christ paying for every sin but one. If we’re consistent, that puts merit into the equation. As much as we hate that conclusion it does seem to flow naturally from that premise. That’s why I think the unlimited premise is not good. Well that’s one reason. Another reason is my syllogism from 1 John 3:23. It seems pretty simple and straight forward:

    1. God commands us to believe in Christ (1 John 3:23)
    2. Breaking God’s commands is sinful (definition of sin)
    3. Therefore, not believing in Christ is sinful

    If that syllogism is correct, then when push comes to shove you don’t believe in an unlimited atonement if you don’t have Christ dying for all sins, as far as I can tell. One thing I do know though: I hate puzzles, Amish puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and most of all, logic puzzles. I’m horrible at them. So maybe there’s a flaw in this syllogism, I don’t know. If there is, I’m all ears because I think how you handle this will determine how we handle John 1:29 and if Q&A #1 actually applies to you. I don’t believe that it does, but as I said before, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. So I’m all ears.

    Before you hit me with another message, let me try to clarify my position a little more, because I think we’re talking past each other a little bit here. I believe that Christ took all of the sins of His people upon Himself (John 17). Every sin (including the sin of unbelief…doubt, and everything that you mentioned in your last message and everything you didn’t mention) has been paid for for them. In that sense I believe that the atonement is complete (the narrow bridge going completely across the river). However I don’t believe that He took the sins of the people who end up in hell upon Himself. If He did, how could they die in their sins-plural (John 8:24), how could their increased sins increase the measure of wrath they will receive on the last day (Rom. 2:5-6), how could wrath come upon them for their sins (Eph. 5:3-6; Col. 3:5-6), how could there be degrees of punishment in hell in accordance with the measure of their sins (Luke 12:42-48; Matt. 23:14)? I realize that you don’t agree with me here, but I haven’t seen you address these verses in a meaningful way yet. These verses mean something, and have to be taken seriously. These very verses were a thorn in my side when I believed in an unlimited atonement. I didn’t have a category for them, so I disregarded them because I had verses like John 3:18; 1 John 2:2 and John 1:29. In time I came to believe that my beliefs about an unlimited atonement were incompatible with these verses, and as such, something had to change. I got more categories by embracing a limited atonement, and I thereby thought I resolved the tension. Granted, perhaps I was wrong to come to that conclusion, but that is the conclusion that I came to nonetheless. Can you address these verses and the questions that they spawn in a meaningful and consistent way as a proponent of an unlimited atonement? If you can I will shut up and listen.

    The questions that Q&A #2 spawn are mostly answered in Scripture. Why were some chosen over others? Romans 9:19-24 says it was to manifest his power and wrath upon the vessels of destruction and to manifest the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy. We don’t like that answer. I get that, but if that’s the answer that Scripture gives we should shut up and humble ourselves before our God. Your other questions apply equally to all Christians provided that you believe that God is separate from His creation and knows all things eternally.

    Your question about sin in the life of believers was answered above I hope. I’m guessing from you final comments that you maybe don’t interact with Calvinists too often, which is fine by the way. Calvinists sometimes walk in Calvinistic circles so finding one that wants to talk in an organic forum may be kind of rare. You flippin’ struck gold Dwight!!…or arsenic…I guess it depends on your perspective. But if you want to try to understand our position a little better I’d recommend clicking around at monergism.com a little bit. If you click on the directory link on the top you’ll see a bunch of categories. They’ve got a bunch of stuff on the atonement there (and about everything else reformed). It’s a good place to get answers and or clarification on reformed issues.

    With that I will sign out.

    Blessings to you and yours Dwight!!

  87. 1-4-2013

    I just wanted to stop in & commend you all on your marathon commenting! :) I love it, thanks for your conversation. I have been enjoying it by email. I always love meeting & talking to people who are so passionate about the Lord & the knowledge He gives us. I got my internet back, yay so can follow much easier now. Continue on! :) Merry CHristmas Happy New Year!

  88. 1-4-2013

    Randi, You’re great. Just thought you should know.

  89. 1-5-2013

    Thanks for the kind words again! :) God is great, I am His.

    Hey – I missed the comments about blogs —- Dwight & Ben – do you have blogs so I can read some of your writings/thoughts? :)

  90. 1-5-2013

    Dwight has one that’s worth checking out. I’ll let him give you the details on it though, seeing that it’s his blog and what not. I on the other hand do not have a blog. I do have a wordpress account and have been meaning on putting something together on the enlightenment and its ramifications on the church. It’s a story that needs to be told in my opinion, but I need to read more before I inflict my thoughts upon others. If I get off my butt I’d like to think that I could have something up in a couple of months. We’ll see. If it ever happens it will be at bencplummer.wordpress.com.

  91. 1-5-2013

    I should have said “afflicting others with my thoughts” instead of “inflicting my thoughts upon others.” Evidently I will also have to learn the English language before I try my hand at blogging. That’s going to set me back a bit. Dang it!!

  92. 1-5-2013

    Welcome back, Randi!! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to All!

    Yes, I have a blog I started years ago, http://www.RevelationsForLife.com. My objective then was to be real about sharing my journey, in hopes that it would give others hope. But, looking back it’s got huge gaps of time between posts. Here I was supposed to be sharing my own revelations in my life, but it ended up leaving out a lot of significant events, thoughts, and insights. Why? Well, I’d occasionally get renewed enthusiasm and want to commit some time to writing again, but that determination would soon get derailed with the preoccupation of experiencing the very lessons worth writing about.

    However, that being said, I am so enthralled with this ‘marathon commenting’ that I can’t help but to spend time with it. I am SO grateful for this opportunity! Yet, I almost always lose track of time in the process, and often spend the last hour and a half telling myself, “just 5 more minutes!”

    If and when I figure out a way, I’d love to write for a living (without becoming a starving artist). So, if you read my blog, please leave a comment, maybe even something encourging or some constructive criticism. I’d love to hear what you have to say about my writing, and I will reciprocate… when I can find the time!! ;-) Don’t worry, I won’t quit my day job just yet! Please, please don’t feel obligated to read it or leave a comment. Let it be for your edification and/or enjoyment. That was my purpose to begin with. Just ‘take what you like and leave the rest’.

    Ben, O Ben!!

    My heart is so moved by your willingness to stay in this discussion. Awesome! Yet, you offer me the very same encouragement. Amazing! God is good! I appreciate your honest dedication and sincere invitation to share what you believe. Let our focus only intensify on knowing Christ until we count all else as rubbish (Philippians 3:8)!

    Thank you for the invitation to learn more about Calvinism, but that’s actually the school of thought I came from! I chuckled at the thought that you had almost the opposite journey. (I say ‘almost’ because I sense the depth may have been absent in your journey, and depth appeared to have arrived for you through exposure and study of Calvinism and other reformed doctrine.) Ultimately, in any case, both of us need to let scripture speak for itself, even if it differs from a belief we’ve held for a long time, or that has survived for centuries.

    Looking back, I found numerous thoughts we both wrote that I’d love to draw out further. Unfortunately, I don’t have time right now. My wife thinks I’m working on the budget for January (which should have been done already) while she catches up on episodes of Cupcake Wars. Also, as we get further into this discussion, the comments tend to get deeper and longer. I will want to read through them more carefully and make sure I understand the point, not just the sentence. My response might be delayed in coming.

    So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:13-21)

    In Christ,
    Dwight

  93. 1-5-2013

    Dwight,

    You’re great too! Just thought you should know.

  94. 1-5-2013

    and you are too, Ben Plummer! :)

    I thought you all would enjoy the article that I just got in Christianity Today. I love when God does this for me.

    Feel free to ignore this comment because you all are really getting to some nitty gritty & crunching of things in your convo which is way over my head so this may not be applicable…… but for somebody who is not near as knowledgeable/intellectual as you all…. this article & the following quotes really were a help to me. It did help me reminded of the common ground. And it allowed me to come full circle back to the original topic & questions I commented on first.

    “Election is for Everyone” How we interpret the controversial doctrine, it’s clear that salvation is never a human achievement” – Roger Olson.

    My fave parts of article

    1. I learned a big new fancy term, “semi-Pelagianism”….

    “Arguably the default view of both salvation & service among American Christians, especially younger christians. But all branches of Christianity have condemned it as heresy, because it completely contradicts scripture. semi-pelagianism is the idea that human beings take the initiative in their salvation & service to God. We decide whether to be saved or enter into God’s service completely by ourselves without prevenient (or necessary) grace. prevenient grace is grace that convicts, calls, illumines, enables. christian theologians disagree about whether it is resistible or irresistible, but all theologians agree it is necessary for the first exercise of a good will toward God.”

    2.
    “contrary to what many think, calvinist & arminian traditions both have always emphasized GOd’s initiave in salvation & service. that is… if any person finds reconciliation with God, it is due to God’s electing grace & not to human decision or achievement alone.”

    3.
    “all agree that God chooses (through corporate election) to have a people”

    Which brought me full circle back to our original convo in comments. God chooses to have a people. First Israel – the people that we read & journey with through Genesis & beyond. Then His Church – the home, family & Body of His Son who have been & are at the center of His mission & plan.

    4. “The divide is over individual salvation…. election to salvation – is it unconditional, irresistible, or does it depend on one’s willingness to accept it…. Both sides in this debate can pile up mountains of verses and arguments to support their view…. But consensus *does* exist in this: whatever role humans play in their salvation, salvation is God’s work……”

    5. “All evangelicals agree that salvation is God’s work and not ours. Our good works, even our free decisions or signs of grace, amount to nothing when compared with GOd’s electing grace & power.”

    6. “Evangelicals can & do disagree about whether individuals inclusion in God’s elect people involves any level of free will, but all agree that the existence of the people of God is not dependent on human choice.”

    7. “God will find a way to have a people for His name!”

    8. As Spurgeon said, “call out your elect and then elect some more”. Let us all rejoice at the spirit of generosity & hope of this message!

    9. “He chooses to have a people for His name & His glory. God’s election of people, Israel & the Church is unconditional. He chooses to have a people on whom to lavish His love! He chooses to have a people to be a light to the nations & a testimony to God’s greatness & goodness and to the spiritual beings that populate the invisible world.”

    I don’t know much, but I do know His love is lavished on me, I am part of His people – and it is an undeserved gift – that I am sure of! I’m okay with not knowing much else right now – but I will continue to pursue wisdom & knowledge, which I know is all wrapped up & found in Christ alone!

  95. 1-5-2013

    That was really good. That was basically all I was trying to say. I get bogged down in the details sometimes, and that generally messes things up pretty badly. Thanks for bringing some simplicity and clarity to this issue. Three cheers for Randi!!

  96. 1-6-2013

    Hey! Before church, I just gotta finish this note. Thanks for all the thoughtful input! But, I perceive a subtle mix of things that “will not” be done versus things that “cannot” be done.

    Do we offer hope for salvation to those who God foreknew “would not” humble themselves and come unto Christ as His invitation states in Matthew 11:28-30? Since we did not foreknow, we would not be lying that salvation is possible for “whoever” will believe, because it is as scripture states in John 3:16-18. We just don’t know who will choose and who will refuse.

    Or, do we offer hope for salvation to those who “cannot” be saved since they would never be chosen unto salvation in the first place? In such case, we would be lying to them that they could be saved; not consciously, since we would not have foreknown who God chose, but God would have foreknown.

    Could it be that God foreknew who would humble themselves in faith and choose His saving work in Christ? I believe this is exactly what scripture tells us. Could it be the ‘elect’ refers to the same group? I believe this also is exactly what scripture tells us.

    I also perceive an important yet subtle mix of roles in salvation and sancification, especially God -vs- man, the Father -vs- the Holy Spirit.

    For example, the work of salvation is God’s, and we don’t accept it or even know about it without His grace offered to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. But, do I believe in Christ because the Holy Spirit successfully performed His role, and I humbled myself in faith? Or, do I believe in Christ because God made me believe in Christ, whether I wanted to or not? Do I go on doing the work of God, which is to believe in the One whom He sent (John 6:28-29), and grow to love Him because my desires grows as I humbly submit to His word? Or, do I love Him because He made me love Him? If this is the case, what do we do with all the verses that talk about rewarding those who seek God, who humble themselves, who confess their sins, who seek wisdom and maturity, and were given gifts to build up the body of Christ so they would not be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine? If God chose me for salvation, what did I choose and when, if ever?

    Dwight
    PS – Written in a hurry! More to come, especially with scripture references as you have brought up before! Have a blessed day!!

  97. 1-7-2013

    Hello Dwight,

    As always, thank you for your thoughtful comments and good questions. I was hoping that Randi’s post would elicit some sort of a cease fire on this issue, but premature peace treaties never work out in the long run. As such, I guess it’s probably good to keep talking as long as there are still differences. So let’s roll up our sleeves and try to figure this stuff out!

    For starters, I still believe that we should tell the gospel to everyone. I don’t think you’re trying to cure me of that belief. So that’s good. I think we both agree that whoever believes will not perish, and whoever does not believe will perish. Whether, if we hypothetically knew the future or not, wouldn’t change those things. Those things are true regardless. I guess it depends on what you’re saying when you preach the gospel, whether you would be lying when you preach the gospel or not. If we stick to the Scriptures we’re not going to be lying to anyone. Like I said before, if you believe that God knows the future, then the people that God knows will reject Him will actually reject Him. There is no reversing that. Since we don’t know who those people are, we tell everyone that there is hope if they believe. As near as I can tell, that’s completely true regardless of your beliefs about election or reprobation, ability or inability, freewill or determinism, or whatever. Even the craziest, most hard-core Calvinist in the world is not lying if he says “Whoever believes will be saved” or “Come to Christ, and He will give you rest.” Whoever believes will be saved. Whoever comes will find rest. I don’t know if this is germane or not, but think back to the Old Testament. I have to be careful here, but I think God promised life on the condition of obedience to the law (Lev. 18:5; Gal. 3:12). Since the fall, no man could keep the law (Rom. 3:19-20) therefore no man could be justified by the law (Rom. 8:3). If that’s right, then God promises things to those who are unable to fulfill the conditions. That didn’t make God a liar. If that is true, then neither would preaching the gospel to those who are unable to respond to it be lying either, as near as I can tell.

    Your lying point ties into your beliefs about election. So let’s go there. You said “Could it be that God foreknew who would humble themselves in faith and choose His saving work in Christ?” and “Could it be the ‘elect’ refer to the same group?” Now I’m going to try to get fancy here and drop some Van Til on you. This could blow up in my face, but here goes nothing. I think we would both agree that God’s foreknowledge is eternal–just as eternal as His foreordination. So neither foreknowledge nor foreordination are chronologically seperable. Neither precedes the other in time. Having said that, let’s think back to what we said about God a couple of comments back. I think we’re in agreement that He is the eternal and immutable Creator who exists independently of His creation. As such He is not contingent upon His creation. His creation is contingent upon Him. Therefore all of His attributes and perfections are not contingent upon His creation. That means that His knowledge is not contingent upon our decisions, our decisions are contingent upon His knowledge. If it were the other way around then God would just be seconding all of our decisions. That would put us in the driver’s seat of history. This is akin to the view of the Deists, where God sets the universe in motion and steps back and watches it unfold. That just seems wrong on the face of it, but when we open our Bible’s I think we reach the same conclusion (Dan. 4:34-35; Ps. 115:3; Prov. 16:9, 33; Isa. 46:8-11; Matt. 26:42; Eph. 1:11; Rev 4:11). I believe Genesis 1:1 and the rest of the Bible teach that God’s intentions and plans are His own, not simply ours approved and condoned.

    Now in saying that, does that mean that we’re simply in the passenger’s seat of history? Does that in turn mean that we have no will and are just manuvered like puppets? I think the first question could probably be answered in the affirmative, but I’m pretty sure that the second one couldn’t. While Scripture teaches that God is sovereign over every circumstance, we are also held responsible for our actions. Think back to Acts 2:23. Jesus, being “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God,” was taken by the “lawless hands” of the Jews and crucified. Acts 4:23-28 concurs with this. Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews were fulfilling Psalm 2 in their rejection of Christ. They did what God’s hand and purpose determined before to be done. Yet they were also guilty of a heinous and egregious sin (Acts 3:13-15). In short, their actions were sinful and lawless, yet also ordained by God. You find the same thing in Isaiah 10:5-15. Assyria is God’s tool to bring judgment upon Israel. He is using them to accomplish His will like a woodsman uses an ax, yet the passage tells us that the actions of the Assyrians would also bring the judgment of God upon themselves. They were unaware that they were administering God’s judgment. They simply thought they were expanding their kingdom through conquest. Their motives and will were evil, even though God was accomplishing His righteous will through them. So I believe our wills are real and our decisions are voluntary, but I don’t believe that they are free from God or His providential plan. That’s difficult for me to get our brain around. I will totally concede that, but I think that’s what the Bible teaches (Prov. 16:9).

    As such, God drags no one kicking and screaming into the kingdom. He’s God of our wills as well as the rest of our being, therefore I believe that He not only subdues our wild hearts but also our wild wills (Phil 2:13; Jer. 31:18-26). So what we do we do willingly and volitionlly but not independently. Any measure of holiness we achieve is due to God’s work within us. I think it was Augustine who said “God crowns His gifts, not our merits.” I think he’s right. I believe that’s why we cast our crowns at Christ’s feet when we see Him. Christ is not only our wisdom and our righteousness, but also our sanctification and our redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30) so that our glorying will only be in the Lord (verse 31). Now I will grant that we commanded to pursue sanctification (1 Thes. 4:1-8). Yet at the same time does God promise to sanctify us (1 Thes. 5:23-24; Eph. 5:26-27). To me, commands are given to drive us to Christ. We can perform nothing without Him (John 15:4-5) so no command is Christless. They drive us into the arms of our all-sufficient Savior who fills us with His Spirit and enables us to do as He commands. The reformers used the three-fold taxonomy of Prophet (Deut. 18:18-19), Priest (Heb. 7:26-27), and King (Rev. 17:14) to explain Christ’s work for us. He is our Prophet to teach us, our Priest to sanctify us, and our King to subdue us to Himself and to conquer all our enemies. As such He’s the one that starts the work (1 Pet. 1:3), He’s the one that sustains the work (Heb. 13:20-21), and He’s is the one that finishes the work (Heb. 12:2; Phil 1:6). So Paul can say in 1 Corinthians 4:7 “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if indeed you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it”. Any measure of holiness we achieve is due to Christ’s work in us and for us. Perhaps that’s way too simplistic, but that’s where I’m at right now.

    With that I’m going to shut down this comment. Blessings to you and yours Dwight…and to you too Randi…where ever you are.

  98. 1-8-2013

    thanks Ben, and to you too – hope you are well. I’m still in North Carolina being a wife & mom & neighbor :)

    As far as where I am spiritually, since I posted previously I had an additional thought:
    I have been describing “where I am” in my spiritual journey as a slow dance with my Abba Father — just needing some quiet & slow & comfort….but perhaps I should start changing that dependent on the audience. For men who ask, I think I will now say, “man I just have really felt the need to retreat – so My Father & I have been enjoying some quiet time on a slow hike in the forest”.

    That being said, Dwight & Ben both I appreciate your love for Christ & each other in the conversation. I agree with both of you.

    In Ben’s last comment there is a sentence that stood out to me,
    “so neither foreknowledge nor foreordination are chronologically seperable.”

    I think you hit something there. I also believe that God sits outside of our time dimension (even as He is with us in our now in our time dimension through His Spirit) – I do believe He sees the end of my journey on earth as well as clearly as He saw & knew me before earth existed. I think this key aspect of Him is why we can’t grasp how our free will & His sovereignty could exist.

    He can know who was going to be saved way before earth was created – and with some mix of our free will to choose Him and His working things in our life to continually be drawn to Him – it just is.

    Wow God is so mind blowingly bigger than us – we will never understand all His ways & workings! Our being constrained by time and Him not being constrained – Our living in this time dimension & Him not…..is, to me, perhaps one of the greatest examples to us of how limited we are yet how unlimited & higher He is. Just imagine all the other things we are missing out on – if this is just one area we are limited in and it causes so many brain spasms & pain & craziness. I love that!!!!!

    God is good, God is love. and He is the one who defines what love & good is. Our definitions of love & good are not always His.

    bla bla…. it’s been a long day of loud loud here and my quiet 10 minutes are now up. Thanks for listening. Appreciate you all & this convo.

