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Seeing The Gospel Objectively

31 Jan

Seeing the bigger picture in the gospel is highly important in giving us insight, deeper understanding and meaning to Christianity. The gospel subjectively is one of a very personal nature, in that God saves me from my sins that have separated me from Him. Now I have personal access to the God who walks with me every day, I have a relationship with Him. These facts may be very true, however to naively focus on the subjective gospel would do salvation an injustice. Seeing the gospel through an objective lens is essential for contextualising our individual and corporate experience/journey.

The promise fulfilled in Christ

2 Corinthians 1:20 For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.

In order to understand the gospel more fully there has to be an understanding of the promise given to the fathers, as the gospel is a fulfilment of the promise given to Abraham.

Genesis 12:1-3:

Now the Lord said to Abram,

“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Genesis 22:18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

In chapter 12 the promise given to Abraham has three focuses.

1/ The Land – Abraham is to go to the land God shows to become a great nation

2/ The Nation – the Nation is to be blessed

3/ The Nations – all the Nations are to be blessed by this formed Nation

Abraham gives birth to Isaac and Isaac gives birth to Jacob. In Jacob God forms the Nation Israel. Israel is to enter the Promised Land to be a blessing to the surrounding nations, sharing the light of God. However, cutting a long story short, Israel had failed to be a blessing to other nations because of disobedience and turned away worshipping idols and false gods, therefore invoking the wrath of God in the form of exile (Babylonian and Assyrian invasion).

Israel’s rebellion sets the stage for the long awaited Messiah who will redeem the nation back to God, therefore enabling it to become once again a light to the other nations through Him(Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, 60:3). 700 years after the prophet Isaiah speaks of the Messiah, Jesus is born in Bethlehem.

The Nation Israel who were commanded to be a light had failed, therefore the Light of the world (Jesus) appeared in the form of a man to be a light unto the nations (gentiles). In Matthew 4:15-16 the writer quotes the prophet Isaiah:

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles
16 “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light,
And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death,
Upon them a Light dawned.”

Here we see the Messiah promised to Abraham (Galatians 3:16) and prophesied by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15) accomplishing the promise by fulfilling Israel’s destiny. Christ chooses His disciples and walks with them for 3 years founding them on the revelation of Himself and The Kingdom. The gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed through Him telling of God’s ruler-ship and reign, not of an earthly Kingdom but of a heavenly one.

Nearing the end of His ministry on earth, Christ is put to death at the hands of gentiles and Jews. Israel due to disobeying God’s law had bought a curse upon themselves and although now not in physical exile, were exiled spiritually (Deuteronomy 27:26), therefore Christ became a curse on Israel’s behalf (Galatians 3:13).

He is then buried in a tomb; however He could not be held by death and therefore rises from the dead in the form of a resurrected body. Jesus then ascends in to heaven 40 days later after a period of revealing Himself to His disciples where He must remain until the period of the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). The redeemed nation in Christ (Church (1 Peter 2:9)) receives the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus and go into the known world (nations) preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins through Him.

We see this gospel preached in Acts 13:32-39:

32 And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33 that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; today i have begotten You.’ 34 As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ 35 Therefore He also says in another Psalm, ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.’ 36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; 37 but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. 38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.

So in summary the gospel is the good news that all people can be part of the promise given to Abraham by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ through the forgiveness of sins. This gospel Jesus bought to earth in Himself was the fulfilment of the promise given and repeated to many other Israelite generations. The promise was fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection in that Christ is the Messiah, foretold to come from the Kingly line of David (the blessing of David). David served the purpose of God in his generation, however died. Christ served the purpose of God in His generation however lives.

Returning back to the promise, we look again at the focuses in the light of Christ’s fulfilment:

1/ The Land – Abraham is to go to the land God shows to become a great nation

Christ fulfils the land promise in that He forms a nation in Himself, called in Galatians 6:16 “The Israel of God”. This new nation is not an earthly but a heavenly nation, God does not replace Israel (Romans 11 (The Church does not become Israel, however Jews and gentiles must be saved and grafted into Christ through faith)), He forms a new creation (one new man) of people through faith in His son. It is formed not through ethnicity, for Christ brings down the dividing wall of Jew and Gentile and fashions a commonwealth of believers through faith and not allegiance to the law.

