“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30)
ELECTION, FREE WILL AND ETERNAL SECURITY – Volumes have been written on each one of these subjects and godly men have and still disagree on these issues. So in this one brief lesson I will attempt to share my view (that’s obviously informed by theologians I respect) and refer you to some additional readings should you want to delve into these difficult issues for yourself.
[“Calvinism Vs. Arminianism: What Does the Bible Teach? – Just as some of the Corinthian believers got distracted from the main issue by saying they were of Paul or Apollos rather than focusing on being of Christ, so too can we today if we get caught up by trying to solve the paradox of God’s sovereignty and the free choice of man. The Bible clearly teaches that man has the ability and responsibility to choose, and it also just as clearly teaches that God is sovereign over all that happens, including our choices. The question arises: “How can we freely choose something that God has predestined and foreordained?” In other words, if something is predestined, don’t we have to choose it, thereby limiting our free choice? But the Bible does speak of both predestination and free choice. In our finite, fallen minds, we cannot comprehend how these two concepts can co-exist, yet neither can we fully comprehend the Trinity or eternity, for example. What is important is that we accept both the free will of man and the sovereignty of God because the Bible teaches both. To try to weasel out of this paradox using reason alone will fail us and lead us to the unbiblical conclusion that God forces the will of man to choose hell for himself. There is nothing about God’s character to say that He would force somebody to go to hell without their own wicked will sending them there. God created men surely knowing what they would choose, but He does not make them choose what He knows. His omniscience does not eliminate their free will. Therefore, somehow, God’s sovereignty, foreknowledge, and omniscience co-exist with our human responsibility. We are not robots, for, as with Adam and Eve, we have choices to make and the capacity to do so. Neither would it be true to say, however, that God is reactive to what we choose. Some have suggested that God only knows the possibilities of our choices, not the exact choice. Obviously, this is foolishness because God knows all. Thus, we are left with a paradox of God’s sovereignty, which includes predestination and the free will of man. Somehow both exist, and we must accept the tension. To veer to either extreme, which Calvinism and Arminianism in many ways are, without balancing it with the other will lead us to very unbiblical conclusions and behavior. We must balance God’s sovereignty with man’s responsibility.” (For more on Calvinism and Arminiamism see complete article):http://www.relevantbibleteaching.com/site/cpage.asp?cpage_id=140010258&sec_id=140001239]
I have begun to read a book on election and free will by Dr. Gordon Olson (see review below) that at this point I recommend. It has been endorsed by some theologians whom I greatly respect; Dr. John Walvoord (deceased), longtime President of Dallas Seminary. Walvoord actually endorsed Olson’s first book on this topic called Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism. This was more of a seminary level book on these difficult doctrines. Olson then wrote Getting the Gospel Right to make his teaching more accessible and included Walvoord’s comment about the first book. Here is what Walvoord said: “In God’s plan some people will be saved and some will be lost but on the basis of their own choices. God did not condemn them Himself.” Dr. Earl Radmacher, President Emeritus of Western Seminary and Dr. Tim Lahaye. Here is a brief summary from a customer review: [“Getting the Gospel Right: A Balanced View of Calvinism and Arminianism Paperback by C. Gordon Olson J. Begin – [“I have often been troubled by claims by friends that Salvation is limited to the “Elect” — in that only those who have been “chosen” and “irresistibly drawn” can be saved, essentially saying all others have no hope of salvation. I have found Dr. Olson’s work gives a refreshingly clear approach to the vexing questions regarding God’s sovereignty in salvation, and in detail shows that “whosoever will may come,” provided they come through faith in the revealed Gospel. Salvation isn’t limited, it is for all who believe. I commend this book to all who may be similarly troubled. It looks at many “key” verses and by using basic Bible study disciplines disproves the errors of ‘predeterminism.’ The book also addresses errors of universalism and “Arminianism” with clear answers for those vexed in these areas.” http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Gospel-Right-Calvinism-Arminianism/product-reviews/0962485063/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?showViewpoints=1]
“Called, justified, glorified” – This is a clear statement of eternal security (as the rest of this chapter expands upon) as the Holy Spirit speaks of our future glorification (resurrected into sinless perfection) in the past tense because God competes what He began. (Phil. 1:6) [“The good news is that God will welcome all home, and He will give each the place, honor, and role that they have demonstrated that they can handle based upon their faithfulness while on the earth. (Luke 19:11-27).” http://www.relevantbibleteaching.com/site/cpage.asp?cpage_id=140010258&sec_id=140001239]
V. 31 – “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” Paul asks and answers his own question. In a sense this question and answer is a response to all Paul has written in the first 8 chapters of Romans summed up in the gospel; the causeless, measureless, ceaseless love of God. And these chapters show us that God is for us so much that He would give His greatest and most costly gift for an eternal love relationship with us who believe and receive that gift – the sacrificial death and resurrection of His Son. This doesn’t mean we don’t have enemies and trials against us (some of which are seen in the next verses) but none are stronger than the love of God Who keeps us: “No one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29)
V. 32 – “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” Paul argues from the greater to the lesser. If God did not spare His most Beloved and only begotten Son even when we were His enemies (Romans 5:10) what would He possibly withhold from us now as His children that He knows we need and even much that we want (Psalm 34:10). “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11)
V. 33 – “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies” – Charles Spurgeon says, “If you want to know if you are one of God’s elect, then ask Jesus Christ to be your Savior.” And once we belong to God we have been justified by God Himself in the highest court in the universe. God is both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26)
V. 34 – “Who is the one who condemns?” – “The accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.” (Revelation 12:10) Satan and his demons condemn us continually and try to cause us to doubt God’s love and our salvation. “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” Imagine a scene in the courtroom of God where Satan accuses us before God the Judge for every sin of commission and omission we have ever committed in our lives with solid evidence to prove his case and demands the just condemnation and punishment we are due – eternal damnation. Then our Advocate/Attorney goes to work and pleads our case and agrees with every sin Satan charges against us but then to Satan’s shock and anger, He reminds God that every sin we in fact committed was paid for in full by His shed blood on the cross. “And they overcame him (Satan) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony.” (Revelation 12:11)
Vv. 35-36 – “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Maybe Paul was remembering some of the many trials he had gone through in his ministry for the Lord (see 2 Cor. 11:23-29) and yet many believers have or will suffer for following Jesus Christ; in fact, Scripture says it comes with the territory: “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12) Suffering can cause us to wrongly believe that we have been separated from the love of Christ, that God is mad with us and no longer loves us. That is why the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write this truth; that our trials and suffering do not mean that God doesn’t love us. Even our Father’s discipline is only because He loves us (Hebrews 12:5-11) and wants our very best.
