Archive for the ‘Calvinism’ Category

I am glad to be a part of the Southern Baptist Convention.  A great portion of my early Christian discipleship took place in an SBC church, I recieved my MDIV from an SBC seminary, and I currently serve as the Family Pastor of an SBC church.

As many of you know, roughly 30 years ago, the Conservative Resurgence began in the SBC and its effects have been far and wide.  Today we can happily say that Biblical inerrancy and the exclusivity salvation in Christ is upheld by our Seminary presidents and professors.  We can also rejoice that the Cooperative program funds more missionary endeavors than any other mission organization.  However, statistically, the SBC is in decline–decline in membership, decline in the number of seminary graduates that are serving in SBC churches, and decline in baptisms.

Why the decline?  I am not sure I am qualified to answer such a question, but I did read an interesting article on the subject on a blog I frequent from time to time.  The article is found on Internet Monk, a blog by Michael Spencer, who is a member of an SBC church and a provocative blogger.  If you are well read in the blogosphere, you have probably heard of iMonk, if not, his blog is certainly one to check out.  I don’t always agree with Spencer (but that is part of what makes blogging and blog reading so much fun!) but I always find his posts insightful.

As someone loyal to the SBC, I want to say that Spencer’s observations are way off and that the SBC is much more unified than he thinks, but I have too often observed so many of the issues that Spencer brings up–I am afraid he is not too far from the mark in many of his observations.  Spencer is not promoting an exodus from the SBC and by no means am I promoting leaving the SBC.  I am hopeful for positive, gospel-centered growth in the SBC, but to see that happen, we as a Convention, need to be honest about our problems and I think Spencer’s article is stunningly honest about many of the problems present in the SBC today.  The article will surely make you think and hopefully will serve to make you think about how to begin to address some of the problems in the SBC so that we as a Convention can begin to move toward more faithful gospel ministry!

So, if you haven’t yet, check out Spencer’s article, “Avoiding Death by Nostalgia: My Denomination (The SBC) Today” and his follow-up post titled, “A Great Commission Resurgence:  Is it a Possible SBC Future?”  Spencer’s follow-up post is perhaps more important than the first post, because in this post, he offers a worthy solution to many of our problems.

Check out these articles as you have time and feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section of this post about where you feel the SBC is headed and how we might direct it in a more faithful, Christ-honoring direction!


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Click here to read David Van Biema’s Time article.

Here is an introductory excerpt:

Calvinism is back, and not just musically. John Calvin’s 16th century reply to medieval Catholicism’s buy-your-way-out-of-purgatory excesses is Evangelicalism’s latest success story, complete with an utterly sovereign and micromanaging deity, sinful and puny humanity, and the combination’s logical consequence, predestination: the belief that before time’s dawn, God decided whom he would save (or not), unaffected by any subsequent human action or decision.

Calvinism, cousin to the Reformation’s other pillar, Lutheranism, is a bit less dour than its critics claim: it offers a rock-steady deity who orchestrates absolutely everything, including illness (or home foreclosure!), by a logic we may not understand but don’t have to second-guess. Our satisfaction — and our purpose — is fulfilled simply by “glorifying” him.

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I have a confession to make-I got way behind on the Old Testament portion of my Bible reading plan last month.  I crammed in 15 chapters of Leviticus yesterday to catch up!  Today and tomorrow I plan to cram 8-10 chapters of Numbers each day to get back on track.  Everything else I am on schedule with, but Levitcus was tough for me and I think I know why.

My generation is a generation of information.  We have access to more information than any other previous generation and at lightning speeds too.  I can learn just about anything I want/need to know in a matter of seconds on my computer and even if I am not at my computer, I can pull up what I am looking for on my phone.  I think, however, that the type of information that my generation hungers for is not all that important. My generation hungers for the trivial, the insignificant, and the laughable tid-bits of life, pop culture, and media.  If you don’t believe me, just spend 15 minutes on Facebook!  If you didn’t know, Facebook is a social networking site, where people can interact and connect with “friends” online.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Facebook is  the “newsfeed” section.  In the newsfeed section, you are introduced to the latest updates to your various friend’s facebook pages.  You find out which of your friends have added new photo albums, changed their profile picture, and which are attending various social events being advertised by other facebook users.  You also become privy to how compatible your various friends are in their movie tastes and you learn that one of your friends changed his “relationship status” to “single” (seriously, I am not making this up!).  Perhaps the most interesting development in the world of Facebook are “status updates.”  In one’s “status update” section of your profile, you can let all your facebook “friends” know what you are doing, thinking, or feeling at any given moment.  From reading my “friends” status updates I can learn that John Doe is “starving because he didn’t eat lunch or breakfast” and that Jane Doe “is feeling lousy” and that Bob Doe “is glad its almost Spring!”

