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BULLETIN NINETY FIVE
ELECTION, SELECTION AND THE WAYS, WORKS AND WILL OF GOD
If one were to ask, Do you believe in 'unconditional election., the answer could be this.
In that it is God, who has the love to bother regarding human beings and their salvation, has presented and uses the Gospel in finding those who are His, and Himself makes the decision upon the result, yes in the most obvious of ways, it is so. It is unconditional election, dependent on God's nature, decisions, usages, instruments, inspection and what He appoints to be so. He selects His own, saves and keeps them.
Yet lest any misunderstand, it is best to get beyond mere tags in such a case. It MUST be added that
SINCE HE HIMSELF has sovereignly decided upon
all these functions and needs and meeting of needs,
including the Gospel and the results of its application,
AND it is HIS Gospel, HIS decision about who is who,
and that decision of His involves finding those who prefer Him
as in John 3:19,
and that is in terms of His starkly stated desire for all to be reconciled
and that decision involves the inclination of those to be found (John 3:19),
truly known past all knots and conditions,
all things being manifest before Him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13):
then there is a
condition, but one prepared and appointed,
applied and read by God ONLY.
If you want to discern this result in terms of what the Bible actually says, what then ? Then it is a sovereignly created and met selection in which the ways of God find the heart of man, and all this before time, as before man's sin and man's creation (Ephesians 1:4); and He, knowing His own will concerning man, and the preference of each person, sees, seizes and predestines that very thing. God is very deep and He knows what He is doing.
You might, if careful enough in understanding, perhaps call it sovereign election through the preferences of uncreated man in terms of the eternal heart of God. But that is rather long ? no matter, what IS important is the biblical answer, short or long. So passionate is His love that the result of John 15:21ff. and 9:39-41, cannot be avoided.
What was the case ? It was that of some unbelievers. What did Christ then tell them ? It was this.
IF they had NOT seen the things and heard the words, they would have 'no sin', that is, not be ultimately and utterly judged at that point. The case would not in that case be closed. The equivalent of knowledge of what they are rejecting is required as from the first in the foreknowledge of God or at the last in the destiny incumbent. He insists that it be in essence and principle KNOWN rejection.
This or its divinely enacted equivalent is a condition for those wanting to get to hell, though they have different names for it. Without this knowledge of His deeds and words, or its divinely assessed equivalent, "you would have no sin," but after such a thing, "your sin remains." Ultimately, there is fairness and fervour alike in His selection: His underlying desire is repeatedly stated (e.g. Colossians 1:19ff.); but God is no dictator, a cheap rule of inflated hearts. Even having the power and all power, His use of it is divine.
Man's need is divinely covered BY Him as broadly as for the race and as intensively as for the individual, and He enacts in accord with truth, and at the instance of love.
This love may be rejected. Divine love is like that, and human love is purified when this loving restraint duly regarded, reality is manifest.
A related question is this. If then, there is an X-factor, something preferable to God when He is deemed in mysterious ways to select those to be His, and leave the rest as in Calvinism, this leaves a less-than biblical approach as the result. Why less ? It is because the above texts and parallel cases (cf. SMR Appendix B, for example) are simply neglected. They are not brought into the 'model', so it is not a biblical model.
What is depicted of God must be in conformity to ALL His word, even to the jot and tittle, and how much more so, to over-riding basic features such as related to the very heaven and hell! Why then in such a realm of unknown selection would anyone be elected ? It would seem clear that what is nearer to, more in conformity to, more malleable for God would be what would be desirable. Though preference is noted as the ground, it is rejected and with it, the above.
It is ONLY when PREFERENCE as spelled out in John 3:19 and confirmed continually on all sides (as in Isaiah 48:15ff., II Kings 17 and II Chronicles 36 for example), with the expression of will, where it COUNTS in the sight of God, that this trap is avoided. The BIBLE makes it thus, and only in ITS terms thus found does election and love work; and let us be clear, even the in Westminster Confession there is to be found no statement about THIS kind of love on the part of God. It is not that it decries it, but it does not state it. The Presbyterian Church of Australia in its 1901 Constitution made up for this perceived deficiency by constructing or accepting what was called a Declaratory Statement, in which they set about covering this aspect, for the sake of tender consciences. It specifically cites II Peter 3:9 in this context of meeting a felt need.
