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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.
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. Without this 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 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 is such a less-than biblical approach is the result. Why less ? It is because the above texts and parallel cases (cf. SMR Appendix B, for example) are simply neglected.
What is depicted of God must be in conformity with 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.
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), 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 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 making what was called a Declaratory Statement, in terms of which they set about covering this aspect, for the sake of tender consciences.
These wanted that amply covered in their Church, so the standard of the Church in terms of Confession, was the Westminster Confession read in the LIGHT of the Declaratory Statement. In 1991, however, after a bout of heresy in the Church from 1935 to 1974, a wandering into false doctrine deplored in one of the Church papers at that time, 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 in practice. That is always a debasement. There is a solitary grandeur and sovereignty in keeping the actual word of God final for ALL determinations, whether of Confessions or of any other form of doctrine.
The Assembly actually did this, made this confessional elevation, without using the Barrier Act to prevent superficiality. That too, of course is the opposite of what the Confession humbly and wisely directs: Confession Ch. XX, II and XXXI, IV. Since synods, theologically assigning bodies, often err, they (and of course their products) must not be made into standards for determination: but ONLY the Bible. The other things merely 'help'; and that is entirely as it should be (cf. Isaiah 8:20).
So we read! That therefore would appear to constitute a take-over doctrinal coup, alas.
That is an historical exhibit on the point in our sights theologically, at present.
Let us seen 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, site or situation 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. 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, 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.
We now look at the biblical case, and ponder it. 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, God is just simply unjust, making what He will, how He will, and it acts as made, He thus bearing ALL the responsibility, including hell, for what for some happens.
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, a self-satisfying ogre, determined to please himself. Having responsibility, man misused his own free and uninhibited, unfallen powers and made his preference know - in due course! Disobey God and simply don't worry about the implications. DO 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. He 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 responds to God (when sin does not harass or kill any real life in it first in the realm of 'foreknowledge'), and this is seen by God as the answer to His invitation in whatever form or format it may come, so it is.
Remember that this happened before 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, according to His own sovereign specifications of both Gospel, grace and love. This was history in the making. There is no QUESTION of man's states or conditions in this case, except that he is DEFINED to be free enough to be responsible, and to be loved enough for NOTHING to dismiss or cause misapprehension, when he prefers something else (John 3:19 is a selective response to the divine love).
Yet love, does not commandeer, shanghai as sailors could once in England be shanghaied when drunk or overpowered, to be taken on board a ship, to work on it against their wills.
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, 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.
It adds that He did NOT come to judge. That was not relevant to His basic and ultimate purpose in this advent. The issue was salvation, the motivation love and the transfer 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, or said, they would not be condemned; and "If you were blind, you would have no sin." But since they saw, their sin remained.
There was no judgmental application in mind as the basic feature of His coming, but salvation, so that the love so specified, so vast, its cost so appalling, might be fulfilled. If you rejected on this incomparable outpouring, you were in this domain, "without sin."
In fact, there is even more liberty in the matter. One of the ways in which some refer to Hebrews 6 and 10, contradict what is written in Hebrews 6:19. How ? It is in this way. They have people stated to be secured by an immovable anchor (Hebrews 6:19); yet some in turmoil without truth, are free to mess it all up (as in Hebrews 10:26ff., and 6:4ff.). These remain in the end like the dog returning to its vomit. One needs to realise that such people have statedly TASTED the powers of the kingdom, played with the perfections, experienced as in the parable case of the sowing of the seed, joy for a season, and then lacking depth so that it is all superficial, have no permanent root moving in through them (Matthew 13:18ff.).
It is after all, the case that 'natural man' to use the term in I Corinthians 2, cannot live through death's grab, but when God chooses to act, nature recedes! The person may be healed or resurrected. In the presence of the God who made natural, this is the prerogative of Supernature, indeed the personal Being on whom all depends, according to His word. He can dismiss, dispense with or supervene as He will, when He will.
Just as, then, life cannot live through death's due advent, but God may either intervene to deliver, or even raise up from the dead, when it comes to what is 'natural', the active intervention or involvement of God .... transforms the situation, as so often in the New Testament. What is 'natural' to man when God does choose to act, is then far from what is actual. People need to be reminded that God makes a difference! and that He is both infinite and most clear about His ways, and that this should never be contradicted by any aspiring theologian or church. Thus ALL of His word ALWAYS must be borne in mind, not some superficial starvation diet.
In fact, overturning the MERELY natural is one of His most characteristic and distinguishing feats, so that the people marvelled. That indeed was one of the emblems of His presence, of Christ as Lord.
It is a case of spiritual experience and action, that may be accompanied by a new spiritual grounding; but one must trust in the Lord, not in the experience, which can be so evanescent. That double-minded case is one of the biblical main themes. Balaam, the impostor who yet predicted some true things was an illustration. These are the savvies, the know-it-all group, who say, 'yes, I see,' as in the explicit case in John 9:39-41. Those being yet knowledgeably unconverted, remain like that. God exhibits what He will from the bastions of foreknowledge, where His choice was made (Ephesians 1:4), and as He there wrought, He does so show which is truth. He is always at truth, whether in choosing in accord with His stated principles or in avoiding the deceptive blighting at which the flesh and the devil are so skilled.
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. He states His wants, secures them in action, disrelishes force in salvation, knows His own and selects them, finding it pleasing to reconcile all (Colossians 1:19 directs us to think and know this!); but for all that, He is taking persons home only in terms of His principles of loving choice, where love and its provisions may consistently lodge without mere duress of one kind or another. Thus heaven is not populated by people without authority of redemption freely secured, and there is no such breaching of entry.
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. God does not change, and as Christ made His ways manifest, so they are, were and will be (cf. Hebrews 13:8).
He became incarnate for a purpose, achieved it and departed till Gospel told worldwide, time for judgment comes. Meanwhile as so emphatically noted in His parable on sowing seed, there is a situation where the ground is shallow, maybe hard and unbroken, like the hearts it represents. Seed of Gospel falls on it. There is germination to the point of rejoicing (for a season). There is impact. There is some penetration and a short form of superficial awakening. But it fails. The seed did not finally penetrate.
There is no point in cutting out the facts.
From eternity He has known His own from among ALL, a grand totality whom He would like to have (Colossians 1:19, John 3:16ff.) though, foreknowing them as they are, this He could accomplish only by substituting force for love, by grab. That is a self-imposed restraint that He chooses to exercise (as seen so often, as in Isaiah 48:15ff.). That is part of His loveliness. That is part of the nature of the Sovereign over all.
Such capture by the device of force of any kind, it is far from divine and He does not do it! Instead, He draws; He does not grab.
Grace is His in all fulness of expanse, sufficient in cover for all, operative in life for those who take it, foreknown before time or sin ever was; and thus the recipients in truth of redemption alone receive His release, reception and remedy, freely and so truly become the children of God, not robotic implants.
Experiences indeed vary amazingly in conversion, but when God is involved, and His loving restraint and insuperable knowledge, He may choose to reveal more or less of the thrust of His love and the appeal of His kingdom to the party concerned, before the dénouement. To limit God is unwise; it is also forbidden (Psalm 78:41). He acts as He says, not as this may merely imaginatively be taken for preference, let alone when ignoring the repetitive tenor of the word of God (cf. SMR Appendix B)!
Theology must avoid any attempt to be assertive, and watch zealously for any unconscious arousal of such an attitude, in this form. When God is present and active, natural things are no barrier. He who would have all, takes as love selects.