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Election and Free Will

 

Election and Free Will

Here are some verses that seem to support free will; 

2 Peter 3:9 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. 

Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 

John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 

Here are some verses that seem to support election; 

Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 

Colossians 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 

I want to be sensitive to your experiences. It should not be surprising that those who have been ill-treated by one group would hold a reflexive antipathy towards the beliefs of that group. 

In attempt to resolve what can appear to be contradictions, people have made several suggestions over the years. 

1. God’s foreknowledge. This makes use of God’s existence outside of time to propose that since God knows what people will chose, he makes his choice consistent with what people will choose. I find it difficult to support this view as it tends to diminish God to the status of observer. 


2. Three Populations. This view declares that there exist some people who cannot be saved (the tares, vessels made for destruction, and children of the devil). This is a variant on the elect/nonelect distinction in that a further distinction is made between unsaveable/those who do not chose God/those who are saved. It is difficult to support this view even though it appears to satisfy the differentiation between those God foreknew and those he did not (Romans 8:29), it requires the 
existence of life that is not of God. This does expand the available categories from accepting/rejecting to accepting/rejection/not caring. 

3. Open Theism. This view emphasizes God’s will as flexible and open to all sorts of possibilities. This view can accommodate man’s free will but often at the expense of God’s will. I think a better picture of the relationship between God’s will and man’s will can be seen here;

1Ki 19:13-18 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. 

It seems to me that God has very specific plans. He patiently invites us to participate in accomplishing his will. However, if we fail or reject this invitation, God’s plans will still be accomplished. 

Another illustration can be seen in God considering exterminating all of Israel and making a new nation from Moses (similar to what happened with the flood). 

Romans 9:18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 

The picture of God’s will as certain and inviolate is firmly established. 

Isaiah 55:10-11 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing 
whereto I sent it. 

However, we may not be able to fully grasp it. 

Isaiah 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

It also seems that much is left on the shoulders of man; 

Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 

There are verses that touch on the interplay of man’s will and God’s; 

Proverbs 16:9 A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. 

We can see a little of this with Jonah; 

Jonah 1:17-2:1 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly, 

Jonah was one tough cookie if he could wait three days and nights inside a fish before crying out to God. However, we have an example of an encounter between God’s will and man’s and God’s will was accomplished. 

I see in the example of the individual Jonah a similarity with the collective conflict with Israel. Israel was uninterested in the new covenant that Jesus offered and his kingdom. However, God will allow circumstances when they (like Jonah) will be very much interested in following his will. 

Revelation 12:13-17 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth 
water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. 

Zechariah 12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. 

It may not be valid to compare the redemption of Israel with the redemption offered individuals. However, it can still be interesting to observe comparative dynamics. God’s initial plan was to call out for himself a nation that would be used to reach all the people on earth. Israel made herself useless because of her idolatries. God chastened Israel with the Babylonian captivity, after which idolatry was not practiced by Israel again. When Jesus came to offer the new covenant and the kingdom, Israel was mostly disinterested. The temple was destroyed and Israel scattered for 2,000 years (the time of the gentiles). The return of Israel to Jerusalem sets the stage for the final event where a fleeing remnant of Israel will be supernaturally protected by God for three and a half years at the end of which at the return of Christ, a nation will be born in a day. This will complete the redemption of the nation of Israel. 

It is interesting to note that in the verse in Zechariah that God “pours out” the “spirit of grace and supplications”. I see this as a finishing touch, compatible with the “new heart” that had been promised; 

Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 

We know that all of Israel will be saved; 

Romans 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 

We also know that many in Israel will not be saved; 

Daniel 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 

It seems to me that the “all” of Israel that shall be saved are the “all” that are left. 

I see in the end times state of Israel those who flee (as stated in Matthew 24:15) as self selecting. They will not flee unless they trust in the promise of protection given by Jesus. They are saved by faith. In a way, it is like a premature sheep and goats judgment. The “new heart” and “new spirit” they get I see as similar to our process of sanctification and gifting in that they are saved by faith but made more suitable for ministry through the granting of additional endowments. 

This was a sort of long winded excursion into consideration of a small example of the relation between God’s will and man’s. I cite this as a background to consideration of something I observed on your wall. 

John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. 

John 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. 

I can understand the appeal (especially for someone mal-treated by Calvinists) to mitigate the exclusivity aspect of the John 6 verse. I am somewhat hesitant to equate the Father drawing with the Son drawing. It may be the same, but I am reluctant to rush into such an assertion particularly when I am not understanding what occurs with “drawing”. 

I see a resonance between the words of Jesus and a condition called “being of the truth”. 

John 18:37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. 

I can see an attraction that could constitute a “drawing” by way of this resonance. However, it still does not answer how someone becomes “of the truth”. Is it a choice or is it a result of an act of God. On the act of God side we have; 

Hebrews 12:2a Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; 

Truth seems integral to salvation; 

2 Thessalonians 2:10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 

It is difficult to find a verse that clearly shows people rejecting truth as a matter of choice. It seems there is an inverse relationship of truth with iniquity. 

Proverbs 16:6 By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil. 

John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 

This is further established by describing a helpless entanglement in sin as the “default” condition of mankind. 

Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 

The crux for me is that it seems that those ensnared and lost in sin do not have what I would consider the ability to make an informed or free decision. However, it does seems that each individual is held responsible; 

Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 

All of this brings me to the state where I cannot clearly see free choice and I cannot clearly see absolute election. Since I see the bible as absolutely true, I have to conclude that I am lacking the information or ability to understand (perhaps both). However, I do not see my lack of understanding as an impediment to salvation. 

Over the years I have encountered many people in the Christian world who declare various things about God as if they have finally figured God out (sort of like putting God in a box). Theologians and seminary graduates seem particularly vulnerable to this condition. As a result, I am wary of inadvertently falling into the same pattern. This is one of the reasons I want to make sure that I have a clear understanding of something before I advance a position. Even then, I want to be open to additional information or understanding. 

Do you know anyone else that would take this long to say, “I’m not sure”. 

  

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