Some evidently wanted that aspect amply covered, so the standard of the Church in terms of Confession, was the Westminster Confession read in the LIGHT of the Declaratory Statement. That was the position, even if it were much honoured in the breach as in the observance.
In 1991, however, after a bout of heresy in the Church from 1935 to 1974, a wandering into false doctrine having in 1974 being exposed as operative for many years, in one of the Church papers at that time, a new radicalism arrived. The absurd statement was made that there was nothing in the DC that was not in the Confession, and the Church made up a tortuous seeming paragraph which made it no more a church of the Bible, but a Confessional body, bound to the secondary confessionalism of man, in practice.
That is an historical exhibit on the point in our sights theologically, at present.
Let us see then, what happens when the human will, not in its fallen position, but ultimately in its pre-sin condition, is seen by Him to whom all things are open. This is not to be confused with an imagination of some kind. God actually DID chose His own, in an effectual act and action, before we were created. For those who find the word of God binding, that is history; not some kind of rhetorical history, but a place where such events were shaped, predestination simply ensuring that as He KNEW, so He would DO. To leave such a thing - or its divinely assessed equivalent - open, is to ignore what is NECESSARY for a blessed, balanced and adequately based biblical teaching... one that meets the biblical criteria so often pronounced by the God of justice and mercy.
Leaving that open, as if it is not known how it all happened, is to leave the knowledge of God open to blasphemy. HE is the author of the meaning of good, and it is useless to read that back into the situation in ordinary terms, when nearly all the human race was destroyed in the flood. He is what He is, and THIS is how His goodness is described in the beautiful harmony and non-self-contradicting of biblical teaching. If a continuance of the flood civilisation would be more heinous, ruinous, ludicrous, devious and evilly dynamised than life could accept without obliteration, then obliteration (for most), it was. God has His own ways, and their nature and significance is eternal. Corruption and wickedness can become such that removal is kinder than continuance of the morbid, horrid evil arrogance and ignorant presumption that spoils and soils what it touches.
We now look at the biblical case, and ponder it, the divine statements concerning divine action in election. Someone now might criticise it, and say, Look man has his day, genes, education, quirks, wishes, inclinations and all that, what then if he simply shows how and in what he is made, and comes out with the result ? In that case, it could be called spiritual determinism, as if God were just simply unjust, making what He will, how He will, and it acts as made, He Himself thus bearing ALL the responsibility, including hell, for what for some happens. It is a thing that He did by a means. That would be the impious proposition.
However, man is not made like that. At the first, taking the BIBLICAL DEFINITION OR BIBLICAL TERMS, that is as in a model, Adam and Eve had utter responsibility for a decision either to follow what God commanded in His love, integrity and creative power, or to believe as Satan urged. That evil person was implying that God was a self-satisfying ogre, determined to please Himself. The biblical depiction however was of man in whom God had invested responsibility, the power to prefer and act on it.
In this report, we learn that man pondered it, misused his own free and uninhibited, unfallen powers and made his preference apparent. What was it then ? It was to disobey God and simply not worry about the implications. Just DO IT! Nothing could be clearer than believing your Creator, or else inventing a ludicrous assault on Him, without reason and contrary to reason, as if putting you into being were not in itself, as you used your own powers so given, a demonstration of what you were, could, might, might not do. Man, as Adam was occupied continually in doing it.
What was operative in him, to be ABLE to achieve such a vast, multi-faceted result ? It was what many now ignore: his spirit. Beyond all his infatuations, computations, conflagrations, psychic and other, MAN IS. What is he ? He is a being with spirit, with the power to over-view, oversee, over-stretch his imagination, ignore any and all facets of his being at work, and check and test them. As in Australia now, he can even ignore the way he is made, and laugh at his construction plans, orders and specification. He can scorn his DNA as if instruction for construction of his race, generation by generation, were a mere oddity, and yet he was not, and could find objective reality and declare it.
He may laugh at anything but himself, that seemingly among all things, too sacred. At this, humour, however, he is rather slow, so that his ruin through presumption and its violent results, is obviously very close at hand.
That is the nature of spirit, to elect, choose, prefer, ponder, weigh, evaluate, imagine, apply ... or not. Responsibility is its outcome, and being held to account its resultant.
