An Introduction to the Sovereign Gospel

John MacArthur provides a succinct introduction to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty when it comes to salvation. This Grace to You message comes from Ephesians 1:3-6.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

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

What Does 2 Peter 3:9 Teach?

There are many in the Christian community who believe that God wants to save all men, based in part on 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV): The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. It seems clear to many that this verse teaches exactly that – God wants all men to come to faith in Christ Jesus. Since it is just as clear that not all men do come to faith in Christ Jesus, something else is needed. Enter Charles Finney and his “new methods” and other things within our control. Is this what honors our Creator and King?  bibleTeaching

This short article is not a comprehensive examination of any “new methods” nor of the overall nature of the atonement – Is it intended for all men or only for those chosen by God to be saved? I simply want to examine the question, What does 2 Peter 3:9 teach? As with all such questions, we run to the first rule of hermeneutics – context! What does the paragraph teach, what does the chapter and book teach? What does the whole Bible teach about the topic?

The first contextual element gives clear evidence of the intended meaning of verse 9. Let’s read the paragraph in which this verse appears. It is widely agreed that a new paragraph starts with verse 8, although where the paragraph ends appears to be another matter. The ESV is shown below.

2 Peter 3:8 – 10 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Peter opens this paragraph addressing his audience: the beloved, his brothers and sisters in Christ. Whatever comes directly after this is intended for Christians, not for the world. The main idea presented in this paragraph is that our Lord is not tied to calendars and time, that His promise to the elect is a sure thing that will come to pass, culminating in a dramatic event that cannot be missed.

Verse 9 begins with a clear indication of the subject of the Lord’s desire: YHWH is patient toward you (ESV), or longsuffering to us-ward (KJV). God is patient towards the beloved, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. Not wishing that any of what group should perish? If we take verse 9b out of its context, we are free to imagine that Creator God wants to save everybody. As I observed in the opening, that brings in all sorts of questions and has serious consequences on our theology of salvation.  But if we allow the Word of God to guide us, the immediate context tells about whom verse 9 speaks. YHWH is addressing His beloved, and towards them He is patient, not willing that any of His redeemed lose heart but trust Him to bring to completion that which He started, as YHWH Himself builds His temple (1 Cor 3:9 & 16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16) with the spiritual stones (Eph 2:19 – 22; 1 Peter 2:4 & 5) He has chosen. To claim verse 9 shows that YHWH desires all men to be saved actually works violence on the Scriptures, leading one to conclude the Creator and Sustainer and Judge of all things is unable to bring His desires to pass – contrary to what is declared about Him in Psalms 115:3 and 135:6.

When our interpretation of Scripture puts limits on God (beyond what the Bible describes, in that He cannot lie nor can He stop being YHWH), we know our interpretation is wrong. Every instance I know of wherein men do such a thing has been founded on a view of man that is too high and a view of God that is too low. Rather than attempt to bring God down to our understanding, we should bow before Him as revealed in Scripture and worship Him in humility.

Before we take a look at the greater context within this letter, it will be helpful to review the overall structure of this letter. Chapter 1 has a short greeting with an emphatic description of the believer’s positon and security in Christ Jesus, and an exhortation regarding the truth of the gospel. Chapter 2 is a warning about false teachers, their characteristics and their doom. Chapter 3 turns again to the believers to provide comfort in the promises of God, His power over all creation, and the beautiful culmination of His grand plan of redemption of sinners, with words of instruction to continue to learn about our Lord until He returns.

Now let’s see if there be any reason to overturn the clear meaning of our subject paragraph. Chapter 3 begins in much the same way as verse 8, as Peter addresses the audience of his letter as “beloved”, contrasting these dear brothers and sisters with scoffers and false prophets who question whether Christ will return. And in passage that ends this chapter, and the letter, Creator God addresses His people as “beloved” in verse 14 and 17, connecting them with this characterization with the Apostle Paul in verse 15.

