Charles Spurgeon on the So-Called Free Will of Man

sheep-found-1005-115From his sermon, “The Holy Spirit in the Covenant,” preached on a Lord’s Day morning, 1856

What a vain pretense it is to profess to honor God by a doctrine that makes salvation depend on the will of man! If it were true, you might say to God, “We thank thee, O Lord, for what thou hast done; thou hast given us a great many things, and we offer thee thy meed* of praise, which is justly due to thy name; but we think we deserve more, for the deciding point was in our free will.” Beloved, do not any of you swerve from the free grace of God, for the babblings about man’s free agency are neither more nor less than lies, right contrary to the truth of Christ, and the teachings of the Spirit.

How certain, then, is the salvation of every elect soul! It does not depend on the will of man; he is “made willing” in the day of God’s power. He shall be called at the set time, and his heart shall be effectually changed, that he may become a trophy of the Redeemer’s power. That he was unwilling before, is no hindrance; for God giveth him the will, so that he is then of a willing mind. Thus, every heir of heaven must be saved, because the Spirit is put within him, and thereby his disposition and affections are molded according to the will of God.

*Meed = reward, fitting return, recompense

 

More of Spurgeon on God’s Sovereignty

Brethren, if God does not rule everywhere, then something rules where he does not, and so he is not omnipresently supreme. If God does not have his will, someone else does, and so far that someone is a rival to God. I never deny the free agency of man, or diminish his responsibility, but I dare never invest the free will of man with omnipotence, for this were to make man into a sort of God, an idolatry to be loathed. Moreover, admit chance anywhere, and you have admitted chance everywhere, for all events are related and act on one another. One cog of the wheel of providence disarranged or left to Satan, or man’s absolute freedom apart from God, would spoil the whole machinery. I dare not believe even sin itself to be exempted from the control of providence, or from the overruling dominion of the Judge of all the earth. Without providence we were unhappy beings, without the universality of the divine power providence would be imperfect, and in some points we might be left unprotected and exposed to those evils which are, by this theory, supposed to be beyond divine control. Happy are we that it is true, “the Lord doeth as he wills in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.”

Spurgeon, Charles, Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 16, (Albany, OR: Ages Software) 1998.

Every Christian Believes Election

Every Christian Believes Election

Not everyone consciously affirms the doctrine of election. The reasons for this vary and are definitely outside the scope of this particular article. But whether you don’t like it, don’t agree with it, or are simply neutral about it for the time being, predestination and election are concepts in Scripture that every believer will be confronted with. Even if you choose not to deal with it, the unbelieving world still has heard about it, learned it when they were in church as a kid, and/or logically deduces it through the knowledge that God knew before hand that man would fall, and yet still created us. So even if we bury our head in the sand and ignore this, the world will not let us. And, if we have faithful pastors and brethren in Christ who challenge, edify, and provoke us in godliness through the word of God, they won’t let us ignore this topic either.

Although you may hold to a more unique position concerning predestination and election, you will probably sympathize with either of these two views:

  1. God chose to save some out of His own free will, without regard to their future faith in Him.
  2. God chose to save some out of His own free will, but with regard to their future faith in Him.

I hate to be overly simplistic, but this is really the pivot point of almost every predestination conversation. Regardless of whether or not you believe man’s will is totally free or a slave, whether man can fall away from grace, or that man has the ability to resist God’s grace, this is where the starting line is painted.

Does God choose men from before the foundation of the world in accordance with man’s future faith? Or does God do this freely from His own volition without regard to who He knew would choose Him? This may sound a little extreme, but I propose that, although this conversation is important, and that I lean toward God choosing of His own volition without regard to our future faith, in the grand scheme of things, both are essentially saying the same thing, just with different emphasis. Here’s what I mean.

Whenever I get into a conversation with someone that strongly insists that God foreknew who would choose Him, and therefore chose who would be saved from that, my normal reaction is not to exegete Romans 8:29 properly (although certain contexts may allow for it). Nor do I fret when someone dogs election and predestination when they make mention of how God is a tyrannical, diabolical, evil, etc., for electing some to salvation while choosing others also to hell (which is often a straw man, misunderstanding, misinterpretation, ad hominem, and most of the time, a deliberate negligence to comprehend the doctrine of reprobation. Meanwhile wrongly attributing predestination to double predestination). I just simply ask if they believe God is omniscient. That’s all. Here’s why.

