(This has been a challenging post to write and not only because of the subject matter. When the sun has been shining, I couldn’t stand to be indoors so I have been going walkabout with my trusty sidekick, my camera. When the weather has been grey and wet, my brain and body have had difficulty functioning properly so I have been unable to concentrate.)
Once upon a time, in days long past, when children used to play outside, we used to play a number of group games which required the forming of teams. Two leaders would take turns choosing team mates from the rag tag group of kids gathered together on the lawn (usually at our house). Of course, the kids who were the strongest and the fastest always got picked first. No kid wanted to be the one that was left to last and hear one leader say to the other, “You can have Johnny/Jenny”.
Do any of you remember what if felt like to stand in the line and wait to be chosen? Have you ever experienced being chosen last, or worse still, not chosen at all? If so, how did that experience make you feel? As a girl, I can distinctly remember being a “wallflower” at school dances and how it made me feel sick in my stomach to watch the boys walk past me to ask someone else.
Belonging to the “not chosen” group can make a person feel unloved, worthless and hopeless. It can also make a person indifferent and/or angry towards the person/persons who are seen to be doing the “choosing”.
If it makes us feel this way about people in the natural world, how does the understanding that God “picks and chooses” who He will “save” make us feel about God? I have personally heard people say, “Why bother worrying about becoming a Christian if God has already decided/chosen whom He will save?” The basic thought being, “There’s no point!” I feel that this kind of thinking must lead to feelings of anger, frustration, confusion, loss and hopelessness!
Some church denominations teach that God “calls” or “chooses” only certain people to be saved. I think that this particular church doctrine is mainly based on the following scriptures:
Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ;
Eph 1:4 according as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
Eph 1:5 having predestined us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
Rom 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be the First-born among many brothers.
Rom 8:30 But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, those He also justified. And whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Joh 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draw him…
I don’t deny that Scripture actually says those things, but are the words being correctly interpreted or “rightly divided”? How does the content of these scriptures compare with what other scriptures have to say about God’s character and His plan of salvation?
One denominational statement of faith includes the following explanatory comments:
“God did not elect his children based upon the foreknowledge of who would believe but did so according ‘according to the good pleasure of his will'”.
“God’s saving grace is not universal, but particular, given only to those whom God has chosen from eternity.”
“God’s grace, not human decision, is the decisive factor in salvation. Believers do not choose God so much as God chooses believers”.
My study of the scriptures has led me to hold a different understanding; I don’t believe that God plays “Eenie, meenie, minee, moe” with us when it comes to salvation.
First of all, there is the character and nature of God to take into consideration.
Deu 32:4 He is the Rock; His work is perfect. For all His ways are just, a God of faithfulness, and without evil; just and upright is He.
In Isa. 45:21 God calls himself “a just God“.
Webster’s Dictionary includes the following definitions for the word “just” as it is used in the above scriptures:
– equitable in the distribution of justice; as a just judge.
– Conformed to rules of justice; doing equal justice.
– Impartial; allowing what is due; giving fair representation of character, merit or demerit.
The apostle Peter confirms the description of God as “just”:
Act 10:34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said, Truly I see that God is no respecter of persons;
Meaning, that God does not exhibit partiality. Webster’s Dictionary defines partiality as:
PARTIALITY, n. parshal’ity. Inclination to favor one party or one side of a question more than the other; an undue bias of mind towards one party or side, which is apt to warp the judgment. Partiality springs from the will and affections, rather than from a love of truth and justice.
Since we have already seen that God is described as being “just”, then He must love truth and justice, therefore He can not exhibit partiality. Therefore, I am unable to believe that the last part of the following statement is correctly interpreted: “God did not elect his children based upon the foreknowledge of who would believe but did so according ‘according to the good pleasure of his will‘”.
Another of Webster’s definitions for the word “just” is as follows:
– True to promises; faithful; as just to one’s word or engagements.
1Jn 2:25 And this is the promise that He has promised us: everlasting life.
The following scriptures reveal God’s plan and promise of salvation:
Joh 3:14 But even as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
Joh 3:15 so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life
Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Joh 3:17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him.
Joh 3:18 He who believes on Him is not condemned
Act 10:35 but in every nation he who fears Him and works righteousness is accepted with Him.
Rom 10:12 For there is no difference both of Jew and of Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call on Him.
Rom 10:13 For everyone, “whoever shall call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Rom 5:18 Therefore as by one offense sentence came on all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came to all men to justification of life.
In the above noted scriptures, take special notice of the words “whosoever”, “whoever”, “the world”, “He (meaning anyone) who believes”, “every nation”, “all who call”, “all men” and “everyone”. Do those words convey universal grace or “particular” grace? Do those words support the doctrine,“God’s saving grace is not universal, but particular, given only to those whom God has chosen from eternity.”? Or do the above scriptures tell us of a just God who offers universal saving grace to anyone who believes and accepts Jesus?
Do the above noted scriptures, correctly interpreted, show that “human decision” is involved in “choosing” to believe in God and Jesus, or is the church doctrine, “God’s grace, not human decision, is the decisive factor in salvation. Believers do not choose God so much as God chooses believers” correct?
Comparing scripture with scripture, is the church doctrinal statement, ““God did not elect his children based upon the foreknowledge of who would believe” a correct interpretation of scripture? Let’s look at the following scriptures:
2Ti 1:9 Who gave us salvation, marking us out for his purpose, not on account of our works, but in the measure of his purpose and his grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before times eternal,… (BBE)
So, having looked at God’s character, that of a just and impartial judge, and His plan for the redemption of mankind, as seen in Joh. 3:16, a plan which He had made before the foundation of the world, I interpret the scriptures quoted in the beginning of this blog: Eph. 1:3-5; Rom.8:29,30; Joh.6:44, to mean that, while God does choose, who he chooses is anybody who chooses to believe in and accept Jesus Christ as their saviour. And that since God had the plan of redemption ready to put in place before the foundation of the world, that all those who believe have been predestined to be saved.
So who is God choosing? God chooses anybody who chooses to believe in the plan that God foreordained, foreknew, that is, Jesus Christ; the outcome of that choice – being predestined to enjoy the benefits of that foreordained plan – salvation.
“9It is God who saved us and chose us to live a holy life. He did this not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan long before the world began—to show his love and kindness to us through Christ Jesus.
Please note that I purposely use the terms “scriptures” and “church doctrine”. I believe that there is an important difference. The scriptures are God’s Word, 2 Tim 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed…”. Webster’s dictionary defines doctrine as: “1. In a general sense, whatever is taught. Hence, a principle or position in any science; whatever is laid down as true by an instructor or master. The doctrines of the gospel are the principles or truths taught by Christ and his apostles. The doctrines of Plato are the principles which he taught. Hence a doctrine may be true or false; it may be a mere tenet or opinion.” Therefore, “church” doctrine is based upon human “tenant or opinion” of scripture. That is why “The Church”, God’s people, have been divided into so many denominations, and why there have, and continue to be, so many different opinions on the interpretation of God’s Word.
PS: I am having difficulty formatting the text on this posting so if it appears confusing, I apologize.