Monday, December 26, 2016

Jesus, Free Will, and Predestination

Almost two decades ago, the Southern Baptist Convention updated their confession of faith known as the Baptist Faith and Message of 2000.  That document summarizes Southern Baptists’ understanding of God’s Word.  Article V begins as follows:

"Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners.  It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end.  It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable.  It excludes boasting and promotes humility."

Now Christians have disagreed over the exact meaning of the opening word of this article.  Some believers refuse to use it.  Others will close their ears any time this word is used.  And I know there are some who feel the hair on the back of their neck raising whenever this word is used.  The problem, however, is that this word, and related words, are used in the Scripture.  You can’t ignore or disregard it.  The Bible speaks on the matter and so must the Christian, especially the preacher!

Our statement of faith says that election is:

(1)  First, “the gracious purpose of God”.  Election owes its very existence to the grace of Almighty God.  Apart from God’s grace, there would be no election.  Instead of deriding election, let us praise God for His grace which forms the basis of this doctrine.

(2)  Second, it is God’s purpose.  Election is not a “whim” of the Almighty.  Rather it is a doctrine based on His will, His purpose for the creation.  To despise the doctrine of election is to despise God’s very plan.

(3)  Third, election is the basis of all salvation.  As our statement reads, it is very election that God “regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners.”  Salvation is clearly the work of God alone and not man and election certainly testifies to this truth.

(4)  Fourth, election and “the free agency of man” are consistent.  Note well the choice of words:  “free agency” and not “free will”.  Man is a free moral agent.  Each man makes his own moral choices.  Election is consistent with these free choices.  To our puny minds that does not make sense.  How can God elect (or choose) yet man still have free agency?  We may not be able to explain this paradox but we accept, by faith, its validity.  Election and free agency are consistent.

(5)  Fifth, election “comprehends all the means in connection with the end.”  In other words, God does elect sinners to salvation.  However, he also elects the means to accomplish that end.  He has chosen prayer, preaching, teaching, and witnessing as means to accomplish His elective purpose.  To believe in election does not mean one does not believe in the means to salvation.  In other words, a man who believes the Bible teaches God elects sinners to salvation does NOT sin around and wait for God to accomplish that salvation.  Rather, he preaches and teaches and testifies to those who are lost and calls them to salvation.

(6)  Election  "is the glorious display of God's SOVEREIGN goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and UNCHANGEABLE."  In other words,  election is God’s choice, not ours, and that choice is final and irrevocable.  In other words, salvation for certain individuals (those elected) is "predestined".

Those opposed to election (and predestination) usually rise up at this point of the argument yelling “free will, free will”.  How can God elect or choose those who will be saved and then predestine them to that salvation and man have a free will.  Such an election and/or predestination is contrary to the free will of man.

Theologically, the doctrine of election is one aspect of the doctrine of predestination.  Predestination teaches that God has planned all that will occur.  That plan will unfold as He has planned it and nothing can or will change His plan.  Election teaches that part of predestination has to do with the salvation of sinners, namely, that God has chosen certain men from all mankind to be recipients of His saving grace.  This election predestines their eternal salvation.

Without repeating all the arguments supporting election (and predestination), I wish to simply examine what the Bible says concerning Christ and these doctrines.

Would anyone deny that, of all men who have ever lived, Jesus Christ was the most free?  Only he and the first Adam ever possessed a will which was untainted by sin.  Adam lost his untainted will when he ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  But our Lord Jesus never had his will corrupted by sin.  Scripture is clear that He never sinned.  Can any Christian deny that Jesus Christ possessed true free will and was the most free man who ever lived?  Any decision He made while walking this earth was truly a choice that was made by a will completely and totally free from any sin.  In Jesus we find TRUE FREE WILL. 

Yet what does Scripture say about this man? 

"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus:  for he SHALL save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)  Even before His birth Jesus' "destiny" was determined.  He WOULD save his people and, to accomplish this salvation, He must die a voluntary, substitutional, sacrificial death.  In other words, His death was "predestined" before his birth.  The most free human ever was predestined to die!  Now if predestination is true for the most free person who ever lived, how can predestination be objected to by any believer of Scripture?

