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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Does the Bible really teach that there is no such thing as chance? | Main | Ask R. C. Live (January event) »

    God's Sovereignty and Belief by Force?

    Visitor: I believe God is sovereign. I also believe in free will, because the whole of Scripture does not seem to support God wanting robots. Is He the One who reveals to me His grace? Yes, the Holy Spirit precedes anyone who makes a decision to put their faith in Christ. Is He the One who sustains my belief? Yes, but I do not believe by force. Just as I would not want my girlfriend to love me because she did not have a choice, so the narrative of Scripture suggests that the Lord would not want people who only love Him because He predetermined they would love Him. Do I believe God knows who will and who will not receive His free gift of salvation? Absolutely! He is outside of time and can see both behind and beyond the present as we understand it. Do I believe He forces people to accept it? Hardly. Thank you for sharing regardless though Rachel. This is a theological issue that I wrestle with. Ultimately, whether it is predestination or free will (or as some have argued, BOTH!), the most important issue is whether people trust in Christ or not for their salvation. Whether or not someone upholds predestination or not is a secondary issue in comparison to primary (salvation) issues.

    Response: Jesus teaches that He came to save us, not to help us save ourselves. He gives us everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe:

    "The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing...No one can come to me unless the Father grants it" John 6:65

    "All that the Father gives to me will come to me" John 6:37

    Have you considered that you may be thinking about force in the wrong way. If your toddler ran out into the street into oncoming traffic (like we do into sin) then would you (as a parent) stand at the edge and simply tell him that you will only help him if he first meets your condition? No. If you are a loving parent you would run into traffic at the risk of your own life and make certain your child was safe, REGARDLESS of what your child's will was at the time because you know better than the child what is good for him. Likewise we are saved by mercy, not force. We do not deserve to be saved yet God, while we were still dead in sin, Christ made us alive in Christ (Eph 2:5) God's love for his own is unconditional. As soon as you add conditions then it is no longer grace. It would be like ascribing your repenting and believing to your own humility, wisdom, sound judgement or good sense and not to Christ alone. The Bible emphasizes effectual grace and predestination because it is safeguarding the gospel truth than salvation is by Christ alone. God does not love us because we meet his conditions. He loves us and grants us a heart to understand, eyes to see and ears to hear (Deut 29:4; 30:6) so that we may meet His condition to believe.

    Posted by John on January 30, 2014 08:28 PM

    Comments

    I would add, that we are saved by faith, not by choice. This faith is granted, it is not something that fallen man simply has dormant within himself. It is not of ourselves. God is the author of genuine faith. Without regeneration, you cannot have living faith. Spiritually dead men have dead faith that saves nobody. The idea of robots is not one that 1st century Christians would have understood, but many who deny God's complete sovereignty lean on that analogy. [Does He not know all things, and ordain or allow all things?] Paul said he worked harder than any other, but it wasn't him, it was the grace of God working in him. Some might call that robotic too. God does want people to choose to love Him, but the problem is they will not. Loving God is not just a romantic idea, but it is the greatest commandment, according to God. Natural man cannot obey the law of God though, so how will he love God? Regeneration. When he is born again, and given a new nature, then he will freely choose to love God.

    Also Jesus said: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:31-32). Do you believe that Peter’s faith made Christ’s priestly intercession effective or that Christ’s priestly intercession was the cause for Peter’s faith not failing? It is impossible for Christ to lose those for whom He intercedes. “I knew that You always hear Me” (Jn. 11:42); and “this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing” (Jn. 6:39). Christ is "the author and perfecter of faith" (Heb. 12:2), delivers enslaved sinners from the bondage of unbelief by His priestly sacrifice (Titus 2:14), and keeps them by His priestly intercession (Jn. 17:15; Heb. 7:25). "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy" (Rom. 9:16). "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven" (Jn. 3:27). If you have faith in Christ, thank God for that gift He gave you (Eph. 2:8-9).

    Visitor: I believe God is sovereign.

    -So do we:-)

    I also believe in free will, because the whole of Scripture does not seem to support God wanting robots.

    -I think you are committing the fallacy of bifurcation here. Either we have free-will or we are robots. The fact of the matter is we do make choices based on our will, but our will is in bondage to our sin nature which is fallen in Adam. Because of the fall man lacks the capacity to do that which is pleasing to God. (Jeremiah 13:23, Romans 3:10-11, Romans 8:7-8).