The hope of the promise is fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of the heir of promise (Christ) affirms that the promise inherited through the righteousness of faith (Romans 4:3), to all who believe and have faith, past and present have the hope of a bodily resurrection on earth. Therefore the promise that Abraham and his seed would inherit the land is confirmed in Christ’s resurrection. This promise to Abraham is still yet to be completely fulfilled at the consummation of age when the righteous dead are raised and given new embodiment in the eternal Kingdom of God.

2/ The Nation – the Nation is to be blessed

3/ The Nations – all the Nations are to be blessed by this formed Nation

This new nation formed in Christ, composing of Christ’s disciples of faith is blessed. Christ fulfils the promise given to Abraham that “all the families of the earth will be blessed” by turning everyone away from their wicked ways (Acts 3:26).

Acts 3:24-26:

24 And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. 25 It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

Now in Christ, His followers are sent into the entire world to preach the gospel of the Kingdom to creation (Mark 16). The gospel enables even gentiles to become heirs and partakers of the promise in Christ (Ephesians 3:6). God through Christ dwells no longer in a temple made with hands (which is how God dwelt with Israel under the old covenant) but in those who are Christ’s disciples. His disciples bear God’s image throughout the earth as people from every tribe and tongue through the good news are born in to His new covenant, preparing the way for His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. His body (Church) is sent out to usher in the “already here but not yet” Kingdom before His return to reign on earth.

So what does this mean in terms of seeing the gospel objectively?

Christ dwells in me – Christ dwells in His creation

As we have seen, in the promise fulfilled by Christ, God wishes to dwell in the earth and rule and reign in the nations. He wishes to bless the nations and become central to them, being central in their political, social and economic systems. After all, Christ’s inheritance is the nations (Psalm 2:8). Christ dwells in His believers, but to what end? The glory of God in all the earth, and as believers we are to recognise and serve as part of this much bigger plan.

The gospel changes my heart – The gospel transforms the world

The gospel not only transforms an individual’s heart, it penetrates the world systems that misrepresent and disrepute God’s Kingdom.  Fruit must be seen in a person who has heard and believed the gospel; however, the earth’s transformation is essential in a world that refuses to acknowledge its creator.

“The call of Jesus is actually much more radical than simply a moral repentance; his call is completely world altering. It defies the religious, political, economic structures, even so far as the basic family structure. What is beautiful about Jesus is he goes further with his message than even the average radical street corner proselytizer is willing to go; Jesus goes all the way down to destroying your whole world view, not just your moral code.” (http://jonathanperrodin.com/2010/08/n-t-wright-on-repentance/)

Sin separates me from God – Sin distorts and contaminates God’s creation

Sin is destructive; in Genesis we see sin separating God and man but also man’s involvement in creation. When Cain murdered Abel, Abeles blood cried out to God from the land. This murderous act not only meant his punishment was becoming a vagrant wanderer in the earth but also had an impact geologically and geographically. In Numbers 35:30-34 we see that sin pollutes the land.

The gospel enables me to have a relationship with God – The gospel restores the world into its rightful place with its Creator

When I believed in Christ and He forgave my sins I entered into a relationship with God. This gospel stretches further than my redeemed relationship, it re aligns the world into its rightful place. God is a God of order and cannot contend with sin; therefore all things stained by sin must be redeemed. This includes not only my personal relationship but order is also required in governmental, political, social and economic systems.

I speak the gospel to my friends and colleagues – We speak the gospel to creation

To belittle telling the good news to friends, family and colleagues would be wrong. This gospel must be spoken to those we interact with in our daily lives. Nevertheless it is not solely spoken to humanity, but to creation itself. To explain this further we could take the example of global warming. As I have described above, sin distorts and affects our earth geologically. The gospel therefore must also be effective in redeeming our physical earth. Scientists need the gospel to research renewable clean energy, governments require the gospel to keep recycling a priority and farmers must grasp the gospel to use ethical products in their farming.