The letter begins with a greeting to the saints, who are the beloved: Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Every sentence in this chapter is addressed to these saints, and we see the first use of the word “beloved” in verse 17 as it is used to describe God the Father’s view of His Son. There can be no argument that being called “beloved” in this letter is anything less than a glorious reference to our status as children of the most high God.

Since chapter 2 addresses believers indirectly, as Peter describes the enemies of God, we have nothing to add to our review of the topic in this chapter.

2 Peter begins and ends calling Christians “beloved”, as a reflection of our standing in Christ, and in verse 3:9 it is these people about whom Peter says God is patient towards and not willing that any of them would perish. This is not a half-baked promise to lost people that they can ask Jesus into their hearts and be saved. It is a glorious promise to Christians that those chosen before time (Eph 1:4; Rev 13:8) will be raised from spiritual death to new life in Christ Jesus before that terrible day of judgment. When He returns, one time, it will be bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him (Heb 9:28), those who have been called (John 6:36 – 44). Verse 9 is a promise from God that God will keep His promise to save every sinner He chose – none will perish, but all will come to faith and repentance. Let the saints praise His name!

ABSOLUTE Predestination

ABSOLUTE Predestination

I just finished reading Jerome Zanchius’ book that a dear brother was so kind to give me. Wow! I Clipboard01wept and rejoiced and thanked the Lord for faithful men who have gone before. Thanks be unto God for the dear brother who worked to bring this book back to life. Absolute Predestination is an awesome work explaining systematically and biblically why this doctrine is true, what it means, and why it must be preached. I will treasure this book until the Lord deems my days are done. What follows is a short review and exhortation for my brothers and sisters to take this book and read. You can buy it here:

This current publication is from Free Grace Press and includes a very informative introduction by Joel Beeke. Zanchius was an Italian who lived in the early to mid 16th century, grew up as a Roman Catholic and served as a monk. It was during this time he read some Martin Luther, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin and was soon converted into a Christian. He lived the balance of his life studying, teaching, and writing and was widely considered a highly valued author of Reformed theological studies – all of which were in Latin. Nearly 200 years later, an Englishman ran across his Latin writings on predestination. Augustus Toplady was converted in his teen years and held to the free will teachings of his contemporary, John Wesley; until “an old man challenged him to stop arguing long enough to ask himself: Did he have any part in obtaining God’s grace? Wouldn’t he have resisted God’s grace if the Spirit left him to his own will? These questions from a Wesleyan brother stabbed him to the quick.” And so Toplady began a study on the sovereign grace of God, learned Hebrew and Greek, and embraced the sweet doctrines of grace commonly called Calvinism.

Toplady served in many churches as pastor, but initially held back from preaching on sovereign grace – focusing his sermons on justification by faith and holiness of life, as was taught by Wesley. “People liked his preaching, but few were converted. When he began preaching predestination as the eternal source of our salvation in Christ, many were angry with him, but many other were truly converted to Christ.” Amen! This is how the true gospel works – it was how the Apostle Paul experienced it. The true gospel (for there is no other gospel) is preached. Some will hate you for it, others will rejoice and beg to hear more. Those who have been given ears to hear will hear! Praise God!

As time went by, Toplady conversed with Wesley and denounced his old teacher. As A.W. Pink turned a bit sharp in his criticism of dispensationalism once he left that theological train wreck, so did Augustus Toplady in his critique of the spiritual ship wreck of Arminianism.

Toplady translated Zanchius’ book into English and, by his own admission, heavily edited it in places to as to provide a more complete treatise on the topic. It is hard to tell where one writer hands off to the other, as the reader works his way through this book. With that, here’s a brief review of this most excellent little book. Zanchius lays out each chapter as a progressive argument, moving through myriad positions as he documents six key areas that help us comprehend the sovereignty of God and our need of Him.