  99. 1-9-2013

    Hi All,

    My name is Doug and I’m hoping you haven’t forgotten me. I posted here about 6 or 8 months ago. In any case, thank you Dwight for inviting me then and I have been following along when I can. I think your discussion is pretty good, as well as important to our understanding of God. I’d like to comment on some things you posted Ben. Here is my 2 or 3 cents on the issue.

    First let me say that I am clearly on the side of Unlimited Atonement. Why? I believe this view is the view of scripture and the only view that properly represents God. I don’t want to confuse anyone about where I am. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m biased, I am listening and will listen to any arguments otherwise. Well, lets get started then.

    Ben, so you made this comment to Dwight recently and it made me think.

    Ben’s Comment-
    “For starters, I still believe that we should tell the gospel to everyone. I don’t think you’re trying to cure me of that belief. So that’s good. I think we both agree that whoever believes will not perish, and whoever does not believe will perish. Whether, if we hypothetically knew the future or not, wouldn’t change those things. Those things are true regardless. I guess it depends on what you’re saying when you preach the gospel, whether you would be lying when you preach the gospel or not. If we stick to the Scriptures we’re not going to be lying to anyone.”

    Ben, I contend that it is not about us knowing the future or even God knowing the future for that matter. If you believe in a limited atonement, then here are the implications. God only choose some out of the fallen human race to be saved. Hence, when Christ died, He only died for those whom God choose. In other words, a limited number of people are going to be saved, and Christ only died for them. The others, the rest of humanity are stuck in their spiritual death, condemnation and sins. I hope I haven’t miss-represented anything here. I believe that it the gist of it, but please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Ben, given that, do you really think we should tell the gospel to everyone?

    Do you honestly believe that everyone can believe in Christ and have eternal life? Let me answer this for you according to the limited atonement view… No, because their sins are not paid, atoned for, judged in Christ. The moment God the Father did not impute their sins to Christ on the cross, the rest of humanity, the ones not chosen, are doomed to an eternal suffering that is described in the most horrific ways in scripture. So, honestly, believing in Christ is only our response to what God did for us. By judging our sins in Christ, we have the opportunity to believe in Christ, and be saved. That is the good news, that Christ died for us. That is what you must go out and tell a dying world, that there is a Savior, Christ Jesus, the Lord. He was judged for all your sins and therefore, if you believe, you will have eternal life, if you refuse to believe, the wrath of God will remain on you..(John 3:36). So, you cannot give the gospel (properly), without telling about Jesus and what He did. Consider this scripture:

    2Co 5:19-20
    (19) that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
    (20) We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

    So God is “not counting men’s sins against them”? Why? Because they are imputed to Christ. Certainly NOT because God is somehow lenient. If you are going to be an Ambassador of Christ, to go out and implore, tell, herald this message to the world, we must tell them what we have been given. Christ paid for your sins, and therefore, we “implore” you on Christ’s behalf to believe in Christ and be reconciled to God. You see, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Cor 5:21). The backbone of the gospel is not what we do, believe in Christ. It is what God did…”He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (Rom 8:32a). Without that, we are all hopelessly, and helplessly lost.

    As I said before, the MOMENT Christ did not die for sins; the majority of the human race is doomed to an eternal destruction. Christ said, many go in the broad way, but only a few take the narrow way. So, limited atonement contends that there are people walking around right now and they absolutely have no hope. Their sins are not under the atonement by Christ. He is not their savior at all. The gospel cannot be addressed to them if their sins are not paid for by Christ! And, our gospel cannot be reduced to “Christ might have died for your sins”. No, not at all! Our message is clear, and you agree it is to all because it pertains to us all. We can confidently say that He is able to save to the uttermost! (Heb 7:25).
    Now, why should we believe that God limited the atonement? Questions to self… Why would He only want “some” to be saved? Are we supposed to believe that God is merciful because He saved some? Especially when He could have saved all? If all of us are equally condemned, and God’s choice is not based on merit, then it is simply God’s choice. If He was really merciful, He would have saved all. I would, and I still have the stench of Adam on me. God you contend under limited atonement only choose to save some, not all. I content that the God of limited atonement is not merciful and does not love everybody. He tells us to judge His love by what He did. “God so loved the world…” This is demonstrated by what He did, “that He gave His only begotten Son….” If He didn’t give the Son to be judged for all, then He didn’t really love all (he loved some).

    More questions to self… Why did He not love all? They were all in the same boat right? Was there not enough room in heaven? Seems to be plenty room in hell. Those poor souls, born condemned, under the wrath of God from birth. Those poor souls, born with an inherited sinful nature. Of course they will sin, after all, their nature is in control over them, driving them to sin. What were they supposed to do? Righteousness? Impossible! So they are given human life by God, only to suffer endlessly an eternal judgment. Why? I don’t know. What choices did they have? None! God brought them into this world. They were condemned before they started. Well, some would say, they hate God and are a rebellious bunch. They should pay for their sins. Really!?? Weren’t we all in that position? By nature! Where is their savior? They have none under limited atonement. There is NO good news from them.

    I’m glad God said in His word that He is not willing that anyone should perish, and backed it up by unlimited atonement. So that, whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

    Doug
    Ps. if someone asks me… Who are you to talk back to God? My name is Doug.

    Pss. Ben, this is not really aimed at you, but at limited atonement.

  100. 1-10-2013

    Greetings All!

    It seems the major issue is limited versus unlimited atonement. Let’s examine the issue from another perspective – the lost.

    If God chooses individuals to be saved (versus human volition having any part in the matter of salvation)…

    …then by default He is also choosing individuals NOT to be saved. If He is choosing which individuals will not be saved, then even by MY standards, He does not care that they should perish without ever having any hope whatsoever. Yet, even I care about the lost! Are MY standards higher than His? NO! His standards ARE higher than mine! (Isaiah 55:8-9)

    …then WHAT is the Good News for the lost (where we ALL start)? That Christ died for their sins? NO! That is just something God had to do. The ‘Good News’ in this case is that those chosen to be saved are just very, very lucky! Not chosen to be saved? Oh well!

    …then without Him choosing me to be saved, it wouldn’t even matter to me that Christ was born at all, let alone died for “sin of the world!”

    …then it cannot be true that “God so loved the world…” (John 3:16) because He did NOT send His Son to die for the lost, and Jesus said that His love is just that, that He lay down His life for them (John 15:13, 1 John 3:16).

    …then it cannot be true that God “wants all men to saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4) Obviously, He does NOT want this for the ones He does not choose to be saved.

    …then it becomes meaningless to “willfully disbelieve” (Greek translation of John 3:36). Intentional disbelief, resisting the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51), and not being chosen to be saved, are all the same thing.

    …then Christ was not really “the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), or One “who gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:6). Something remains as a barrier between man and God, so what difference does it make whether it’s sin or something else? It does NOT matter! If I’m lost and God didn’t choose me to be saved, then Christ didn’t take away anything!

    No, I don’t believe God chooses individuals to be saved. I do believe that man’s volition has a part in the matter of salvation. Scripture verses overwhelmingly support God’s plea, God’s solution, God’s plan, in Christ, and a very elaborate description of the height, width, length, and depth of how the Good News pertains to me, and everyone – if you humbly choose to believe!

    The lost don’t want anything to do with the things of God? That’s their choice! The lost have no need of Christ because they think they’re a good person? That’s their choice! Do the lost think they may have actually been chosen to be saved and go to heaven because they are convicted by moral behavior, support a charity, obey the Ten Commandments, or somehow keep the law? That’s their choice!

    Or, is the lost person deeply humbled and beginning to understand the righteousness, justice, long-suffering, patience, grace, mercy, love, sacrifice, peace, joy, and purpose of God? And, is that lost person willing to be humble, willing to turn to God in faith, willing to believe in Christ, willing to submit to His thoughts, willing to be baptized by the Holy Spirit, willing to consider themselves dead to sin, willing to acknowledge they are justified by Christ through faith alone, willing to be born again, and even willing to grow in grace and truth? That’s MY choice!

    Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Col 2:6-8)

    In Christ,
    Dwight

  101. 1-10-2013

    Thank you Doug and Dwight for questions, comments, and concerns. Stuff is a little busy back here, and you both said a lot, so I probably won’t be able to respond till the weekend sometime. Please forgive me for my indolence. By the way, if there are any reformed people out there feel free to hop in here and give me a hand :-)

  102. 1-11-2013

    Thanks for the note about your anticipated delay, Ben. Take your time. I hope you meant ‘Thank you… for questions, answers, comments, and concerns.’ You’ll find a few answer tucked away in our comments! ;-)

    By the way, if there are any people out there who have been transformed by the renewal of their minds so that by testing they may discern what is the will of God, feel free to chime in. It’s your choice! ;-P

    Dwight

  103. 1-11-2013

    I believe I’ve just been cyber-bullied!! Where is Obama when you need him?! LOL!!

  104. 1-13-2013

    Hello Doug,

    Forgive me for taking so long to respond to you. That’s a pretty rude way to treat a new participant in this conversation. By the way, thank you for following this conversation, and for finally jumping into it. It’s good to have you aboard. One of the perks of marathon commenting is that I’m getting to meet a bunch of new people. Another perk is that I get to sit inside people’s heads for a little bit and see how they process things, which is always interesting.

    Case in point, the part of my comment that made you think didn’t make me think at all (which is kind of scary, to tell the truth). I just chucked that out to get to the part about God’s omniscience. Perhaps that omniscience part seemed like a diversionary tactic, but it wasn’t meant to be one. I actually brought up God’s omniscience to demonstrate that the same objections that are raised against me apply just as pointedly to everyone who believes in God’s omniscience. For example, if you believe that God knows everything and you believe in an unlimited atonement then you believe that the Father intended Jesus to die for people whom He knew would never turn to Him in faith. If God knew that they would never turn to Him in faith then someone could also ask you the question that you previously asked me, namely “do you honestly believe that everyone can believe in Christ and have eternal life?” If God knows everything and God’s knowledge cannot err then those people will be condemned regardless of your belief in an unlimited atonement. Someone could also just as legitimately say to you “the MOMENT that God created those whom He knew wouldn’t choose Him, He doomed everyone of them to an eternal destruction. So the omniscience of God teaches that there are people walking around right now who have absolutely no hope.” If this is a dilemma, once again, we’re in it together. Espousing an unlimited atonement doesn’t get you out of this jam. Regardless of your belief about the atonement, only those whom God foreknows will be in heaven will actually be there. An unlimited atonement doesn’t put more people in heaven than a limited atonement does. Therefore the Arminian’s offer of the gospel is no more free or real than the Calvinist’s offer.

    Should we preach the gospel to everyone if God knows who will reject it and who will accept it beforehand, and there’s no changing that? Of course. He tells us to do just that. Along the same lines, if a limited atonement is true, that doesn’t change the gospel, or diminish our duty to proclaim it. I think in these issues it’s helpful to remember that sovereignty is God’s responsabilty, duty is ours. He will do His job, we just need to make sure we do ours.

    You asked me if I believe that “everyone” can believe in Christ and have eternal life. You answered that question for me correctly. No I do not. If however you had asked “Do you believe that “anyone” can believe in Christ and have eternal life?” I think I would have answered yes to that. Maybe that’s too subtle of a distinction, but provided you understand where I’m coming from, I think it’s an important one. God tells us fairly clearly that not everyone will be saved. His word cannot err, therefore not everyone can be saved. But anyone who turns in faith to Christ can and will be saved. There is no sin or obstacle that is too big or too high for God to overcome. Now, no one has any idea who the elect are, but we know that all of the elect want to come. So I can say “Anyone who thirsts, come. Whoever desires, let him take of the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). I believe outside of the regenerating work of the Spirit, we don’t want God, or the gospel, or any of this stuff. If you want it, I believe it’s for you. To those I say “Come and eat” (Isa. 55:1).

    I’m guessing that that answer probably doesn’t satisfy you, so let me try a different route. If you flip to Mark 10:17-31 you’ll find the account of the rich young ruler. Remember how it ends? Jesus tells him to sell everything he has, give it to the poor and come follow Him. He goes away sorrowful because he has great possessions. Jesus then comments on how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom. This surprises the disciples and they say “Who then can be saved.” (verse 26) This is a question of ability. To which Jesus responds: “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” I take that to mean that men do not have the natural ability to turn to God. God needs to give us this ability. Now the fifty dollar question is “Does God give this ability to everyone?” Our natural inclination is to say of course He does. The question however is “Is that what Scripture teaches?” John’s gospel goes into this, and it says some fairly uncomfortable things. I mentioned this verse previously, but John 6:44-45 says: “No one can come to Me except the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned of the Father comes to Me.” John 6:37 says that all the people that the Father gives to Christ come to Him. The ones who come will not be cast out. Christ gives eternal life to those people (John 17:2) and makes the Father known to them (John 17:6). These are the ones that Christ prays for (John 17:9). These are the ones that behold Christ’s glory forever in heaven (John 17:24). Scripture teaches that some are given to Christ while others are not (John 17:9,14). We can’t simply ignore this stuff because it seems unpleasant at first glance. This is the holy word of God, therefore we need to believe it. Granted, I may be completely misunderstanding it, and I’m open to critical interaction with my interpretations. But I’m not cool with simply ignoring this stuff or piling aspersions upon God’s character as if our judgement of justice or fairness were of any weight in these matters. The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him (Hab. 2:20)

    You said something that I thought was interesting about imputation that I’d like to talk about. You said: “The moment God the Father did not impute their sins to Christ on the cross, the rest of humanity, the ones not chosen, are doomed to an eternal suffering that is described in most horrific ways in Scripture.” That comment got me thinking. If you believe in an unlimited atonement, do you actually believe anyone escapes the doom of eternal horrific suffering by having their sins imputed to Christ? Doesn’t the unlimited view believe that there are lots of people who have had their sins imputed to Christ who will still experience this eternal, horrific doom. Having their sins placed on Christ frees no one from hell in the unlimited view. However if you turn to Romans 4:5-8 Paul seems to view imputation differently. For him, the non-imputation of sin and the imputation of righteousness go together. He mentions how David describes the blessedness of the the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works, and then he quotes from Psalm 32:1-2. The interesting part is that Psalm 32 never mentions the imputation of righteousness. It only mentions the blessings of forgiveness, the blessings of having our sins covered, and the blessing of not having sin imputed to us. When Paul reads those things in the Psalms he thinks these things refer to those who are justified (verse 5), to those who have had righteousness imputed to them (verse 6). Now I think we would all agree that justification and the imputation of righteousness are benefits that do not apply to unbelievers (Rom. 5:17). However if we follow Paul’s reasoning then neither do the blessings of forgiveness, having our sins covered, and having sin not imputed apply to them. These things are a unit. Paul infers righteousness and justification from the presence of forgiveness and the non-imputation of sin. Now the unlimited view applies the blessings of forgiveness and the non-imputation of sin to everyone who has ever walked on the planet. That runs contrary to Paul’s understanding of these things in Romans 4.

    To try to confirm that, flip ahead to Romans 5:6-11. (I want to concentrate on verse 10, but I put the whole paragraph there so you could just click it and get the context.). The unlimited view proclaims that everyone, believer and unbeliever, elect and non-elect were reconciled to God by the death of Christ. With that in the back of your mind look at verse 10. It says: “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” I think this verse teaches that those who partake of the reconciliation are sure to partake of the salvation (“having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life”). Once again, these things seem to go together in Paul’s mind. You find the same thing in Romans 11:11-15. Paul is describing how the Jews were cast off that the world might be reconciled (Side note: This is a restrictive use of the word “world” as can be seen by the context. It obviously doesn’t include the Jews because they are cast off, [i.e. not reconciled in this passage]. To apply the word “world” to every individual on the planet in this passage distorts its message.) Israel is cast off that the Gentiles might partake of their salvation (verse 11) and riches (verse 12). Once again, those who are reconciled partake of salvific blessings.

    With that in mind, let’s look at 2 Corinthians 5:18-21. You’ll notice in this passage reconciliation only goes one way. We have been reconciled to God. God is never said to be reconciled to us. There’s no need for that because God has not sinned against us. I could very well be misunderstanding things here, but I thought the unlimited view taught that God was reconciled to the world through the work of Christ, now the ball lies in our court as to whether or not we want to be reconciled to God. Forgiveness and reconciliation being purchased for everyone, we just need to accept these things to ratify the deal. If that’s what the unlimited view teaches, that’s not what’s going on in this passage. God reconciled the world to Himself through Christ’s work (verses 18, 19), not Himself to the world (Another side note: if the previous two paragraphs are correct, then this is another restrictive use of the word “world”. If they aren’t, then all bets are off.) Our message to the world is “Be reconciled to God.” We are telling the lost to do something Christ has already done for the world. Why? Was Christ’s work incomplete or somehow insufficient? Absolutely not. But what Christ purchased at Calvary becomes ours in time. For example, I was reconciled to God in 1994, but Christ reconciled me to God somewhere around 32 AD. What Christ did “for” me in 32 AD He did “in” me in 1994 AD. That’s when the Spirit gave life to my dead soul and faith to my unbelieving heart so that I became reconciled to God. I worked “out” the conditions of salvation that He had worked “in” me (Phil. 2:12-13). He reconciled me through His work for me on the cross, yet that reconciliation flows through the condition of faith. If that faith itself is a fruit of Christ’s work for me (Phil 1:29) then my reconciliation was purchased completely by Christ.

    Now the fact that reconciliation goes one way, and our message tells people to be reconciled to God, assumes that the lost are not now reconciled to God. This has implications on how we understand the word “world” in this passage. There are people who live in separation from God (Eph. 2:11-13) and there are people who die separated from God (2 Thes. 1:9). These people have their sins imputed to them (1 Thes. 2:15-16; Jude 14-15). So does this verse apply to the world (as in everyone without exception) or to the world (as in Gentiles from every tribe, tongue, kindred, and nation). If the former, then does God judge their sin twice? Was Christ punished for their sins, only for them to get punished for them as well? I don’t believe so. I believe the latter option is consistent with the rest of Scripture. By one offering Christ has perfected forever those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14). His offering makes those whom He represented perfect, therefore there’s nothing left to punish for those whom He died for. If you say that His offering applies to every person who ever lived, you either have to diminish the perfection of His offering or the reality of hell. Neither of those options are good; neither of those options are Biblical. Is there Biblical precedent for understanding universal words in restrictive ways? I believe that there is. Once you see that it resolves the tension that an unlimited atonement creates. You don’t have to diminish the perfection of the atonement to account for reconciled people in hell. You don’t have to introduce merit to account for your own redemption. Christ represented a people, and He brings them all the way through. He redemption is perfect and complete. It’s good stuff!

    You asked “Why would God only save some if He could have saved all?” There are some assumptions that are being made in that statement that are disturbing. For starters, are you saying that God is unable to save some people? Is God bound to the methods that you and I are bound to? Is He begging and pleading for sinners to turn, only to have His holy will thwarted? Does God pray to us to be saved, and then end His prayer with the words: “not My will but yours be done?” This is wrong. God is the potter. We are the clay (Rom. 9:21-23). The fact that you and I would have done things differently than God has does them doesn’t surprise me. He is more holy than we are. We don’t hate sin like He does. He abhors it. Our God is a consuming fire and He punishes sin with a just and holy hatred. That fact that we don’t like that is a testament to how much of the stench of Adam remains upon us. You said if God were really merciful He would have saved all. That’s not correct. If God were to only save one person from the sewer hole of sin and depravity to share eternity with Him in heaven that would demonstrate an amazing amount of condescension and mercy on His part. The fact that He does this with a great multitude that no man can number (Rev. 7:9) just confirms the fact that His mercy reaches to the heavens (Psa. 36:5). If you believe that the God of the Old Testament is the same God as the God of the New Testament then you’re driven to believe that God has a distinguishing love. In the Old Testament God loved Israel in a special way. He killed others in order to keep them alive and deliver them (Isa. 43:3-4). Is that unmerciful? Evidently God doesn’t think so if you read that passage. He says this demonstrates the strength and vigor of His love. In truth, God can’t rule His creation without some people casting aspersions upon Him and His character, but this shouldn’t be the case amongst Christians. We should revere God’s wisdom and His ways. If we don’t understand them, which we won’t at times, silence is better than criticism. Awe is better than silence, but if silence is all we can muster, let’s start there.

    With that I’m going to grind gears and try to very quickly address Dwight.