The Facebook generation is no doubt, a generation of information seekers.  However, I fear that the Facebook generation is seeking rather trivial information and I say that as one who uses Facebook and even updates my status fairly regularly.  But its not just facebook users that hunger for trivial things–its all of us as we become glued to the TV when we hear the latest news about movie stars and their relationship woes!

So back to my being behind in my Bible Reading-here is the problem with me and what my generation values.  We love the trivial, but don’t have time for the weighty things of life.  As I was reading yesterday in the latter chapters of Leviticus, I was struck by how deep God’s hatred is for idolatry and blasphemy.

At one point, the LORD says, after promising blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience, “but if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins . . . And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you” (Leviticus 26:27-30).

What that says to me is that the heaviest thing in the world for me to understand is God as He is perfect, holy, and righteous and rebellion against Him results in severe consequences.  And my point in talking so much about Facebook is to point out how much I love trivial things and how little time and attention I am willing to give to meditating on God’s holy character.  We could spend all day entrenched in the trivialities of our Facebook newsfeeds and status updates and all the while, 15-20 minutes in God’s holy Word could bring us to our knees in repentance and worship!

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I firmly believe that the doctrine of unconditional election encourages us to evangelize.  As John Piper likes to say, it puts holy fiber in our bones, strengthening us with the knowledge of a big and holy God to take the gospel boldly to the lost.  In this post, however, I want to show the reverse–how preaching the gospel without a deep sense of God’s sovereignty leads to one of two places:  to despair or to universalism.  If you haven’t already, you may want to first read part 1 which is much shorter and a much easier read.

I want to look a little more closely at Romans 1, because I think if we take Romans 1 to teach that everyone can choose God based on what they see in creation (or everyone gets an equal chance to choose God), then we will likely not evangelize and engage in missions like the Bible clearly commands us to.

Romans 1:18-23 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

This text says nothing about people being able to be saved by seeing God in nature.  It simply says that everyone knows inwardly that there is a God and so they are without excuse. Romans 1 says that everyone knows that there is a God and they have rejected him.

If you read on into Romans 2, Paul teaches that Jews and Gentiles alike are under the same curse of sin.  Here is an example from Romans 2:

6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. 12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

You see God doesn’t judge us based on whether or not we choose him, instead God judges us based on our works.  We will be judged because we have chosen to do what is evil and our evil deeds deserve to be punished.  Jews will be judged on the basis of the law-so it is possible to say that they will be judged with a stricter judgment than the Gentiles who did not have the law.  However, the Gentiles not having the law doesn’t exempt them from God’s judgment as Romans 2:11 makes clear that God shows no partiality-for all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law.  Further, if you go back to Romans 1, Gentiles “suppress the truth” in their unrighteousness.  Rom. 1:21 tells us that everyone knows God because His hand is obvious in nature and yet they do not honor him as God.  What man can see in nature is revelation enough for him to face judgment but it is not revelation enough for him to be saved-every man looks at creation and sees God’s handiwork and yet while knowing in their heart that God has done all this, still chooses to worship created things rather than the creator.  Romans 1:18-23 tells us that every man is an idolater and every man deserves God’s just punishment. When we read Romans 2, it makes clear that Jews are included in God’s just judgment for sin-the Jews had an advantage, they had the Law and yet they are still under sin.

Romans 2 ends by clearly stating that Jews are under the same curse of sin as Gentiles and that whether one is a Jew doesn’t matter if their heart is full of sin:

28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it- 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:

Romans 3:19 makes clear that “the whole world is held accountable to God under the law.”  How can that be true if the Law was only given to the Jews?  This can be true because what is in the Law is true. The content of the Law is God’s divine, perfect, inerrant revelation to man.  For instance, just because the 10 commandments were given to the Jews doesn’t mean a Gentile is free to murder and commit adultery.  God will judge gentiles for breaking these commands because “the whole world is held accountable to God” whether they have received the Law from God or not.  Look at Romans 2:14-16 again.  It says the “work of the law is written on [Gentiles’] hearts” meaning that every Gentile has a conscience and deep down knows they have broken God’s law even though they have not received it (i.e. they haven’t received the written law).  Everyone knows deep down it is wrong to lie, murder, steal, and commit adultery-but by God’s standards we have all fallen short, we have not kept God’s law and Romans 3:9 says that both Jews and Gentiles are under the power of sin-Paul asks “are we Jews any better off? No, not at all.  For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin.”  Thus, “none is righteous, no not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.”  Jews and Gentiles alike “have become worthless” and none of them do good, “not even one.”

