Christ and Cornelius (4)

Peter and Cornelius

NGC2207+IC2163The Two Worlds Touch (Acts 10:17-23a)

God has providentially intervened in the Gentile and Jewish worlds, setting them on a collision course.  No human being could have possibly foreseen the implications of this act.  No human being was ready within context of their own experience to comprehend just what was occurring.  Only in hindsight can we prejudiced, faltering and foolish humans see a sliver of truth about what God has done.  However, without the revelation of Scripture even that tiny sliver would have been obliterated long ago.

17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision which he had seen might mean, behold, the men that were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood before the gate 18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. 19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down, and accompany them without hesitation; for I have sent them.”

The wonder of this narrative is that it pulls back the curtain and allows us mortals to observe God’s providential engagement in human history.  What we see is both beautiful and disturbing.  It’s beauty arises from the Fatherly love that engages with both Cornelius and Peter at their points of human frailty, gently leading each towards their eventual world-changing encounter.  Its disturbance arises from the at first vague, but ultimately explicit, realization that both Peter’s and Cornelius’ destinies were being directly determined by God.  This intricate but ultimately mysterious interplay between our own wills and God’s providential purpose has been previously explored in “God’s Acts of Providence.”

That significance flowed from God to them, as opposed to being sourced within them.  This too is a reproach to our modern, self-centered mind-set. We too often view our end as beginning and ending with our own desires. The notion that our end is by design to be subordinate to anything else, even the L ORD God, flies into the teeth of the radical individualism that under girds so much of our culture’s life.

But lest we too strongly stress humanity’s subordinate status, the amazing extent to which God apparently bends to accommodate our wills must be accounted. Yes, God’s will is inexorable. But it’s as if it’s inexorable within the context of our free wills.

Isn’t this story precisely that of God’s inexorable providential will intersecting with our one free wills?  I say, yes, without doubt.

21 And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house, and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So he called them in to be his guests.

Note how the people within this story exercise their own wills.  The men sent by Cornelius don’t say that Peter must engage with them because of God’s inexorable command.  No, they rather make the very human case that he who sent them is “an upright and God-fearing man,” that is, someone who Peter should consider to be trustworthy.  

Thus, on one level this is a story about human beings from two separate worlds working out the terms by which they might meet in true fellowship.  However, at the deepest level it is the story of God bringing to pass in time that which He had decreed from eternity.

“and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:18)

Once again, I return to “God’s Acts of Providence” for the commentary.

 In the end, we must understand along with Abraham that the human details are not the point. The point is that God in His infinite love, mercy and power has determined to bless all nations. He has also chosen to do so within the context of human will, with all of its frailty, foolishness and fickleness. But He chose to do so before the foundation of the world was laid, deep inside the mystery of His infinite mind. That is, though played out on the stage of history, this is the working out of a predestined plan. Though we may never fully understand we can, no, must worship such a wondrous God.

the-creation-of-man-by-michelangelo

 

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King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (19)

praying-israeliteGod’s Promise to David (3)

David’s Prayer: 2 Samuel 7:18-24

What will be King David’s response to this gracious, eternal promise from the LORD God?  Could there be a more clear case for self-congratulation and boasting than had David at this point in time?  After all, the LORD God had purposefully chosen him to be king, and had shown His favor across the years of struggle necessary to reach this point.  And David himself had, through his wisdom and prowess, overcome all his enemies, both internal and external to the nation.

David had participated in banditry and bloody combat, with easily thousands of human deaths either directly or indirectly caused by his actions.  At this point might not a person with this on his conscience be overwhelmingly tempted to respond in self-justification?  That is, to turn God’s blessing to his own purposes, to absolve himself of guilt.

And yet, this is how King David actually did begin his prayerful response.

18 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:

“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant—and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human!

20 “What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, Sovereign Lord. 21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.

22 “How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God.


I must ask, in this current time of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram (et al.) self-promotion, self-congratulation, self-absorption; can there be anything more foreign than this beginning of King David’s prayer?  No.  For this elect soul, this victor over all adversity and adversaries, this bloodied warrior points always and only away from himself and towards the LORD God.