"And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the LAMB SLAIN FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD." (Revelation 13:8)  Not only was the death of the most free man predetermined, it was predestined as far back as the creation!  This man with a perfectly free will was predestined to die on the cross. 

We must be honest with the Scripture.  Jesus was the only human who lived his entire life with a will perfectly free of the effects of sin and yet His death was predestined from eternity.  And, in fact, so was his birth!  Did not the prophet foretell He would be born of a virgin?  Did not Micah foretell He would be born in Bethlehem?  Even his birth, its nature and location, was predestined by God.  Furthermore, we can point out several Old Testament Scriptures which prophesies about our Lord's life here on earth:  His birth, His ministry, His death, His resurrection.  All of these prophecies were possible and correct because HIS ENTIRE LIFE WAS PREDESTINED.

Again, how can we believe the life of one so free such as Jesus is predestined and yet deny God's predestination in our own lives.  Jesus was chosen by God to be the Savior and predestined to that end yet some of us wish to deny predestination exists.  Again, consider just one Scripture:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:  according as HE HATH CHOSEN ("elected" in the original) US in him BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:  HAVING PREDESTINATED US unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, ACCORDING TO THE GOOD PLEASURE OF HIS WILL, to the praise of the glory of his grace". (Ephesians 1:4-6)

Here we have election (hath chosen) and predestination (having predestinated) clearly taught by the Scripture concerning US, not the Lord.  Certain sinners (“us”) have been chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy.  Certain sinners have been predestined to be adopted by Jesus as children.  And this election and predestination is according to God’s good will.  It is His choice.

Praise, indeed, to His glorious grace!

So, may no believer fear the doctrines of predestination and election!  Rather, give God the glory for His salvation.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Providence of God, an Election, and Answered Prayer

Praise the Lord for His providential hand in His execution of His eternal decree!  I am comforted knowing that God works ALL things according to the counsel of His will.  And ALL things includes an election such as took place yesterday.

The Presidential race was between 2 fallen candidates, 2 sinners; how could it be otherwise?  Both have sins charged against their account and both will add to that list over the remaining days of their lives.  No one, except Christ, is perfect.  Apart from the grace of God and the redemption of sin found in Christ, neither of these 2 individuals will spend eternity with the Savior.  

Because of their falleness, their plans are also not perfect.  Neither of them can save this nation.  Only God can do that.  But one candidate has a plan to restore this country to its greatness while the other has a plan merely to maintain the direction of the past 8 (or, perhaps, 24 years), a plan which has proven to be a failure.  The latter plan has led our country to the precipice of bankruptcy and insignificance in the world.  That plan has, at its core, a hatred of nationalism, patriotism, religion, and individual rights.  It seeks to have government, the federal government, serve as the master of each individual.  The income of the people, in this view, belongs to the ruling class in Washington, not to the people themselves.

Surely such a plan is straight from the devil's pen.  I firmly believe Satan has been behind those working to elect Hillary Clinton.  Oh, I doubt any of them believe or even sense that has been the case.  But the deceptions and outright lies attached to her candidacy adds support to this theory.  Satan is the master of lies, the master of deceit; certainly he has been a major contributor to that campaign.

Many prayers were offered up to God that He would intervene and save us from Hillary Clinton for the good of this country and the greatness of His name.  He certainly had no reason to do so.  Our nation has strayed far from Him.  He could have sat back and simply said, "you will reap what you have sowed", pretty much what has happened over the past 2 decades.  But prayers went up before His throne pleading, once more, for His mercy and grace.  I believe, God, in His providence, has answered our prayers.  Donald Trump, a fallen man, is now the President-elect; the certain success of Hillary Clinton has been thwarted, again, by the hand of the Almighty.

Let us give thanks to our God for giving us another opportunity to return to our Savior.  And let us lift up those elected yesterday, praying that each one comes to Christ, if lost, and serves this nation best by serving the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Why Did You Leave Your Pastorate?