    Hello again Dwight!

    Thanks for your response. It is strange how things work…how we’ve gone in completely opposite directions. You’ve gone from the reformed to the dispensational understanding of Scripture, while I’ve gone from the dispensational to the reformed. I’ll totally admit that I wasn’t the smartest dispensationalist in the world, and perhaps I dismissed it too quickly. I’m wondering if maybe the opposite may not be true with you as well. In your starting premise you’re fighting against a something that I don’t believe, and that the reformed faith doesn’t teach as far as I know. This makes me think that perhaps you rejected your religious heritage without putting up much of a fight as well. I don’t know, maybe that’s wrong, but most Calvinists believe in volition. All of the reformed confessions and creeds that I know about affirm the existence of volition in salvation. It isn’t just the watered down “sub-calvinists” that believe in this; It’s the hardcore confessional ones that do. If that’s the case, then I think the whole chain of consequences that you draw from your original premise are going to have a different flavor to them if you affirm the existence of volition. You seem to portray the Calvinistic God as an unloving, gospel killing, tyrant who capriciously ordains the damnation of millions. Calvinists are adamant that God’s ordination condemns no one. It’s sin that condemns. No one is unjustly condemned…ever. I referred to this verse in my response to Doug, but I’m going to write it out for you. Psalm 36:5-6 says: “Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep.” Not only is God’s mercy, faithfulness, and righteousness immense, but so are His judgments. The fact that you believe election makes God unrighteous, doesn’t necessarily mean that it does. I think we can agree that if the Bible teaches individual election, then regardless of our thoughts on the issue, individual election would be a good thing. We know that God is good, so if God does this then that would mean that individual election is somehow a good thing. We would just need to see it as God sees it. So instead of responding to all of your objections, let’s start at the beginning of the chain and see if Scripture teaches individual election. To start this out let me ask you this: Does God have a plan, and does that plan include individuals? I will now shut up and listen.

  105. 1-14-2013

    Hello Ben,

    Great to hear from you! I skipped the part intended for Doug and found a few things written to me that need to be addressed before we get back to scripture. I also answered your question, ta-dahh!

    1. You said, “…we’ve gone in completely opposite directions. You’ve gone from the reformed to the dispensational understanding of Scripture…”

    Well, not exactly. Just as I wouldn’t label myself a Calvinist, I wouldn’t call myself a dispensationalist either. Yes, I may appear to hold some similar thoughts as other denominations. But, I find most denominations concern themselves more with the box itself then what is in the box and what is not in the box. Many even pride themselves in having a box! But, just like when you open a Christmas present, soon the box is of little significance.

    2. You said, “…most Calvinists believe in volition.”

    Really? You might want to check your sources. Here’s a few:

    a. Calvin himself. Unconditional Election states that “Those chosen receive salvation through Christ alone. Those not chosen receive the just wrath that is warranted for their sins against God.” “…God has chosen from eternity those whom he will bring to himself…”(Wikipedia, Five Points of Calvinism, a summary of differences between Calvinists and Arminians on the doctrines in question).

    b. Calvin himself. In Salvation and Sovereign Grace, “…people are at the complete and total mercy of God, who would be just in condemning all people for their sins, though God has chosen to show mercy to some, not all.” (Ibid.)

    c. Charles H. Spurgeon (‘Prince of Preachers’) in a sermon entitled “Free Will, A Slave.” I believe this sermon contains many blatant flaws, one of which is his description of the utter lack of man’s free will based entirely on John 5:40, which itself he used erroneously, taken way out of context (www.SermonAudio.com)

    c. London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1649, Foundation of Reformed Baptism, “Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.” (www.rblist.org/1689.pdf, taken from Westminster Confession of Faith 1646)

    d. Reformation Theology, “The question is whether the sinner is “free” to choose Christ or not? No, he is not.” (‘Does the Natural Man Have free Will or Not?’, http://www.ReformationTheology.com.).

    Yes, God has a plan, and that plan includes individuals He foreknew would choose not to resist the Holy Spirit. Scripture is chock full of pleas to believe! And those pleas are sincere! Some of those individuals were predestined to be born in the church-age (versus those chosen to be born in a non-church age) and conformed to the image of His Son. Through Christ, God is reconciling the world to himself, not counting man’s sins against them, for He so loved the world (2 Cor 5:19, John 3:16).

    Therefore, and ultimately, through Christ, God is bringing many sons into glory (Eph 1:3-6, Romans 8:29, Hebrews 2:10).

    Gotta go for now!!
    Dwight

  106. 1-14-2013

    Hey Ben,

    Me again… got a few minutes! I noticed a couple more things I think I can quickly address.

    1. You had said, “I’ll totally admit that I wasn’t the smartest dispensationalist in the world, and perhaps I dismissed it too quickly. I’m wondering if maybe the opposite [reformed to dispensationalist assumed] may not be true with you as well.”

    On the contrary, I think I was pretty clear to me about where my former Reformed Baptist church stood in regard to several matters of elementary doctrine, reformed theology, Calvinism, as well as meatier matters. I spent several years studying with them and under them. I still came to the same conclusions, but now with even greater understanding of what they believe and why, and what I believe and why, with scripture being the point at which anyone can be corrected (2 Tim 3:16-17) and the Holy Spirit being the Teacher (John 16:13).

    2. You said, “In your starting premise you’re fighting against a something that I don’t believe…”

    Really? That would be cool! But, the position you took in this thread seemed contrary, including one of limited atonement. How do you reconcile man’s volition on one hand with limited atonement on the other? Does man always have free will? Or is it only made free after the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit? I submit that man’s free will is always there. The Holy Spirit offers man a choice to believe, and salvation depends on that man’s response.

    (Too much confusion about man’s volition came from Calvinism taking the extreme opposite position as their opponent, the Arminians, who were extreme in the other direction.)

    3. The whole of your thought was, “In your starting premise you’re fighting against a something that I don’t believe, and that the reformed faith doesn’t teach as far as I know. This makes me think that perhaps you rejected your religious heritage without putting up much of a fight as well.”

    There was a fight alright, and real people were involved, even family members were hurt and still carry scars. When I started asking questions during break at church, sincere questions, based on scripture, I was accused of being unruly and trying to divide the church. I was told by the pastor to heed the warning in Titus 3:10-11.

    It was a huge struggle against false doctrines which I did not take lightly, nor did I run-away from confrontation, as uncomfortable as that was. I spent many a sleepless night in tears and prayer. I would not wish that fate on anyone. I acknowledge we are on a battlefield with those who would deny the power of Christ for the sake of their own hard-earned, self-righteousness. But, I didn’t know they would be the same people I lived with. It soothes me to know that religious people rejected Christ. I was very much rejected as well and knew then that Christ’s suffering was not just the physical pain He endured after his arrest. As a result of that suffering, it’s easier to see their defense of religion versus their defense of scripture.

    Eventually, as God would have it, another pastor of the same denomination with questions of his own turned me on to this blog. I had attended a home church many years before and realized it was there that I was learning His truth, where I needed to return, partly because there wasn’t an excess of ‘church functions’ or over-emphasis on moralism to distract us, but mostly because we let the Holy Spirit teach us through His word (John 17:17) and not the doctrines of men.

    I resolved to take Galatians 5:1 seriously to heart and turn away from that church, my ‘religious heritage’, man’s religion, and instead turn toward God and His Word. I’m glad I chose Him and that He chose the nails. I know I’m saved. I am sealed by the Holy Spirit. Now it is my desire to love Him and know Him, so He and the Father will come and make their home in my heart. Interesting, how God’s plan and my plan interlace!

    :-)

    Dwight

  107. 1-14-2013

    Hello Dwight,

    As always, thank you for your comments. I’m sorry for saying that you’ve embraced a dispensational understanding of Scripture. I didn’t mean to misrepresent you or your beliefs. In all honesty though, I can’t tell the difference between what’s in your box and what’s in the dispensationalists’ box. I guess the name on the box is different but the ingredients seem very similar to me. Regardless, I shouldn’t have done that. Please forgive me.

    Also I want to apologize for not speaking more clearly in my last message to you. When I said that most Calvinists believe in volition I guess I should have explained that better. Calvinists distinguish volition from freedom. Granted, some reformed people speak a little unclearly on this issue, so that can confuse things, but generally speaking we believe the unbeliever has volition, but not freedom. So all of those sources you cited that were denying the existence of freedom in the unbeliever were correct (I believe at least). What I didn’t read from your citations was people denying that unbelievers have volition. For us, volition speaks of will, while freedom speaks of ability. We believe that the unbeliever willingly practices evil, yet in his spiritual death and blindness, he cannot see the kingdom of God or make an atom’s width of movement towards the kingdom. He is not free to do good seeing that he’s a slave of sin and is in love with his sin. In him there dwells no good thing. Once he’s saved, however; his will becomes liberated and free, which enables him to do either good or evil. I should have made that clearer. Sorry about that.

    Now with that distinction in mind hopefully you can see that the sources you cited were confessionally faithful, whether they intended to be so or not. Just so you can check me out let me throw out some reformed confessional stuff on the issue. I’m copying this out of a book I have entitled The Harmony of the Protestant Confessions of Faith. It’s a reprint of a book put together in the late 1500’s so some of the terminology is a little weird. For example it refers to the Confession of Belgia, which I think is the Belgic Confession. It’s just kind of old school, but it does serve to establish that the confessions are denying ability, not volition, for whatever that’s worth. Anyway, this is going to get tedious, but since you called me on my sources, I’m gonna hit you with them. If you don’t care about them, you can skip to the end where I’m going to talk about your answer to the “Does God have a plan” question. Anyway, here they come!

    The Latter Confession of Helvetica-Chapter 9: “…Secondly. we are to consider, what man was after his fall. His understanding was indeed not taken from him, neither was he deprived of will, and altogether changed into a stone or stock. Nevertheless, these things are so altered in man, that they are not able to do that now, which they could do before the fall. For his understanding is darkened, and his will, which before was free, is now become a servile will; for it serveth sin, not nilling, but willing; for it is called a will, and not a nill.”

    The Confession of Bohemia-Chapter 4: “…For that will of man which before was free, is now so corrupted, troubled and weakened, that from henceforth of itself, and without the grace of God, it cannot choose, judge, or wish fully; nay, it hath no desire, inclination, much less any ability, to choose that good wherewith God is pleased. For albeit it fell willingly and of its own accord, yet, by itself, and by its own strength, it could not rise again or recover that fall; neither to this day, without the merciful help of God, is it able to do any thing at all.”

    The Confession of France-Article 9: “We believe that man, being created pure and upright, and conformable to the image of God, through his own fault fell from that grace which he had received; and thereby did so estrange himself from God, the fountain of all righteousness, and all good things, that his nature is become altogether defiled; and being blind in spirit, and corrupt in heart, hath utterly lost all integrity. For although he can somewhat discern between good and evil, yet we affirm, that whatsoever light he hath, it straightways becometh darkness, when the question is of seeking God: so that by his understanding and reason he can never come to God. Also, although he be endued with will, whereby he is moved to this or that, yet insomuch as that is altogether captivated under sin, it hath no liberty at all to desire good, but such as it receiveth by grace, and of the gift of God.”

    The Confession of Belgia-Article 14: “We believe that God, of the slime of the earth, created man after his image; Gen. 1:27. that is to say, good, just, and holy; Eph 4:24. who had power, by his own free-will, to frame and conform his will unto the will of God. But when he was advanced to honor, he knew not, neither did he well understand, his excellent state, but wittingly and willingly did make himself subject to sin, and so, consequently, unto eternal death and malediction; whilst that giving ear to the words and subtilities of the devil, he did transgress that commandment of life, which he had received of the Lord; Gen. 3: 17, and did withdraw and alienate himself from God, (his true life,) his nature being altogether defiled and corrupted by sin: Rom. 5:12. whereby it came to pass, that he made himself subject both to corporal and spiritual death. Wherefore, being made wicked and perverse, and also corrupt in all his ways and endeavors, he lost those excellent gifts wherewith the Lord had adorned him: Acts 14:16. the which notwithstanding, are sufficient to leave men without excuse: because that, what light soever we have, is turned to palpable darkness; Rom. 1:19-21. even as Scripture itself teaches saying, “The light shined in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not:” John 1:5. for there John doth manifestly call men darkness. Therefore whatsoever* things are taught, as touching man’s free-will; we do worthily reject them; seeing that man is the servant of sin. “neither can he do anything of himself, but as it is given him from heaven.” John 3:27. For who is so bold as to brag that he is able to perform whasoever he listeth, when as Christ himself saith, “No man can come unto me, except my Father, which hath sent Me, do draw him?” John 6:44. Who dare boast of his will, which heareth, that “All the affections of the flesh are enemies against God?” Rom. 8:7. Who will vaught of his understanding, which knoweth, that “The natural man cannot perceive the things of the Spirit of God?” 1 Cor. 2:14. To conclude, who is he that dare bring forth any one cognition of his own, which understandeth this, that we are “not able of ourselves to think any good thing,” but that “if we are sufficient, it is altogether of God?” 2 Cor. 3:5. Therefore, that saying of the Apostle must needs remain firm and steadfast, “It is God which worketh in us both to will, and to do, even of his good pleasure.” Phil. 2:13. For no man’s mind, no man’s will, is able to rest in the will of God, wherein Christ himself hath wrought nothing before. The which also he doth teach us, saying. “Without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5

    *This general word, Whatsoever, we take to appertain to those things only, which either the Pelagians, or Papists, or any other have taught, touching this point, contrary to the authority of the Scripture.

    The Confession of Augsburg-Article 18: “Concerning free-will, they do teach, that man’s will hath some freedom to perform civil justice, and to make choice of things that are within the reah of reason; but it hath no power to perform a spiritual justice without the Holy Spirit; because Paul saith, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God;” 1 Cor. 2:14. and Christ saith, “Without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5. Now spiritual justice is wrought in us, when we are helped of the Holy Ghost. And we receive the Holy Ghost. And we receive the Holy Ghost, when we assent unto the word of God, that we may be comforted through faith in all terrors of conscience; as Paul teacheth when he saith, “That ye may receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Gal 3:14. These things, almost in as many words, saith Augustine: ‘We confess, that there is in all men a free-will, which hath indeed the judgment of reason; not that it is apt thereby, without God, either to begin or to perform anything in matters pertaining to God, but only in works belonging to this present life, whether they be good or evil. By good works, I mean those which arise out of the goodness of nature; as to be willing to labor in a field, to desire meat of drink, to desire to have a friend, to desire apparel, to desire to build a house, to marry a wife, to nourish cattle, to learn the art of diverse good things, to desire any good thing pertaining to this present life; all which are not without God’s government, yea, they are, and had there beginning from God and by God. In evil things, I account such as these; to desire to worship and image; to desire manslaughter, &c. (Hypognosticon. Lib. 3). This sentence of Augustine doth notably teach what is to be attributed to free-will, and doth put a plain difference between civil discipline, or the excercises of human reason, and spiritual motions, true fear, patience, constancy, faith, invocation in most sharp temptations, in the midst of Satan’s subtle assults, in the terrors of sin. In these, surely, we have great need to be guided and helped by the holy Spirit, according to the saying of Paul, “The Spirit helpeth our infirmity.” Rom. 8:26.

    The Confession of Saxony-Article 4: “Now let us make manifest also the doctrine of free-will. Men, truly instructed in the Church, have always distinguished between discipline, and the newness of the Spirit, which is the beginning of life eternal; and they have taught, that in man there is such freedom of will to govern the outward motions of the members, that thereby even the unregenerate may after a sort perform that discipline, which is an external obedience according to the law. But man by his natural strength is not able to free himself from sin and eternal death; but this freedom and conversion of man unto God, and this spiritual newness wrought by the Son of God, quickening us by his Holy Spirit; as it is said, “If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, the same is not his.” Rom. 8:9. And the will, having received the Holy Ghost is not idle. And we give God thanks for this unspeakable benefit, that for the Son his sake, and through him, he giveth us the Holy Ghost, and doth govern us by his Spirit. And we condemn the Pelagians, and the Manichees, as we have at large declared in another place.”

    The Confession of Wirtemburg-Chapter 4: “We believe and confess that, in the beginning, man was created of God, just, wise, endued with free-will, adorned with the Holy Ghost, and happy; but that afterward, for his disobedience, he was deprived of the Holy Ghost, and made the bondman of Satan, and subject both to corporal and eternal damnation: and that evil did not stay in one only Adam, but was derived into all the posterity. And whereas some affirm, that so much integrity of mind was left to man after his fall, that by his natural strength and good works he is able to convert and prepare himself to faith and the invocating of God, it is flatly contrary to the apostolic doctrine, and the true consent of the Catholic Church. “By one man’s trespass evil was derived into all men to condemnation.” Rom. 5:18. “When ye were dead in trespasses and sins, wherein in times past ye walked, according to the course of this world, and after the prince &c.” Eph. 2:1,2. A little after, “We were by nature the children of wrath as well as others.” Verse 3. He saith, “dead in sins,” and, “the children of wrath,” that is, strangers from the grace of God. But as man, being corporally dead, is not able by his own strength to repare or convert himself to receive corporal life; so he who is spiritually dead is not able by his own power to convert himself to receive spiritual life. Augustine saith, “The Lord, that he might answer Pelagius to come, doth not say, Without me ye can hardly do anything; but he saith, Without me ye can do nothing. And that he might also answer these men that were to come, in the very same sentence of the Gospel, he doth not say, Without me ye cannot perfect, but Without me ye cannot do, any thing. For if he had said, Ye cannot perfect; then these men might say, We have need of the help of God, not to begin to do good, for we have that of ourselves, but to perfect it.” And a little after, “The preparation of the heart is in man, but the answer of the tongue is of the Lord. Men, not well understanding this, are deceived, thinking that it appertaineth to man to prepare the heart; that is, to begin any good thing without the help of the grace of God. But far be it from the children of promise so to understand it, as when they heard the Lord saying, Without me ye can do nothing, they should as it were reprove him, and say, Behold, without thee we are able to prepare our hearts; or , when they hear Paul the apostle saying, Not that we are fit to think anything, as of ourselves, they should also reprove him, and say Behold we are fit of ourselves, to prepare our hearts, and so consequently to think some good thing.” Opera. Tom. 7 cont. Duas Epist. Pelag. ad Bonifaium. Lib 2. Cap. 8. And again, “Let no man deceive himself; it is of his own, that he is Satan; it is of God that he is happy. For what is that of his own, but of his sin? take away sin, which is thy own, and righteousness, saith he, is of me. For what hath thou, that thou hast not received?” Tom. 9 In Ioannem. Tract. 49. Ambrose saith, “Although it be in man to will that which is evil, yet he hath not power to will that which is good, except it be given him.” De Invocatione Gentium. Lib. 13. Cap. 9. Bernard saith, “If human nature, when it when it was perfect, could not stand; how much less is it able of itself to rise up again, being now corrupt?” Homilia 1, de Annuntiat. Beatae Mariae.

    The Westminster Confession-Chapter 3, Section I: “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

    Then later on in chapter 9

    Chapter 9: “I. God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined good, or evil.

    II. Man, in the state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God; but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it.

    III. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or prepare himself thereunto.

    IV. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he does not perfectly, or only, will that which is good, but does also will that which is evil.

    V. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory.

    The Baptist Confession of 1689 is basically the same as the Westminster Confession on this issue, however chapter 9 section 1 reads a little differently. It reads: “God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forced, nor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil.”

    That’s done. Amen! Boy are my fingers cramped. Quit calling me on my sources okay. It makes things hard for me. :-)

    Alright, now to your answer about God’s plan. It’s spawned another question: Is God’s plan simply a ratification of our decisions?
    Hey, I just got your next message. You know what? This is getting weird. My story is very similar to yours, but again in reverse! I basically got kicked out of a Freewill Baptist church for asking questions and being kind of reformed. They didn’t technically kick me out, but they asked the reformed people to leave. I know what you’re talking about when you speak of pain and anguish and sleepless nights of prayer. Church fights are the worst thing ever. Just before the feathers hit the fan at the Freewill Baptist church our house burned down, and we didn’t have any insurance. We’re still living in a dumpy trailer and just scraping by, but man alive! church splits are so much worse than losing all of your earthly possessions! They suck BIG TIME!! So good news: your Reformed Baptist church sucked, my Freewill Baptist church sucked. Let’s let the baggage go, keep the churches out of it, and just go with Scripture. We can’t go wrong there!