Vv. 37-39 – “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [“It denotes a full, and strong, and affectionate persuasion, arising from the experience of the strength and sweetness of the divine love. And here he enumerates all those things which might be supposed likely to separate between Christ and believers, and concludes that it could not be done. (1.) Neither death nor life—neither the terrors of death on the one hand nor the comforts and pleasures of life on the other, neither the fear of death nor the hope of life. Or, We shall not be separated from that love either in death or in life. (2.) Nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers. Both the good angels and the bad are called principalities and powers: the good, Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16; the bad, Eph. 6:12; Col. 2:15. And neither shall do it. The good angels will not, the bad shall not; and neither can. The good angels are engaged friends, the bad are restrained enemies. (3.) Nor things present, nor things to come—neither the sense of troubles present nor the fear of troubles to come. Time shall not separate us, eternity shall not. Things present separate us from things to come, and things to come separate and cut us off from things present; but neither from the love of Christ, whose favor is twisted in with both present things and things to come. (4.) Nor height, nor depth—neither the height of prosperity and preferment, nor the depth of adversity and disgrace; nothing from heaven above, no storms, no tempests; nothing on earth below, no rocks, no seas, no dungeons. (5.) Nor any other creature—any thing that can be named or thought of. It will not, it cannot, separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. It cannot cut off or impair our love to God, or God’s to us.” Henry, Matthew: Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1991, S. Ro 8:31]
Paul continues to build his case for the passionate and powerful love of God that we need to trust in as we live in an evil and painful world and the eternal security we have in Christ. Once we are born again and become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) we cannot be un-born again. God doesn’t commit spiritual abortion. Yet there is significant suffering and loss temporally and eternally for sin, even though all of our sins have been forgiven. King David was forgiven for his great sins against the Lord but he suffered greatly for them the rest of his life. “Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.’” (2 Samuel 12:10-12) “Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:12-15)
While it is Scripturally and objectively true that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, we can feel separated in our mind and emotions from Him when we look to created things to give us a sense of being loved and secure. We then go from being more than conquerors to defeated Christians.
“Thus says the Lord,
“Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6 “For he will be like a bush in the desert
And will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
A land of salt without inhabitant.
7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
8 “For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:5-8)
Trials and difficulties not only do not separate us from Christ’s love they can wean us away from trusting our own strength and fickle people and make us more than conquerors by forcing us to depend even more on God. It is when we know we are weak and turn to Jesus for His strength that we experience His great love and strength.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
29 He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
30 Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
31 Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. “We are left with a paradox of God’s sovereignty, which includes predestination and the free will of man. Somehow both exist, and we must accept the tension. To veer to either extreme, which Calvinism and Arminianism in many ways are, without balancing it with the other will lead us to very unbiblical conclusions and behavior.” How do you balance these seemingly contradictory teachings seen in Scripture?
2. Some Christians are afraid of losing their salvation. Review verses 31-39 and try to think how you might explain to another that it is impossible for a genuine (born again) Christian to lose his salvation.
3. Go through the two lists in verses 35-36 and 38-39 and think of the word or situation you fear the most. [“How many Christians live their lives as people who are “more than conquerors”? What does this phrase mean on a day-to-day level rather than just an eternal level? What are the kinds of threats to experiencing God’s love that believers face today in which they should be “more than conquerors”?” Holman New Testament Commentary – Romans (Holman New Testament Commentary #6) by Max E. Anders (Series Editor), William Kruidenier]
4. While it is Scripturally and objectively true that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, we can feel separated in our mind and emotions from Him when we look to created things to give us a sense of being loved and secure. We then go from being more than conquerors to defeated Christians. How can Jeremiah 17:5-8 and Isaiah 40:28-31 convince us of our eternal security in Christ?
5. What is the greatest proof of God’s passionate love for you? What other proofs do you have?