So how can we conclude?

1/ our focus on the gospel must not be merely subjective but objective.

2/ the gospels bigger picture is one of fulfilment of the promises given to the fathers.

3/ an objective lens helps us to contextualise our personal experience of salvation.

References

http://jonathanperrodin.com/2010/08/n-t-wright-on-repentance/

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How to Approach the Father

24 Jan

“Don’t come to God in relation to what you’ve done. Come to God in relation to what Christ has done.”

How often do we find ourselves coming to the throne of God saying “Lord I come to you BUT …………… I’ve messed up.”

Hebrews 10:15

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

So many times I come to God trying to make penance, striving, only to feel even guiltier to make up for my sins. This is me attempting to sacrifice for my sins. The great gospel message gives us rest in that no longer do we need to sacrifice for our sin any more, but we can enter with confidence into Gods holiest place, knowing that He sees us not through our efforts, works or failures but through the cleansing blood of Christ. Christ’s blood is acceptable to God; our blood is marked with sin. For those who believe and confess upon Christ that He is Lord are covered by this pure acceptable blood. This is that which gives us confident access.

It would be right of us to come with guilt, shame and fear of rejection if we were to trust in our own righteousness or works to gain access. But thanks be to God in our Lords Jesus Christ, we can enter with full assurance in our hearts because of Christ’s pure sacrifice.

The beauty of Gods lavishing grace and mercy is that we can come boldly. What does it mean to come boldly? It means without guilt, without the need to make penance. We can be confident that full atonement has been accomplished in Christ.

Below is a song by Keith Green called “When I hear the Praise Start”. This song speaks of how God now sees us through Christ. He no longer sees us as stained humans but as His Children.

My son, My son, why are you striving
You can’t add one thing to what’s been done for you
I did it all while I was dying
Rest in your faith, my peace will come to you

For when I hear the praises start
I want to rain upon you
Blessings that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are my child and you know me
To Me you’re only holy
Nothing that you’ve done remains
Only what you do for Me

My child, My child, why are you weeping
You will not have to wait forever
That day and that hour is in My keeping
The day I’ll bring you into Heaven

For when I hear the praises start
My child, I want to rain upon you
Blessing that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are My child and you know me
To me you’re only holy
Nothing that you’ve done remains
Only what you do in Me

My precious bride, the day is nearing
When I’ll take you in My arms and hold you
I know there are so many things that you’ve been hearing
But you just hold on to what I have told you

For when I hear the praises start
My bride, I want to rain upon you
Blessings that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are My child, and you know Me
To me you’re only holy
Nothing that you’ve done will remain
Only what you do for me

Yield to God

23 Dec

Oh sinner, will you not yield yourself to God? Will you not present yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness, for the Lord Himself to play his sweet tune? Is Christ not worthy of His sufferings? If you will not yield, how will God be glorified? We might esteem the world, but to what end? Only folly and destruction. Come at once to the throne of grace, gladly bow before Him. He can only get glory out of a soul that is yielded, rendered to Him wholly. Take for instance Cain in the presence of God, at once he saw his brothers offering to God, which God esteemed. Cain became covetous of his brothers offering and his countenance fell. Sin lurked at his door, the pride of life, the lust of the flesh, the esteem and glory of self beset him, only for him to submit and yield to its power. His submission to God he despised, and henceforth he murdered his brother, the consequences of which were too burdensome to carry. God made him a vagrant wanderer on the earth and because of Cain’s lack of yielding to God, the earth no longer yielded its strength to him. The authority God had bestowed upon him, he quickly handed over to Satan and therefore he cast him out of the presence of the almighty.

