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"Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen.
Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is both helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible often doesn't tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.


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Friday, January 19, 2018

Ephesians 1:1-6 (Lesson 01)



Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                 Published Weekly on Friday AM

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Ephesians (1:1-6)                                                                (Lesson 01)

The United States sends more Christian missionaries abroad than any other country.  According to Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, in 2010 the United States sent out 127,000 of the world’s estimated 400,000 missionaries. To put this in perspective, second-place Brazil sent 34,000.  The irony is that now, America needs them sent here.

The widely discussed American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), released in 2009, marked an alarming increase in “Nones” – nearly doubling from 8 percent to 15 percent. This made those who claim no religion at all the third largest defined constituency in the United States, eclipsed only by Catholics and Baptists. Further, “Nones” were the only religious bloc to rise in percentage in every single state, thus constituting the only true national trend.

It is difficult to think of America as a mission field, having been the exporter of faith for so many generations, but that is precisely what it has become.  Dr. James Emery White; 2012

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Welcome to HBS and our verse-by-verse study of Ephesians.

I pray last week’s Bible lesson helped you understand our Apostle Paul’s letters to the churches are principally significant to God’s one Church (in this parenthetical period of time known as the Dispensation of Grace), especially the seven letters we looked at which included his prison letters Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians.

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Now if you’ll open your Bible at Ephesians 1:1-2, well begin our study.

The Blessings of Redemption

Ephesians 1

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus.  Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:2).
 
Paul – it was customary to place the name of the writer at the beginning of the letter.

An apostle of Christ Jesus – this wasn’t your regular traveling speaker who put profit before the message, as so many others were known to do in Paul’s day.  This is Paul, a called apostle of the risen Lord, and this designation is to be understood in the fullest meaning of the term apostle.  He represents Christ on earth.  Therefore, Paul’s message is Christ’s message.

By the will of God – here Paul is saying he neither sought this position nor was he elected by men to the office of apostle.  Instead, he became an apostle by the divine will of God, having been set apart even from my mother’s womb and called through His grace (Galatians 1:15).  This was an act of God’s sovereign will (1:4-5).

To the saints who are at Ephesus – contrary to a popular held belief, all Believers were called saints in the first century church.  Saints, by definition, are those folks who are saved by God’s Grace, through faith (alone); they have been set apart to glorify God in this life (Galatians 5:16; 22-23, Colossians 3:10).

And who are faithful in Christ Jesus – here Paul’s saying the church at Ephesus forms one unit.  The faithful are in Christ Jesus, i.e. they are who they are and what they are by virtue of their union with Christ Jesus.  This expression, “in Christ Jesus” is without a doubt the most important one in this entire letter as it occurs in 1:1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9-13, 15, 20, 2:5-7, 10, 13, 21, 22, 3:6, 11, 12, 21, 4:1, 21, 32, 5:8, and then 6:10.  It is in connection with Christ Jesus they receive:  every spiritual blessing” (1:3); “election before the foundation of the world” (1:4-6); “redemption through His blood” (1:7-12); “and sealing of the Holy Spirit as sons and daughters and therefore heirs of the promise” (1:13-14).

Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ – this is the standard N.T. salutation from our Apostle Paul to the churches he planted.  It is a prayer that God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ may bestow Grace and peace upon the Ephesian saints.  The Father is the source and the Lord Jesus Christ is the mediator of all these blessings (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 9:15).

Ephesians 1

3: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing (where) in the heavenly places in Christ,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – the word blessed is translated from the Koine Greek word Eulogetos (yoo-log-ay-tos’), Adjective, Strong’s Greek # 2128, meaning:  to bestow praises upon.  Our English word Eulogize is derived from this word.  Therefore, Paul is eulogizing God for His marvelous blessings to His church.

Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing (where) in the heavenly places in Christ – the first thing I want to point out to y’all is Paul doesn’t mention one single material blessing in this statement.  Paul used the expression “every spiritual blessing.  I mention this for two reasons.  Material blessings i.e. tangible objects made up of physical matter are referred to as earthly blessings in the Bible and those particular blessings were promised to the nation of Israel.  More on this is just a bit. 

The other reason is this.  As I’ve said before, the attack on the gospel is ongoing.  Those preachers who claim the Bible teaches God intends for every Christian to own an expensive vehicle, own an luxurious home, and basically walk this life on easy-street, financially secure are proclaiming a false gospel.  The prosperity gospel continues to grow in popularity because people are drawn to its deceptive message.  But it is what it is; the “name it and claim it gospel” is a misrepresentation of the Scriptures at best, and at its worst, it is a heretical teaching from a new age cult.  I say this because their message contradicts what God has said.  They say people can use their “power of faith” to exalt themselves above God.  This mind-set is older than creation itself.  It originated with Lucifer.  His pride led him to believe - He could raise (exalt) his throne above the stars of God…” (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ecclesiastes 1:9).  Lucifer wanted to be God and people make that same mistake today.  They believe they are in the “drivers-seat,” and this pride in self elevates them high above God’s sovereign authority.  In truth they don’t own their next breath or heartbeat. God does!

Heaven, Earth, and the Abrahamic Covenant

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

From the very beginning we see the LORD God making a distinction between heaven and earth.  The LORD God sees fit to promote this theme throughout the O.T. and into the N.T.   This distinction is placed not only on the present creation but the future creation as well (Isaiah 66:22; Revelation 21:1).  The Scriptures, therefore, do not speak of this world as we know it, calling it the universe, but as “heaven (or heavens)” and “earth” (Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:10; James 5:12; 2 Peter 3:5, 7, 10, 13; Revelation 20, 11, 21:1).

God’s Promises to Israel are Earthly

For the first 2000 years of mankind’s existence on this planet (from Genesis 1 to Genesis 11) the LORD God dealt with the human race as a whole.  Beginning in Genesis 12 (about 2000 B.C.) the LORD changed programs and introduced a brand new plan; this involved calling out one man, Abram, from an ungodly culture.  Through him He would create a new race of people who would be known as the Jews.  

Let’s all turn to Genesis 12:  Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives and from your father’s house (Why?  It’s been less than 400 years since the world-wide flood and only 175 years since the Tower of Babel experience.  This is when Satan’s counterfeit religions go global, and people everywhere are worshipping false gods, even Abram’s household), to the (what) land I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.  And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3).

This Bible passage is known as the Abrahamic Covenant.  From this text, we learn of the LORD’s calling of Abram.  He told him to leave his country and his household and go to the land He would show him.  The LORD promised He would do the following:

Make him a great nation
Bless him
Make his name great
Be a blessing
Bless those who blessed him
Curse those who cursed him
In him, all the families of the earth will be blessed

Sometime after God established His promise with Abram, He revealed more details about the covenant.  From the passage below, we learn included in “make you a great nation” was a Land Covenant (Deuteronomy 29:1-29, 30:1-10).  God told Abram all the land that he could see and walk in would be his and his descendants forever.  We also find the first mention of “earth” in the LORD”s promise; He said, “I will make your descendants as numerous as the dust of the earth:

The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.  I will make your descendants as the dust of the (what) earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.  Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you” (Genesis 13:14-17).

Flip on over to Genesis 15:1-6

Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not with held your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies.  In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”  So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba.

This passage concludes the familiar story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his one and only son, Isaac.   It also is unique because it referenced both the heavenly and earthly aspects of Abraham’s descendants. 

Heavenly and Earthly Promises

I selected the above Bible passages because they form a guide for earthly and heavenly promises and blessings.  I’m trying to show you, per this book, the Jews had no concept of dying and going to heaven or having anything to do with heaven for that matter.  Their only interaction with things heavenly was through visions of prophets who saw the glory and holiness of God and His throne (Isaiah 6:1-6; Ezekiel 1-3; Daniel 7:9-28, 10-12).  There’s not one single Bible verse saying the Jews are destined for heaven; all of Israel’s promises are earthly.  They were promised and looking for a Kingdom on earth (Matthew 10:5-7).