However, there’s a deeper problem that prevents many contemporary people from giving David an open-minded hearing.  That being David is the exact opposite of everything that they believe to comprise morality.  In the view of many David is a far closer to (if not actually being) a war criminal than to a man after God’s own heart.  Thus, the fact that Holy Scripture lifts up this particular man can actually undermine their confidence.  In the next post I will directly address this difficult issue.

For today let’s, as Christians, be clear on the fundamental point.  Regardless of our own feelings, knowledge and opinions, David’s story is in the Word of God.  We do not judge it, nor does our personal sense of morality supersede it.  God has placed it in His Word for our benefit.  Yes, we should first seek guidance from the Holy Spirit in prayer and then use all of our God-given gifts to properly interpret and apply it to our life and times.  But, we Christians must stand with David, a God-chosen pillar of our faith in saying.

“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”

Humility, thankfulness, and submission to an external, eternal sovereign LORD God…

30It 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. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 

(1 Corinthians 1:30,31, NIV)

King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (4)

David_SM_MaggioreBeginning David’s Story

I will enter into David’s story without covering King Saul’s ascension to the throne as Israel’s first king and his ultimate rejection by God (see 1 Samuel chapters 1 through 15).

Note that, although the Lord has rejected Saul, Saul still continues to reign for an extended period.  Thus, God’s providential plan in this case occurs over time as opposed to suddenly.  Here again, we are witness to God’s sovereign ends being implemented within the context of human will and action.  Thus, we are being asked to hold two apparently contradictory concepts within our minds as David’s story unfolds:

  1. all of eternal import and first causes has been decided before the beginning of time
  2. we still are given the gift of exercising our wills to good or ill.

In my previous reflection on God’s Acts of Providence my emphasis was on, as stated, God’s acts.  In this study of David’s life God’s providence will remain at the forefront.  However, the emphasis will shift to human will and action.

The pacifistic, narcissistic and perfectionistic modes of thought that currently dominate our culture are aligned to deliver a people who are demoralized, pessimistic and irresponsible with regard to the challenges that press powerfully upon their civilization.  Therefore the story of David, a mere man who yet rose to the awful challenges that continually pressed upon himself and his nation has particular relevance.  David fulfilled his purpose not because he was passive, egotistic or perfect, but rather because, as he aggressively used all of his God-given capabilities, he also trusted in God’s promise and clung without ceasing to his hope in God’s grace.

King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (1)

Michaelangelo-David

Michelangelo’s David

Opening Thoughts

In the first verse of the first Book of the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew, the name of David occurs at the twelfth word[1].

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: (Matthew 1:1, NIV)

Thus, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is tied in the most intimate manner with King David, a warrior and poet after God’s own heart.  And yet, when 21st century Christians seek to interpret the person and purpose of Jesus Christ, this unmistakable bond with an ancient king from the Old Testament is all too often ignored.

David-W&P

We live in an age dominated by pacifistic, narcissistic and perfectionistic modes of thought.  Thus the most natural interpretation of our Savior’s character is “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”  While I will not here contend that this sweet Wesleyan phrase is an inaccurate description of Christ’s nature, I will strenuously argue that it is a dangerous falsehood to consider it to be anything even approaching a complete one.  For, if we follow the thread from Matthew 1:1 back to the story of David in 1 and 2 Samuel, we are confronted by a person who somehow combined the brutality of a warrior with the sensitivity of a poet, and thus is described in Scripture (Acts 13:22, 23, NIV):

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’  “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.[2]

And, this Covenant made by God with David is said in the Gospel of Luke to have been completed in Jesus Christ.

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32,33, NIV)

And thus the circle is closed between King David, a warrior and poet after God’s own heart and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


[1] I have previously considered the second patriarch in this verse, Abraham, in God’s Acts of Providence.

[2] Here in Acts the Apostle Paul, in Pisidian Antioch, is summarizing 2 Samuel 7:12-16.