What lessons we must learn from Cain’s example. Lack of yield to the almighty will cause sin to encompass our every move, it will tarry, and it will not retreat. The consequence of which is far too great to bear. Creation once yielded to Cain as he yielded to God, God endeavoured to give man authority under His, however, once coveting, the pride of life and self-glory appears, our submission is no submission at all, we are torn from the alter, wandering outside the camp, wandering through the wilderness with no divine King to be entrusted to. We must yield to Him, we must come to Him in grace and truth through the blood of Christ.

James 4:4-10

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God.Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Why befriend yourself with the world? Don’t you know its hostility toward your maker? You make yourself an enemy as Cain did if you wish to entwine yourself to the system of the world. God jealously desires you, and you resist him? Resist the Devil at once, resist not the Lords grace, he wishes to bestow on you grace upon grace, a greater grace to those who humble themselves. Yield, therefore brothers and hasten. Come near to him and let not your heart be compromised, he desires of you, no, he demands of you holiness. How may we be holy? Only by his greater grace. The more you humble yourself in His presence, the more grace He will bequeath you to find victory over sin.

Titus 2:11-12

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,

He gives grace to the humble; accept this free gift by the way of humility. Humility is the highway to holiness, and the highway of holiness is the only road to seeing His majesty. Grace is the only way to holiness, it can be no other way. Your own striving won’t do, it has to be Christ and Him only. Grace empowers the spirit which He jealously desires to dwell in you.

Yield therefore, I say again, yield, live not a day unyileded to God, for He is worthy of your lives, worthy of all. Come at once to the alter, be consumed, and be consecrated that the Lord may be magnified in your body. Present yourselves to Him and He will give your souls rest. May it never be that you submit for your own selfish desires, submit wholly to Him for His names sake, submit because He is worthy of His sufferings.

Holiness

22 Dec

Holiness

Holiness is the act of God consecrating a man submitted on the alter, conforming and sanctifying him into His own image. The analogy of the potter and clay is the ideal imagery of God the creator, forming man the creature, into a pot that is His creation and workmanship. God demands of us holiness because He in all His glory is Holy. God cannot contend with corruptible man, and He who started a good work will bring it to completion. God will not save a man and then decide not to sanctify him, what would be the point in saving someone whom He would not then sanctify? It would be mindless and obscene to think God does not want holiness of you.

Charles Spurgeon puts it so eloquently “Dear friend, salvation would be a sadly incomplete affair if it did not deal with this part of our ruined estate. We want to be purified as well as pardoned. Justification without sanctification would not be salvation at all. It would call the leper clean, and leave him to die of his disease; it would forgive the rebellion and allow the rebel to remain an enemy to his king. It would remove the consequences but overlook the cause, and this would leave an endless and hopeless task before us. It would stop the stream for a time, but leave an open fountain of defilement, which would sooner or later break forth with increased power.”

Holiness is not something that can be earned through self-righteousness; it is not something that a person can achieve by their own doing, it must be done by God Himself making us holy. We by nature are sinners, we are crucified with Him, however the presence of sins still lurks beneath, above and to each side of us, longing to grip us once again, urging us to play the old tune through the new instrument God has made us to be. Our own efforts therefore will only lead us again toward sin, self can’t improve self, and it can’t make itself Holy because its origins aren’t of Holiness. There’s only one who originates in Holiness, namely God Himself. If Christ defeated sins power He is the only one who can defeat sins presence. As a snake cannot be reared by a bird, our old tendencies cannot be weaned by our own self. It would be obsured to find a pheasant taming a python, the python at once would ravish the bird and swallow it whole, as with sin, the Christian born again may try to control his selfish nature, but pride swallows his attempt. The Christian is therefore powerless to overcome sins presence as the flesh weak. Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. The only way the Christian can overcome sins presence is to present himself to the one who defeated sins power, that is Christ, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25). Therefore submission to the King is the only way to holiness, humility is the highway. No other way can we come than through the blood of Christ. Our coming to God must be one of presenting to Him, relying on Him to mould us into His holiness. Romans 6:13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. Roy Hession, in his book The Calvary Road puts it simply “All we have to do is present our empty, broken self and let Him fill and keep filled.” 