The LORD’s earthly promises to the nation of Israel included both land and a kingdom.  The vehicle of these promises was God’s covenants to the Jews.  Again, the promises of an earthly kingdom began with the LORD God’s covenant with Abraham which included the land provision.  Through His Covenant with David, He promised He would establish David’s line (seed) upon the throne and his kingdom forever (2 Samuel 7:8-17).  Mary was the wife of Joseph and the mother of Jesus.  Her genealogy is given in Luke 3.  She was from the tribe of Judah and the lineage of King David (Psalm 132:11; Luke 1:32).  This means Jesus was born into the tribe of Judah fulfilling God’s promise to establish King David’s throne – forever!

The Jews understood these covenants and anticipated the arrival of the kingdom (Luke 1:31-33, 46-55, 67-79), since God had described it in hundreds of passages through His prophets (Isaiah 2:2-4, 11:1-10; Ezekiel 37:1-28; Zechariah 14:9-21). 

Heavenly Promises:  The Church, the Body of Christ

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

God’s promises to Israel, beginning with the Abrahamic Covenant and following in His additional covenants, were all earthly.  The promises decreed a people, a land, and a kingdom.  But God’s promises to His one Church, the body of Christ, are all heavenly.  The Jew under the covenants had no concept or promise of dying and going to heaven.  But we do.  Paul revealed God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.  
Let’s all turn to Philippians 3:20-21:

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

The Jews never heard language like this:  transforming our bodies into conformity with the Lords…  But we do.  Besides having heavenly blessings right now, Paul revealed members of the Body of Christ are citizens of heaven.  Again, not even Abraham or Moses heard the LORD God (Jehovah) talk like this.  This was a new revelation God gave to Paul.

Let’s a go to Colossians 1:13-14:

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

This is a brand new truth only revealed to Paul folks.  God has rescued the true Believer of Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His Son.  This book teaches us “the kingdom” is wherever the Son of God is and right now the Lord Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God the Father (Psalm 110:1), so the kingdom is located in heaven.  Jesus Christ is returning and when He does the kingdom will be here on earth for 1,000 years. 

In Paul’s II letter to the Corinthians, he disclosed to the Believers there the wonderful hope a new body awaits them in heaven.  God created us, body, soul, and spirit.  Our present bodies experience many things; they are subject to joy and to sorrow and pain.  But one day Believers will have an eternal body minus any and all weaknesses for we all will be like Christ (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).

Try as you might, you’ll not find language like this directed toward the nation of Israel. God used “heaven and earth” to declare not only the creation of His universe but to provide a template of salvation for distinctive entities:  the nation of Israel and the church (the Body of Christ).  To Israel, God made earthly promises.  To the Church, God made heavenly promises.  Both set of promises originate in Abraham.

Getting back to verse 3, those Christians who have chosen to listen to the message of the prosperity gospel are no different than the Galatians of old who invited deception by listening to the Judaizers gospel of works (Galatians 6:7-8; 2 Timothy 4:3); they too have changed course, forsaking the gospel of Grace for a “different gospel.” 

Paul’s saying God the Father is the source of every spiritual blessing and He’s held nothing back; not one single blessing has been withheld from God’s one church (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 10:17, 12:12-13, 20; Ephesians 2:16, 4:4). 

The heavenly places in Christto understand the meaning of this phrase you have to link it with every spiritual blessing.  Paul seems to be saying God has blessed every Believer in Christ in regard to spiritual blessings.  This phrase appears four times in this letter.  It shows up again in 1:20, 2:6, and 3:10 and unless I’m mistaken nowhere else in Paul’s writings.   The following spiritual blessings are ours now for we are in Christ Jesus at this very moment:  pardoned of our sins, justified and adopted sons and daughters of God, co-heirs, sealed with the Holy Spirit of God. 

