God’s Acts of Providence (56)

hard-roadMeditation on God’s Providence (13)

The Hard Road from Revulsion to Embrace (2)

God’s Responsibility

Placing human salvation[1] or damnation[2] entirely into God’s hands, and before the beginning of time, calls into question His love and justice.  We are part of a society that has placed fairness and self-actualization into foundational concepts.  Regardless of our intense arguments over their meaning and implementation, almost all political and social positions share these conceptual foundations.

The doctrine of predestination was likely never popular.  However, at least centuries ago, when most humans knew what it was to live under the authority of a king, they might have started a bit closer in intellectual framework.  Today we in the West begin from a position of radical estrangement, so powerfully does it appear to violate our most cherished values.

And yet there is another foundational concept of the West, attenuated and pushed aside, that remains crucial to this issue – truth.  When we think of truth nowadays it tends to be only in the realms of science, personal conduct and law.  Even in these areas its power has waned considerably.[3]

However, as Christians, we must admit that the truth about God’s nature and His action is indeed of fundamental importance.  We have confessed from the beginnings of Christ’s Church that it is in God’s Word that we are to look for truth about these matters.

3. What is the Word of God?

The holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience.[4]

4. How doth it appear that the Scriptures are the Word of God?

The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God, by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation.[5] But the Spirit of God, bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very word of God.[6]

5. What do the Scriptures principally teach?

The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.[7]

But what if, after carefully searching and considering the Scriptures we conclude that the truth that they teach is indeed captured by the doctrine of predestination?  Would we not find ourselves at the same place as the other disciples when they received the hard teaching about the Bread of Life?[8]

Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you that do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.

(John 6:60-66)

Yes, the doctrine of predestination “is a hard saying” and “who can listen to it?”  But, if it is indeed true then are we not obligated as followers of Christ to accept it?  The issue is our willingness to follow wherever Christ leads, not following our own sense of justice and rightness.

Yes, it is potentially a disturbing thought that God would decide human salvation from before the beginning of time.  And yet, this is the Father who loved us enough to send His own Son to die for our sins.  This is the Son who set aside His glory to live among us, experiencing all of our pain, temptations and possibilities so that He could intercede on our behalf in love and understanding.  This is the Spirit that breaths life into us and brings us to saving faith where otherwise we would be forever dead in our sin.[9]  Can’t we place all, even human salvation, into this God’s hands in total confidence that He has decided in love, perfection and truth; regardless of if we understand?

And, if we do so give ourselves over to this doctrine’s care, are there true and fragrant benefits?  I say yes, yes, blessedly yes.  Let N.L. Rice speak this truth, first for the individual [10]

This doctrine greatly exalts the grace of God, whilst it deeply humbles the believer, and fills his heart with inexpressible gratitude. It proclaims “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will to men.” It will swell the sweet notes in heaven, when the head-stone of the spiritual temple shall be brought forth with shoutings of “Grace, Grace unto it.”

and then for the Church.

And indeed this very feature of the doctrine marks it as Divine. Examine all the errors that have ever marred the beauty and destroyed the moral power of the Church of Christ, and you will find in them all one great characteristic feature, viz: they diminish the guilt of man, and thus diminish their indebtedness to divine grace. But this doctrine humbles man in the very dust, as deserving of eternal misery, and exalts in the highest degree “the grace of God that bringeth salvation.” Its language is–“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.”[Psa. 115:1] Human nature has ever exalted itself, but this doctrine humbles human nature and exalts the grace of God. It takes from man all merit, and gives all the glory of his salvation to God. Need we better evidence that this doctrine is not of man, but of God?


[1] Psa 65:4; Mat 24:24; John 6:37; John 15:16; Act 13:48; Rom 8:28-30; Rom 9:10-24; Rom 11:5-7; Eph 1:3-6; Eph 1:11-12; 1The 1:4; 1The 5:9; 2The 2:13-14

[2] Exo 4:21; Rom 9:13; Rom 9:17-18; Rom 9:21-22; 1Pet 2:8

[3] Note the raise of “consensus-based” scientific conclusions, situational ethics and law, etc.

[4] Gal. 1:8, 9; Isa. 8:20; Luke 16:29, 31; II Tim. 3:15–17.

[5] General Note. —At several points the Larger Catechism is more specific in its statements than in Scriptures. These statements are inferences from the Scriptures, or from statements based on the Scriptures, or from the experience and observation of the church. In such cases no texts are cited; but reference is made to this general note.

[6] John 16:13, 14; I Cor. 2:69.

[7] See “General Note” above.

[8] So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:53,54)

[9] As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1)

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins (Colossians 2:13)

[10] N.L. Rice, D.D., Pastor of the Central Presbyterian Church, 1850

 

 

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