Since leaving the pastorate of Bethesda Baptist Church in mid-October, I've had a few queries from friends as to why I did so.  Speculations abound so I want to lay those aside.

I left Bethesda because, for 6 months, I sensed God telling me that was the right thing to do.  He finally convinced me in June that I needed to move on and that Bethesda needed a different pastor.  There was no personal sin in my life leading to this decision.  There was no problem at the church either.  My departure is entirely due to the Lord's prompting just as my coming to that pastorate was solely by His prompting.

The church is in great financial shape.  The people there are some of the most generous Christians I have ever known.  Some of them have grown spiritually over the past few years.  The total membership number has not grown but it is the Lord who gives the harvest.

This is not to say that those of us at Bethesda are perfect.  Far from perfection, we each have sin in our lives which demand our daily wrestling.  Some members there are fighting, suffering, and growing for the Lord.  Others are sliding backwards.  Some, like in most churches, are probably not saved in the first place, despite being members of the church.

Bethesda is a fairly typical Baptist church with good people.  I would have stayed there until the day I died if the Lord had permitted me to do so.  But that is not His will for me at this moment.

So I have left the pastorate by His hand and am now waiting to see what He has for me next.

Nothing more and nothing less!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Providence of God

I have been convinced from the Scriptures for several years concerning the Providence of God.  All things occur according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).  We are in His hands.  Nothing surprises Him or catches Him off guard.  All is working according to His immutable, infallible, eternal decree.

A week ago today that decree included my physical salvation.  As I was driving 60 mph, a semi pulled out in front of me.  I thought for sure I was going to hit it.  But I quickly jerked the car to the left.  Then I was certain I was going into the median but I managed to jerk the car back to the right and around the truck.  Now I was heading for the right shoulder and the ensuing ditch, certain I would crash or flip my car.  But, again, I jerked back to the left.  This time something changed and I went into a spin.  The spin stopped my forward motion and I found myself facing north in the southbound lane.  After taking a minute to grasp what had happened, I turned my car around and simply drove home.

I should have hit the truck.  I should have hit the median.  I should have gone into the ditch.  I should have flipped the car.  But God had His purpose for my salvation that evening and He and His angels spared my life.  My escape from what I thought should have been death was not due to my great driving skills. 

My salvation from death was due to the mighty Providential Hand of God!

Monday, October 24, 2016


Late last evening I published a poem on this blog.  However, this morning I determined it was not quite ready for publication.  So I have backed it off for now.

I have found writing poetry from time to time to be a relaxing yet stimulating device.  I am not very good at it and most of my poems seem as if they are constrained.  But since I don't care if anything ever comes of them, I don't really care if the poetry experts like what I write or not.  

Let's all admit it.  Some of the poems by some of the "great" poets STINK!  They make no sense or they do not rhyme, or there is no meter.  I would rather write a badly worded poem that someone can understand than a well written poem which no one can understand.

I'm a poet and my poems stink.
But at least you will know what I think!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Dedicated to "Christians" Who Take Their Marbles and Go Home

There once was a member of a church,
Who left other members in the lurch.
   He got very upset,
   And so he quickly left,
To remain at home upon his perch.

He thought he had been wrongly accused,
By someone from among the church crew.
   A P. I.  he became,
   And searched for who to blame,
Until upon one he dropped the shoe.

Of course his target was the wrong head.
You see no charge had ever been said.
   He had misunderstood,
   A concern for his good.
And his imagination was fed.

The pastor called and wrote to correct.
Each attempt the member did reject.
   His heart was now on fire.
   He called pastor, "Liar"!
For weeks his church he did not respect.

Cloistered in his home, he took his stand!
Admitting his problem? Not this man.
   Impossible thought he,
   the problem could be me.
Pastor and church from life he did ban.

Then that pastor departed the scene.
Next week the member at church was seen.
    He never repented,
    Or even relented.
Yet the church greeted him as a king!

For weeks he abandoned his brothers,
His deacon list as well as others.
    But the church didn't care,
    They just wanted him there.
So it was a day like any other.