The climax of Romans 1-3 is found in the statement in Romans 3:23 that. “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Paul’s point here is that Gentiles (Romans 1) and Jews (Romans 2) are all in sin and do not measure up to God’s standard of holiness.  This is even clearer when you realize that in the verses immediately preceding Romans 3:23 Paul is quoting from Psalm 53 which clearly indicates that Paul felt that Jews and Greeks are under sin.  If Jews or Gentiles are to be saved, it is through the grace of God in Christ.

Romans 3:23-31. 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

This text makes clear that Jews and Gentiles are under the same judgment apart from Christ and they both find redemption in the same way-through faith in Jesus’ act of propitiation (i.e. his act of atonement-taking the penalty for our sin) on the cross.  Thus it does not make sense to say that Jews and Gentiles are saved the same way but only Jews are elect and Gentiles are saved by choosing Christ.  How could we possibly consider a Jew “elect” who rejects the messiah?  Further it is clear that any Jew who fails to put his faith in Jesus will be damned.

I am worried that such a distinction between Jews and Gentiles will keep us from evangelizing to Jews and to the nations.  If we believe that God gives everyone a chance to believe in him from what we see in nature, then what need is there to take the gospel to the ends of the earth?  Romans 1 gives no such offer.  Romans 1 merely says that everyone knows that there is a God from nature and they are therefore guilty because “they have not honored him as God but worshipped created things rather than the creator.”  Romans 1 merely says that everyone knows that there is a god and everyone has rejected him.  To know there is a God isn’t enough to be saved.  You can know that there is a God but if you don’t believe in Christ then Christ’s sacrifice is not applied to you and you are still in your sins.  Everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike are justified by faith in Jesus Christ.  Further, it is clear in Matthew 28:18-20 that Jesus commands his disciples to make disciples of all nations and to teach them all that Christ has commanded them.  Furthermore Romans 10:13-16 makes clear that all who call on the Lord will be saved and how can they call on him unless they believe?  How are they to believe unless they have heard?  How will they hear without someone preaching to them?

It is our responsibility and divine calling as believers to be obedient to God’s call to take the gospel to the nations.  Though someone may come to know Christ from reading about Jesus in the Bible on their own, that is not the normal pattern of how people come to know Christ.  The normal pattern is through the preaching the gospel as Romans 10:14-15 makes clear.  Thus we ought not to hold out hope that the nations will find God in nature but we must see it as our calling as believers to preach the gospel to the nations-to all men here in the U.S. and to the ends of the earth!

The simplest way I can describe what is happening with the Jew is this-the Jews were God’s chosen people in the Old Testament.  All of the Old Testament is preparing for Messiah.  Jesus says this in Matthew 5:17-all the law and the prophets are fulfilled in Him.  Also he explains everything concerning himself from the OT in Luke 24:27.  Thus any Jew who doesn’t believe on Christ as messiah is not elect and is in sin and faces the judgment of God for their sin.  Further it should be noted that neither the OT nor the NT hold out that all ethnic Jews were elect.

Here are a few examples:

Romans 9:6-8 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

Ezekiel 18:30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.

1 Kings 19:18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

In the case of Elijah here in 1 Kings 19, Elijah thought that he alone was left as the only one remaining faithful to the Lord (1 Kings 18:22), but here in 1 Kings 19, God reminds him that though Israel has fallen into deep idolatry, God has preserved for himself a remnant of 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal.  Clearly not all Israel is “elect.”

Daniel 9:11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him.

Jeremiah 35:17 Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, because I have spoken to them and they have not listened, I have called to them and they have not answered.”

Romans 11:2-8 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. 7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.”

The Biblical pattern for evangelism is people saved by grace preaching the gospel of grace to those who have not heard it.  That’s it.  That is how people are going to hear and respond to the gospel-by us preaching it to them.  The reformed view of evangelism is much stronger because it rests on God’s command rather than on human impetus and it is motivated by God’s matchless glory rather than human ability.