Only Gods workmanship alone can result in our good deeds pleasing Him. God knows how He must be worshiped and we as believers give ourselves to His profound knowledge, to be shaped by the person of Christ. Ephesians 2 gives us insight into the workmanship of God. Two verses next to each other describe good works centred on man and good works coming from the centre of the Father. Good works are not to be questioned; the subject in question is man’s heart.

Ephesians 2:8-10 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

At once we see Paul clearly condemning man’s attempt to save himself through his own works, that he may not boast before God. Yet, the next verse speaks once again of good works, this time however, it is not the workmanship of man but the workmanship of God.

As C.H. Spurgeon says A faith which works not for purification will work for putrefaction. Unless our faith makes us pine after holiness, it is no better than the faith of devils, and perhaps it is not even so good as that. A holy man is the workmanship of the Holy Spirit.”

Christ work on the cross obliterates our work, it annihilates even our good works done with a courteous spirit. His work was perfect in contrast to our work stained by the Adamic selfish nature. God calls us to holiness through our works, that we would walk in them to be pleasing to Him. However, these works are not ours but Gods, through Christ in us. These works are a sweet aroma to him, pleasant and fresh, bringing Him utter glory. The believer who presents himself as an instrument of righteousness gives himself for Christ to work in and through to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; The apostle Paul and believers of the new testament church seemed to grasp this. Not that it could be grasped in human effort, yet they yielded to His majesty, they knew the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 7 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Let’s look at these scriptures in further detail. 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1:

For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,

“I willdwell in them andwalk among them;
And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
17 “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord.
“And do not touch what is unclean;
And I will welcome you.
18 “And I will be a father to you,
And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,”
Says the Lord Almighty.

7 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

We are, in Christ Gods temple, God dwells in us, He does not dwell within sinners. No sinner can enter the temple and no sinner can dwell in Gods courts. Therefore the prophet Ezekiel tells us to be separate from uncleanliness. Holiness is perfected in the reverence and awe of God himself. To find an example of this in the scriptures we might look at the prophet Isaiah. The scriptures tell us that he saw God exalted, sitting on a throne and Gods robe was filling the temple. What a wonderful picture, the awe inspiring God, not able to be contained in a temple, is seen by the prophet who would incur Gods judgements on the people of Israel, not to their detriment but for Gods name sake, that He may make them holy, therefore being glorified by their holiness before Him. The account goes further as Isaiah then sees Seraphim calling to each other “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts”. Immediately, as Isaiah sees God in His glory, he perceives something else, namely his wretched self in all its contempt.

“Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

At once, the seraphim touch his lips with burning coals and his iniquity is taken away and his sins forgiven, Isaiah is made holy. What’s more, Isaiah could only be sent after he had seen God and had been made holy. The only way God can make us holy is by seeing Him, for we then see ourselves as we really are, we are then violently thrown on God’s grace and mercy. God only gives grace to those who humble themselves (James 4:6) and it is only grace that enables us to become holy. Titus 2:11-14:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Therefore humble yourself that you may receive grace.

One of the marks of holiness is the man who consciously sees his sin and brings it to the cross. Spurgeon once said “The more hoy a man becomes the more conscious he is of his unholiness”. Holiness comes when we are broken before him, we are broken to his will, God then convicts us as He reveals more of His son to us, and we cannot help but see the vices that lay within our hearts. There is nothing we can do, as we have discussed before, to control them or overcome them in and through ourselves. Roy Hession puts it like this “The moment you  are conscious of that touch of envy, criticism, irritability, whatever it is – ask Jesus to cover it over with His precious blood and cleans it away and you will find the reaction gone, your joy and peace restored, and your cup running over. And the more you trust the blood of Jesus in this way, the less will you even have these reactions.”