    Mighty blessings to you Dwight!!

  108. 1-14-2013

    I just spelled my name wrong! That’s how cramped my fingers are Dwight! Those finger cramps are cramps of love and compassion for you man…in a totally straight, dude to dude way.

  109. 1-15-2013

    Dear Ben,

    I love your commitment to address these issues, and feel the love and compassion, in a totally straight dude way. You are in my prayers also, Ben. Likewise, I am moved to respond as lovingly and patiently as I can, with His help, and be nothing less than an encouragement to you. In this regard, let us both apply ourselves to do the work of God, which is to believe in the One He sent. (John 6:27-29)

    Our comments are long, yet I’m not sure progress is being made. It’s as if we’re both saying, “Hmmm. How can I make this guy understand?” And our answer is, “Hmmm. Just one more sentence here, and a little analogy there. Oops. That’s a typo. Maybe if I can find mutual ground. Here’s a great verse; this has to make it obvious. Well, now I need to explain what I just typed to explain that other thing.”

    Would you join me in this, Ben? Let’s Keep It Short and Simple (otherwise known as the KISS method). For one, I think we’re using terms that are being understood differently by the other. Second, I think we’d benefit in increasing in understanding of we limit our thoughts-pre-comment ratio. Third, I think this post is losing readership if it hasn’t already lost it 40 or 50 comments ago! ;-P

    It’s incredibly difficult, and nearly impossible, and I don’t know how beneficial it would be, to address each of the sources you quoted. (I hope your fingers are recovering nicely!) Physically I could, but would it help? At this time, I would simply like to answer your last question and return one if I may.

    You said, “Alright, now to your answer about God’s plan. It’s spawned another question: Is God’s plan simply a ratification of our decisions?”

    Yes, but ratification is not the word I would use. Before I start, here’s how I’m understanding the word: “making something valid by formally ratifying or confirming it.” I looked up ratify and it says, “approve and express assent, responsibility, or obligation.” (wordnetweb.princeton.edu)

    I don’t think that’s what happening as a result of the choice we make not to resist the Holy Spirit. For one, it’s obvious to me that God’s plan does not need to be validated. It already is valid whether we accept it or not. For another, however, and I think the way you mean it, is it God’s plan to simply validate a person’s decision to believe in Christ? No. But, there is validation involved.

    Saying that God’s plan of salvation (which is only a small part in the whole plan) is the ratification of a person’s decision seems like an awkward way to phrase it. If my 2 year-old son comes to me crying, confessing that he threw my watch in the toilet and says he sorry, my first reaction is not going to be to inform him of the wisdom of his decision to come and tell me. At seeing and understanding what it took to confront me, I’m going to be overwhelmed with love for him and hug him and comfort him. Just like when the prodigal son, who was lost and now is found, was in sight, way in the distance, his Father ran to him, embraced him, and kissed him, with tremendous jot in His heart. The parable doesn’t emphasize the Father telling the son he made the right choice to return. But by the Father’s action makes it is quite obvious. (Luke 15:11-32)

    And, in another way, after we are comforted and elated by this reconciliation, He does then take the time to make it clear that we are sons, adopted into His family, and given His Spirit by which we can call Him, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15). So, in a sense, He is ratifying our decisions by giving us the seal of the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13-14). How many times has Paul started a thought with, “Do you not know…?” He is constantly validating the believer.

    So, yes, our choices are being validated, but it is far from simple. There is so much to learn. After all, we have just been born (again)! We are babes in Christ and encouraged to desire the milk of the Word (1 Peter 2:2-3), because there are so many things that have happened to us: we are justified, adopted, imputed with righteousness, able to please God, His Spirit is in us, and so on and so on, and, if we are further willing, He will guide us into all truth. He will even make His home with us… if we are willing! And yes, there is more ratification to come. We are being validated beyond belief, beyond anything we could ask or imagine!

    God Bless!
    Dwight

  110. 1-15-2013

    I said, “At this time, I would simply like to answer your last question and return one if I may.” I offered an answer, but forgot to add a question. I guess I’ll with the obvious… What do you think of my answer?

  111. 1-15-2013

    Hello Dwight,

    Short and sweet sounds really appealing right now! Let’s do it!!

    I think I like your answer. You took it in a different direction than I intended, but that’s okay. It was borderline devotional, and just plain good for the soul. So kudos on your answer Dwight! I’d like to write more on that, but I’m not going to. I’m going for the whole short and sweet thing.

    Anyway, if you scroll up you’ll see that I started asking these plan questions when you said that God doesn’t choose individuals to be saved. I think we’re in agreement that God does have a plan, and that while He does validate our good decisions, His plan is not simply our plan endorsed (if I’m understanding you correctly…if I’m not please don’t hesitate to correct me). That being the case, if His plan and our plan are on a collision course, who’s plan gets the right of way?

  112. 1-15-2013

    Hi Ben, and thank you for the warm welcome.

    I must admit I was a little hesitant to join in but you made me feel like it was OK to speak my mind. That is what I call a good robust discussion. Thanks to you and Dwight for providing such open and honest and frank exchanges.

    Some thoughts on your comments. I don’t want you to miss my intent, but I must say that you have in several ways. In time, I would like to point them out and they give you a chance to respond to them. I think it’s important to hear your views on my objections as opposed to missing me. I will take a more direct approach and point to some examples as best as I can, I promise.

    Ben wrote>>>>
    “If God knows everything and God’s knowledge cannot err then those people will be condemned regardless of your belief in an unlimited atonement. Someone could also just as legitimately say to you “the MOMENT that God created those whom He knew wouldn’t choose Him, He doomed everyone of them to an eternal destruction. So the omniscience of God teaches that there are people walking around right now who have absolutely no hope.” If this is a dilemma, once again, we’re in it together. Espousing an unlimited atonement doesn’t get you out of this jam. Regardless of your belief about the atonement, only those whom God foreknows will be in heaven will actually be there. An unlimited atonement doesn’t put more people in heaven than a limited atonement does. Therefore the Arminian’s offer of the gospel is no more free or real than the Calvinist’s offer.”>>>>

    First thought as I read your response. I do not want anyone to be lost in the lake of fire forever and ever. That is a horrible proposition. But, that wasn’t my point. God is not willing that anyone should perish either, and wants all men to be saved. God and I agree on this point in my view. In your view, limited atonement, that is not the case. Whether God knows who will choose him or not is not the issue for you, because you don’t believe people can choose. We both agree that people are lost. The question on the table is WHY. Here is one of my objections to limited atonement which you missed. If one person kills another person, is that murder? The only way to answer that is to examine the motive. Without the motive we are just guessing. Is it a military situation? Is it a police officer killing in self-defense? Motive makes the difference doesn’t it? It is not about God foreknowing something or even His omniscience does not determine the outcome. In the way you are using omniscience/foreknowledge, God knew everyone wouldn’t believe and had to monkey around with their will to make some believe (give them the faith to believe). So really, they, of themselves did not make any decision to believe in Christ, God did it for them.

    Just the Facts…
    You cannot dismiss the facts, the building blocks that you already agree to Ben. Here they are: We share the belief that all men are born in Adam in a helpless, hopeless state. They are all spiritually dead, condemned by God, and possess an inherited sinful nature. NONE of us choose that state for ourselves. We are born with those things firmly in place, all of us! All of our sins are motivated by the sinful nature, which is inherited from Adam. We do what our nature dictates. Why does that tree produce apples and not pears? It is an apple tree, of course. Why do those people commit sins? They are sinners of course. Did they choose to be sinners? NO! How did they become sinners? Adam! Why does Adam’s sin makes me a sinner? God set it up that way! Could it have been setup differently? YES! Look at the angels. They were all created without sin, and some made decisions to side with Satan (formerly Lucifer), or with God (elect angels). God designed it this way and that is the way it is (see Rom 5). So, let’s make sure we get this straight, we are born in Adam, and sinners by nature, not by choice. Romans 6 states that the sin nature rules over us, like a king over its subjects as unbelievers. So, let’s be clear, does God hate sin? Absolutely! Will He judge all sin? He certainly will. So, all of this is the bad news, we are all born in Adam, totally helpless, totally depraved- lost, condemned by God already. Man!…… But wait… “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Somebody said that).

    Now, when it comes time for us to review the doctrine of hell, which we both believe, the limited atonement view seems to forget the bad news. For the limited atonement thought, those sinners are just getting what they deserve. What do they deserve? Hell fire, forever! What did they do? God gave them life and the bad news to go with it. Did they choose to be born like that? NO! Not at all, none of us choose that. Those poor souls! We treat our pets better than God is treating those poor souls under the limited atonement view. Ben, do you care about the lost? Are you concerned about their plight? Does the limited atonement view of God care? How so? What did He do to help them? Anything? Well, he did give them life, they can be thankful for that. Oh, but then, they are doomed without hope to the flames for an eternity. If I could interview someone in hell, let’s see how that would go:

    So, um, ahh, sir, can I ask you a few questions? Thanks… So, why are you here? “I don’t know”. Who is responsible for your being in this terrible place? “ummm, I don’t know”. Well, wasn’t there some sort of judgment? “Yes, there was”. Well, didn’t that show your guilt? “Not sure…” Why, didn’t they show you why you are sentenced here for eternity?? “They said I committed crimes against God, but all I know is I was born and lived on earth and loved my wife and kids..”. “They said I was sinful and committed heaps of crimes against heaven”. Well did you? “Not that I am aware of, they were pretty mad at me to put me in this awful place, I just don’t know…”. Is there an appeal you can make? “They say no, there is no appeal, things are final”. What choices did you have? “I don’t understand the question”. I mean, what did you do man! That you ended up here? “I said I don’t know!” . “Someone said I didn’t believe in Jesus, but someone else here said that I couldn’t have anyway”….” “I guess it’s like telling me I should have flew, but I wasn’t made with wings, or something like that..” . I’m sorry to hear that, what are you going to do? “Nothing I can do, I’m suffering in this eternal judgment forever and ever and ever and ever and ever……..” I’m so sorry for you Sir…

    By the way, Ben, do you know why they have to spend eternity in hell? Ben, you were in the same boat as them, right? Can you tell them why you were plucked out of the fire by God and they were left to languish? Was it their bad choices? Oh, sorry, they didn’t have any choices. They acted according to their nature. Was it their sins? The same sins that you had and were forgiven of? Can you give them something to think about for the rest of eternity? Poor, poor souls! Ben, do you care about them?

    I know you think my imagination is weird, but that is what I get from limited atonement. What would God need a judgment for in the first place? Under limited atonement, what does God say to sinners in the judgment? Does He recount their sins, which they did by nature, and tell them how bad they were on earth? Hmmm, He is said to forget our sins (guess we are the lucky ones) and never remember them. Not theirs though. Does God remember the bad news that they were born in sin? Maybe that is what He tells them, the bad news! You were born in sin, shaped in iniquity, yea, that’s it. What value is that judgment then? These people never had a chance to get saved, not one of them did according to your view, God never choose them, their sins were never atoned in Christ. What sense is it to talk about God’s omniscience when NONE ever had the choice to believe??? Not even believers have the choice to believe, you say they are given faith to believe.

    We are ALL are at the mercy of God if we believe the bad news, right??? If all are lost, and helpless to do anything about their plight, then ALL are at the mercy of God! Apparently under limited atonement, God has LIMITED MERCY for them. Even though He is rich in mercy according to the bible. His mercy and grace must run out when it comes to the masses of humanity because He sure didn’t have any for them (under limited atonement). They go straight to hell. I’m so glad God is NOT like that at all. Aren’t you? Oh, Romans 9 is not referring to salvation but God’s formation of Israel. Where is salvation the subject in Romans 9? Hmmm.

    Some Quickies…
    Ben said>>>> If God knows everything and God’s knowledge cannot err then those people will be condemned regardless of your belief in an unlimited atonement.<<<<>>> Someone could also just as legitimately say to you “the MOMENT that God created those whom He knew wouldn’t choose Him, He doomed everyone of them to an eternal destruction<<<>>> So the omniscience of God teaches that there are people walking around right now who have absolutely no hope.” If this is a dilemma, once again, we’re in it together. Espousing an unlimited atonement doesn’t get you out of this jam.<<<>>> An unlimited atonement doesn’t put more people in heaven than a limited atonement does<<<>>> Therefore the Arminian’s offer of the gospel is no more free or real than the Calvinist’s offer<<<>>> I could very well be misunderstanding things here, but I thought the unlimited view taught that God was reconciled to the world through the work of Christ, now the ball lies in our court as to whether or not we want to be reconciled to God. Forgiveness and reconciliation being purchased for everyone, we just need to accept these things to ratify the deal. If that’s what the unlimited view teaches, that’s not what’s going on in this passage.

    It never says that God reconciled the world or forgave the world for that matter. I don’t believe that, never did. However, God did the work of reconciliation; His part was not imputing our trespasses to us, but to Christ on the cross. God loved the world so much, that He gave His Son. Because of that, we who have believed can now be His Ambassadors: “as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2Cor 5:20). We are not going around telling the world that they ARE reconciled. We are telling them that CAN BE reconciled, hence the offer. “We implore you…” The ball does lie in their court. Or, maybe you think that the appeal is not a real offer. Is God just playing games with the most serious thing??? Their eternal destiny? There is a legitimate offer in the passage, and I know because I read it and accepted Christ. Ben, did you believe in Christ? Or, did God do that for you? I’m going to stop answering for you.

    Last one for now
    Ben said>>>> For example, I was reconciled to God in 1994, but Christ reconciled me to God somewhere around 32 AD. What Christ did “for” me in 32 AD He did “in” me in 1994 AD. That’s when the Spirit gave life to my dead soul and faith to my unbelieving heart so that I became reconciled to God<<<<

    Christ did not reconcile you to God somewhere around 32 AD. Where does it say that? Where? Is there some scripture? I do know this, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." (John 3:36). Now, you were reconciled in 32 AD?, And the wrath of God was still on you, until you believed? According to this verse, you don’t “see life” before you believe, and if you don’t, you won’t see life. Around 32 AD, Christ was judged for all your sins, I believe that. Now, God the Holy Spirit comes to you with the truth, the good news. If you believe in Christ, then you are saved. If you refuse to believe, you do will not see life, and there is no reconciliation to speak of, only wrath.

    Gotta get some rest. I’ll leave this command for you-
    “They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." Acts 16:31.

    Doug

    PS. I ask a lot of questions, I know, but there are some answers there too.

    PSS. I'll start with short and sweet next time, I promise.

  113. 1-15-2013

    Ben, something happened to that last message after the “Some Quickies” section. It didn’t make any sense. I’m leaving some of the punctuation out. Here it is again, hopefully it is clear.

    Some Quickies…
    Ben said
    If God knows everything and God’s knowledge cannot err then those people will be condemned regardless of your belief in an unlimited atonement.

    All people are born condemned, that is the case. It has nothing to do with God’s omniscience other than God knows that He would condemn all at birth in Adam. Unlimited atonement doesn’t stop God from condemning the entire human race in Adam, it provides the option for hopeless, helpless human beings to have a way to be saved. It does not force anyone to be saved like the Calvinist view. The question is why is everyone condemned? God condemned the entire human race in Adam. Everyone! So, the next move has to be from God. Will He seek to save some or all? Limited view – only some. Unlimited view – offers salvation to all. Even if someone goes to hell under the unlimited view, they do so having rejected God’s gracious offer (John 3:18, 36). THEY are responsible for their decision.

    Ben said
    Someone could also just as legitimately say to you “the MOMENT that God created those whom He knew wouldn’t choose Him, He doomed everyone of them to an eternal destruction

    Someone could say that, but they would be wrong. Those people had the choice, and therefore they are responsible. They rejected God’s gracious offer to save. God gave them mercy, and they pushed Him away. They are responsible and God stands as the one who is merciful and gracious. On the other hand, God does doom people to the lake of fire under the limited atonement view. They have no choice in the matter. Who is responsible? God. Under the limited view, if someone gets saved, it is all God’s doing, none of the person choosing, God is certainly responsible. If someone is lost, it is because of nothing they did, they were born that way; so it is because of something God did NOT do for them.

    Ben said
    So the omniscience of God teaches that there are people walking around right now who have absolutely no hope.” If this is a dilemma, once again, we’re in it together. Espousing an unlimited atonement doesn’t get you out of this jam.

    Omniscience doesn’t teach that at all, limited atonement does. God’s omniscience may know that a man will not be saved, but knows that it is man’s choice. God knows the future but does not determine it for man’s salvation. He delegates that decision to man, in sovereignty. I’m not in a jam, limited atonement view is in a jam because they believe God left so many without hope.

    Ben said
    An unlimited atonement doesn’t put more people in heaven than a limited atonement does.

    Limited atonement view forces people to be saved. They didn’t choose that! God choose it for them. Unlimited view, God enlightened people to the issues of the gospel and in sovereignty let them choose their own eternal destiny (John 3:16-18, 36). The important questions?? Why are people saved? Why are people lost? Limited view, why are people saved? God picked some. Why are people lost? God did not pick them. All were already completely condemned in Adam.

    Ben said
    Therefore the Arminian’s offer of the gospel is no more free or real than the Calvinist’s offer

    I am not an Armenian, I am an American (smile). God does offer us salvation, read the bible. “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). What is the Calvinist’s offer??? I’m confused? Wait, there is no offer! Didn’t God choose them to be saved? Didn’t God draw/drag them to salvation? Didn’t God give them the faith to believe? What offer did they have? What choice did they make? None! There is no offer of salvation in Calvinism, only God’s manipulation.

    Ben said
    I could very well be misunderstanding things here, but I thought the unlimited view taught that God was reconciled to the world through the work of Christ, now the ball lies in our court as to whether or not we want to be reconciled to God. Forgiveness and reconciliation being purchased for everyone, we just need to accept these things to ratify the deal. If that’s what the unlimited view teaches, that’s not what’s going on in this passage.

    It never says that God reconciled the world or forgave the world for that matter. I don’t believe that, never did. However, God did the work of reconciliation; His part was not imputing our trespasses to us, but to Christ on the cross. God loved the world so much, that He gave His Son. Because of that, we who have believed can now be His Ambassadors: “as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2Cor 5:20). We are not going around telling the world that they ARE reconciled. We are telling them that CAN BE reconciled, hence the offer. “We implore you…” The ball does lie in their court. Or, maybe you think that the appeal is not a real offer. Is God just playing games with the most serious thing??? Their eternal destiny? There is a legitimate offer in the passage, and I know because I read it and accepted Christ. Ben, did you believe in Christ? Or, did God do that for you? I’m going to stop answering for you.

    Last one for now
    Ben said
    For example, I was reconciled to God in 1994, but Christ reconciled me to God somewhere around 32 AD. What Christ did “for” me in 32 AD He did “in” me in 1994 AD. That’s when the Spirit gave life to my dead soul and faith to my unbelieving heart so that I became reconciled to God.

    Christ did not reconcile you to God somewhere around 32 AD. Where does it say that? Where? Is there some scripture? I do know this for sure, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36). Now, you were reconciled in 32 AD?, And the wrath of God was still on you, until you believed? According to this verse, you don’t “see life” before you believe, and if you don’t, you won’t see life. Around 32 AD, Christ was judged for all your sins, I believe that. Now, God the Holy Spirit comes to you with the truth, the good news. If you believe in Christ, then you are saved. If you refuse to believe, you do will not see life, and there is no reconciliation to speak of, only wrath.

    Gotta get some rest. I’ll leave this command for you-
    “They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Acts 16:31.

    Doug

    PS. I ask a lot of questions, I know, but there are some answers there too.

  114. 1-15-2013

    Psa. 119:86 :-)

  115. 1-16-2013

    Hi Ben, and Dwight,

    Short and sweet huh? OK, I’d rather keep it salty, after all, we are the salt of the earth right? I know you’re probably thinking that’s corny (my wife says I am), but its not. I could go on, but I have to keep it short, right?