If God is omniscient, then that means He knew even before all of us were born who would be saved. God still possessed this knowledge of whom He would choose, and He had it without our permission. How we see God working this out from Scripture can be debated, but it can still be a bit of a red herring sometimes to discuss in my opinion. Because since God is omniscient, He knew from the foundation of the world who was destined to salvation. Understanding this, if God knew who would be saved, even before we were born, how does the fact that He chose based off our faith change the reality that God was in the beginning sovereignly deciding who would be saved? Did you catch that? Let’s say it another way. Even if God did indeed choose to save some based off of who would trust Him, and He foreknew who would believe Him, and from that decided, how does that negate the fact that He decided before we were even born? Even before we were even able to exercise that faith? We still didn’t have a say in the matter!

My intent here is not to rouse strife for shock and awe. I developed this in order to establish some peace in a conversation as well as some logical agreement. If you are a Christian, and you believe that God is omniscient, by default you implicitly ascribe to predestination and election, although unadmittedly. You may not believe that God elected and predestined some despite their faith, but you must logically deduce and concede to the fact that God’s omniscience alone makes election at least plausible. And by simply trying to soften the blow of election in saying that God chose some to be saved in accordance with our faith, one must admit that it doesn’t sweep away the problem at hand –  that man’s problem with God is His sovereignty and free will to do as He pleases way before we were even born! A problem that even most professing Christians today have contention with. But if we are honest, we have no choice but to affirm this if we believe God is omniscient.

I hear the marching drum pounding with an army of rebuttals. One rebuttal is that even though God is omniscient, that doesn’t mean men are not accountable for their sin. I agree. Often Calvinists are attacked because others believe that in the doctrine of election that man can’t be held responsible for their sin. This of course is not true, but once again outside the scope of this article. Another rebuttal is that God’s omniscience is not the same as God choosing some to be saved. I agree again. But His omniscience alone approves of His will to choose because it was already in His nature to know and do as He pleases. So while the act of knowing and choosing may be distinct, they are in harmony with each other. Because how does God know who will be saved, and yet, decide against it? And if He did change His mind, and like man wavered between choosing (which I don’t believe), it still leaves us with the same conclusion.

Let’s say you’re still not convinced. For argument sake, let’s say you’re not persuaded that God’s omniscience does not equal affirming predestination and election, and that election (where God chooses of His own will and pleasure without regard to who would choose Him) still presents an evil, unbenevolent God. Philosophically speaking, you cannot have mercy without judgment, can you? Can you have evil without good? Can you understand salvation without sin? At base level, if you didn’t believe in double predestination (the idea that God chooses some to heaven as well as hell), or even predestination (God elects some to be saved meanwhile passing over others), you still would have to conclude that God knew from the beginning who would go to hell and to heaven. Unless you believe in universalism where God saves everyone eventually, or affirm a pelagian/deistic god who purposefully limits His own knowledge of the future so as to not infringe upon the will of man (both are heresy by the way), you must believe, as a Christian, that some will inevitable go to heaven or hell in the end. And God knew it! This isn’t fun to talk about out loud. I know. But it is still reality. Regardless of which side of the fence you stand on, you must, I repeat, you must submit to the idea that God knew from the beginning who would eventually go to heaven or hell. It’s not about whether or not God is evil or good, or making Him more or less benevolent. It’s about accurately representing God and His word without conceding to man’s ideas of how they feel God should act.

I don’t say any of this without grace. It took me a long time to come to these realizations, and I trust that many readers will find what I have said offensive. Meanwhile others are perhaps still trying to comprehend such a deep theological issue. Trust me, I sympathize. I only wish to make plain that in arguing for whether or not God chose in accordance with man’s will or His own, that we don’t cower from it simply because some have issues with it. And whatever the motive someone has to propagate that God chose because He knew who would have faith in Him, it doesn’t really change anything in light of God’s omniscience. Because if God is omniscient, He still knew, before we were born, who would be saved. And He still acted, prior to our birth, based upon His own will and good pleasure and consulted no one in process!

In essence, we will always end up back to square one regarding the most classic question ever asked by man: “If God knew man would fall, why did He create us in the first place.” The answer may vary depending on your theology, but it doesn’t do away from the inescapable truth that God, if He is truly that, has already determined who would be saved, based off of the good pleasure of His will, and the benevolence of His person. And that it will be through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ – Son of God, 2nd person of the Trinity, fully God fully man – that this salvation is attainable. Because, if you think about it, God didn’t have to save anyone. None! We all deserve hell. Period. If God saved one person, it would be the most gracious and loving act that God could have bestowed upon a human being, and God would be perfectly justified in sending the rest to eternal torment. But since God is infinitely more gracious than we could imagine, He has chosen to save millions to date (by my puny estimation). If man wants to secure his free will and be a contributor to their salvation, they can have it. So as long as God gets to keep His free will and do as He pleases without obligation to any man’s volition.