The Preface is written by Toplady and titled Observations on the Divine Attributes. We are quickly introduced to this author and this work by two stark statements. “I cannot help standing astonished at the pride of impotent, degenerate man. … The Scripture doctrine of predetermination lays the axe to the very root of this potent delusion.” Having personally left Wesley’s doctrine behind, Toplady declares that this book is needed because “Arminianism is the grand religious evil of this age and country.” We can only imagine what he might have said in response to Charles Finney! In bringing his preface to a close, Toplady reminds us that words have meaning, or else they are worthless, and then defines predestination as “God’s determinate plan of action.” And then he reservedly reveals his opinion on the theological construct he had left behind – “He that made all things either directs all things he has made, or has consigned them over to chance. But what is chance, but a name for nothing. Arminianism, therefore, is Atheism.”

Zanchius’ first chapter has the same name as Toplady’s Preface – they are not the same! In this opening chapter, our servant of God desires us to know more about the Lord, acknowledging He is beyond our comprehension, but not entirely; and that He wants us to know Him as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. Zanchius’ pen will help us better understand: (1) God’s eternal wisdom and foreknowledge; (2) The absolute freedom and liberty of His will; (3) The perpetuity and unchangeableness both of Himself and His decrees; (4) His omnipotence; (5) His justice; and (6) His mercy. Without these attributes explained, Zanchius claims the doctrine of predestination cannot be properly grasped. While every argument in this chapter is worth careful reading, the series of statements and expositions under (2) cannot go without special mention. Here is the summary paragraph from the end of that section:

“From the whole of what has been delivered under this section head, I would observe that the genuine tendency of these truths are not to make men more indolent and careless, or lull them to sleep on the lap of presumption and carnal security, but (1) to fortify the people of Christ against the attacks of unbelief and the insults of their spiritual enemies. And what it so fit, to guard them against these, as the comfortable persuasion of God’s unalterable will to save them, and of their unalienable interest in the sure mercies of David? (2) To withdraw them entirely from all dependence whether on themselves or to any creature whatever; to make them renounce their own righteousness, no less than their sins, in point of reliance,and to acquiesce sweetly and safely in the certain perpetuity of His rich favor. (3) To excite them, from a trust of His goodwill toward them, to love God who has given such great and numberless proofs of His love to men, and, in all their thoughts, words, and works, to aim, as much as possible, at His honour and glory.”

Is this not the goal of Christian exhortation and life? What Christian would be opposed to this?

In chapter 2, titled Defining Terms, we are given biblically based expositions on The Love of God, The Hatred of God, Election, Reprobation, The Purpose of God, Foreknowledge, and Predestination. This last is presented with a four-fold definition. (1) God did from before time determine and ordain to create and dispose of all creation with the over-arching reason to bring glory to Himself. (2) As relates to mankind, God created Adam in His image and allowed him to fall and take all humanity (and creation) with him as the federal head. (3) As relates to the elect, God chose before time to redeem some in time by faith in Christ. Such are justified, adopted, sanctified, and preserved safely to the end of this age. (4) As regards the reprobate, it is God’s eternal sovereign and immutable will whereby He has determined to leave some men in their sin to be justly punished.

Chapters 3, 4, and 5 discuss predestination as it relates to All Men, to the Saints, and the Ungodly. It is most useful to see this doctrine discussed in detail in these three distinct applications, as much confusion reigns among men when important terms are not defined and applied properly. In the 3rd chapter, Zanchius shows from Scripture that God has predestined the ends of men, that He decreed The Fall, that the elect will be saved, the reprobate damned. Each of these is explored in detail after a brief introduction. The chapter closes with a wonderful quote from Augustine: “Brethren, let us not imagine that God puts down any man in His book and then erases him, for if Pilate could say, ‘What I have written, I have written,’ how can it be thought that the great God would write a person’s name in the book of life and then blot it out again?”

Predestination of the Saints, chapter 4, ought to give everyone born of the Spirit joy and supreme assurance of being safe in the refuge of Christ – it is full of Scriptural support for the monergistic saving act of God in the life of every saint. Zanchius includes two excellent bits of counsel as he wraps us this most important chapter – Christians ought to believe the redeemed standing of other Christians (based on sober reflection of evidences that bear witness to same). For how, he asks, can we love one another rightly if we do not believe they, also, are loved with same everlasting love as we? Then he remands us to never judge any man to be a reprobate. He says that we may infer the election of some by the marks and appearances of grace in their lives, but we cannot know sure enough to claim that any person is damned while he yet breathes – because a man who is a reprobate today may have been chosen before time and decreed to repent and believe upon Christ tomorrow! Presumption is sinful and we ought not walk in it; we are, rather, to walk in humility and love – proclaiming the saving gospel to dead men everywhere.