God’s Acts of Providence (60)

22-sun-and-cloud-photosMeditation on God’s Providence (17)

Final Thoughts

One question that burns bright is why have history and predestination?  It would appear that the latter renders the former irrelevant.  There are so many others!  It is here that we are wise to once again listen carefully to John Calvin.

First, then, let them remember that when they inquire into predestination, they penetrate the inmost recesses of Divine wisdom, where the careless and confident intruder will obtain no satisfaction to his curiosity, but will enter a labyrinth from which he will find no way to depart. For it is unreasonable that man should scrutinize with impunity those things which the Lord has determined to be hidden in himself; and investigate, even from eternity, that sublimity of wisdom which God would have us to adore and not comprehend, to promote our admiration of His glory. The secrets of His will which He determined to reveal to us, He discovers in His word; and these are all that He foresaw would concern us or conduce to our advantage.

We should take the most serious note that the Apostle Paul, though fully convinced of God’s predestining action still participated in history with the greatest of energy.  If I had been there to ask all of my “but why” questions there’s no doubt in my mind that the Great Apostle would have finally answered something along the lines of:

But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? (Romans 9:20a).

Yes, indeed, who am I?  The plain fact is that our Lord God has made history and placed us within it.  The Scriptures clearly show that we are to be active participants in history’s unfolding.  Those who came to understand God’s eternal decrees did so in the humility of accepting a hard and perplexing conclusion while continuing to live and act in the world.

The simple fact is that there are places forever beyond the reach of our intellects.  With the continued wise application of theology, science, medicine, philosophy, economics and so forth we can continue to advance our well-being.  However, in order for any of this to truly be wise we must recover the truth that we are, all of us, limited creatures under the authority of the infinite Lord God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Amen!



If you would like to download God’s Acts of Providence, go to the Document Repository page.

God’s Acts of Providence (59)

aloneMeditation on God’s Providence (16)

The Last Question

There is one last question that must be addressed:

Why bother to defend such an obviously outdated, unpopular and disturbing doctrine in the first place?

The answers are simple.  I do so because careful study of the Scriptures has convinced me that it must be true.  I do so because, believing, I have found unexpected, unexplainable peace and release.

For though

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

(Hebrews 10:31)

it is also

… the peace of God, which passes all understanding…

(Philippians 4:7)

that I have actually found there.

The road that I have traveled to arrive at this place has been hard.  For to walk down it has meant to progressively give up on my fantasies of self-sufficiency, of righteousness.  I have found that continually

He must increase, but I must decrease.

(John 3:30)

I still pathetically cling to the filthy rags that remain.  But before my soul’s eyes stands the hope that can never be shaken now that it is in God’s sure hands that my salvation rests.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

(Romans 8:29-30)

 

God’s Acts of Providence (58)

hard-roadMeditation on God’s Providence (15)

The Hard Road from Revulsion to Embrace (4)

Human Free Will (2)

Perhaps we should acknowledge that there are some things we are not sufficient in ourselves to decide and thus should in gratitude accept God’s act on our behalf.  N.L. Rice once again will be quoted.

Again, according to the doctrine of Divine foreordination, God is the author of all that is pure in the Christian’s heart. He saw him “dead in trespasses and sins.” He purposed to renew his heart, not because of anything in the sinner moving him thereto, nor because of any foreseen co-operation on his part, but simply of his sovereign mercy. So that the most devoted Christian, comparing his present condition and character with his former condition and character, must say emphatically with Paul:-“By the grace of God I am what I am.” And of all his good works he must say:-“I labored; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

With regard to the exertion of our wills in secondary matters, the fact that God foreordains ends need by no means imply our loss.  An initial, but substantial discussion of this issue occurred previously.

We are comfortable with the concept by which actions by individuals, organizations and nature influence human acts.  There are laws, social conventions, arguments, economic incentives, natural disasters and so many more means by which this is accomplished.  In all of these cases we recognize that the responses elicited are by agents having free wills.

How much more God, Who knows our every thought and motive, Who has ultimate control over creation itself, is capable of so ordering events such that the acting out of all of our free wills will lead to the end that He has ordained.