    Another point, another paragraph Ben,

    Ben Wrote:
    You asked me if I believe that “everyone” can believe in Christ and have eternal life. You answered that question for me correctly. No I do not. If however you had asked “Do you believe that “anyone” can believe in Christ and have eternal life?” I think I would have answered yes to that. Maybe that’s too subtle of a distinction, but provided you understand where I’m coming from, I think it’s an important one. God tells us fairly clearly that not everyone will be saved. His word cannot err, therefore not everyone can be saved. But anyone who turns in faith to Christ can and will be saved. There is no sin or obstacle that is too big or too high for God to overcome. Now, no one has any idea who the elect are, but we know that all of the elect want to come. So I can say “Anyone who thirsts, come. Whoever desires, let him take of the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). I believe outside of the regenerating work of the Spirit, we don’t want God, or the gospel, or any of this stuff. If you want it, I believe it’s for you. To those I say “Come and eat” (Isa. 55:1).

    So, you missed the entire thrust of the question, but went on to answer another question anyway here. I do appreciate that since it give me more understanding of your positions. You highlighted “anyone”, when you should have highlighted “can believe”. Why do you think that everyone cannot believe? You answered- “I believe outside of the regenerating work of the Spirit, we don’t want God, or the gospel, or any of this stuff”. To all of that I say why, Why, WHY? Why not? So, you make my point once again. None of us would want God, which is a correct thought, scripturally speaking, “no one who seeks God. All have turned away” (Rom 3:11, 12). How did we get into this helpless position? We were born in Adam. Your thought that God’s invitation goes to all, but narrowly is directed to only some does not fly. In your view, being regenerated comes before believing. Both functions do not have anything to do with our volition because you say that God has to regenerate us (His work) and give us faith (His work), in order for us to believe. He only does this for some you say. He leaves the rest in the sinking boat to drown eternally. Anyway, to say “Come” to those is not a valid command to the volition whether they are saved or lost. In the bible it certainly is, but the way you see it, well, I would say it’s misleading. Calvinism says that NONE can come of their own will, and you confessed that you don’t believe they can. So why tell them to come?

    Again, why the command to come? What is all this stuff about come, believe, appeals to our volition, like we have some choice in the matter? What, is God just covering himself? Does He want to make it look like you have some choice when you have absolutely none? Ben, what did you choose in your salvation? I already know the answer. Since you didn’t choose anything, what does that say about you? Do you love God? How do you know? If God were to come to you in spiritual death and enlighten you to make your own choices, what would you have chosen? Do you think you would have chosen to believe? Guess we will never know, huh? Did God make you love Him too? How do you know? If He manipulated all the other stuff, didn’t he give you love too? (Rom 5:5). Who are you Ben? Are you a mere animation of God? I could write a computer program that says, “I love Doug, he is the best”, and have it play every time I turn on my computer. Then, I can go and tell everybody that my computer loves me and thinks I’m the best. What am I trying to impress with that? What is that? Does God do that? Absolutely not! That is simply manipulative and it is disrespectful to imply that God is that way. Although, Calvinism does imply it.

    Love can only exist on the ground of freedom. We must be free to love. We cannot be paid, manipulated, pressured or bought. If God loved us, then He was free to do it. If we love Him back, that bears on our volition and we must be free to express our desire. Without freedom of expression, who are we anyway? God created this thing we call volition and then gave it to us. By creating volition, He decreed that His sovereign will and our free will would co-exist. That is the way He set things us. God respects our free will, or else He could have just not given it in the first place. Why place a tree in the midst of the garden? You know what tree I’m speaking of. Choice, decisions, distinctions of our persons make up our personality. Who we are is molded and crafted by us, our experiences, our decisions and actions. We are who We are. Thank you God for giving me individuality and the ability to be a person, created in your image. The gospel frees me to be me. Thank you Lord.

    More to follow…

    Doug

  116. 1-16-2013

    Ben said, “I think we’re in agreement that God does have a plan, and that while He does validate our good decisions, His plan is not simply our plan endorsed (if I’m understanding you correctly…if I’m not please don’t hesitate to correct me). That being the case, if His plan and our plan are on a collision course, who’s plan gets the right of way?”

    We made a choice. Who said we have a plan? Besides, His plan was foreknown. He’s got an advantage. I’ll yield! ;-)

    Dwight

  117. 1-16-2013

    WOW Doug!!! Awesome writing, and to me it was very clear… Thanks! Whadya know… I’m an American, too!! ;-)

    PS – The italics were caused by unintentional HTML commands for font styles. You were using a series of greater than and less than signs to block the text that Ben wrote. The ‘less than’ and ‘greater than’ sign combined with the letter ‘i’ tells HTML to make the font that follows italic. To stop the italic requires a division sign before the letter. You can also bold and underline with the letters ‘b’ and ‘u’.

    This sentence has an example of italic bold and underline and even a combination. Alan taught me that! There are probably other HTML commands to cause backspace, new lines, paragraphs, and maybe colored text and strike out, like Alan does in his ‘Scripture As We Live It’ posts.

  118. 1-16-2013

    Oh well, I guess the underline doesn’t work. But, you get the idea.

  119. 1-16-2013

    Hello Dwight,

    I think yielding is a good idea. I’m getting the plan part from places like Proverbs 19:21 and Proverbs16:9. So if God plans that “A” will happen, and you plan that “B” will happen, are you conceding that God’s plan will be accomplished?

  120. 1-16-2013

    Hello Doug,

    It’s snowing pretty good up here so I got the day off from work. That means I’ve got time to answer you. So I’m putting down this tablet, firing up my laptop and coming at you Doug. :-)

  121. 1-16-2013

    Dear Ben,

    You said, “I’m getting the plan part from places like Proverbs 19:21 and Proverbs16:9. So if God plans that “A” will happen, and you plan that “B” will happen, are you conceding that God’s plan will be accomplished?”

    Okay, so He has one purpose that will stand, and I have many plans that may or may not see the light of day. I concede His plan will definitely happen. Maybe, just maybe, one or more of my plans will come to fruition.

    But, I’ll tell you one thing: my plans don’t even come close to His Plan, which is more than I could ask, think, or imagine (Eph 3:20-21)!

    It would be like me proudly declaring, “I’m going to used my saved money to build a custom house on the beach with real African Mahogany cabinets and marbled granite countertops!” versus God declaring, “I think I’ll create a solar system and create life on one the planets.” Do you want to hear the rest of God’s awesome plan for the church and eternity, or do you want to see my kitchen? ;-)

    More specifically, then, what IS God’s singular, ultimate purpose for the church? Is it salvation? NO! That’s tiny thinking! It’s a HUGE thing He has accomplished, but it’s only the beginning. So long as we’re only talking about salvation, we’re still on page 1 of a 90 page manual. We’ve already established that there are some who are saved the same way before the church age. What do church-age believers have that pre-church believers didn’t have? Why are church-age believers going to impress the coming ages with His immeasurable riches (Eph 2:7)?

    There’s MUCH more to God’s plan than salvation. I agree 100% with Doug’s description of God’s motivation, how salvation that comes about, what happens to sin, and what it means to be saved, etc. But that’s just the starting point, the foundation (and a very necessary one at that). After a while, I begin to realize my plans are pretty pointless. Hopefully, I get to the point where I can honestly and clearly say with Paul, “To live is Christ and to die is gain!” (Php 1:21) It becomes effortless to add, “Lord willing,” to my plans (James 4:15).

    So, do I concede that God’s plan wins? You betcha, Ben!! Is God’s plan merely salvation? No way!! Was it that He had to specifically choose which individuals He would save (and by default those He would not save)? Absolutely not! God’s plan is SO much more. It is hidden from the wise and learned (or understanding), yet revealed to those who humble themselves and come to Him (Matt 11:25). It’s ALL about choice – the choice to go along with His plan, not mine, and not someone else’s.

    Dwight

  122. 1-16-2013

    Hello Doug!

    You’ve spiced this conversation up quite a bit. I love your passion. I’m not so wild about your theology, but I love your passion. I love your heart for the lost. I love the fact that you preached the gospel to me. We can never have too much gospel, so thank you for preaching it so promiscuously. That’s good stuff.

    I don’t know if you bothered to read that really long message I posted where I quoted all the confessions and stuff. It was absurdly tedious, so I don’t blame you if you skipped it, but the reason I did that was because Dwight’s previous message started with the premise that I didn’t believe in volition. I do. I tried to demonstrate that it isn’t just me, but the entire confessional reformed world believes in volition. You’re falling into the same tracks as Dwight on this one. You said I don’t believe that people can choose. I do. Scripture is clear on this, it assumes throughout that we do as we wish. I believe man’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t have volition, his problem is that he has it. He always does what he wants, and all that he naturally wants to do is live for himself. He worships himself. He wants to be God and he wants God to be his servant.

    Necessity and volition seem like they’re antithetical. I get that. I think Jonathan Edwards has said some interesting stuff on this issue. He argued pretty convincingly that they’re not actually antithetical if you think about it. He argued that man “must” choose that which is most desirable to him. I think he’s right about that. Now there are things that make our desires more or less appealing to us–things which strengthen or weaken our motives for that desire, for example: our nearness to the desired thing or our distance from the desired thing, the attending difficulties that would arise from giving into the desire or the attending benefits that would arise from giving into the desire, etc., etc. We bring all of this stuff into the equation, then make our decision based upon what we most desire, all things considered. In short the will is dictated by the strongest inclination of the heart. If that’s the case then the unbeliever is a willful participant and completely complicit in his sin. He loves his sin, he wants his sin, he desires his sin, the further he goes down that road the more he desires it. The reason he cannot turn to God is because he doesn’t want to. Once he wants to turn to God, he turns to God. That’s what happens in regeneration. God gives us a new heart and new inclinations. Things that we previously hated, we begin to love. He shines a light in our souls, and that shows us the dungeon that we are in. Upon seeing the darkness and the dungeon, we turn to God. We turn to him willingly, and volitionally, and with all our hearts.

    In the light of that, I think I may believe in choice more than you do. (Strange twist!) You said the lost don’t choose to be sinners. Now I totally grant that sin is imputed to us all from Adam, but we sin by nature and by choice. Flip back to Genesis 4:7. God tells Cain that sin lies at the door, and that its desire is for him. Then He says “but you should rule over it.” Cain was commanded to resist sin. He didn’t do that. He was culpable for that sin. He willingly chose it. Go ahead a couple of pages to Gen 6:5. God sees that the wickedness of man is great on the earth and every intent of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually. There is intent here. Their sin is intentional. Romans 1:18 says that we all surpressed the truth in unrighteousness. The fact that we did this “in unrighteous” implies that we knew what we were doing. We did it willingly. Natural man does not “like” to retain God in their knowledge (Rom. 1:28). That implies volition. They “approve” of sin (Rom. 1:32). This path is “inexcusable” (Rom. 2:1). The unbeliever chooses his sin.

    If the above is correct, then your interview in hell, while being very sad and somewhat creative, is misguided. Predestination sends no one to hell, sin does. Their sin was willful, their condemnation will be just. Which is still very sad by the way. If this were not the case, how do you handle those who have never heard the gospel and died before Christ came. Is their condemnation just? And if so, why?

    You asked why does God choose us instead of others? Honestly, I don’t know. I know He saved us for the glory of His name, to declare the riches of His glory and the surpassing greatness of His grace to all of creation for all of eternity. But why us instead of others…I don’t know. I know it isn’t because we’re better than the people in hell. It’s not that we made a better choice, or lived a better life, or did anything better than them. Salvation is entirely by grace. If you get to heaven because of something you did, and not because of something that Jesus did in you and for you, then God’s letting imperfection into heaven. None of our works are good enough, Doug. Our faith is mingled with doubt, our love is mingled with selfishness, our hope is mingled with uncertainty. If you told the people in hell that you are in heaven because you made a better decision than they did, then they’re going to think for all eternity that you’re in heaven because you’re better than them. I would tell them that I’m in heaven because of what Christ did for me. Period. He saved me completely, I brought nothing in my hands, therefore I have nothing to boast about. He is God. He is great. I am His (I took that line from you Randi…I adapted it a little. I hope that’s okay). That should give them something to chew on for eternity. That will give me something to chew on for eternity. Why me, God? Thank you so much, but I don’t understand. Perhaps in heaven I’ll get it a little better, but then again, maybe it will be more confusing when I’m able to plumb the depths of his grace and actually experience everything He’s purchased. I don’t know.

    I realize that you will probably mock that answer (which is okay with me). You believe that your willingness to receive Christ and the gospel distinguishes you from the lost (John 1:12). To which I say, “Fair enough.” You did choose Christ and the gospel, and that does distinguish you from them. You are correct. But when I ask you “Why did you choose to receive Christ and the gospel, while they chose to reject it?” I think you should keep reading and get your answer from the very next verse (John 1:13). Again and again we are told in Scripture that God is the one that gives birth to us spiritually (John 3:3-8; Eph. 2:4-5; 1 Pet.1:3). We bring the deceitful and desperately wicked heart to the equation (Jer. 17:9). God brings the new heart to the equation (Ezek. 11:17-20; 36:26-27) [Side note: These verses speak of the future restoration and regeneration of Israel. Since everyone who gets saved, gets saved by Christ, I believe this new heart is a common characteristic of the redeemed, whether they be Jew or Gentile. If you disagree, feel free to let me know.] So I believe that all the glory goes to God for our salvation (1 Cor. 1:31; 1 Cor. 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:10-11). This is Biblical. This is something we should be able to agree upon. Maybe you don’t like the implications of this. That’s okay. We can leave the implications be for right now. But we should be able to say loudly and proudly that God gave birth to us for the glory of His name.

    Perhaps I should try to clarify that thing I said about being reconciled in 32 AD. I believe that Christ purchased the church on the cross (Acts 20:28). As such, every blessing I experience in my life is tied back to what Christ did for me back there. Since I believe that Christ represented me, and represented me perfectly, every blessing He procured is sure to flow to me. If he purchased me, my redemption, and every other saving blessing, is a certainty (Eph. 1:14).

    You seem comfortable with the idea that election is based simply upon God’s foreknowledge. Do you believe that God exists outside of time?

    You also seem comfortable with the idea that God can limit his sovereignty. This is something that gets repeated a lot, but let’s think about this for a second. I’m sure you’ve heard unbelievers ask the question “Can God make a rock so big that He can’t move it?” Supposedly that’s an unanswerable stumper. It’s not. The answer is “No.” It’s a question that stems from a misunderstanding of God’s omnipotence. In saying that God is omnipotent, we’re not affirming that God can do anything. There are lots of things that God can’t do. He can’t change, He can’t lie, He can’t do evil, He can’t cease to be, etc., etc. When we’re saying that He’s omnipotent we’re saying that He can do anything within the range of His attributes. Can God lie? No, because God is true. Can God cease to be? No, because God is immutable. Can God sin? No, because God is good. Can God cease being good for one second? No, because He would then cease being God. Can God cease being good in some circumstances or some situations? No. God is immutably God. He doesn’t change for anyone or anything. Now if God is sovereign, can He cease being sovereign? No. If God is sovereign, can He be so sovereign that He yields His sovereignty to someone else? No. It’s the “can God make a rock” question of the proponents of freewill. It’s doesn’t work. God can’t cease being who He is; He can’t deny Himself, or His attributes, or make another God.

    You brought up the “regeneration precedes faith” thing and then said both regeneration and faith have nothing to do with volition because God regenerates and gives faith. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but again, I don’t believe that faith has nothing to do with volition. When God regenerates us we believe because we want to. Maybe you don’t like that answer, and that’s okay, but that’s what I believe. I think these messages are basically aimed at me, so you don’t really score any points with me by attacking things I don’t believe in. I tend to ignore those arguments. That being said, is it wrong to believe that God regenerates and grants faith? If you would address the verses that I used to back those things up, I would appreciate it. And while I’m here, let me address the whole regeneration preceding faith thing. When we say that, we’re speaking logically not chronologically. We don’t believe that regeneration occurs and then after a length of time the regenerated person believes. Both of these things happen instantaneously. The very first thing a regenerated person does is believe in Christ. Just like in conception, life precedes growth in the womb. The baby’s not alive because it’s growing, it’s growing because it’s alive. Life precedes growth, breath, the heartbeat, etc., and is the cause of all these things. In the same way, the Spirit’s regeneration precedes any good thing that we will or work. In our flesh there dwells no good thing. People who deny that regeneration precedes faith have a clean thing coming out of an unclean thing. They have a dead heart believing, a blind man seeing, a lame man walking before the healing comes.

    You said love can only exist on the ground of freedom. I believe in volition Doug, so I don’t think this charge sticks to me, but this is a bad argument, and you don’t have to agree with me on the atonement to agree with me on this one. I realize that this gets repeated a lot, and it sounds right, but let’s think about this for a second. God is love. He can’t cease being that. God is also Triune. He can’t cease being that either. So the persons of the trinity love each other, with a perfect, and immense, and unfathomably deep love. Now can the Father not love the Son, or the Son not love the Spirit, or the Spirit not love the Father? No. But does that mean that their love is forced or meaningless? No. That’s a blasphemous thought. We can also argue this same point differently: Will we be able to sin in heaven? No. There’s no freedom to sin in heaven, and that’s what makes it so appealing. Does that render love meaningless in heaven, or without volition. Again that’s borderline blasphemous. I think this is a bad argument. I wouldn’t use it anymore if I were you. Also it kind of makes my point. If you grant volition to the believer in heaven (which you should) you should also grant volition for the unbeliever on earth. The believer in heaven is not free to sin, while the unbeliever on earth is not free to do good (until regeneration). If volition applies to the one it applies to the other. If you deny it to the one, to be consistent, you should deny it to the other.

    With that I’m gonna try to shut this thing down. Thank you for your thoughts Doug, and thank you for your passion for the lost and for your beliefs. I am trusting Christ by the way. Thank you for offering the gospel freely to me. However this thing ends, don’t stop doing that to everyone!

  123. 1-16-2013

    Hello Dwight,

    I think I agree with most everything you wrote in your last comment! God’s plan is huge and includes way more than personal salvation. Having said that though, lets try to get to page two before we worry about page ninety. Would you agree that God’s plan is comprehensive, encompasses all of time (and eternity), and includes His entire creation, including humans?

  124. 1-17-2013

    Dear Ben,

    Remember this? “Just to get the juices flowing…” That was part of the original post from Alan for this marathon thread of comments. Yeah, I’d say he got the juices flowing alright!

    Poor Doug! He has a long response to address. Me? I get to answer one question! Unfortunately, I think we’re trying for premature agreement before coming to a mutual understanding.

    Yes, God has a plan, and that plan is huge! We seem to agree on that. But, when you asked me if I would “agree that God’s plan is comprehensive, encompasses all of time (and eternity), and includes His entire creation, including humans?” I saw that we might not be talking about the same plan.

    Perhaps, we should substitute the word ‘goal’ or ‘desire’ instead of ‘plan’. I think He uses all the things you listed and more as part of His plan, but they are not the main thrust of it. I think the ultimate motivation is key. But what is His main goal or desire?

    Part 1 of the main thrust of the plan…
    Page 1 of 90 in the manual for those following along :)

    For God so loved the world that He created it? No, not according to John 3:16. For God so loved the world that He created humans? No. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. Yes. Why? Love was his motivation. But, what was His purpose? So He could pick and choose who He was going to save? I don’t believe that. I believe the reason is, as the text says, “so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” It says, ‘whosoever’. It does not say ‘whosoever God chooses’. It says ‘the world’. It does not say ‘the world of the elect’. I think it means what it says, everybody.

    I think that’s the part we’re getting stuck on. Obviously, many people have been quiet vocal in rejecting Christ. But, sometimes, somewhere, somehow, someone was making a choice to believe. I was calling it volition, but you saw volition a little differently. I missed it the first time, but got it the second, so thanks for persistently clarifying. I’m a little slow sometimes! I think this what makes our agreement ‘almost’. It sounds like the right terms, like ‘plan’ or ‘volition’, but we mean something different by them.

    You say in regard to volition, paraphrasing, “Sure! You can have salvation if you want it. It’s right there! It’s your choice! You’re free to choose it! But, without the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, a person will never, ever choose to believe simply because they don’t want it. In fact, they don’t want anything to do with God.”

    Am I getting it now?

    Yet, I read Doug’s latest comments to mean “Yes! Absolutely, a person CAN want what God has to offer, and then choose it freely.” I absolutely agree 100% with his statements. Furthermore, the scripture bears this out. Verses literally mean what they say. They fit the context. It’s comprehensive. It’s awesome!