Verse 4-6:

Ephesians 1

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world (in eternity past), that we would be holy (set apart) and blameless before Him.  In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise and glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the beloved (4-6).

Predestination

The biblical subject of predestination troubles many within the church.  The primary reason for their distress is simply due to the fact that God’s Word has either been misunderstood or misrepresented.  The idea God has chosen some folks for heaven and some for hell and therefore one’s destiny is fixed from birth simply does not line up with scripture.  The Bible does not teach this and this is not what the Bible means by predestination.  

Theologians have devoted much effort and time in arguing Calvinism (the religious doctrine of John Calvin, which maintains that salvation comes through faith in God, and also that God has already chosen those who will believe and be saved) versus Arminianism (relating to or following the Protestant theologian Arminius or his doctrines, which rejects the Calvinist view of absolute predestination).  But not much has been gained.  The debate continues without anyone ceding their “point of view.”

A study of predestination requires a careful examination of related areas of concern such as, God’s foreknowledge, election, our ability to exercise free will, and how divine and human wills interact.  The Creator God is not the author of confusion; He is the God of order.  Therefore, in this book we will find He has provided an outline and enough information for Believers to understand this subject sufficiently. 

Biblical Terms Concerning Predestination

Foreknowledge is part of God’s omniscience, i.e. God knows everything.  It means to know something beforehand and as it relates to man it is confined to time.  (See Acts 26:5; Romans 8:29, 11:2; 1 Peter 1:20; 2 Peter 3:17)

Elect or Choose (verb) occurs in the following verses:  Mark 13:20; Luke 6:13, 10:2, 14:7; John 6:70, 13:18, 15:16, 19; Acts 1:2, 24, 6:5, 13:17, 15:7, 22, 25; 1 Corinthians 1:27-28; Ephesians 1:4; James 2:5.  The most helpful verses are Mark 13:20 and Ephesians 1:4.  Objections arise concerning verses which speak of Jesus choosing the Twelve.  Opponents they say verses like Luke 6:13 and Acts 1:2, 24 should be considered but they are problematic since John 6:70, 13:18 include Judas as one of the chosen twelve.

 Elect or Chosen (noun) provides more help than the verb.  It occurs in the following verses:  Matthew 20:16 (KJV), 22:14, 24:22, 24, 31;  Mark 13:20, 22, 27;  Luke 18:7, 23:35; Romans 8:33, 16:13;  Colossians 3:12; 1 Timothy 5:21; 2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1; etc.    Most of these verses clearly declare God has chosen some and that these are synonymous with Believers.

Called is a verb used 146 times and means “to call,” or “to be called or named.” Useful occurrences are the following.   Matthew 9:13, 22:3-4, 8-9;  Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32, 14:16-17, 24;  John 10:3; Romans 8:30, 9:11, 25;  1 Corinthians 1:9, 7:22, 15:9; Galatians 1:6, 15, 5:8, 13; Ephesians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:12, 4:7, 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 9:15, 11:8; 1 Peter 1:15, 2:21, 3:9, 5:10;  2 Peter 1:3; etc.  The word’s meaning in terms of our subject is synonymous with “chosen” or “elect.”

Predestine occurs six times in scripture.  Our Apostle Paul uses it five times in: 
Acts 4:28; Romans 8:29-30; 1 Corinthians 2:7; and Ephesians 1:5, 11. 

Summing this section up, these words reveal God has elected, predestined, or chosen certain individuals.  In every case, the terms refer to Believers.  This book never says God has predestined or chosen unbelievers, and that’s significant to this discussion. 