Loraine Boettner has developed these ideas in greater detail and scope [20].[1]

The philosopher who is convinced of the existence of a vast Power by whom all things exist and are controlled, is forced to inquire where the finite will can find expression under the reign of the Infinite. The true solution of this difficult question respecting the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man, is not to be found in the denial of either, but rather in such a reconciliation as gives full weight to each, yet which assigns a preeminence to the divine sovereignty corresponding to the infinite exaltation of the Creator above the sinful creature. The same God who has ordained all events has ordained human liberty in the midst of these events, and this liberty is as surely fixed as is anything else. Man is no mere automaton or machine. In the Divine plan, which is infinite in variety and complexity which reaches from everlasting to everlasting, and which includes millions of free agents who act and inter-act upon each other, God has ordained that human beings shall keep their liberty under His sovereignty. He has made no attempt to give us a formal explanation of these things, and our limited human knowledge is not able fully to solve the problem. Since the Scripture writers did not hesitate to affirm the absolute sway of God over the thoughts and intents of the heart, they felt no embarrassment in including the acts of free agents within His all-embracing plan. That the makers of the Westminster Confession recognized the freedom of man is plain; for immediately after declaring that “God has freely and unchangeably ordained whatsoever comes to pass,” they added, “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.”

While the act remains that of the individual, it is nevertheless due more or less to the predisposing agency and efficacy of divine power exerted in lawful ways. This may be illustrated to a certain extent in the case of a man who wishes to construct a building. He decides on his plan. Then he hires the carpenters, masons, plumbers, etc., to do the work. These men are not forced to do the work. No compulsion of any kind is used. The owner simply offers the necessary inducements by way of wages, working conditions, and so on, so that the men work freely and gladly. They do in detail just what he plans for them to do. His is the primary and theirs is the secondary will or cause for the construction of the building. We often direct the actions of our fellow men without infringing on their freedom or responsibility. In a similar way and to an infinitely greater degree God can direct our actions. His will for the course of events is the primary cause and man’s will is the secondary cause; and the two work together in perfect harmony.

The Scriptures speak with great power and regularity about God’s desire for our right exercising of our free wills.  We must take these teachings with the greatest of seriousness.


[1] Loraine Boettner (March 7, 1901 to January 3, 1990) was an American theologian and author.  Boettner was born in Linden, Missouri. He received a Th.B. (1928) and Th.M. (1929) from Princeton Theological Seminary, and he received the honorary degrees of Doctor of Divinity (1933) and Doctor of Letters (1957). He was a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

God’s Acts of Providence (57)

hard-roadMeditations on God’s Providence (14)

The Hard Road from Revulsion to Embrace (3)

Human Free Will (1)

To begin, it must be openly admitted that the doctrine of predestination does take the issue of salvation outside the scope of human free will.  There will be no argument here seeking to obscure or soften this fact.  There is, though, the secondary issue of human exercise of their free wills as they go through life.  Here I will argue for free will’s continued existence, and for its value in God’s economy.

With regard to the removal of our wills from the issue of our salvation, much is often made of this consequence’s unfairness to us.  However, perhaps we Christians should consider more carefully, ponder more seriously the consequences of the opposite view for Christ and His Cross.  Doing so sheds an entirely different light on the situation.

If our salvation is dependent on our wills in any way, then it must be the case that Christ has left something unfinished in His work on our behalf.  That is, it is as if Christ has carried a heavy load a great distance for us, but we somehow must make the effort to move it across the finish line.  We can use any language to describe this work of ours, but it will always come back to the insufficiency of Christ’s work on our behalf, because, if there is anything that we must add then Christ has left something undone.

Stibbs has said it well.

The faith of the individual must be seen as having no value in itself, but as discovering value wholly and solely through movement towards and committal to Christ. It must be seen as simply a means of finding all one’s hope outside oneself in the person and work of another; and not in any sense an originating cause or objective ground of justification. For true faith is active only in the man who is wholly occupied with Christ; its practice means that every blessing is received from another. For this reason faith is exclusive and intolerant of company; it is only truly present when any and every contribution towards his salvation on the part of the believer or on the part of the Church is absolutely and unequivocally shut out. Justification must be seen and received as a blessing dependent wholly and exclusively on Christ alone, on what he is and what he has done—a blessing enjoyed simply through being joined directly to him, through finding one’s all in him, through drawing one’s all from him, without the interposition of any other mediator or mediating channel whatever.