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Romans 10:12-17 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Clearly this text tells us that we are called to preach the gospel to the nations.  We can say both that God is sovereign over evangelism and that people will not be saved if we do not preach.  This is because God has ordained his children as the means by which his gospel will be preached.  I preach the gospel because God has worked a deep love and passion for Jesus in my heart and I cannot help but to tell people about the hope that is me (1 Peter 3:15).  Evangelism is an issue of obedience-we are all commanded as believers to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20).  Further, as I mentioned earlier, Acts 18:10 indicates that when we go preach the gospel there is always the sure hope that “there are many” in the places we preach who are God’s people.  In other words, if we know that God has chosen those who would believe before the foundations of the world, then we can be sure that our preaching is not in vain-God will use it.  God’s Word is powerful and His gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).  God’s Word will not return void, it will always accomplish what the Lord sets it out to accomplish (Isa. 55:11).  If we love God, we will long to see His name honored and glorified among the nations and we will long to be obedient to him by making disciples of all nations.  Evangelism is obedience issue-those who love the Lord and long to be with Him will speak His name to the nations!

Thus it is completely foreign to Reformed Theology (or Biblical Theology for that matter) not to evangelize, because the man who is reformed realizes that God has been gracious to him beyond what he deserves and he realizes that if he has truly been saved that he will long to tell others of the “excellencies of Christ” (1 Peter 2:9).  Thus if you have someone who says that they are saved but has no desire to tell others of Christ, it might be that they are not really a Christian.  Because those who are born in Christ will not live in a continual pattern of sin (1 John 3:9) and if someone refuses to evangelize-they are living in unrepentant sin as they are directly disobeying a clear mandate in Scripture (Matt. 28:18-20) and may not be a Christian.

So far from inhibiting evangelism, faith in the sovereignty of God’s government and grace is the only thing that can sustain it, for it is the only thing that can give us the resilience that we need if we are to evangelize boldly and persistently, and not be daunted by temporary setbacks. So far from being weakened by this faith [faith in the absolute sovereignty of God], therefore, evangelism will inevitably be weak and lack staying power without it (J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 10).

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We may invigorate our faith and renew our courage by reflecting that divine power has always attended the preaching of doctrine when done in the true spirit of preaching.  Great revivals have accompanied the heroic preaching of the doctrines of grace–predestination, election, and that whole lofty mountain range of doctrines upon which Jehovah sits enthroned, sovereign in grace, as in all things else.  God honors the preaching that honors Him.  There is entirely too much milk-sop preaching nowadays–trying to cajole sinners to enter upon a truce with their Maker–‘Quit sinning and join the church.’  The situation does not call for a truce, but for a surrender.  Let us bring on the heavy artillery of heaven and thunder away at the stuck up age as Whitefeild, Edwards, Spurgeon and Paul did and there will be many slain of the Lord raised up to walk in newness of life (J.B. Gambrell, Baptist Principles Reset, 247).

J. B. Gambrell was president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1917 to 1920.  Gambrell also served as editor of the Baptist Standard and as a professor of ecclesiology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Interestingly enough, Gambrell is expressing the same concern about easy-believism and Christianity-lite preaching that many reformed preachers today are expressing concern about.

I am not suggesting that we make election and predestination our soap-box, but I do want to say that we should not be afraid of these doctrines.  If they are found in Scripture (and I think that I have shown in my recent posts that they are) then these doctrines have been given by God to us for our good.  Personally, I have experienced firsthand the effect of these doctrines in invigorating my faith and renewing my courage to preach the gospel!  I hope they do so with you as well.  Once we let our hearts settle into the enormity of God’s Holiness, we can then begin to rejoice in it and to go out into the World knowing that Christ reigns and will reign unto eternity and He has sent us out with this confidence–that His gospel is powerful and His Word will accomplish everything He sets it out to accomplish–we merely need be faithful to the call!

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2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Ezekiel 18:32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”

1 Timothy 2:4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Do these texts contradict other texts on election?  Isn’t it possible that there are two wills in God?  Even Arminians must admit that there are two wills in God:  God desires all to be saved and yet God chooses that only those who believe will be saved.  Even for an Armininian only those who believe will be saved and thus they must admit that there are two wills in God.  So the first will could be summarized by these texts above–that God desires no one to perish in unrepentance and the second will could simply be summarized by saying that God only wills that those who believe will be saved.