All we can do is present ourselves to God through Christ’s blood for Him to mould us. This does not mean that we have an excuse to sin, we have now more of a reason to become holy. Christ has saved us, ransomed and redeemed His children. We are no longer slaves of sin, yet we are still slaves, slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18). Therefore let us throw off every encumbrance of sin (Hebrews 12:1-2) and approach the father through the blood of Christ, let us dwell continually in His holy place by humbling ourselves before his throne of grace and mercy (Hebrews 4:6). Let us present ourselves as instruments of righteousness for Him to play His holy tune through (Romans 6:13). Let us become separate from all worldliness and our own lusts to be a people secured for His own possession (1 Peter 2:9), and let us be holy for He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). For without holiness no one shall see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14).

 

Predestination revealing God's Sovereignty

6 Oct

Predestination is a topic within Christianity that has largely been argued over hundreds of years. Some would argue that it has even divided Churches. There are numerous arguments, theologies, doctrines and schools of thought that give this topic such fierce ammunition for discrepancy, however our aim here is not to argue a case but reflect upon Christ and his word that we may gain a clearer perspective of his glory.

There are so many scriptures surrounding the subject that provoke questions. Questions are a natural response to life’s conundrums. Responding to God’s word is commendable and something that we should regularly seek to do. With this in mind I will try to conclude some questions that may arise within our human thinking in regards to predestination.

Does God choose us or do we choose him?

Do we not have free will or the ability to choose God? Are we created to be robots?

If God chooses some and not others does this mean he has predestined some to hell?

Is God unjust?

Is Christ plan A or plan B?

Does God contradict himself?

God knew we would sin so why create man?

Will we ever get to the bottom of predestination? Is there any point thinking about it?

There are, I am sure many more questions, but for now we will not seek to answer these questions directly but find meaning of the scriptures through Gods sovereignty.

The essence of humanity is that we are utterly sinful. We by nature are children of Adam and therefore corrupt, in need of a redeemer.  Naturally we are opposed to God in our flesh and therefore we cannot receive God.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Only by the holy spirit can we discern what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom 12:2).

With this in our midst we know that God who is infinitely greater than us cannot be comprehended fully in our human mind. His thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). This is not a ploy to avoid knowledge or understanding; however we must accept that unless God reveals we will not understand, especially with our limited capacity to discern the things of God naturally.

As humans we like things to be black and white, we like definite because we have a need for a level of control. This is how we survive, how we make correct judgment and make decisions. Black and white is clear and this gives us security, it is absolute, understanding God is no different. We want to understand God in terms of absolute, and God after all I believe is absolute, he is complete and is definite in all he does; he is not half hearted and eternally does what is right. There arises a problem, as man we find it hard to see that God in all he does is clear; it often seems clouded and grey. How can God desire that only certain people be elect/chosen and simultaneously desire all to be saved? In our thinking this has no logic; it is not black and white but grey. The issue dwells with us; we are the fallible ones, not God because he is always just.

It seems then that there are two wills with God. Jesus death is a prime example; Gods word tells us Christ was righteous, his will is that the righteous live. God does not will that a righteous man be put to death, yet Christ was crushed to the point of death by God himself. Through one lens we see a God who does not wish that his servants suffer, that his people are comforted and at peace, through another lens however, we find that God perfects his children through suffering. Israel, the people of God were called to be a light to the nations, an example people to reveal the glory of God, however they failed to live up to Gods will. On one hand it was Gods will that they be a light, yet on the other hand it was Gods will that only Christ and those in Christ be a light. God wills that Israel be fully successful in their pursuit of revealing his glory to the gentiles whilst paradoxically having the foreknowledge of Israel’s failure and the revealing of God to the gentiles only in Christ. God desires that all men be saved and at the same time has predestined only some to obtain an inheritance in Christ according to the purpose of of Him who works all things to the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11).

Does God therefore contradict himself and thus stand unjust?

No, I can answer this question directly for two reasons. One, scripture tells us God is just (which I will expand on further) and two, as we described before, man has a fallible mind that cannot comprehend the things of God unless revealed to him for heaven.

Let’s turn to Romans 9 to give us a greater insight into the sovereignty of God.

