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Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
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
Welcome to Home Bible Study.
Let me begin this lesson by stating the obvious. There are more church-related issues that divide the Body of Christ than unite it, which is not God’s intent. We’re at a stage in church development where people react to their particular denomination as they would to their favorite sport’s team with the same fanfare and loyalty…I’m surprised the churches aren’t selling team paraphernalia in the lobbies. From creation to the cross and from the cross to eternity, God’s purpose in creating man is comprehended from Scripture in unity and fellowship. So, why are there more than 600 church denominations in America?
Scripture gives us the answer:
17: But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,
18: that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.”
19: These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.
The father of lies is very busy. The one person who seeks to gain the most from this division of the Body of Christ is Satan. If he is sly enough to convince a third of God’s angels in heaven to join him, he is certainly crafty enough to deceive a church leader.
But God has given you and I a “compass” called the Bible which will guide us in Truth.
When you study your Bible, always keep the entire picture in mind. By this I mean from Genesis to Revelation the Bible’s primary concern is about God’s work to save lost humanity through Jesus Christ and then to “conform” those who love God to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-30). This work was “predetermined” by The Triune Godhead before the beginning of time (Acts 2:22-23). When you begin to move away from this purpose of God, you’re going to run into problems.
The Bible student must know “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for teaching (doctrine), for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate for every good work
(2 Timothy 3:16-17).
In addition, the student of God’s Word must understand God’s Plan and Purpose in the Ages or there will be confusion in their work of “handling” the Scriptures (2 Timothy 2:15). St. Augustine said, “Distinguish the periods and the Scriptures will harmonize.”
Since the entire Bible is given by inspiration of God it does not contain any errors. When we find a scripture that has the appearance of contradicting another scripture in God’s Word, we must stop and consider why this appears to be and then reconcile them. You see every verse in the Bible MUST be in harmony with the rest of the Bible just as a symphony orchestra playing at Carnegie Hall is in one accord (harmony)…. every instrument in tune and every musician playing their instrument under the direction of the orchestra leader. The cello player in first position doesn’t start doing his “own thing” right in the middle of Beethoven’s Fur Elise in other words.
Bearing all this in mind, I begin teaching on the sensitive subjects of predestination and foreknowledge. I’m going to go slowly because I understand people are confused, and more than a few are disconcerted. Here’s why:
A man takes his wife and children into a church, selects a seat, and then in the sermon hears that he has no choice in his salvation. The fact that he believes means nothing.
God chooses whom He wants to save, says the pastor; the rest are going to hell.
This church leader has just thrown this man, his family, along with their faith-related values under the bus. They go home feeling dejected, demoralized, and downright upset with God. Where do they go from here? What are they to believe?
There’s a similarity in nature to the minister who has instructed his congregation to avoid all restaurants that sell alcohol and told the females in his parish not to wear pants, saying these are “sinful” practices.
What I’m saying is these teachings are not in harmony with God’s Word (Romans 6:14).
These are the “commandments” of men and not God (Mark 7:7).
Predestination is a term that has been popularized from Calvinism. It holds that because God is sovereign, He determined (predestined) before the foundations of the earth who would be saved and who would be damned to hell. The doctrine did not originate from Calvin, but rather from Augustine in the third century. It was advocated by Martin Luther and then popularized by Calvin.
Foreknowledge is an attribute of God who is outside of time and space and who has the ability to know the beginning from the end. God can foreknow who will be saved. This view believes that God does not predetermine who will be saved, but rather foreknows who will be saved.
There is a huge difference in these beliefs.
You don’t need to be Einstein to figure out, if the Calvinist version of the Doctrine of Predestination is true, then I could deduce that whether I devote attention to this issue or not means nothing. Figuratively speaking, my hands are tied. If God has predestined me before the “foundations of the earth” to be saved, then I will be saved. Whether I wanted to be saved or not…according to them, it doesn’t matter.
And then there’s this, Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection are meaningless. Salvation is not really dependent upon believing the gospel. Salvation is dependent on being predestined to be saved. If you are not – you’re out. If you are – you’re in.
However, those who follow the Calvinist’s theory recognize that many do seem to start well, with all the earmarks of having been saved (predestined to salvation). Yet, something happens and they fall away. Naturally this is not possible (in the Calvinist’s point of view) if someone has been predestined to salvation. Thus they had to explain the phenomenon of those who begin as apparent believers but later fall away. They did this through what they called “evanescent grace.” Evanescent grace is that grace given to those who are really damned, but which allows them to believe they are saved and to act as though they are saved. At some later time, according to his will (or whim), God withdraws his (evanescent) grace and damns them.
The above is true. Naturally, it does not sound good, and is utterly inconsistent with Scripture, so the Calvinists came up with other doctrines to try to soften their views.
Calvinism is common in Presbyterian, Reformed, and in a few Baptist churches.