    Is He the One who reveals to me His grace? Yes, the Holy Spirit precedes anyone who makes a decision to put their faith in Christ.

    -If people our truly "free to choose" then why would the Holy Spirit need to draw in the first place?

    -Did He ask our permission before doing this?

    -What is the place called that He is drawing people away from that prevented them from choosing?

    We call that place Total Depravity.

    -If His Holy Spirit precedes our coming, then what was different in you which made you come that wasn't different in the person next to you?

    -If the Holy Spirit (God) knows what peoples ultimate decision will be (through foreknowledge) ahead of time, why would He bother "drawing" in the first place, wouldn't this be a fools errand?

    Is He the One who sustains my belief? Yes,

    -We also believe He sustains us it's called Perseverance of the Saints.

    but I do not believe by force.

    -Tell that to Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus, or Lazarus for that matter:-) You believe He sustains us once we "choose to believe" but how do you know He sustains us after we are believers? If we "chose" to believe then couldn't we also by our "free-will" chose not to believe, or do we lose our free-will once we are saved?

    Just as I would not want my girlfriend to love me because she did not have a choice, so the narrative of Scripture suggests that the Lord would not want people who only love Him because He predetermined they would love Him.

    -Your girlfriend can choose to love you but the difference is the Bible doesn't say that she lacks this capacity. It does however say that she, you, and all of us did lack this capacity to come to God on our own (see scripture above).

    Do I believe God knows who will and who will not receive His free gift of salvation? Absolutely! He is outside of time and can see both behind and beyond the present as we understand it.

    -You bring up a great point, if God is omniscient and He knows who will "receive" His Son and who won't, then why would He send His Son in "hopes" that all might come to repentance? Isn't this similar to watching the movie Titanic in hopes the ship doesn't hit the massive iceberg when we all already know what the outcome will be?

    Do I believe He forces people to accept it? Hardly.

    -Again the word "force" is a misunderstanding. If anything we were "robots" prior to our regeneration, but I think zombies is a more appropriate analogy. We were zombies following the god of this world (the prince of the power of the air) and now that we have been freed from our bondage to sin by having our nature changed, we now can have a relationship with our Creator because He took out our heart of stone and gave us a heart of flesh.

    Thank you for sharing regardless though Rachel. This is a theological issue that I wrestle with. Ultimately, whether it is predestination or free will (or as some have argued, BOTH!), the most important issue is whether people trust in Christ or not for their salvation. Whether or not someone upholds predestination or not is a secondary issue in comparison to primary (salvation) issues

    Jarod,

    I like your answers. Concise, biblical and to the point. Would you be interested in writing (on occasion) for Monergism.com? Do you have a blog?

    John

    So let me get this straight...based on your quotes above, the Order of Salvation is first the Holy Spirit, then the Father, then the Son...Is that right?

    Bob,

    Thanks for your post. The Father elected us in Christ before time (Eph 1:3-5), The Son redeems them in time and the Holy Spirit regenerates those the Father has elected through the means of the preaching of the gospel.

    The two quotes from the Bible above teach the same order if you look at them closely ..."All that the Father gives to me will come to me"...through the life generating work of the Holy Spirit (John 6:63)

    Human beings first encounter with God is through when the Holy Spirit begins working to convict of sin and then regenerates their heart to believe. So from our perspective the Spirit may appear to come first. But such work was planned from eternity.

    Thanks.

    Eve had a free will to choose between good (everything about life that God made around her)and evil(everything being "dead" or no longer expressing God's Life around her).

    Satan is the issue regarding free will. He is said to go "to and fro" looking for anything to challenge his Creator's will (as the serpent had been led to do when his "intelligence" led him to believe and pass on a challenge to God's authority). If we say that Satan was created for death and not that he chose it to have his will, we are not attributing ETERNAL life to everything God creates.

    When scripture says in one translation that the Lord "creates evil" it seems obvious to me that it means resistance against God brings about a state outside the Creator Who is LIMITED TO LIFE!!
    (true sovereignty embodies this)

    When limitations are understood to be necessary for defining personality or nationality, (respecting difference IN SIMILARITY), the infinite power of creative HARMONY is enhanced.