So, when we insist on a theology that allows our wills a role in salvation we simultaneously are insisting that Christ’s work on the Cross be considered insufficient.

Martin Luther put it bluntly:

If any man doth ascribe of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright.

Is this what we, as followers of Christ, desire to do to Him (as if we could)?  Put that way, most would say no.  So, if the Scriptures appear to take all ground away for our own contribution to salvation, as they do, then perhaps we should embrace as opposed to reject.

Jonathan Edwards[1] (a strong supporter of Calvinist theology) is best known for his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  But he nonetheless has written words about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ that shine wonderful light on His perfect love, his all-sufficient work on our behalf.

And here is not only infinite strength and infinite worthiness, but infinite condescension, and love and mercy, as great as power and dignity. If you are a poor, distressed sinner, whose heart is ready to sink for fear that God never will have mercy on you, you need not be afraid to go to Christ, for fear that he is either unable or unwilling to help you. Here is a strong foundation, and an inexhaustible treasure, to answer the necessities of your poor soul, and here is infinite grace and gentleness to invite and embolden a poor, unworthy, fearful soul to come to it. If Christ accepts of you, you need not fear but that you will be safe, for he is a strong Lion for your defense. And if you come, you need not fear but that you shall be accepted; for he is like a Lamb to all that come to him, and receives then with infinite grace and tenderness. It is true he has awful majesty, he is the great God, and infinitely high above you; but there is this to encourage and embolden the poor sinner, that Christ is man as well as God; he is a creature, as well as the Creator, and he is the most humble and lowly in heart of any creature in heaven or earth. This may well make the poor unworthy creature bold in coming to him. You need not hesitate one moment; but may run to him, and cast yourself upon him. You will certainly be graciously and meekly received by him. Though he is a lion, he will only be a lion to your enemies, but he will be a lamb to you. It could not have been conceived, had it not been so in the person of Christ, that there could have been so much in any Savior, that is inviting and tending to encourage sinners to trust in him. Whatever your circumstances are, you need not be afraid to come to such a Savior as this. Be you never so wicked a creature, here is worthiness enough; be you never so poor, and mean, and ignorant a creature, there is no danger of being despised, for though he be so much greater than you, he is also immensely more humble than you. Any one of you that is a father or mother, will not despise one of your own children that comes to you in distress: much less danger is there of Christ’s despising you, if you in your heart come to him.


[1] Jonathan Edwards (October 5, 1703 – March 22, 1758) was a preacher, theologian, and missionary to Native Americans. Edwards “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian,”[3] and one of America’s greatest intellectuals.[4] Edwards’s theological work is very broad in scope, but he is often associated with his defense of Reformed theology, the metaphysics of theological determinism, and the Puritan heritage. Edwards played a critical role in shaping the First Great Awakening, and oversaw some of the first fires of revival in 1733-1735 at his church in Northampton, Massachusetts.

 

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

 

 

God’s Acts of Providence (55)

hard-roadMeditation on God’s Providence (12)

The Hard Road from Revulsion to Embrace (1)

The reaction, even from many committed Christians, to the doctrine of predestination can be best captured by the word “revulsion.”  Use of such a strong expression is by no means meant to denigrate the response nor negate its reasons.  In fact, so antithetical is this doctrine to our natural reason that the most likely first reaction must be one of repulsion.

I believe that there are two related but distinct fundamental reasons for this response.

  1. The doctrine places the responsibility for each individual’s eternal disposition – salvation or damnation – squarely, solely and uniquely in God’s hands.
  2. The doctrine appears to fundamentally negate the doctrine of human free will.

With respect to God’s responsibility, the relationship to negation of free will is obvious.  However a fuller discussion of free will will be developed separately because of issues that include, but go beyond salvation.