Chapter 5 presents Predestination as it relates to the Ungodly – something I dare say most of us have not thought of. But just as there will be those on the Lord’s right hand on that great day of judgment, there will also be those on His left hand (Matt 7). In explaining predestination to the Romans, Paul reminds us what God had said – “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”. So in Matt 7, when Jesus is telling those on His left hand that He never knew them, He is saying, “I have always hated you.” How differently we tend to discuss the enemies of God in our day! Our mantra is, “God loves everybody” or “God is love”, as if He had but one dimension. There can be no true, biblical love from God if He is compelled to love everyone. He cannot be holy if He accepts those who are not justified. God does not “hate the sin but loves the sinner.” He is angry with sinners all day long! While some will hate this talk, it is the revelation from God Himself – and redeemed saints ought not to shy away from uncomfortable truths.

The last chapter is Predestination as it Relates to the Preacher. In this surprising (to me) chapter, the author makes the case that preaching this doctrine is necessary for the spiritual health of God’s people that He has gathered in each local church. He warns, “Let it, however, be preached with judgment and discretion, i.e., delivered by the preacher as it is delivered in Scripture, and no otherwise.” This doctrine is such that men twist it and deny it – meaning that the wisdom of man is totally insufficient to explain or defend it. So Scripture alone is the rule. Further, since “Election is the golden thread that runs through the whole Christian system,” any gospel preached without it is not the gospel!

Zancius invites us ponder Matt 11:25 & 26, in which he declares that “Christ thanks the Father for doing that very thing which Arminians exclaim against us is unjust, and censure us as partial.” And in Matt 24:22 – 24 the Lord “teaches (1) that there is a certain number of persons who are elected to grace and glory, and (2) that it is absolutely impossible for these to be deceived into total or final apostasy.” Preachers must preach predestination and the sovereignty of God because “Whilst a man is persuaded that he has it in his power to contribute anything, be it ever so little, to his own salvation, he remains in carnal confidence.” This may be the biggest concern in churches in our day – so many men convinced they are “OK with God” because they chose Him! They think God did His share and they must do theirs – not realizing that this system leaves them on the wrong side of the Tiber river. Predestination gives sinners a more accurate picture of both God and man, showing the grace of God – which stands against human worthiness. A footnote shows from Scripture why this doctrine must be preached, for the good of the saints – “do not my words do good to him that walks uprightly?” (Mic 2:7)

There truly is too much good and godly counsel in this book for me to comment on it all. But let this review close out with this glorious exhortation from this dear brother from another century.

“How sweet must the following considerations be to a distressed believer! (1) There most certainly exists an almighty, all-wise and infinitely gracious God. (2) He has given me in times past, and is giving me at present (if I had but eyes to see it), many and signal intimations of His love to me, both in a way of providence and grace. (3) This love of His is immutable; He never repents of it nor withdraws it. (4) Whatever comes to pass in time is the result of His will from everlasting, consequently (5) my afflictions were a part of His original plan, and are all ordered in number, weight and measure, (6) The very hairs of my head are (every one) counted by Him, nor can a single hair fall to the ground but in consequence of His determination. Hence (7) my distresses are not the result of chance, accident or a fortuitous combination of circumstances, nor of Satan getting ahead of God, but (8) the providential accomplishment of God’s purpose, and (9) designed to answer some wise and gracious ends, nor (10) shall my affliction continue a moment longer than God sees meet. (11) He who brought me to it has promised to support me under it and to carry me through it. (12) All shall, most assuredly, work together for His glory and my good, therefore (13) “The cup which my heavenly Father hath given me to drink, shall I not drink it?” Yes, I will, in the strength He imparts, even rejoice in tribulation; and using the means of possible redress, which He has or may hereafter put into my hands, I will commit myself and the event to Him, whose purpose cannot be overthrown, whose plan cannot be disconcerted, and who, whether I am resigned or not, will still go on to work all things after the counsel of His own will.”