    I think when you say you mostly agree, this ain’t part of the agreement! I think if we go further, it’ll just be more of the same: almost agreeing. When I think of volition, I think of Jesus inviting those who are heavy laden to come to Him and learn from Him (Matt 11:28-30), and some listeners are touched, humbled, and want to go to Him, and do go to Him. By their free will and desire, the humbly accept the invitation to be saved. In God’s sovereignty, His plan included creating us with the free will to choose to believe in Him if we desired, even while we were lost. After all, literally, that’s what it means to be saved. Come! Buy drink and food without price! Come!

    So, would I agree that God’s plan is comprehensive, encompasses all of time (and eternity), and includes His entire creation, including humans? Well, yeah, but why are we talking about the cheerleaders on the sideline when there’s a game going on?! So, my question in return to you is this: Would you agree that God has a very specific, special, and sancifying plan for church-age believers?

    Dwight

  125. 1-17-2013

    Uh, that wasn’t exactly short, was it? ;-)

  126. 1-17-2013

    Ben,
    What do you mean, “this thing ends”? Have I offended you in some way? Let me clarify some things, please. In my first comment, there was a PS., it stated that this was not aimed at you Ben, but at limited atonement. Do you recall? Ben, this is not about you, don’t take it personally. I don’t even know you and certainly don’t dislike or mock you. Further, from what I see of you so far, I’m loving your tenacity and humor. In every conversation, I seek to get to the bottom line. In this conversation, we are getting there, but we must see eye to eye of the unfortunate implications of the limited atonement view (Reformed, Calvinistic, etc.), before we hit rock bottom. Ben, you choose to believe the limited view. You must face the implications of that choice. But, you still have choices don’t you. This is not your doctrine, you didn’t originate it, so you are not responsible for its implications. I’m against that view, but I am not against you. I have nothing but love for you Ben, honestly. I am certainly not the enemy, but I know who is and so do you. Lean forward, not back. The bottom line is just ahead.

    You don’t like my theology…. We are talking about foundational things here so much is at stake. I would like to address just a couple of things you mentioned. Regarding the bad news. According to Romans 5, none of us are condemned by God for our personal sins. We are condemned in Adam (“in Adam all die”), before we had a chance to validate our sin nature by sinning. Personal sin is a result of the sinful nature, which is a part of the fallen nature passed down to us. Do you want me to give you the scriptures? I could, but I’m going to trust you know them. We are not lost because we sin or like sin. We are not lost because we dislike God or don’t want God. We are lost because we are born into a fallen race. Our volition doesn’t matter in that at all. Not one person born in the human race choose to be born fallen, condemned, spiritually dead and with an old sin nature. Not one!

    Another point. We make decisions according to our nature. If that nature is fallen, then we can only make decisions accordingly and therefore sinful. Even our righteousness is filthy in God’s sight. There is none righteous, not even one. Why? Because of the sin nature. And you are right, the unsaved don’t want to have anything to do with God. That is symptomatic of their nature, see Romans 3. Even though it is volitional, it is natural. The sin nature has us bound under its power. “so that, just as sin reigned in death…” Sin reigns in death (spiritual). Sin rules over us in spiritual death. Where is volition? Under that rule. We are slaves to sin, born that way Ben. Paul certainly understood this, “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath” (Eph 2:3). What are we all doing? Gratifying the cravings, desires, and behests of our sin natures. We were “by nature” objects of wrath. That is the bad news Ben. And yes, unbelievers make decisions against the truth. They are unrighteous. I would say they are like roaches, when the light comes on, the roaches scramble for darkness (crude, I know). We already know this, and so did Paul as he wrote about them (not the roaches, unbelievers). One of the things the gospel does for us is it gives us freedom. “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted” (Rom 6:17). What was it that freed us? The gospel! – – “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:25).

    Choice
    I’m sorry I haven’t completely read all that you and Dwight have written in those confessions. I am not going to appeal to them for validation. I appeal to the word. Why are we talking about choice anyway? It is because the bible clearly says that choice matters. In fact, it is replete with our choice, God given obviously. The limited atonement view limits choice, hence the long conversation about how to justify all those passages that are obviously against that view! If I’m wrong, please point it out.

    The limited view… God only planned to save some in Adam’s fallen race. He sends His Son to save only them. The work on the cross is only for the ones He planned to save. The Spirit regenerates only them (essentially saving them) and equipping them with whatever is needed, faith, righteousness a new heart, etc.). They now belong to God. The rest, well, the rest of the ones He did not plan to save, or the ones that were not chosen, or the others (sorry, I’m stuffing my passion back in now), were left in Adam’s fallen race. They will commit sins of course, according to their natures and eventually be judged and thrown into the lake of fire. Do I have it right? Would you like to modify? Some would like to say it nicer, but the results are the same. I’m against that view. Period. I do not believe it is what the bible teaches and I do not believe it reflects the heart of God. In fact, I think it slanders God.

    So where is choice in that view? It is not found. God is the one that planned to save some in Adam’s fallen race. God is the one who executed His choice by saving them, apart from their will because they are so dead, that even God who put them in that position cannot reach them. It was not according to their volition or choice at all. So, why are we talking about choice again? Because the scriptures are replete with passages that say we have choice in the matter of salvation. I am simply going to side with the scriptures here.

    The unlimited view. It teaches the bad news just as I have stated it. However, there is a key difference. We believe that man is spiritually dead and cannot make a positive decision to believe in God of himself. Why? It is because he wouldn’t want to, he is in darkness. Yet, God does intervene! God the Holy Spirit can reach spiritually dead man. He doesn’t reach him with regeneration, but with enlightenment. The unbeliever, in spiritual death is made aware of the issues of the gospel. And yes, I’ve heard the dead analogies, but they do not say what the bible says. The bible says that God does reach out to the unbelieving, and yes, some of them believe (ME, case in point). God convicts them of their rejection of Christ. He witnesses to them about Christ and the issues at hand. He is relentless, going after the lost because He knows they have a choice to make, Christ died for their sins. Even if the choice is to say no, it is their choice to make. God the Spirit brings enough light for us to make an informed decision about the gracious offer of God and His Christ (John 16:8-11). He has always done this work. So, Christ died for all. That is clear from the scriptures. The Spirit seeks all. That is clear from scripture. If we are partners with God in the gospel message, our appeal is to all, according to the scriptures. Here is a simple illustration:

    Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18)

    Some observations. The key word here is believe. It is not about God’s choosing, it is mans. If man can choose his eternal destiny, he is therefore responsible. God is placing the responsibility where it belongs. Three things to note from this passage:
    1. Those who believe have to be made aware of who and what Christ is. They must know what the options are if they are going to be held responsible for them. How can they believe when they are dead? Obviously, God makes this information known to them in spiritual death, yes He can. If they refuse to believe, were there regenerated at all. No. The wrath of God remains on them (John 3:36). To say that they don’t really know what they were rejecting is not a legitimate offer. Why would God say that it determines their destiny when its not legitimate? That puts God on the hook in terms of responsibility.
    2. They have to be made aware of the bad news. Condemnation must precede salvation. How do they know they are spiritually dead, and condemned by God from birth? This is part of the Gospel. God makes them aware of their condition (the bad news) so that they can have an opportunity to believe in God and His plan to save them (the good news). God also used the law for this purpose (2Cor 3:7, 9).
    3. Why do they stay condemned? “because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”. Not because God did not plan to save them. Not because they are especially sinful and cannot believe. Not because Christ did not pay for their sins. Allow the scriptures to tell us the reasoning, “because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”. That is the reason, according to the scriptures.

    Ben, I’d love to address every single scripture you raised. From the ones in John 6 and 17 and the one you use to say God gives us faith, and all the others you are depending on to believe in this limited view. Of course you should already know that I do not see those passages as you do. I do not believe the scripture teaches that at all. I’d be happy to share more. Are you still listening? I heard you out, have you heard me? Or have you only heard why I don’t believe the limited view?

    Doug

  127. 1-17-2013

    I’m listening Doug. I would really appreciate it if you would address the passages that I referred to. I will now shut up and give you the floor…and try to get back to Dwight if I can, but after that the floor is yours.

  128. 1-17-2013

    Hello Dwight,

    Thank you for your kind and thoughtful message. I think you got what I was trying to say on the volition front. I apologize for not making that clearer earlier. I actually think we’re both trying to defend Biblical things. When you describe what you understand Doug to be saying, I agree with you. People can and do freely choose Christ. I’m not trying to deny that. I am understanding it differently because I understand Scripture to teach that salvation is completely of grace. The trick is getting these things to merge Biblically. Perhaps I’m doing it wrongly, but my desire is to keep grace gracious. I think that’s a good desire.

    I’m okay with our plan thing becoming a “goal” or “desire” thing. I’m okay with changing the terminology, because I don’t know if it really changes anything. If He desires “A” to happen, and we desire “B” to happen, in the light of Proverbs 19:21 does the change in terminology actually change the outcome?

    You asked me if I believe that God has a very specific, special, and sanctifying plan for church-age believers. I do. I’m not sure if our understanding of this plan is the same, so why don’t I just shut up and let you tell me how you understand this plan. If for some reason I don’t agree with you, my plan is to keep my mouth shut and say “Thank you Dwight for sharing that!” If I agree whole-heartedly, I’m still planning to say “Thank you Dwight for sharing thay!” This marathon needs to end somehow, and I think you unfolding God’s plan, unencumbered by questions, would be a good way to tie this thing up. What do you think?

  129. 1-17-2013

    I have been following along and have been reading all the comments here, but I’ll have to admit I don’t think I am retaining it all. Especially when the comments are so long.

    I do appreciate the tone of the comments and the general maturity shown by all parties. Maybe it would be possible for you all to be a part of the same local church and still fellowship together with different viewpoints. Thus proving that love can triumph over disagreements. Denouncing the heresies of division that both Dwight and Ben experienced in previous fellowships.

    One basic thing that Ben said that I don’t get yet after reading all this is why accepting a free gift is somehow taking away from salvation being completely grace. When someone gives me a gift although I have to accept it to receive it I never think that my accepting of it makes it so that I did a portion to earn it. Maybe with our western logic we dice and slice the Bible much more than our Lord ever intended.

    I have no intention of getting involved in this debate, however it has been interesting and educating to read along with all of you. Thank you all for your part in attempting to make both sides understandable.

    By the way I think the winner of this debate will be the person with the last comment. :) Just kidding

  130. 1-17-2013

    Rod,

    Yes, I agree. I appreciate the tone of the comments, and I’ve also found several of the comments to be too long… :)

    And, also, yes, it is quite possible to fellowship regularly with people who have different views on this topic, as long as Jesus Christ is the focus of that fellowship. I know because I’m living it now.

    From my perspective, the “winner” of the debate will be the one who loves the most and serves the most… but maybe that’s just me.

    -Alan

  131. 1-18-2013

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2)

    Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. (1 Cor 9:24)

  132. 1-18-2013

    Hey Rod and Alan!!

    Thanks for letting us know that you’ve been following along. Yes, some of the comments are very long. But, as long as we stay focused on Christ, it’s all very joyful, both the reading and the writing. Truly, the Holy Spirit as at work in the hearts of those engaged!

    I am utterly grateful to have such a dialogue in this medium, and I wish to explicitly thank Alan for letting us use his blog for such a platform as this that would normally throw people for a loop. I also wish to thank everyone who has chimed in, in one way or another, such as Alan, Ben, Randi, Doug, Rod, and Tom, as well as those who may be remaining on the sideline to observe this sanctifying exchange. May it be a blessing to all of us!

    Dearest Ben,

    I will do my best to specifically respond to your last comment sometime today. Work beckons me. Thank you SO much for fully engaging with all your heart. I know it takes a lot of time and effort to continue, but let us persevere with endurance. Consider it all joy!

    Showers of Blessings, Grace, and Truth to you all!

    Love, In Christ,
    Dwight

  133. 1-18-2013

    Hi Ben, et al.

    Hey, so me you and Dwight are not alone here. Be careful what you write… (Just kidding of course). I welcome all and there is no hidden agenda here, we are all seeking to “know him better” (Eph 1:17). With that motive, we will all be benefited by the dialog.

    One thing, I don’t want you to “shut up and listen”. Interrupt me, jump in, and say what is on your mind. I certainly don’t mind and I believe it adds to the richness of the discussion. Look, I might just have my own doctrine, and it just circulates in my own mind. I would never ask tough questions or challenge this or that pillar I hold. After all, I believe it. It all makes sense to me. But, here comes Dwight, or Ben, or Alan to say something that upsets my calm sea of thought. Is that good or bad? It is Great! Ask away, chip away, and disagree because…, I welcome your thought. I need your thought for my own objectivity. Also, I can stand corrected. And, in the end, I will love you for leading me closer to the Lord. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2Tim 3:16-17). Since we are students of the word, with all that teaching, correcting, rebuking and training going on, I see rough and turbulent seas ahead. I said all that to say, Ben, don’t be quiet. My mom said I can’t say “shut up”.

    Believe it or not, I have read everything you wrote Ben. The exception would be the posts where you and Dwight were comparing ancient confessions. I have some catching up to do there. Here is a paragraph you wrote that I think demands an answer. Although, my time is divided and limited, I wanted to answer. You wrote much. Here it is for the sake of context.

    Ben wrote:
    “I take that to mean that men do not have the natural ability to turn to God. God needs to give us this ability. Now the fifty dollar question is “Does God give this ability to everyone?” Our natural inclination is to say of course He does. The question however is “Is that what Scripture teaches?” John’s gospel goes into this, and it says some fairly uncomfortable things. I mentioned this verse previously, but John 6:44-45 says: “No one can come to Me except the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned of the Father comes to Me.” John 6:37 says that all the people that the Father gives to Christ come to Him. The ones who come will not be cast out. Christ gives eternal life to those people (John 17:2) and makes the Father known to them (John 17:6). These are the ones that Christ prays for (John 17:9). These are the ones that behold Christ’s glory forever in heaven (John 17:24). Scripture teaches that some are given to Christ while others are not (John 17:9,14). We can’t simply ignore this stuff because it seems unpleasant at first glance. This is the holy word of God, therefore we need to believe it. Granted, I may be completely misunderstanding it, and I’m open to critical interaction with my interpretations. But I’m not cool with simply ignoring this stuff or piling aspersions upon God’s character as if our judgment of justice or fairness were of any weight in these matters. The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him (Hab. 2:20)”

    This is a long post already and I’m just getting started. Please forgive me. I did want to present the texts you raised with you context. The first passages would be John 6:37, 44, 45.

    John 6 is a great chapter. Here we find tremendous popularity for Jesus. Great crowds followed Him, especially after seeing the signs and miracles (6:2). Jesus takes this as an opportunity to do a mass miracle, the fishes and barley loaves (6:5-11). This mass miracle was for two reasons, as an object lesson for his doubting disciples and for the masses (of Jews) to believe in Him. As far as his doubting disciples, he had them gather the left-overs, “and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten” (6:13), 12 baskets. This was to teach the disciples who made sport of Jesus’ question/test (6:7-9). Don’t tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor! To the crowds, well, they had their ideas, read about it. They looked for Jesus intently the next day, but for the wrong reasons, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill” (6:26). He dodged the crowds because of their false motives. They wanted to see more miracles and were hungry again! Imagine that, they wanted more food! I know, I know, I’m getting to those verses soon. Really! Those signs and wonders were for them to know that their Messiah is standing in front of them, right now! And they are thinking about how to get you belly full again?? How disappointing!

    Jesus said, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval” (John 6:27). I am not a physical solution Jesus says, I am a spiritual solution. That is far more important! Boy, they are lucky they were dealing with Jesus and not my warped sense of humor. Moving on…. And, these are children of Abraham? They are supposed to recognize Jesus when He comes to them. They have the law, and their entire culture is built around this event. After Jesus had done miracle after miracle, sign after sign, they had the nerve to say, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?” (6:30), after He fed them all miraculously? I would have lost it. But Jesus didn’t (Thank you Lord). Listen to the exchange…

    John 6:33-35
    (33) For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
    (34) “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”
    (35) Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

    Do you get it? Do you see me? The Father sent me and here I am. If you believe in me, you will have eternal life. I’m the one! (Jesus insists). No, they didn’t get it. They dismissed Him to his face! “But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe” (6:36). Disappointing, for sure, and my heart goes out to our Lord here. What frustration He had to endure. What rejection from the very ones that should have been family and on His side through the most difficult times, and they dealt with Him harshly. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11). Now I know why it was said of him “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isa 53:3). Often as I study the life of Christ, and tears well up in my eyes just thinking about His plight. Ok, Ok, I forgot, I’m supposed to be addressing some texts.

    Next verse is one that is in question. “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). The context is about Jews, who should know better, and do not. Obviously, they don’t know the Father’s plan do they. Here is where we have to keep following the thought. Jesus is on the ground and it is not going as He thinks it should. He falls back to what He knows to be true. How would they know Him? Would they just guess that he was who he said he was? No, they would know because they were supposed to be students of OT scripture. Jesus did not come out of the blue for them, He came out of a context. They were taught the Father’s plan to send His Son through the Prophets, sanctuary services, the law and their many Sabbaths. Many simply ignored all that and engaged in the ritual, without the reality. Stephen addresses them, “”You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” (Acts 7:51). This resistance resulted in a pattern of resistance for some.

    Conversely, you should read Simeon’s whole testimony (Luke 2:25-34). It is refreshing in this regard. Here is a snippet, “Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace” (Luke 2:28-29). There were some who did get it. They recognized the Lord, and honored Him. I think of the woman with the alabaster jar… Ok, Ok, I know I’m getting off the point.

    So, back to those given to Him by the Father… Jesus explains further… “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). Jesus came to ratify the will of the Father by performing the necessary work of salvation. He becomes the object of salvation. Paul says it best here, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Rom 1:16). Paul says it best here, “first for the Jew…” Why? Because God established a nation that would be His priest nation to the other nations (Gentiles). That is the thought here. Not that some are made to believe, but that Jesus would come to those who are expecting Him. He would come to those who have been properly prepared by the Father to receive Him. And, what would they do? Believe in Him and He will raise them up at the last day…” But those Jews just didn’t get it:

    John 6:41-42
    (41) At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
    (42) They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven’?”

    They were visibly uncomfortable with Jesus’ claims. They were certainly going to express their displeasure. But, Jesus interrupts them and says: “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:43-44). He is saying, you all don’t know me because you have resisted the inner working of the Spirit from the Father. Does this mean that they were not chosen? No, not at all. They couldn’t see Jesus, even though He was standing right there in front of them. Oh yes, they wanted Jesus, and searched for Him intently earlier, but for the wrong reasons. When Christ directed their attention to the spiritual, they rejected Him. The Father “draws” by the Holy Spirit. What type of drawing is Jesus mentioning here?

    “It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.” (John 6:45). (Most likely a reference to Isa 54:13).

    Here is drawing explained. It is not the Father picking some out of Adam’s fallen race to be saved. It is right here, “They will all be taught by God”, This refers to the Jews, under the law being prepped for what would happen when Jesus came. “Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him” is to say that the Spirit would teach those Jews the true significance of the bread of life. They would see Him and would make the decision, “comes to me”. Drawing here is to have been at those bible studies in the OT. It is to have the Spirit witness Christ to you as He was revealed then, and you believe. Now, when Christ walks on those dusty roads, these believers would “come” to him. They’ve already seen Him spiritually, now they see Him standing in front of them, “Look, the Lamb of God!” Come…Come…“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mat 11:28).

    Things didn’t get much better. Read the context, most there departed from their only hope of salvation that day. Could they have believed? Not without the proper inward work of God. Can anybody just believe? No, this is a spiritual matter and our hearts have to be enlightened, made aware of the true issues at stake. The sovereign ambassador for Jesus is God the Holy Spirit. No one can be saved apart from the Holy Spirit’s work in common grace. Jesus is not comfortable with their decision and continues to plead with them (6:46-58). Then, He turns to his disciples:

    John 6:67-69
    (67) “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
    (68) Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
    (69) We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

    Their faith looked past the physical; “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” This was NOT their response. Their faith was not blind, it gave them sight. They had spiritual insight to recognize that this person standing before them was the “Holy One of God”. As for the others:

    “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Mat 23:37).

    An interesting story… Am I over time?
    “Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” (John 12:20-21). Hmmmm, Greeks (Gentiles) want an audience with Jesus? This throws the disciples into a tizzy. How would they handle this request? There is certainly confusion. That is not the story I’m focusing on here, it is the Lord’s answer.

    Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (John 12:23-32)

    Remember, Gentiles ask for an audience with Christ, and it gets Him to thinking. When I am lifted up (crucified), will draw all men to myself” To the Jew first… and then to the Gentile. In the OT, the Jewish Nation(s) were used as a light to the Gentiles. But now, Jesus says, we are to use the cross as the focal point. Fulfilled in this verse:

    When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: (John 16:8).

    I’ll stop here, knowing there is more to follow.

    Doug.

  134. 1-19-2013

    Hi Ben and Dwight,

    The next couple of days might be busy but I will continue soon. Some thoughts to consider.

    Common Grace. I mentioned this thought yesterday and I wanted to explain further. This is vital to God’s way of saving fallen man (at least the way I see it). Man is lost, for sure, and will not turn to God on his own. We discussed this already and we both agree with this point. Where we disagree is how God overcomes that problem. I don’t believe God just regenerates (saves) us apart from our will. Common Grace says that God the Holy Spirit enlightens us to the gospel message in spiritual death. Once we are enlightened, we now have our own tree of life before us, in the form of the cross of Christ. We are no longer blinded by spiritual death, but can see enough to make a choice for ourselves. First, we should make sure we see God’s vision to provide salvation to all, and then to put the onus to receive it or reject on us. Some would object to this thought because they say it puts man in the driver’s seat. I’d say, it’s God’s car and He wants me to be in the driver’s seat on this issue. Since this is His will, He has not lost any of His sovereignty at all, this is actually an expression of it. He achieves His will. He has redeemed people who have given Him permission to save them, completely respecting their God given will and at the same time maintaining His sovereignty. He has a redeemed people who can actually come to respect and love Him.

    Satan accused God of being unlovable in the Job scenario. He basically said that Job only worshiped and served God because protected and provided for him. He said that God bribed Job with such a lifestyle that he really served God out of duty, implying that no one would want to love God for who and what He is. God said, OK, that’s a fair test. Go ahead and I will allow you to remove some things from Job. God knew what was in Job’s heart, but Satan assumed only hatred was there. You know the story, Satan was wrong. Job really did love God at heart. We don’t have a God who is just in the background providing for us, He loves us and has an expectation that we would love Him back. Job proved it, and so have I. God is taking care of all my needs, yes, but it is more than that. He wants to have a relationship with me! He yearns for spontaneous fellowship and interaction and to fill my heart with His thoughts. He is a good God, and I know that is overused term, but I know it to be true. God wants to be more than a just a provider, He wants to be someone who seeks us for us, for relationship, love, fellowship and mutual enjoyment. Not only is God loveable, but He is love at the core of His being. He gives graciously of Himself without reserve, in all honesty and faithfulness. Each person of the trinity expressing their ardent love in terms of what they do for us. They just don’t do things for us, they give themselves, completely.

    Our next text will be in John 17. I will begin later. After all, I’m sure you are still reading the long John 6 post. I’m traveling to take my daughter back to school. It was great having her over the break. I’ll be in touch very soon.

    God’s Best,

    Doug

  135. 1-19-2013

    Hey guys,

    Thank you all for your interaction. I’m with Doug, I didn’t think I was annoying anyone but Doug, Dwight, and possibly Randi with my absurdly long and tedious comments. Sorry about that Rod and Alan (and if anyone else is out there, I apologize to you too). Those long tedious comments have actually come back to bite me in the butt. I’m tired. I took a breather from this stuff yesterday, and it helped a little. The ironic thing is the longer I stay away the more the comments pile up, which in turn makes more work for me if I’m going to continue with this. It’s a vicious cycle. The longer I continue with this thread the more I want to follow Randi’s lead and just get alone with God for a while and recharge my batteries. Yet if these interactions are actually accomplishing something (or even anything) mildly beneficial in us, I guess we should continue. I’m not pumped about it though. Maybe that will change, but even if it doesn’t, I guess it doesn’t really matter. We go on!! (And the crowd sighs in disappointment…)

    Anyway, I think Rod brought up something that perhaps he wanted me to try to respond to…I think. You actually made a great point, Rod. Why would the act of accepting a free gift be considered meritorious? I hear you, especially in the light of Romans 4:5 where faith and works are explicitly juxtaposed. Let me start out by saying that I don’t think believing is a work if you view it as a passive act (where someone is passively receiving instead of actively grasping) I believe that’s what’s going on in Romans 4:5. The person justified is ungodly. He’s finding his merit in the righteousness of Christ. The faith that does that is not working at all–it’s resting. There are other passages that paint faith and believing in a more active way. I think Dwight and Doug have both mentioned John 6:26-29. There faith is described as a work to be performed. In Galatians 5:6 Paul talks about “faith which works by love.” James says that a faith that doesn’t work is a dead faith, and the faith of the demons (James 2:17-20) When faith or belief is viewed actively, as the performance of a required duty (John 3:23) or the instrument through which a required duty is to be performed (Heb. 11:6), faith becomes intertwined with works or actually becomes a work itself. This is one reason why I think faith should be viewed as a gift from God (Rom. 12:3; Phil. 1:29; 1 Cor. 1:30). In the active sense I think faith is a grace bestowed by God, and not a duty performed by the flesh. If, however, we view faith as a condition, which we have to fulfill by ourselves, by the performance of which, God will be pleased with us, then I think we’re in danger of turning it into a work.

    I don’t know if that made any sense. Let me see if I can’t quote some Sproul here. He’s good at clarifying things. He addresses this issue in a blog entry at http://www.ligonier.org/blog/faith-work The whole thing is pretty short, and for that reason alone is worth reading, in my opinion. Here’s the part that caught my attention. He writes: “One way to err on faith is in fact to turn it into a “work.” In this error we see “faith” as a substitute for our obedience. This view suggests that in the Garden God required total and complete obedience from us in order for us to be at peace with Him. When that failed, God graciously lowered His standard. Now all that He requires of us is that we trust in Him. The trouble with this view is that it wrongly makes faith the ground of our salvation. We stand before the throne of God and He asks why He should allow us into His kingdom. We boldly reply, “Because of my faith.” God then answers, “Faith? I love faith! People with faith, that’s just the kind of people I want to have around. By all means, come on in.”

    Perhaps that’s a little too simplified, but I think he makes a good point. If we’re not careful we can substitute our performance of a required duty for the merits and righteousness of Christ. Reformed people believe the “Why should I let you into My kingdom?” question shouldn’t be answered with “I” statements…I believed, I repented, I loved, I whatevered. We believe we should answer the question with “Jesus” statements…You should let me in because Jesus died for me, Jesus took the punishment for My sins, Jesus imputed His righteousness to me, Jesus appeased your wrath, etc. We’re just big on making it clear that our hope is in Christ’s work, not ours. Faith, when viewed as a rejection of our works, a casting of all of our hopes upon Christ, is not a work. When it’s viewed as the condition we fulfilled in order to be acceptable to God, I think it might become one. That’s the way I view it at least. Feel free to add your two cents Rod, the water’s fine…and the other commenters are growing weary.

  136. 1-20-2013

    Ben –
    I think you all have done a fine job of perservering through your Guiness record comment conversation.

    In response to your mention of my name –
    I do hope that you will take time to retreat and go for a peaceful walk with the Lord in a deep forest by some still waters (that’s a manly enough visual, right?) and be refreshed & rejuvenated. Whether you stop the marathon or not doesn’t affect me…but to add in my 2 cents, I do feel there is a lot to be said for doing what (in general) you men are so good at doing which is boxing thoughts up in a nice little neat section of your brain and putting them away for awhile. Give the Holy Spirit some room to work in each subconscious & let Him be the Great Teacher He is. Sometimes when we give up our craving for understanding, to be understood, clarification — that’s the best place to be – as we surrender our running thought process to Him. So hard for intellectuals to give up control of their thoughts, isn’t it? I’m preaching to myself here.

    So that being said — I do pray that you would take your weary fingers to the Lord & know you’ve done a great job whether you continue or not(as well as you Dwight have done a great job and Doug and everybody!). I do pray for your refreshment.

    Praise God our great Teacher who guides & instructs us! He will give us the clarification & understanding we can handle, when He desires us to have it. Our focus & work is to believe in Him & desire to know Him. He is constantly drawing us to Himself and I praise Him that our heart is always His main concern.

    Christ is all!
    Randi :)

  137. 1-20-2013

    My Dear Ben,

    You are far from annoying me! In fact, in a brotherly affectionate way, I would like to encourage you to avoid using such words as annoy, absurd, and tedious. I know you are partially being sarcastic, and I appreciate your humor. But, I also recognize that the idea of what these words express may be partially true in your mind, and perhaps in your heart. The notion that your comments are anything but mature, thoughtful, kind, and honest, is utterly false. Yes, there are many thoughts being presented, but they are not annoying. There are inconsistencies with the thoughts of others, but they are not absurd. There is the use of repetition as a means to get your point across, but it is not tedious. These thoughts, inconsistencies, and repetition, reflect what is on your mind and in your heart. Who can fault you for expressing them, Ben, especially in such an open, honest, and vulnerable way? Certainly not I, and I’m sure Doug and Randi would agree!

    Yet, there remains debate and confusion because we all want to defend biblical things and there is disagreement about issues as fundamental as salvation. How is that even possible? How is it possible that we both bow our kness before our Lord and Saviour yet differ as to our understanding about how we got here, or what it implies?

    Most of all, Ben, know this, that you are challenging me in a good way, in an excellent way! Our discussion causes me to examine the Scriptures and see if these things are so, and that is more noble indeed than doing nothing or relying on the doctrines of men (Acts 17:11, Mark 11:6-8). I must also examine my own heart and judge myself. Are these doctrines in my heart or in my head? What thoughts of God do I need to reinforce so that I am not tossed by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:11-14)? If my motivation is anything less than love, than I am the noisy cymbal (1 Cor 13, Eph 4:15-16)! Is my reliance on anything other than His Word? If so, let me be taught of God, corrected, and instructed in righteousness, that I might be a complete man of God, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). I can think of few things more joyful than being blessed by God after wrestling with Him as I limp onward.

    The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh grows weary. Refresh yourself in the Lord, Ben. We all need to do that, often. Read/write only when you are refreshed. The blog and these comments will still be here….

    Refreshed? Ready? Truly? Then I wish to address something you said earlier. (My hope is that this also would be refreshing to your soul.)
    Earlier, you said, “I think Dwight and Doug have both mentioned John 6:26-29. There faith is described as a work to be performed.” However, I submit that it is not faith that is being described as much as it is work that is being redefined.

    Salvation and sanctification are similar in this regard: we are saved by His Word (John 1:12-13, John 1:14, John 3:16), and we are sanctified by His word (John 17:17). When we were lost, we had been working and yet found no rest. He invited us to find rest in Him. We humbled ourselves, came to Him, listened, understood, and believed, and we were saved. The Holy Spirit did His work in convicting us of sin because we did not believe in Christ (John 16:8-11). We were enlightened and believed, and as a result, we were born again, saved, indwelt with the Holy Spirit, adopted as children, justified, made righteous in Christ, etc, etc.

    Now, we can begin the real work! Yet, we still work for the food that perishes, eat our fill, and work again. Jesus is inviting us to stop working in that sense. He clearly states that work is believing, trusting, and relying in the One whom God has sent. What kind of ‘work’ is that? Passive work would be paying someone to mow your lawn. Active work would be mowing the lawn yourself. This ‘work’ is neither. God in us is mowing the lawn. He is at work in us. He clearly said He would be. It is not about us. Our ‘work’ is to believe that and trust Him. Such ‘work’ always points to Christ. Let us always find our rest, joy, and peace in Him, and in Him alone!

    With all joy in Him, grace be to you!
    Dwight

  138. 1-20-2013

    I agree with Dwight! In that Ben (and all) should not feel annoying, absurd or anything negative. I think this has been a positive conversation —and I think it’s a blessing to be able to process & intellectually exercise together. This is a great tool to be able to process out things with people from differing views than yours that you might not come across in your real life. Great practice for future (hopefully in person) conversations! And whenever you all do rest it… enjoy the rest from all the exercising :)

  139. 1-20-2013

    P.S. Dwight –

    You mentioned something I think about often….

    “Yet, there remains debate and confusion because we all want to defend biblical things and there is disagreement about issues as fundamental as salvation. How is that even possible? How is it possible that we both bow our kness before our Lord and Saviour yet differ as to our understanding about how we got here, or what it implies?”

    If I haven’t shed a hundred tears over this – this year alone!!!!…. How is it possible!? I plead that with God often. OHHH how I can not wait until heaven for no other reason than to all KNOW the Truth and be unified!!! How can I KNOW KNOW KNOW KNOW KNOW the things I know and truly think that *all* MUST see what I see because it’s sooo clear (although there is very few things that I truly do feel this way about)….. and yet God humbles me frequently, continually putting people in my life that differ from me, don’t see things exactly as I see them, and we must seek unity in Him – is *that* possible is my new question!? :)

    I believe I am slowly beginning to understand this is exactly the way He desires it to be right now. I am surrounded with brothers/sisters with differing views, backgrounds, futures, paths, gifts — can we look past it? Can we even gather as a Church with people so different? What am I willing to let go of? what ideas, or doctrine or knowledge if any, are worth clinging too with a stubborn fierceness.

    kiddos calling.

    just wanted to say i hear you!! :) thanks for letting me ramble. how it is possible?! because He allows it and He uses it for our good.

  140. 1-20-2013

    Hey guys,

    Thanks for the messages and thanks for the fellowship. I think I’m good to go again. It wasn’t so much the conversation that I was getting weary of, it was just other stuff that was going on simultaneously that dwarfed the importance of this blog. I have a friend that’s going through an unspeakably difficult set of trials, and he and his family have been coveting our prayers, and I was basically just irritated that I was investing more time in these comments than I was in prayer for this family. This family is the best, and they deserve better. Those circumstances basically made me detest these comments. I think the worst is past for him and his family, so I’m warming up to this conversation again, but if things change I may go AWOL for a while.

    That being said, you may be right about John 6. Maybe Jesus is redefining works. I’ll check it out a little better tomorrow.

    I agree with both of you guys. The church is a weird entity. Only God would put together such an ecclectic group of people for the glory of His name. I can’t make sense of it. Let’s hope He’s got a plan here. :-)

  141. 1-22-2013

    Ben and Dwight,

    Hope you are all well. I’m writing to finish the thought on John 17, which I promised.

    Ben wrote:
    The ones who come will not be cast out. Christ gives eternal life to those people (John 17:2) and makes the Father known to them (John 17:6). These are the ones that Christ prays for (John 17:9). These are the ones that behold Christ’s glory forever in heaven (John 17:24). Scripture teaches that some are given to Christ while others are not (John 17:9,14). We can’t simply ignore this stuff because it seems unpleasant at first glance. This is the holy word of God, therefore we need to believe it. Granted, I may be completely misunderstanding it, and I’m open to critical interaction with my interpretations.

    We learned that it is the Father’s will that we believe in Christ. “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40). This is the case in the verses mentioned. The Father is said to “draw” (6:44), and also “enables” (6:65), all in an attempt for those there would believe in Christ. We said that there is a pre-salvation work of the Holy Spirit, the Father’s agent in bringing people to Christ (common grace). It is interesting that the Holy Spirit continues to have that ministry today (John 16:8-10). We also saw how the Spirit draws, enables, and that is through OT teaching.

    John 17:2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

    Christ has been given authority by the Father to give eternal life to those who come to Him. Their OT preparation is essential to them recognizing Christ and putting their faith in Him. “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:46-47). Who are those given Him in context? “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word” (John 17:6). Who are the ones given, in context? Those followers of Christ, especially the disciples. Let’s look at the verses describing the only group it could be:

    John 17:6-12
    (6) “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world (Christ revealed Himself to the disciples). They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word (Those on the ground, there, not every past believer and certainly not every future believer is in view).
    (7) Now they know (The Disciples know) that everything you have given me comes from you.
    (8) For I gave them the words (The disciples) you gave me and they accepted them. They (The disciples) knew with certainty that I came from you, and they (The disciples) believed that you sent me.
    (9) I pray for them (The disciples). I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me (the disciples, in context), for they are yours.
    (11) I will remain in the world no longer, but they (The disciples) are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father,
    (12) While I was with them (The disciples), I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction (Judas Iscariot) so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

    Of course, the parentheses are mine. Hopefully, we can see that this is no special Calvinist construct going on here. Jesus is leaving very soon and is praying for His disciples, which have a tremendous task ahead of them.

    John 17:20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
    Here is a verse that refers to us in this age. Notice, the key thought here is “believe”. Believing is the only way to take the free offer of grace from the Father. You are right, we cannot ignore these passages, however, they do not support the Calvinistic thoughts of elect individuals. The context does not bear this out.

    Believing is the only way to receive the free gift. Of all the senses of perception we have, rationalism, empiricism, faith is the only non-meritorious way we can receive salvation. Faith is an act of the will, but it is non-meritorious. Faith at it’s core meaning is to depend, trust, rely, but not on self, on another for knowledge, truth, or action. Faith requires that we look AWAY from ourselves, not at ourselves. When it comes to salvation, the object of faith is the Lord Jesus Christ. He did all the work necessary, He is the savior, and by trusting in Him, you will have eternal life. Looking at the Law is the opposite of faith, for it requires that we look back at ourselves. Faith has different meanings in scripture, and often the object of faith changes. For instance, in the objective sense, faith is a synonym for bible doctrine.

    (Jude 1:3)
    Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

    Jude is not writing about salvation, although He wanted that as his subject. He feels more strongly about contending for the faith. Here, faith means bible doctrine, or the body of truth we are given from the Apostles. Or, another example… “One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables” (Rom 14:2). Again, faith here refers to doctrine. However, it is still at the core, trusting and depending on doctrine.
    “Walk by faith and not by sight”, Live, conduct yourself according to the doctrines you have learned.

    John 6:28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
    John 6:29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

    Here, faith is not a work. It was their thought that they must do something. Christ says that the work they can do is to simply have faith, which is simply believing (John 6:36, 40). Faith and human works are mutually exclusive. I’m sure there are more examples and if there are scriptures that don’t seem to follow this pattern, please ask me.

    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
    (Eph 2:8-9)

    Notice, if faith is going to be in the same sentence with “grace” and “saved” and “not of yourselves” and “gift” and “not by works”, it most certainly is NOT a work.

    Faith is not a gift, it is an act of the will. All have faith as a part of our makeup as human beings. Some have it but it is not placed in the correct object. Faith in man is an example. Or, man has faith, but refuses to express that option to believe in Christ. He has faith, but withholds it (John 3:36).

    For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, (Php 1:29)
    I don’t see this as God giving us faith to believe, but this verse says that it is an honor, a privilege to believe in Christ, but also it is an honor to suffer for him. Suffering with Christ identifies us with Him and His sojourn in this world. If we suffer we will also share in His glory. We will be rewarded for our service, just as Christ was highly exalted for His suffering in this world (Rom 8:17, 18). So, it is an honor, and good information for these believers to know that they may experience suffering. They were not to be ashamed, but to hold their heads high, knowing they are walking in the footsteps of our Lord.

    Thanks for listening and hopefully this helps the conversation.

    God’s best,

    Doug

  142. 1-22-2013

    Hi Randi,

    You wrote:
    If I haven’t shed a hundred tears over this – this year alone!!!!…. How is it possible!? I plead that with God often. OHHH how I can not wait until heaven for no other reason than to all KNOW the Truth and be unified!!! How can I KNOW KNOW KNOW KNOW KNOW the things I know and truly think that *all* MUST see what I see because it’s sooo clear (although there is very few things that I truly do feel this way about)….. and yet God humbles me frequently, continually putting people in my life that differ from me, don’t see things exactly as I see them, and we must seek unity in Him – is *that* possible is my new question!?

    I also liked Dwight’s statement that it is a shame that we are divided over the gospel message. I think Dwight was saying (please correct me if I’m wrong), that we should all be on the same page. That is the answer, that we should be on the same foundation. God has given us clarity, not confusion. Reject the confusing voices that do not speak the very words of God. “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” (1Pet 4:11a). You are to reject what is not true to the word. That is our only guide for faith and practice (heard that somewhere). How do you do that you ask? Did you ask? Well, you simply trust, depend and rely (faith) on the fundamental truths given us in the word.