-Until we go home

Discussing Free Will – Part 4

In this four-part series (audio is about an hour long), Jim McClarty and his friend Alex Franzone images (1)discuss various aspects of free will. What is it and – most importantly – what does the Bible say about it?

Here’s the fourth and last part.

Listen and talk among yourselves.

I pray this short series has been edifying.

Discussing Free Will – Part 3

In this four-part series (audio is about an hour long), Jim McClarty and his friend Alex Franzone images (1)discuss various aspects of free will. What is it and – most importantly – what does the Bible say about it?

Here’s part three.

Part four in a few days.

Listen and talk among yourselves.

Discussing Free Will – Part 2

In this four-part series (audio is about an hour long), Jim McClarty and his friend Alex Franzone images (1)discuss various aspects of free will. What is it and – most importantly – what does the Bible say about it?

Here’s part two.

Part three in a few days.

Listen and talk among yourselves.

Things I have learned–Foster Parenting Vs. Adoption

Ephesians 1:3-53 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.

Foster parent.

The term conjures up various images in different people depending on their own experiences, the experiences of others, or simply the way foster parents are portrayed in the various media. And the many who do foster do indeed come at it from various angles and for varied reasons. Some do it out of a desire to give hope and a chance to kids that come from broken, crime-riddled, and abusive homes. Some do it (as in our case) in the midst of an emergency when no other family member is suitable to care for the children. And, yes, some do indeed do it for the money. Depending on the ages of the children, the number you take, and so forth, one can come out ahead financially.

But no matter what the reason is that someone decides to be a foster parent, they all have one thing in common. If the burden is too much, or if the children are too much for them to handle, or if they just tire of the children, they can call the agency and the children will be placed with another family. In other words, the family fostering the children can simply send them back.

Most Arminians think of God as being a foster parent, rather than being the adoptive Father that He is. If we are smart enough (so the thinking goes) to take advantage of the opportunity that God has placed before us, and our “free” will makes the right decision, then God will gladly adopt us into His family. But, if we act up too much, or we get on His nerves one too many times, then He will just as quickly send us back to our old master, Satan. One Arminian author, writing on the Synod of Dordt, said the following:

True believers can fall from true faith and can fall into such sins as cannot be consistent with true and justifying faith; not only is it possible for this to happen, but it even happens frequently. True believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish. (Peter Y. DeJong, Crisis in the Reformed Churches: Essays in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dordt, 1618-1619, 220ff).

In other words, we are foster children who can bug our Foster Father to the point He pushes us out the door. To the Arminian, when we become children of God, it is only a probationary relationship. At any point in time, God may, in His (supposed) capriciousness, end the relationship. “Yes, you have believed, and according to My word I have given you the right to be My child (John 1:12). But at this point I just don’t think this is working out. So I think it’s best if we just part ways. Sorry.” Continue reading

Chuck Smith on predestination.

WARNING!!! This is an example of BAD theology.  Believe at your own peril…

“…you could go to the race tracks with this kind of knowledge (God’s foreknowledge). Imagine what you could do, having foreknowledge knowing every horse what he was going to do in that race and you would go to the race track with this kind of knowledge. Now if you could do you think you would go there and pick out a ticket of losers?…Would you pick out a bunch of losers? You would be stupid if you did. Of course you wouldn’t you would pick the winners, because you know in advance who is going to win the race. What the outcome is going to be. And so you make your choices predicated on what the outcome is because you already know in advance what it is going to be. That is just using your head. Now that’s what thrills me about God choosing me.  Because he don’t choose no losers.  God’s only chosen winners. … God already knows the choice you are going to make. But you are the one that makes the choice, but God in all of His wisdom, knows the choices each person is going to make. But He doesn’t make the choice for you. He only knows in advance, that which you are going to choose.”

[Source: Teaching on Ephesians]

Quotes (749)

Man has become so fallen that he cannot keep the law. Sooner might the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots, than he that is accustomed to do evil learn to do well (Jeremiah 13:23); but what man cannot do, by reason of the perversity of the flesh, God performs within him, working in him to will and to do of his good pleasure. Oh, what amazing grace is this, which while it forgives our want of will, also removes our want of power!