Man indeed is able to be a person, with a spiritual scope and status. A man of spirit may be found in remarkable endeavours, such as being stalwart in grace, or courage, or consistency, or faithfulness, or love despite all. Then even the dead can acknowledge it! (cf. Ephesians 2:1-6). When then in the sight of God a man's spirit so elects (when sin hs not harassed or killed any real life in it first), so it is.
We need to remember that it is the very acme of confusion to use aspects of someone's different model or idea or presentation, and apply them to some other model, whether the matter in hand be the universe or tax refunds. You don't use an atheist's ideas to describe those of an opposite model. You compare kind with kind, do it consistently and observe the results.
The situations, perspectives, approaches, for each approach and any,have their own nature, and confusing them with that of someone else reminds of Shakespeare -now confusion has its masterpiece!
Thus some may imagine that man was really weighed down with programmatic controls, direct or indirect, that he was not free, that freedom is never present; and such rationalisations of sin are not uncommon. However, guilt is the immediate answer to such rubbish, for all know the pondering and the estimations and the considerations and the weighty and other matters, that moved towards the eventual decision. Pretence does not alter history, or reduce guilt. It scores heavily in man and sears as a hot iron.
Freedom, then, is what man cannot supply, he instead for his part makes heavily determined robots, whether or not they be set in some statistical configuration of a kind and operation of his own choosing! When God acts, even sinful man can be transcended and things put on display through His own action to secure this.God can illuminate the dark, supersede the natural. He can intimate to a person an awareness of sin (his own), of righteousness (that of the incorruptible Christ) and of judgment (due). The sickening false operations of misused liberty can then be put on display. Before sin came, it was relatively easy, and inbuilt as natural. Afterwards, light being what makes manifest, God can exhibit it at His will, confirming how He will what was known before man or his sin even commenced in historical fact. Such is Ephesians 1:4.
Freedom is indeed unobtainable in any suitable sense where there is no God; but the presence of the same is the logical necessity the Christian faces (cf. SMR, TMR). Freedom indeed is precisely the realistic model, even if misuse has corroded it (though not before the mind of God). Freedom in essence, is an exposition of reality, in a biblical model, and to use a vagrant, different model to deny it, is to wallow in the sand. It is a mere invasion of one model by another, quite totally pointless, except as an illustration of confusion in method.
Man then being (in foreknowledge or otherwise as the Lord might ordain as an extra) free, or freed, there is no possibility of some created disinclination forcing a man to do this or that, when the call is made. We are examining the biblical model, and when we do, instead of mixing and limiting it, there is perfect clarity and consistency and harmony of all elements such as nothing else can provide. This is partly because no one else but the Creator can provide the necessary freedom for total responsibility, neither tangling nor entangled, and partly because the love of God is pure and not interested in gaining glory; He has it all already. Nobody else is in this assured position. No one else has all his desire, with only loving motivation, uncompromised, in view towards the objects of concern.
The devil's evil imputation is irrelevant, inapplicable but a projection from his own very limited, very evil self.
In all of this, it is necessary to avoid wandering, then, and to keep to the biblical model carefully, and see precisely its applicability. Remember how God acted in the first place. Recall that this happened before our kind of time or man's sin came into being. It is not at all that man then did what he would have done, if he could have done it (before sin blinded him in such fields, as in I Corinthians 2:14). He was seen in the all-knowing vision and wisdom of God to DO it. This was an event, not an hypothesis. It happened in defined circumstances.
This was history in the making. There is no QUESTION of his states or conditions, except that in that initial context, he is DEFINED to be free enough to be responsible, to be loved enough for NOTHING to dismiss or cause misapprehension; and yet despite this purity of divine love, he prefers something else. Then in Christ's words, with people made aware and informed of what Christ had in fact both done and said, , as in John 15:21-25, and 9:39-41, not only does their sin remain, but it has no excuse.
Love, however, does not commandeer, shanghai as sailors could once in England be shanghaied when drunk or overpowered, to be taken on board a ship, and so to work on it against their wills. Either love is free or else the thing in view is not love. Force is irrelevant to love, a mere mauling, consistent with hatred for example. Hence God, being love, so loved the world that He made the maximum gift to provide the maximum marvel and fulfil the purest love, with a total rapport. Here the call was for a willing acceptance and a joyous surrender into a divine sufficiency which is both personal and demonstrated.
