1 Timothy 2.1-4 and Romans 9.22-23 – Unconditional Election & God’s desire for all men to be saved
Posted: 21 August 2013 in 1 Timothy, Romans

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

“What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,”

The above passage from 1 Timothy is, of course, notorious as being problematic for Calvinist theology, but it seems to me that a resolution of the problem is not that hard to find.

To say that God wills the salvation of all men is effectively just another way of saying that God wills all men to obey him, and, if they did so, they would be saved. That is self evidently true, because, if it were not true, God could hardly hold men responsible for their disobedience and punish them accordingly.

And yet it is also clear from the Bible that only some people have their rebellious hearts reformed through the action of the Holy Spirit. So, in that sense, it is not God’s will that all men should be saved.

The scriptures do not have much to say about God’s motives for withholding his grace from those he chooses to reprobate. The only passage which does hint at a reason seems to be the one quoted above from Romans. The reason given is that, before all else, it is the Lord’s will to glorify himself. This he does by manifesting his justice in the punishment the reprobate, by showing mercy to an elect who would otherwise be equally deserving of punishment. In both cases he also manifests his absolute sovereignty in punishing whom he will, and in saving whom he will.

That seems shocking to modern sensibilities, in fact Paul expected it to be shocking to his contemporaries, but we need to remind ourselves that God created all things for himself. We, his creatures, have no right to expect that the universe should revolve around us, rather than around God and his holy and eternal will.

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1 Corinthians 2.1-6 – Predestination and the wisdom which comes from God alone.
Posted: 3 August 2013 in 1 Corinthians

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

The above passage is as good a statement as any, as to why predestination must be true. Worldly wisdom can indeed not lead us to God. No process of rational deduction can lead somebody into submission to the wisdom which is to be found in the Bible, and which comes from God alone. Furthermore, if no reasoning can lead men to conclude that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then they must be brought to this realisation in some other way. Which is as much to say that they must have their ears opened to an unworldly wisdom through the action of the Holy Spirit.

But it is just a matter of common observation that, whilst some men do have their ears opened by the Holy Spirit, and they do hear a wisdom which no man could discover for himself, it is the good pleasure of God that others do not.

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Ezekiel 46.1-4 and Micah 2.6 – Purpose of the Sabbath Day.
in Ezekiel

Thus saith the Lord God; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened. And the prince shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate without, and shall stand by the post of the gate, and the priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate: then he shall go forth; but the gate shall not be shut until the evening. Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before the Lord in the sabbaths and in the new moons. And the burnt offering that the prince shall offer unto the Lord in the sabbath day shall be six lambs without blemish, and a ram without blemish. (Ezekiel)

Prophesy ye not, say they to them that prophesy: they shall not prophesy to them, that they shall not take shame. (Micah)

Sometimes it is said, presumably on the basis of the fourth commandment, that the Bible does not say that we must go to church on the Sabbath Day, but only that it is to be a day of rest. I suppose this is an example of why we are exhorted to take seriously the whole counsel of scripture, and not simply to fix upon the bits we like, and ignore the rest. It is also why we need to immerse ourselves in the scriptures, so that we know what the whole counsel of scripture, in fact, is. In the above passage from Ezekiel, the Lord makes it explicitly clear to the prophet that the seventh day is to be used for the worship of God, and that it is not a day God has set aside merely so that we can indulge ourselves, or do the weekly shopping. To disobey God in this, or any other way, is by definition a sin.

As for the verse from Micah, “Prophesy ye not,” is precisely what somebody is likely to hear, if they do something so unfashionable as to suggest the Sabbath Day be used for its stated purpose. At least, it is very unfashionable in the UK.

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Deuteronomy 13.1-5 – Present day idolatry
Posted: 22 March 2013 in Deuteronomy

If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

Only God is to be worshipped, and, just to underline the point, the above passage goes on to stipulate the death penalty for all forms of idolatry. So complete is the prohibition on idolatrous worship, that even somebody showing the signs of a true prophet is not to be trusted, but instead put to death.

Given that to be the case, it is difficult to comprehend what must be the full extent of God’s anger, when he looks down upon the modern world and beholds the almost universal idolatry of wealth. In the case of the new atheists, the idolatry of science is not far behind. Anybody who forswears the worship of that former idol is likely to be thought of as, at best, a bit eccentric. In America there is even the nonsensical heresy (and it is heresy) known as the prosperity gospel. There could hardly be any laws prohibiting idolatry today, because our whole culture is built upon it.

But that fact ought not to be an occasion for self-righteousness, as we imagine that we can exempt ourselves from the judgment which must surely come. We can only become aware of ourselves as contributors to the systemic sin which characterises this modern world. It is certainly not the case that we have no part in it.

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Revelation 6.12-17 – The Conclusion of History and Judgment
Posted: 21 March 2013 in Revelation

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

I suppose that it can more or less be taken for granted that Revelation was originally(!) written as a tirade against the Roman Empire. I do not, however, see how that must necessarily commit anybody to a preterist understanding of Revelation. To suppose that it must is to suppose that the thought processes of the human and divine authors were the same. That is not necessarily the case, and of course it is the divine author whose intentions are important for us today. If God had wanted to give us a history lesson, he could have done so in language a lot less cryptic than that to be found in Revelation.

Instead, what is to be found in Revelation, admittedly in highly symbolic language, is a description of what awaits men when God finally decides to wind up history, and they are directly exposed to divine omnipotence and majesty in all its glory. The ancient belief that death awaits anybody who sees God is not totally without foundation, and well might men seek to “hide themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains”.

The answer to the last question quoted in the psaage must be nobody is worthy to stand before God. All men are sinners, and all men are worthy of the eternal punishment which will await some. Only the divine mercy will spare others – to the glory of God. What is certain is that there will be no atheists on that day, and, although it is a hard thing to say, there will be no members of other religions either. They will face judgment, and eternal damnation, not because they were more wicked or evil than other men – Ghandi is repeatedly held up as the archetype for those who are not. They will face judgment, and its consequences, because only Christ is able to save us from the righteous wrath of God – merited by all men, without exception.

Whether we like it or not, and it is easy not to like it, God’s standards of righteousness are higher than ours. Furthermore, the Sovereign Lord of all Creation has no need to justify himself to us. And we, his impudent creatures, have no right expecting him to. If God reveals something to be his will, then that must be sufficient. We have no invitation to debate the governance of the universe with our Lord God.

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