    Crossing the boundary of life with death is what Satan knew would give him power over God's limitation through discord. But God has proved through His brilliant strategy of harmony (TWO PARTIES choosing to HEAR EACH OTHER) the MORE LIMITED state of Satan's tactic (one demanding another hear a solo).

    It never fails to amaze me how that it is the true WARNING of God's Teaching through the WORD which provides ANYONE with choice to follow His Will.

    That WORD is equated with the Eternal Being of the Son of God, we now know to be named the Lord Jesus Christ, promised from the beginning to Eve before His Name was known!! His teaching cannot be doubted without doubting His Being.

    Being created in His Image means WILLING to harmonize together.
    When we choose to trust God, we follow life (God) rather than being led into death (Satan) by false teaching.

    Instead of sentimentalizing Mother's Day as errant teaching organizations will do on that Sunday morning, it would be the better choice to examine EVE, the mother of ALL living.

    Eve had a free will to choose between good (everything about life that God made around her)and evil(everything being "dead" or no longer expressing God's Life around her).

    Satan is the issue regarding free will. He is said to go "to and fro" looking for anything to challenge his Creator's will (as the serpent had been led to do when his "intelligence" led him to believe and pass on a challenge to God's authority). If we say that Satan was created for death and not that he chose it to have his will, we are not attributing ETERNAL life to everything God creates.

    When scripture says in one translation that the Lord "creates evil" it seems obvious to me that it means resistance against God brings about a state outside the Creator Who is LIMITED TO LIFE!!
    (true sovereignty embodies this)

    When limitations are understood to be necessary for defining personality or nationality, (respecting difference IN SIMILARITY), the infinite power of creative HARMONY is enhanced.

    Crossing the boundary of life with death is what Satan knew would give him power over God's limitation through discord. But God has proved through His brilliant strategy of harmony (TWO PARTIES choosing to HEAR EACH OTHER) the MORE LIMITED state of Satan's tactic (one demanding another hear a solo).

    It never fails to amaze me how that it is the true WARNING of God's Teaching through the WORD which provides ANYONE with choice to follow His Will.

    That WORD is equated with the Eternal Being of the Son of God, we now know to be named the Lord Jesus Christ, promised from the beginning to Eve before His Name was known!! His teaching cannot be doubted without doubting His Being.

    Being created in His Image means WILLING to harmonize together.
    When we choose to trust God, we follow life (God) rather than being led into death (Satan) by false teaching.

    Instead of sentimentalizing Mother's Day as errant teaching organizations will do on that Sunday morning, it would be the better choice to examine EVE, the mother of ALL living.

    Eve had a free will to choose between good (everything about life that God made around her)and evil(everything being "dead" or no longer expressing God's Life around her).

    Satan is the issue regarding free will. He is said to go "to and fro" looking for anything to challenge his Creator's will (as the serpent had been led to do when his "intelligence" led him to believe and pass on a challenge to God's authority). If we say that Satan was created for death and not that he chose it to have his will, we are not attributing ETERNAL life to everything God creates.

    When scripture says in one translation that the Lord "creates evil" it seems obvious to me that it means resistance against God brings about a state outside the Creator Who is LIMITED TO LIFE!!
    (true sovereignty embodies this)

    When limitations are understood to be necessary for defining personality or nationality, (respecting difference IN SIMILARITY), the infinite power of creative HARMONY is enhanced.

    Crossing the boundary of life with death is what Satan knew would give him power over God's limitation through discord. But God has proved through His brilliant strategy of harmony (TWO PARTIES choosing to HEAR EACH OTHER) the MORE LIMITED state of Satan's tactic (one demanding another hear a solo).

    It never fails to amaze me how that it is the true WARNING of God's Teaching through the WORD which provides ANYONE with choice to follow His Will.

    That WORD is equated with the Eternal Being of the Son of God, we now know to be named the Lord Jesus Christ, promised from the beginning to Eve before His Name was known!! His teaching cannot be doubted without doubting His Being.

    Being created in His Image means WILLING to harmonize together.
    When we choose to trust God, we follow life (God) rather than being led into death (Satan) by false teaching.

    Instead of sentimentalizing Mother's Day as errant teaching organizations will do on that Sunday morning, it would be the better choice to examine EVE, the mother of ALL living.

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