That is what John 3:16-19 is telling us. He has made; He has been moved; He has acted; and in love He has done so adequately, astoundingly and effectively. To this Gospel provision, man may come to accept and rejoice, or not. GOD has SHOWN in coming to the Cross in human form, what His mind is, His heart desires. Man shows the response in terms of preference (John 3:19). THAT is in the sight of God not minimised.
It adds, in John 3, that He did NOT come to judge. That was not relevant to His basic and ultimate purpose. The issue in His so acting and so loving the world, was salvation; the motivation was love; and the transfer was one of mercy and acceptance to the receiving heart (as further detailed in John 1:12-14). It was an ultimate matter since the Son of God, is ultimate. HENCE Christ twice told people that IF He had not come and done what no one else ever did, they would not be condemned; as also, "If you were blind, you would have no sin." Now however, they said they saw. Accordingly, "therefore your sin remains."
It is quite explicit in John 3:15ff., that there was no judgmental application in the mind of God, as the basic feature of His coming. It was in fact salvation, we there read, so that the love so specified, so vast, its cost so appalling, might be fulfilled. THAT was the pursuit, motivation and activation. Here was the dynamic, the resultant for which all this was done; and PREFERENCE to the contrary was the divinely known specialised result which aborted this mercy, and left the sinner lost still.
In fact, let us pursue the point, there is even more liberty in the matter. One of the ways in which some refer to Hebrews 6 and 10, contradicts what is written in Hebrews 6:19, in this, that they have saved people secured by an immovable anchor, while yet many active here, before the completion of this salvation, are free to mess it all up, and remain in the end like the dog returning to its vomit. There is nothing but differentiation of type here. The fact is that such fainting people have TASTED the powers of the kingdom, played with the perfections, experienced as in the parable case, felt "joy for a season," and then lacking depth so that it is all superficial, ended with no permanent root in the spiritual ground (Matthew 13).
Indeed, that case (Matthew 13) is one of the biblical main themes. Balaam, the impostor who yet predicted some true things (Numbers 22) was an illustration. These are the savvies, the know-it-all group, who say, 'yes, I see,' as in the explicit case in John 9, and being yet knowledgeably unconverted, remain like that.
It is not good to look beyond God in seeking to know Him, for He is as He is and not some machinery to be investigated by precociously arrogant man, mixing the roles.
It is like a voyage of discovery (though a vast amount is written). You do not create the new lands you find; you observe them! They are there whether you see them or not. As to God, as Malachi 3, Psalm 102 and Hebrews 4 tell us, He does not change. Coastlines may collapse, He does not, for the whole system is from Him, and like an author, He is no part of it, being necessarily eternal, since if He ever were not at any time, there would be nowhere from which to recover Him. Without Him at all times we could never be here at any time. But we are.
Thus what some leave out as one of the divine options according to the Bible is this. He may, if He so wish (Psalm 115), so overwhelm the natural inabilities, as for example due to sin, just as in a disease of the mind, spirit or body, as to make these inoperative. It is never wise to limit God as the Psalmist reminds us! Thus as is the case, many who afterwards seem to be the Lord's, may become very much aware of the reality of God being near them and leading them towards Himself, indeed of the vital, even crucial character of His action at their conversion.
What never changes, however, is the certainty of the word of God, both concerning WHY some are not saved, HOW MUCH He would like to have won them, the CAUSE of this not being so, and how it is that the omnipotent God does not just grab what He wants.
THAT would not fulfil love, but abominably distort it, actually abort it and contradict the theme appearing so frequently in the Bible, of His longing desire, and the fearful results that now come because "IF YOU HAD KNOWN, EVEN YOU, IN THIS YOUR DAY, THE THINGS WHICH BELONG TO YOUR PEACE! but now they are hidden from your eyes." (Caps. added). Maker of all He is not bound up with the deficiencies of any, and having all, He gives. Man being lost, may even resent the light in his dark abode, but being defective and deficient, he has only one way out and up and on.
When God made His great and predicted visitation, even specifying when and why it would be (Daniel 9:24-27, Isaiah 50-55, cf. SMR pp. 886ff.), how lean was their understanding. They did not know the day of His visitation, Luke 19:42ff., even when the actual day came, wilfully excluding themselves (Matthew 23:37). The day reflected the reality but did not replace it. As before, so now, this was the direction of heart, of preference, one truth, one God, one reality, one love and one cause of exclusion.
HOW He mourned as in Isaiah 48, and even Jeremiah 48, for yet another people!