That thought leads us into the next section:

All Are Enlightened

The Bible states God has revealed Himself to every human being, i.e. everyone born into this world knows God exists.  Therefore God holds everyone accountable and responsible to respond or to reject Him.  Consider the following verses:

There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man (John 1:9). 
…because that which is known about God is evident within them (we are born with an innate knowledge of the Creator God); for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:19-20). 

if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister (Colossians 1:23). 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, (Titus 2:11).  
The Argument of God’s Absoluteness in Salvation

Because so many people believe the argument of predestination centers on God’s sovereign decree independent of man’s choice I thought we’d look at the Bible passages these folks use to support their case:

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, (Ephesians 1:4-5).

for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.”  Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”  What shall we say then?  There is no injustice with God, is there?  May it never be!  For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy (Romans 9:11-16).

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.  In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:11-14). 

The Bible passages above, according to those who believe man’s salvation is based solely on God’s sovereign choice, demonstrate God has predestined or elected some people despite their free will.  

John 10:26: “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep” is interpreted to mean a person believes because God has chosen them to believe.  Thus, according to the reasoning of those who maintain God is absolutely sovereign in the matter of salvation, God chooses to have mercy on some and for everyone else, not so much.  Furthermore, they argue when one exercises faith in the gospel, it is God who has drawn the individual and gives them faith (John 6:44-45, 65; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 1:29).   

The Argument of God’s Absoluteness in Salvation

Because so many people believe the argument of predestination centers on God’s sovereign decree independent of man’s choice I thought we’d look at the Bible passages these folks use to support their case:

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, (Ephesians 1:4-5).

for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.”  Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”  What shall we say then?  There is no injustice with God, is there?  May it never be!  For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy (Romans 9:11-16).

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.  In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:11-14). 

The Bible passages above, according to those who believe man’s salvation is based solely on God’s sovereign choice, demonstrate God has predestined or elected some people despite their free will.  

John 10:26: “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep” is interpreted to mean a person believes because God has chosen them to believe.  Thus, according to the reasoning of those who maintain God is absolutely sovereign in the matter of salvation, God chooses to have mercy on some and for everyone else, not so much.  Furthermore, they argue when one exercises faith in the gospel, it is God who has drawn the individual and gives them faith (John 6:44-45, 65; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 1:29).   

The Bible’s Response to the Argument

Several problems exist with their argument.  While the passages above seem to indicate God’s absolute sovereignty in the matter of salvation, these folks fail to consider other passages on the subject.  To obtain a sound understanding of predestination and election we must consider the entire body of Scripture related to the subject.  We must compare Scripture with Scripture.  Obviously, failure to do this will result in flawed interpretation and explanation of the biblical texts. 

Comparing Scripture with Scripture

God has revealed He is unwilling that any perish.  But clearly, some do.  Why?  If God wills something and it does not come to pass, does this mean God is only sovereign now and again?  It wouldn’t go there.  Let’s consider the following verses:

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1Timothy 2:3-4).

 “What do you think?  If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?  “If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray.  “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish (Matthew 18:12-14). 

These Bible passages are from Peter, Paul, and the Lord Himself.  Each declares God wants none to be lost but ALL to be saved.  If God wants ALL to be saved and ALL are not saved, what accounts for the inconsistency?  Consider the logic of those who maintain salvation is a matter of God’s sovereign decree in the following statements:

God chooses some to be saved.
God wills that all be saved.

The message of these two statements is basically this:  God wills that all be saved but chooses some to be saved.”  This statement makes no sense.  In addition to that, this statement cannot stand based upon other information we have in Scripture.  How do the proponents of Calvinism continue to maintain God’s sovereign will is significant in salvation?

That’s easy; those who maintain salvation is based solely upon God’s sovereign decree teach the straightforward reading of the Bible text is a misreading of the text.  They teach the text should read “all kinds of men,” not, “all men.” Thus, they contradict God’s Word by maintaining God does NOT want all to be saved.  They also teach Christ did not die for the whole human race but only for those God has chosen to save.  Why do they contradict God’s Word?  If they’re wrong and Jesus Christ actually died for all, their man-made religion is destroyed.  