At the end of this book, I was left undone by the glorious mercies of God, in choosing to save His enemies – and me being counted among the redeemed. If that last paragraph does not cause your soul to rejoice in wonder and praise and adoration – you need to examine yourself to see if you be in the faith. Christ is all glorious, all powerful, and victorious. By His blood he has purchased a people to be trophies of grace that He will present to our Father on that great and terrible day when all the deeds of men will be judged. The earth and sky will try to flee from the face of God and the wrath of the Lamb, but there will be no place to hide. But ALL whose names were written in the Lamb’s book of Life before the foundation of the world shall be welcomed to the wedding feast when the Lord consummates His eternal plan of redemption! Christ is our refuge and strong tower – He is sufficient! We need no other plea. Run to Christ, cry out for mercy. Seek Him while it is yet today.

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

Quotes (724)

God’s electing a certain definite number is a manifestation of His glory. It shows the glory of His divine sovereignty. God is declaring His absolute sovereignty over His creation. He is showing us just how far that sovereignty extends. In purposely choosing some and passing on others, He shows that His majesty and power are unparalleled. Those who do not see glory and dominion in election simply do not understand God. They are not aware of His greatness, and do not understand grace. Grace is defined in election. God chose His people to happiness and glory long before they were born. He chose them out of the mass of fallen mankind. He loved them before they knew Him. He chose them when they did not deserve to be chosen. That is grace! The doctrine of election shows that if those who received God’s grace had earnestly sought it, it was God’s grace that caused them to seek it. It shows that even their faith itself is the gift of God, and their persevering in a way of holiness unto glory is also the fruit of electing love. Believer’s love of God is the fruit of and because of God’s love to them. The giving of Christ, the preaching of the gospel, and the appointing of ordinances are all fruits of the grace of election. All the grace that is shown to mankind, either in this world or in the world to come, is comprised of the electing love of God.

– Jonathan Edwards

1703 – 1758

Quotes (539)

A controversialist once said, “If I thought God had a chosen people, I should not preach.” That is the very reason why I do preach. What would make him inactive is the mainspring of my earnestness. If the Lord had not a people to be saved, I should have little to cheer me in the ministry.

I believe that God will save his own elect, and I also believe that, if I do not preach the gospel, the blood of men will be laid at my door.

Our Saviour has bidden us to preach the gospel to every creature; he has not said, “Preach it only to the elect;” and though that might seem to be the most logical thing for us to do, yet, since he has not been pleased to stamp the elect in their foreheads, or to put any distinctive mark upon them, it would be an impossible task for us to perform; whereas, when we preach the gospel to every creature, the gospel makes its own division, and Christ’s sheep hear his voice, and follow him.

C.H. Spurgeon

HT: Reformation Theology

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

Just what DOES 2nd Peter 3:9 mean, anyway?

whitefield JohnWesley

(Left: George Whitefield; Right: John Wesley. Two men who differed greatly concerning election, yet for all their differences, accorded the other as being very devout and godly men. Should we disagree, may we be as charitable.)


Yesterday morning, in a group prayer before worship service, one of the fellows in the group quoted 2nd Peter 3:9 in the usual manner we hear so many people (mis)use it so often. Now, keep in mind, I dearly love this brother and I am not going to call someone a heretic just because they think this verse means that God wants every single person to be saved. But this IS the word of God we are talking about, and we do need to understand what God is saying, and what He is NOT saying. With that in mind, and with humble submission to His word, let us delve into this passage. And to do so, to keep it in context, we actually have to go back to verse 1, and begin there. That said, here is the passage in its entirety. 2nd Peter 3:1-9

1 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, 3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

When studying any passage of Scripture, certain things need to be considered:

  1. Who was it written to?
  2. Why was it written?
  3. What idea was the author trying to convey?

So, let’s take these one at a time. Continue reading