And, dear friends, is it not a wonderful proof of grace that God does this without destroying man in any degree whatever? Man is a creature with a will,—a “free will” as they sometimes call it,—a creature who is responsible for his actions; so God does not come and change our hearts by a physical process, as some seem to dream, but by a spiritual process in which he never mars our nature, but sets our nature right.

If a man becomes a child of God, he still has a will. God does not destroy the delicate machinery of our nature, but he puts it into proper gear. We become Christians with our own full assent and consent; and we keep the law of God not by any compulsion except the sweet compulsion of love. We do not keep it because we cannot do otherwise, but we keep it because we would not do otherwise, because we have come to delight therein, and this seems to me the greatest wonder of divine grace.

See, dear friends, how different is the Lord’s way of working and ours. If you knock down a man who is living an evil life, and put him in chains, you can make him honest by force; or if you set him free, and hem him round with Acts of Parliament, you may make him sober if he cannot get anything to drink, you may make him wonderfully quiet if you put a gag in his mouth; but that is not God’s way of acting.

He who put man in the Garden of Eden, and never put any palisades around the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but left man a free agent, does just the same in the operations of his grace. He leaves his people to the influences that are within them, and yet they go right, because they are so changed and renewed by his grace that they delight to do that which once they loathed to do.

I admire the grace of God in acting thus. We should have taken the watch to pieces, and broken half the wheels, and made new ones, or something of the kind. But God knows how to leave the man just as much a man as he was before his conversion, and yet to make him so entirely a new man that old things have passed away, and all things have become new.

And this is very beautiful, too, that when God writes his law in his people’s hearts, He makes this the way of their preservation. When God’s law is written in a man’s heart, that heart becomes divinely royal property, for the King’s name is there, and the heart in which God has written his name can never perish.

– Charles Spurgeon

1834 – 1892

HT: Pyro

Quotes (695)

In the great things as well as the small things you choose according to what seems good to you, and your choice is going to determine whether you are a good or bad person. If the perfect Son of God is unattractive to you, then obviously you are an unattractive person. If the perfect Son of God is irresistible to you, then you are a good person, because a good person, by definition, is a person who is inclined to the good, and the good is in Jesus Christ, the divine and perfect Son of God. If you are repelled by Him, you are a bad person because you are repelled by the quintessence of the good. What attracts you must be the rejection of what is good. A person who is attracted by that which is evil and repelled by that which is good is an evil person.

– John H. Gerstner A Primer on Free Will
(Available from P&R Publishing)

Just what DOES 1st Timothy 2:4 mean, anyway?

As a sequel to this post. And again, should we differ on our views, may we always remember charity.

1st Timothy 2:4 is another verse some use to say that God’s will is that all men be saved. But is that what it really says? Let us allow God’s written word be the final arbiter. And as in our last study, we must go back a few verses before the passage in question.

1st Timothy 2:1-4 (NKJV)1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Again, the questions:

  1. Who was this written to?
  2. Why was it written?
  3. What was the idea being expressed?

We can answer these questions quite a bit more easily than before. It was written to Timothy, whom Paul had begotten in the gospel, and had appointed to be the pastor of the church at Ephesus. It was written to instruct those who would be appointed as elders in the church. The idea being expressed was that the elders are to be more careful in the words and actions, and to be more devout in their service to God and their love toward others.

That said, let us examine the passage in question. And as we do, we will see a slight (but very important) distinction between the word translated here as “desires” and the word translated other places as referring to God’s “will.” In biblical Greek, there are words and other grammatical tools we do not have in English. There are ever-so-slight variations in the meanings of certain words (e.g., saw, looked, glanced, spotted…). That is why the process of translation is one which is very long, very tedious, and should NEVER be undertaken with any intentions other than to glorify God, and never entered into lightly.

First, there is the word “desires” as in God the Father, who desires all men to be saved…” This is the Greek word “thelo.” This is a bit of a sticky wicket (as they would say across the pond), for it has various meanings. It can mean “to intend, to purpose” or even “will” (not the noun “will” but the verb, the future tense of “to be“). However, if we use that meaning, then God is a liar, for then it would read, God the Father, who intends all men to be saved… I dare say none of us believe in universal salvation, which would be implied by that statement. Continue reading

A Few Problems With Arminianism And A Case For Calvinism

Dr. Bruce Ware puts forward the Biblical doctrine of pre-destination so well that he gets a standing ovation from me.

You can get the DVD of the entire debate here for just US$14.95.1

1 The author does not derive any benefits, financial or otherwise, from recommending the purchase of the material. Neither is he affiliated with Dr. Bruce Ware or The Apologetics Group in any manner.