The Scriptures provide two key verses to help solve the issue of God’s divine will and man’s will and the nature of predestination and election.  One is from Paul and the other from Peter.

In Romans 8:28-30, Paul wrote the Roman church (primarily Gentiles) and defined God’s foreknowledge and predestination.  It reads:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  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; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

Peter, addressing Jewish Believers, wrote the following in 1 Peter 1:1-2. 

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood:  May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.

These two passages provide critical information in understanding and resolving the issue of God’s foreknowledge and predestination.

Believers are the subject of God’s foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, glorification, and His working of all things together for good.  Unbelievers are never the subject of these teachings.

The texts state God predestined and chose those whom He foreknew; thus, foreknowledge precedes predestined and electionForeknowledge governs election.

God exists in eternity.  Eternity is not simply a long time it is timeless.  Time is a fourth dimension of reality in addition to length, height, and width.  For mankind the present is now.  God is outside time and its constraints.  For God, past, present, and future are now.  God experiences all events as now.  Therefore, God sees all decisions we make (or will make) and all events as now.  In effect, God has all eternity to contemplate each moment we experience in time.  We describe God’s foreknowledge as something “future.”  But for God, foreknowledge as “future” is meaningless.  For Him, it is simply now.

As we have seen, the suggestion, “God wills that all be saved but chooses some to be saved” is illogical.  The passages above, Romans 8:28-30 and 1 Peter 1:1-2, provide the missing piece of information.  God’s election and predestination of individuals is based upon His foreknowledge, which includes knowledge of all things that do happen and could possibly happen.  The Scriptures reveal God has provided a witness of Himself to everyone coming into this world.  Everyone knows God exists.  The Scriptures reveal God has given man the will to respond or to reject Him.  Therefore, what God foresees is man’s response to that knowledge.  If an individual responds to the light he has been given, the Lord will provide him with more information.  Thus, like Lydia who listened to Paul, God opened her heart to respond (Acts 16:14) to the things she heard.  Lydia was willing to know more and God opened her heart to believe Paul’s gospel.

This may be just one single explanation but it links all the Scriptures together perfectly when you consider the phrase, “God desires all be saved.”  But God has also created us with the will to accept or reject Him.  A person can say, “I want to know more.”  Or he or she can say, “I have no interest.” If a person responds, God provides more light.  If the individual doesn’t, God won’t.  The genius of God is He can give man free will and still have things come out exactly as He planned.  In all this, God is completely Sovereign.  Therefore, God predestines on the basis of His foreknowledge.  Foreknowledge governs predestination but does not determine it, since within foreknowledge there are events that will not occur (since God knows all possible outcomes).  Those who respond to God are those whom He saves; they become the elect and predestined.

Conclusion

Those who argue for God’s absolute sovereignty in man’s salvation have no answer for verses that declare God wants all to be saved.  They address the issue by theological deceitfulness (Spurgeon called it “theological gunpowder”) by declaring “all men” means “all kinds of men.”  The Scriptures are clear: mankind has a choice in salvation. We are not born “winners” or “losers.”  If God did not love us, would He have suffered on the cross for us?  Does He love some more than others?  That would be, “No,” Ultimately, we have to trust God.  God created each of us in His image and loves us equally.  God has provided salvation for each person.  God has given everyone the ability to choose.  We can respond to His love or reject it.  C. S. Lewis wrote, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.  All that are in Hell choose it andthe doors of hell are locked on the inside.” 

The biblical account of Noah’s Ark foreshadows our salvation in Christ Jesus.  Once Noah and his family entered the Ark via the “one Door,” of their own free will,  the LORD God shut the door from the outside… (Genesis 7:16-17; John 10:9), effectively sealing their safety.  Those who chose not to believe the LORD God demonstrated their lack of faith by not entering the Ark of safety, and everyone perished. 

What is significant about God shutting the door of the Ark?  It provides a wonderful manifestation of the twin truths of man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty that we see playing out throughout Scripture.

(To be continued)

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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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