These folks may be in the minority today, but their religious views have an enormous influence in this country. This is partly because the Puritans and the Baptists who helped establish America were Calvinists. But it is also because Calvinism traditionally has been found among the more intellectual Protestants, giving it a special influence. If you’ve spent any time in my classes at all by now you should be aware that “traditions” die hard (Galatians 1:13-14; Colossians 2:8).
I’m not going to cover all that remains of the Calvinistic views or even introduce the Roman Catholic and Arminian doctrines regarding this subject. For this issue is as deep as it is wide. My intent is to fill in some of the background concerning who, what, when, why, and where before we get started on today’s lesson.
Predestine or predestined are two terms that derive from the term Predestination. These terms are found in Scripture. We will examine what God has predestined.
Chose or chosen are two terms which also are used by those who claim predestination is how people have been determined who will be saved.
Elect is used in Scripture of those who are chosen. It is also used by those advocating the Doctrine of Predestination to refer to those that God has predestined to be saved.
Once again, before we commence, one of the primary rules by which everyone should determine the truths of Scripture is to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture!
Please turn to 1 Peter, chapter 1. I’m going to use the NIV Bible for this teaching.
1 Peter 1
1: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
2: who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by His blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
I brought you here to show you, using Scripture, that the elect are those who have been chosen. It’s clear that these terms are related. But what’s critical in this passage is that it plainly defines how the elect are chosen: according to the foreknowledge of God.
Note what this passage does not say. The passage doesn’t say the elect who have been chosen were predestined to be the elect and the chosen.
It does say the elect were chosen according to the foreknowledge of God.
Therefore, in the future, whenever we see the terms elect and chosen we can add the parenthetical phrase (according to the foreknowledge of God) to make the passage abundantly clear and to remind ourselves of the correct meaning.
Thus, all instances in the New Testament writings where the words “elect” and “chosen” are used, we know that this refers to those elected or chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. The reverse is also true. Those God foreknows will be saved are the elect and the chosen.
Now let’s look at Predestined as it’s used in Scripture. Please turn to Romans 8:29-30.
28: 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.
29: 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.
The word “predestined” in verse 29 means that God predestined a qualification (an essential attribute) for all those whom God foreknew as the elect and the chosen. The “predestined qualification” is defined for us in this verse - we must be conformed to the image of His Son…
This is a qualification pre-determined (or predestined) by the Triune Godhead (before the foundations of the earth) for all those who will be saved. But let’s not overlook the two prior characteristics of the elect and the chosen that God foreknew; they are the ones that love God and have been called according to His purpose (v28).
Turn to Ephesians, chapter 1. We need to look at some Scripture at this point.
3: 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,
4: just as He (what) chose us (according to the foreknowledge of God) in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love
5: He predestined us to (what) adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of (now watch this) His will.
Skip to verse 11.
11: also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,
I want to isolate verse 4 for a minute. As you can see, I added (according to the foreknowledge of God) after the word chose, in keeping with the teaching I mentioned earlier using the 1 Peter 1:2 example. It doesn’t harm the text and it helps to make the passage abundantly clear.
In this verse the phrase that has caused a problem is, “before the creation of the world.”
This is actually a parenthetical phrase simply informing us when the event took place.
Parenthetical phrases are not necessary to the primary meaning of the sentence. The primary meaning of this sentence is: He chose us in Him to be holy and blameless in His sight. This is the point our apostle Paul is making.
Alas, some have opted to seek meaning from just a portion of this sentence.
They put a period after world – “He chose us in Him before the creation of the world.” They have treated it as an independent sentence instead of what it is.
If we read this, as it should be read, it would go like this: “He chose us (according to the foreknowledge of God) in Him before the foundation of the world, that we be holy and blameless before Him.” Now that is a True statement and is Scripture defined by Scripture. However, it is not the meaning of the sentence.
Remember, the entire Bible, each book and each passage, has to be in harmony.
I believe Paul is trying to emphasize to his readers that those God chose in Him are to be holy and blameless in His sight. This Truth is supported in Romans 8:29. Those whom God foreknew He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.
Wasn’t Jesus holy and blameless? Well then, this is God’s purpose for us.
Do you see how these two Bible passages “fit” together seamlessly? They work together – they mean the same thing. In other words, they are in harmony.
Let’s try this exercise on another Bible verse. Please turn to Ephesians chapter 1.
11: also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,
Now if you just used this one verse instead of letting the Scriptures be your guide you might come to the wrong conclusion as to its meaning. But let’s add the parenthetical phrases which define the terms we discussed.
11: In Him we were also chosen (according to the foreknowledge of God – 1 Peter 1:2), having been predestined (to be conformed to the image of His Son – Romans 8:29; and to be holy and blameless in His sight (Ephesians 1:4) according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will…to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:12b).
Now there is neither difficulty nor misunderstanding here. It is all consistent with Scripture, just as we would expect it to be. By adding our parenthetical phrases to this passage we have kept God’s Word in perfect harmony.
Not only has God predetermined the way in which men would be saved, He has also determined the character of all those who respond to His call to believe the gospel.
Next week we’ll define the word election in Scripture and God’s purpose in it.
(To be continued)
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