It is true that God, in a narrow sense, doesn’t find pleasure in the death of the wicked but when you look at the wider scope of things in Scripture, God clearly hasn’t willed that everyone will be saved.  In a cosmic sense, we know from Scripture that God has not willed that everyone will be saved.

It is very clear that God chooses only some to be saved but it is also true that God, looking at someone individually does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but in the wider scope of things God has not willed that all will be saved.  Why is this the case?  I am not exactly sure–God is massive and complex and I don’t know why he does things the way he does things.  When God looks at the whole of what he has ordained, he does take pleasure in it.  Though God doesn’t take pleasure in the death of wicked individuals, he does look on the whole of what he has determined and find pleasure or glory in it.  Here are some examples:

Deuteronomy 28:63 And as the LORD took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the LORD will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it.

The best way I can square Deuteronomy 28:63 with 2 Peter 3:9 is to say that God clearly doesn’t take pleasure in the damnation of individuals but when he sees the wider/larger picture of everything He has done, He does take pleasure in having always done what is right and good and just.  What is best in God’s big-picture-view of things is not that all would be saved (Matthew 7:13-15).  I don’t know why this is–it is a mystery.

Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

This text is difficult because we know that God else where (Ex. 20, 1 Peter 2:1-2, Col. 3:5, Rom. 8:13, Psalm 24, Leviticus 11:45) commands us to be holy and do what is right and yet God both foreknew and planned that his Son would be crucified and killed at the hands of wicked men.  There are endless possibilities of things that could have happened at the time of Jesus’ death, but none of them happened because it was God’s definite plan that His Son be crucified at the hands of lawless men.  Furthermore it should be noted that foreknowledge is linked with God’s definite plan which seems to again indicate that foreknowledge means more than just awareness of future events–God was sovereign in seeing this come to pass.  We need to recognize here that  Judas and Pilate both could have made right decisions and not betrayed and crucified Jesus.  If this were the case, Jesus would not have been crucified and if Jesus is not crucified our sin would not be paid for.  Jesus had to die and God saw that to completion.

The right thing for Pilate to do would have been to release Jesus because he was innocent.   The right thing for Judas to do would have been to stay in the upper room and refrain from the temptation to betray Jesus.  Neither or them do so.  Both Judas and Pilate defy God’s desire for them-God did not desire for either of them to act sinfully the way they did.  God does not desire any man to sin, sin is always against His prescriptive will.  They should have done God’s desirative will and yet God’s definite plan involved these men disobeying Him and crucifiying the Lord Jesus Christ.  And yet, God rightly and justly holds them accountable for disobeying God’s commanded will.  I can’t answer why God did this, but it is clear that he did and it is clear that God ordains for evil events to occur and yet holds those who do those evil things accountable.  Let me be clear–God is not responsible for these evil events, these men chose to act wickedly and crucify Jesus–God does not sin and tempts no one (1 John 1:5; James 1:13), but it is also clear that He soveriegnly allows these evil events to come to pass and even works good out of them.  It is the people who chose to do these things-God is not an evil puppet master. James 1:17 clearly tells us that God is not and never will be guilty of wrong doing.  There is great mystery in God.  God is sovereign over everything (Eph. 1:13) and yet He is good and works all things together for good for those who love him (Rom. 8:28).

One more example:

Acts 4:27-28 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Christ’s crucifixion was not an afterthought of God.  God didn’t think up redemption on the cross after failing to get Pilate and the Jews to release Jesus from prison–this was God’s definite plan and all these men (Herod, Pilate, the Jews) acted in accordance with what God has planned and predestined to take place.  Again–God sees the big picture of things that we do not see.  God’s sees His marvelously good purposes coming to pass even in the midst of the most horrific evils being allowed to come to pass.  Let’s be honest–the cross from our human perspective was the most evil event in history–the only truly innocent man who was God in human flesh was brutally killed at the hands of evil men.  And yet somehow God was soveriegnly working even in the midst of this event to manifest His glory and shower His grace on undeserving sinners.  The cross is mysterious, but praise God for the wonderful mystery of the cross!

These truths are the basis for our prayer and evangelism–in my next post on election, I will explain this further.  If you really understand radical depravity, the only hope is for God to save people.  When we pray we all become reformed-“God save my friend.”  We believe God hears our prayers and in His perfect wisdom answers them according to His will.  God has ordained prayer and evangelism as the means by which the nations will be saved.  We devalue God’s holy name when we neglect to engage in those means!

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