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed [c]forever. Amen.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice wouldstand, not because of works but because of Him who calls12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

The context of this scripture is regarding Israel. The point Paul is aiming to get across is that we are chosen not because of our works but because of him who calls giving a fuller meaning to who’s Abrahams descendants are.

Firstly we can say that God does choose and that he does not choose us on the basis of ethnicity, for it’s the children of promise who are descendants, not those who are fleshly descendants i.e. ethnic Jews (non gentiles).

Secondly, those in Christ are not chosen because God in his foreknowledge knew that we would someday choose him. To declare that would be to place man at the centre of his own salvation, this I believe is unbiblical. God is central to salvation and we have no part to play in God giving us sight to see him or faith to believe in him. In the context of Jacob and Esau it could be argued that God knew Esau would sin by giving up his birth right and therefore God chose Jacob as a result of this foreknowledge. However Romans 9 clearly tells us that “for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice wouldstand, not because of works but because of Him who calls12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

We can conclude that God does not choose in light of a decision we make to salvation according to his foreknowledge.

So is God unjust to love one and hate the other? Scripture tells us “may it never be!” God has mercy and compassion on whom he wills. God hardened Pharaohs heart that His name “might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth”. The bigger picture that we must recognise is God’s glory. He does as he wills for his name to be magnified and exalted, his will at times seems unjust from our micro prospective, God however is in control of the macro perspective which ends ultimately in His own glorification. The natural question to ask then is, how can God find man guilty and at fault if he has no seeming choice in the matter of salvation? Paul answers this question eloquently and reverently by challenging us on our authority to question his justness and more significantly his sovereignty. In the end, God will always have the final word and his will stands eternally. This gives me comfort to know that despite many questions regarding his ways, God is always just and does what is right.

Genesis 18:25 Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

Christ has always been plan A and not plan B. God did not find that man needed a redeemer due to man’s sin therefore sending a remedy. His purpose was that Christ always be eternally plan A, he has never been a reserve, he has and always will be at the forefront of all He does and is. Am I suggesting God is the author of sin? No, whether he is or he isn’t, one thing I am sure of is that Christ was not simply a remedy for our sickness but at the cross He was glorified and made magnificently central, Jesus was born as a man to die in Gods foreknowledge that he firstly may be glorified and that we as redeemed servants be glorified with him. He was and always will be the firstborn from of all creation (Col 1:15).

If there were no sin, there would be no need for a saviour, no need to receive grace and mercy; we would have no knowledge of Gods kind nature. How would we know these wonderful characteristics God displays and freely graces us with we hadn’t of sinned? God in his foreknowledge had Christ at the forefront of his mind to redeem us from sin and be hailed as Lord for all eternity.

Will we ever get to the bottom of predestination? I would suggest it is highly unlikely. Like all things in life we must seek to gain a good balance, in regards to predestination it would be unwise and harmful to get caught up in trying to find out the answers, to somehow work God out, this I believe is futile. To disregard thinking and searching scripture likewise would be unwise, as God reveals himself more and more to us we begin to grasp an understanding of Gods sovereignty which is key to walking in fellowship with him and accepting the things of God. I do firmly believe that a security can be found in Christ as he reveals his divine election and choosing of his saints. So balance is what we seek, not an extreme need to work God out and by no means an apathy towards understanding through revelation.

I have purposely sought not to answer questions that I mentioned above for the sole purpose of highlighting Gods sovereignty. Before answering any question in terms of salvation, predestination and like topics we must first know that God is. He is the “I am” and all things are in subjection to Him.

Hebrews 2: 5 – 8 For He did not subject to angels [g]the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying,

What is man, that You remember him?
Or the son of man, that You are concerned about him?
“You have made him [h]for a little while lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And have appointed him over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”

For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.

All things are in subjection to Christ. At times we don’t see all things subject to him but what we do see is Christ crowned with honour and glory who tasted death for everyone. He is the centre, he’s central to predestination, he is the centre of foreknowledge, he is the centre of his choosing who he wills and he is all and in all and through all.

Amen.