    I submit to you that the message of the gospel is clear. It is not confusing or ambiguous. The way of salvation cannot be obscure and hidden. Christ died for all, and it is the Father’s intention to make this known in the world and then that we would believe in Him and have eternal life. I know you are saying, elementary Doug. That’s right, it is elementary. But, then the enemy comes in and tries to take away from the simplicity that is in Christ (heard that somewhere too). The enemy will attack the simplicity by questioning, distorting and twisting the words, saved, faith, gospel, believe, eternal life, Christ. It is pretty much what Satan told the Woman in the garden. “Did God say that? Really?

    Our objective is to believe the truth (Your word is truth). Believe means that God the Holy Spirit teaches us the meaning and we simply trust it. Our faith becomes our sight. Need more? Continue to read more of what God wrote in the word of truth. Faith becomes sight and you will have eyes to see. With open eyes, you fears and doubts subside and you develop confidence and assurance. This is the milk of the word we are discussing here, not an enigma. God intends that we drink the milk, know it, understand it. God is clear, direct and to the point. I leave you in the capable hands of our Lord who will never let you down.

    I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
    (John 10:28-29)

    God’s Best,

    Doug

  143. 1-22-2013

    Morning All!

    Doug, you said…
    “I also liked Dwight’s statement that it is a shame that we are divided over the gospel message. I think Dwight was saying (please correct me if I’m wrong), that we should all be on the same page. That is the answer, that we should be on the same foundation. God has given us clarity, not confusion. Reject the confusing voices that do not speak the very words of God. “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” (1Pet 4:11a). You are to reject what is not true to the word. That is our only guide for faith and practice (heard that somewhere). How do you do that you ask? Did you ask? Well, you simply trust, depend and rely (faith) on the fundamental truths given us in the word.”

    Thanks for picking up on my thought there, Doug! I just love the simple yet profound wisdom that follows in your elaboration of John 17 and other scriptures. Truly, it is clear that Jesus for prays for His disciples with Him, and then for the ones who would believe in Him through their message. John 17:17!!

    I agree: the gospel is absolutely beautiful in its simplicity (Romans 1:16-17). Let us crave the milk (1 Peter 2:2-3), but then strive to mature (Heb 6:1-2). So, I would simply add that we should either be on the same page or striving to be on the same page, and then, and only then, move on to meatier topics (1 Cor 3:1-3, Heb 5:12-14). Let is continually seek and maintain the unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:1-3)!

    I also agree that initially turning toward Christ, trusting in God’s word, humbly surrenduring to His will, and continuing to walk with the Spirit, etc, is all by choice. That is how I know that I love God! And God rewards those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6 KJV), which is primarily acheived by revealing more of Himself. It only gets better!!

    Peace and joy in Christ!
    Dwight

  144. 1-22-2013

    Thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts, answers, comments, and concerns. Thanks goes out especially to Dwight and Doug. You’ve invested a great deal of time and effort into this discussion. May God richly bless you for that. I do think it’s time for me to bow out of this conversation. I will continue to chew on your thoughts, and seek God’s guidance on these issues. Thank you Alan Knox for allowing this conversation to take place, and for so graciously sharing your bandwidth. A special thanks goes out to Randi. You are wise beyond your years. Thanks for adding a measure of simplicity and clarity at just the right spots in this discussion. Dwight, thank you so much for your patience and diligence, your passion and grace, your wit and honesty. This conversation wouldn’t have happened without you. By the way, if you want to share God’s plan for the church age believers, I would like that. May God bless you all!!

    Signing out,

    Ben

  145. 1-22-2013

    Ben,
    I thank God for our new friendship and being able to have a window into your thoughts & heart. I do hope you will keep in touch. God has blessed you with courage & faith – thanks for sharing your journey with us here. Thanks also for the encouragement.

    Dwight & Doug,
    In my last comments, I was really speaking on this specific debate (as well as many others around me) that focus on all the intricacies of *how* our salvation plays out. I wasn’t speaking about people who I disagree with that are *not* brothers and sisters. I really was referring to the differences in beliefs among the Church. Why God does things a certain way and how much & how He mixes His sovereignty & our free will, for example. I agree we, as Christ followers DO all share a common foundation, Jesus….and sometimes that truly is all I really feel definite about. That there is a God, He created me, He loves me and saves me through His son Jesus. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so – and I am definitely clinging to that. I have many opinions on many other things but I definitely hold them more loosely than I do the gospel.

    I know that God’s ways are higher than mine and I think many wrong things about Him and this world…as much as I wish I didn’t…and as much as I wish I was *never* wrong or incorrect in anything!! Praise God for His gentle kind mercy that allows me to accept that truth that I think incorrect things & don’t know everything fully…..and cling to the hope that someday I will have total clarity AND unification with all my loved ones around me!!! <3

    In the meantime, I do believe He is doing an amazing job of using our limited knowledge & pieces of understanding here and there to create a greater need in us for each other!!… and a genuine love not based on full agreement — all for our good & His glory! I LOVE HIM!!!!!!

    may God's love continue to blow you all away.

  146. 1-23-2013

    Greetings Ben,

    You said, “Thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts, answers, comments, and concerns. Thanks goes out especially to Dwight and Doug.”

    You are so welcome Ben!

    You said, “I do think it’s time for me to bow out of this conversation. I will continue to chew on your thoughts, and seek God’s guidance on these issues.”

    We are praying for you, Ben. I personally know how hard and heart-wrenching it can be to carefully examine and have to let go of the ingrained doctrines of men. It can feel draining. Yet, that distinction needs to be made. Let the cup of your will be emptied and seek His will continually, daily, and He will fill your cup to overflowing, and rivers of living water will well up in your heart. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

    I also know how very rare it is to be able to have the kind of discussion we’ve had in this blog. It’s been a real joy even while challenging; both because it always brought us back to His word and His truth, which I love. So long as there are questions that linger, I would encourage you to seek solid, scriptural answers. It’s going to be next to impossible to find support for genuine scriptural thoughts that have not been tarnished or outright trashed by human reasoning. Even though I am still growing, I’d like to offer you that support in all brotherly affection. Feel free to reach out to me at dwight_usa@yahoo.com for such support.

    You said, “Dwight, thank you so much for your patience and diligence, your passion and grace, your wit and honesty. This conversation wouldn’t have happened without you.”

    “Aww, shucks folks, I’m speechless!” It takes two, Ben. Ditto. It was awesome and I’m going to miss your input. I think your departure from this conversation will end the conversation. But, there’s plenty of material to go back and read, and plenty of scripture to re-evaluated and meditated upon!

    In closing, you added, “By the way, if you want to share God’s plan for the church age believers, I would like that.”

    I owe it to you, Ben! You got it!

    I’ll start by listing some critical principles in understanding scripture, defining certain terms, and describing the necessary boundaries, but, for the sake of brevity, I’ll try to limit those to bullet points. Distinctions are necessary to understand and appreciate what God has wrought. Principles, for example, help us stay focused on God’s thoughts in the passages versus man’s common practice of extracting verses from the context on which to hang their doctrines.

    Finally, I will try to keep it short and simple (KISS), and stay away from difficult terms, such as predestination and foreknowledge. But, we all know how good I am at practicing the KISS method that I preach. NOT!!! Anyway, here it goes…

    Principles:
    1. Context is everything! This is utterly critical. Taking things out of context is a mighty and common error made by people, as well as a tactic of the devil. Let the context override previous assumptions about what specific verses meant.

    2. God wants to be fully known! He desires for us to come to the full knowledge of the truth. And, those things can be done in this life! He is not hiding anything from us in the church-age. This is a clue to the special blessing He has given church-age believers.

    3. Paul, pastors, authors, preachers, etc, have nothing you can’t have! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ll never get there. By all means, you absolutely can, if you want. He will reward those who seek Him. The same Spirit that was given to Paul was given to you, and this Spirit is nothing less than God’s only Spirit.

    Did He give us the Holy Spirit so we could speak in tongues? Peanuts!! Did He give us the Holy Spirit so we could be moral? Cashews!! Did He give us a Spirit of fear, or confusion, or only part of His Spirit so that we can only know in part and the rest we learn in Heaven? Filberts!!! Did He give more of Himself to some than others? Absolutely! (Gotcha?!) Why? Because those are the ones that diligently sought Him. Be encouraged to do likewise.

    (Back to the KISS method!)

    4. Milk first, meat later! Let what’s clear be the firm foundation for understanding what’s not yet clear. How many times has Paul said to his readers, I’d love to give you the meat of the word but you were not ready for it. That’s because, the milk of the word, basic doctrines and elementary principles of Christ, was not entirely settled in their hearts, even though they started out on the right path.

    For example, if salvation is guaranteed by a deposit of the Holy Spirit, a basic doctrine, than the condition listed in Col 1:23 for Christ to present us ‘holy and blameless and above reproach before Him’ must mean something else. (It does.) How could it mean I will be presented in such manner only “IF” I continue in the faith? Can I lose my salvation if I slip up? Yikes! That’s a scary thought. (However, consider the similar text in Php 2:14-16. It clarifies that Paul is talking about now, ‘in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation,’ not when we get to heaven’s gate.)

    5. Let salvation passages be for salvation, and sanctification passages be for sanctification! If you over-complicate salvation, the special blessing for church-age believers will not seem so impressive. A common error is that people too easily read over doctrines that don’t seem to be adding to all the facets required for them to understand salvation according to the doctrines of men. That is why Calvinism has a hard time answering the questions Doug raised about the lost. It can’t! Because it attributes verses to salvation that were meant for sancitification after one is saved. Not all facets are that of salvation. Learn to keep salvation separate from sanctification, and realize the bulk of what’s being communicated in the NT is oriented toward your sanctification, not salvation.

    6. Scripture means what it says! Sometimes, knowing the original Greek is necessary to fully understand the point being made. But, I’ve heard too many people, even pastors, give the excuse in order to support their warped views that “yeah, it says that, but it doesn’t really mean that.” After hearing that one too many times, it raised the flag of skepticism in me even higher, and I turned to Him for understanding, and He gave it (and continues to give it).

    Commonly Confused Terms:
    These terms are commonly misused because the reader has not let the context define them, but assumes they always mean the same thing whenever they are used. Let the context and clear doctrines help in understanding which meaning applies in order for the author, ultimately for God, to get His point across.

    Saved: sometimes this means salvation, sometimes it means being saved from something other than God’s wrath. “How can I be saved?” refers to salvation. 1 Cor 3:15 refers tot he assurance of salvation. 1 Tim 2:4 refers to God’s desire for salvation for everyone. But, 1 Tim 2:15, for example, is not referring to salvation.

    Faith: Sometimes this means saving faith, sometimes it means perseverence, sometimes it means Bible doctrine. “Saved through faith,” (Eph 2:8-9) refers to a faith that saves. “Keep the faith,” refers to Bible doctrine.

    Boundaries:
    1. Church-age believers are NOT Israel! What people seem to confuse is the distinction between the promises and inheritance for Israel versus the promises and inheritance of church-age believers. They are not the same, nor did they mesh when the church came about.

    2. The church-age has a beginning and end! It began at Pentacost and ends with the Millenium (Doug, please correct me if I’m wrong). Ephesians 2:7 refers to ‘coming ages’ that follow the church-age. That verse shows an incredible purpose for the church.

    3. Church-age believers are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. The indwelling of the Spirit was not required for salvation prior to the church-age. The method was always the same: basically, faith in God (as Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness). Instead, we may see where the Holy Spirit annointed people for a certain purpose. Even John the Baptist died before the church-age but was annointed with the Spirit for a very special purpose: to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah. Recall Jesus saying the least in the church (kingdom of heaven) are greater than John the Baptist? That is why. John the Baptist was merely annointed with the Spirit, church-age believers are indwelt with the Spirit. Some people lost that annointing. Believers in the church age have been given a very, very special gift: the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God’s own Spirit which we will never lose, given as a guarantee.

    What is God’s plan? It so simple, you can easily miss it and most do. It is best described in scripture as a mystery, even a profound mystery. It is The Mystery. It is the same thing, not a similar thing, that Christ has. Christ can fully know God as His Father. Christ can have such an intimate relationship with the Father that He refers to it as being “in Him and He in Me.” They are NOT just walking side-by-side holding hands. They are One and the Same. There is what you might call mutual-possession.

    God’s plan for us is that WE, church-age believers, are One and the Same with Him, to be indistinguishable from Him, that when we speak people hear Him, that when do antything we have the same motivation as Him. No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God, and WE, church-age believers, have been graciously given that Spirit.

    How is it possible that we become so close to Him that our thoughts become His thoughts, and our ways His ways? First, believe it is possible and that is what He desires. Second, it is certainly not from our own strength, but from strength that comes from Him, His very Spirit, the same One that has been in the Father since eternity past and is in the Father into eternity future, the same Spirit that is in Christ, is in us, church-age believers.

    Yet, how few people realize this. How few people grow to maturity or even seek maturity. They delight themselves in being a child of God, and are satisfied in remaining children. There is not unity of the Spirit, but instead there are denominations, agreements to disagree, judgment, etc. Yet, this message is for the mature, those who diligently seek Him, those who earnestly desire to have an such an intimate relationship with the Father as to not only understand His thoughts, but even dare to think His thoughts.

    And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”– these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Col 2:1-16)

    Ben, and any other reader with me in this comment, I urge you with all my heart to read the above scriptures carefully. God has given you Him – ALL of Him. Do you want all of Him? Or are you satisfied with the doctrines of men, remaining a child of God, or trying to be a good person? He will not force Himself upon you. But He has graciously offered you more than we could ever ask or imagine! And it is by His grace that will pour out this blessing upon those who diligently seek Him.

    Finally, with a mature mind, and with faith in Christ, not the doctrines of men, read afresh the letter of Paul to the Ephesians. These saints had grow in their salvation as much as they knew how, and Paul recognize this. He basically asked and answered his own question to them: “Are you ready to go to the next level? Here’s how!”

    So, the question remains for you and you alone to answer, “Are you ready to go to the next level?” If not, it is no cause for shame. Desire the milk of the word and saturate yourself with it. There is no harm in that, only comfort and joy. But then grow, seek the meat, mature in Christ, and come to know what is the height, width, depth, and breadth of His plan for you, a church-age believer, and be strengthened in your inner spirit to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, and into all the fullness of God (Eph 3:1-19).

    Much love and grace to you, Ben. Much love and grace to you.

    Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:20-21)

    In Christ,
    Dwight
    (Please forgive any typos you might find.)

    PS – I think I’m just going to be honest with myself and kiss the KISS method goodbye!! ;-)

  147. 5-23-2013

    Well it’s been months since this ‘conversation’ ended… but the Lord brought Ben Plummer & Dwight (and Doug) to my mind today (which I thought was just so interesting of Him) and so I wanted to at least say hey. I hope you have been enjoying the Lord’s presence and having a great year. <3
    Randi :)

  148. 5-23-2013

    Thank you Randi! Things have been good. I’ve been taking some of your metaphorical “manly walks through the woods” (and some unmetaphorical ones too) and it’s been nice. I’m not super sure if I’m still feasting on milk or if I’ve actually transitioned to the meat of the word, but whatever I’m eating tastes good. For that I am thankful. I actually thought about you all a couple of days ago on my drive to work. What’s God been doing in you guys’ lives lately?

  149. 5-24-2013

    Thanks for thinking of us, Randi! I have some fantastic news… I do believe my 15 y/o son was saved/reborn on 5/21, just 3 days ago! What a whirlwind of activity that led up to that point! But, after seriously considering the gospel, and going through all the key verses that he already had heard plenty of times before, his heart was convicted. He humbly believed and trusted in Christ for having sole responsibility for his soul salvation. Very exciting! Now the growth can begin!

    Personally, I continue to study in John 15 and Ephesians 4. I believe I was in John 14 and Ephesians 3 when we were active in this thread, the longest thread of comments on Alan’s blog by far! I have an anology for being filled with the “all the fullness of God” that I’m writing and will post it on my blog, http://www.RevelationsForLife.com, hopefully this weekend.

    By the way, this Memorial Day weekend, let us seriously remember the countless people that have given their lives for the sake of others. And let us always strive to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Amen!

  150. 5-24-2013

    Hey you all!!

    DWIGHT – I rejoice with you, that’s soooo cool. Can’t wait for my children to fully surrender to God’s undeserved favor!! Appreciate your encouragement to remember those who have given their lives.

    BEN I love what you wrote! Thnx for writing back. I praise God with you for the taste buds He is forming in you to know it’s good, whatever it is :) and I also love that you’re out walking & finding rest :) That’s funny you thought of us, too. He is so cool!!

    Whoever –
    I guess right now as I journey on with the Lord, I feel like I’m coming to the end of the wrestling (hello self you are Jacob way too much) I’ve been doing for too long over knowledge/understanding/wisdom I continually lust after. And I feel I’m finally at the place of surrender God desires me to be… because He continually presses on me that knowledge will never nourish.

    Just like Eve though it would…desiring wisdom apart from & above the Lord…

    Genesis 3:6
    When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for GAINING WISDOM, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

    She chose wrong. Thinking wisdom would nourish and give her gain.

    but I see now that Jesus is all our wisdom.

    1 Corinthians 1:30
    It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

    and wisdom and understanding and knowledge is a GIFT from the Lord (Col 1:9)….. and it’s given to us in God’s Timing… SO WE MAY KNOW HIM BETTER. That’s why He gives it.

    because when we KNOW Him better….
    we know we who are in His eyes better….
    and we BECOME what we think He believes us to be and how we believe He see us…
    and then we BECOME able to LOVE others because we are becoming more and more like the image of our new life’s creator, Jesus:

    Ephesians 1:17
    I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, SO THAT YOU MAY KNOW HIM BETTER

    I am understanding that knowing Jesus is where it all starts and ends and everythings. The reverent awe & surrender to know Jesus intimately is the place where wisdom begins and ends. I must stop my lust for knowledge & wisdom…. and turn my eyes upon the One and only who nourishes my soul… and in so doing… brings life to me…. and wisdom.

    To put “Jesus” in the place of “wisdom” in all the chapters of Proverbs like blew my mind away.

    Knowing Jesus intimately and walking closer to Him every day is my goal. I know with Him as my Shepherd & Teacher & Guide & Righteousness & Savior & Redeemer & Healer & Lord….. I can trust He will direct my mind and what He wants me to know… and when. But if often does feel like He is doing all the work and He continually asks me to do less and less. I certainly feel like it has been Him wooing me my whole life… and continually drawing me back to Him….. and there’s many choices of surrender to that wooing along the way :)

  151. 5-25-2013

    It’s great to “catch up” with everyone. Thanks for kicking off this reunion, Randi!

    -Alan

  152. 5-28-2013

    Dwight – I tried to send you an email just now…. did you get it? IDK if I have the right email.

  153. 5-29-2013

    Randi and I had a breif email exchange. I tought I’d share here a little of what transpired.

    Randi asked what I thought about comments from Pope Francis about doing ‘good’. Hopefully, this link works. If not, cut and paste. In summary, Pope Francis made it sound like anyone can do good, Christian or not. Below the link is my response to Randi. Enjoy!

    http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/05/22/pope_at_mass:_culture_of_encounter_is_the_foundation_of_peace/en1-694445

    I do see that there needs to be a distinction in the use of the word “good.” There is “good” that anyone can do, just like people can perform random acts of kindness. Then there is another type of “good” that IS, in fact, reserved for those in the body of Christ, the true church. By the way, neither “good” can save a person. That should probably be said, too.

    Consider these verses, which are PACKED with truth and regards those who are saved / reborn…

    But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for GOOD WORKS, which God PREPARED BEFOREHAND, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10 ESV, highlight via CAPS mine)

    These “good works” CANNOT be the same as what Pope Francis is referring to, because the context bears out that it is only referring to those who are saved, AND they were saved for a special purpose, “good works, which God prepared beforehand.” The “good” that the average citizen can do are like the random acts of kindness. These are different.

    Just look at disasters, not for their awful outcome. But notice how many heroes show up! These good works cannot save, nor are they the ones God prepared beforehand. (Salvation is by grace alone by trusting in Christ for your soul salvation. It is never by works, no matter how heroic.)

    Also, remember that friendship with the world is enmity towards God (James 4:4). Yes, you can do “good,” but I hope the ultimate goal is to save souls, not just make the world a better place to live. If our goal is merely the latter, we fall far short of understanding God’s eternal purpose for the church.

    Dwight