Monday, August 23, 2010

Confirmation of Predestination from Scripture

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. (John 6:37-39, New King James Version)
Christ is quite clear here that everyone who is given to Him by the Father, comes to Him. In other words, grace offered by God is irresistible. Also it is clear that all who come to Christ are saved, but it is only those sent by God who come to Christ.  Calvin writes about this passage, "Note that the Father's gift is the beginning of our reception into the surety an protection of Christ."  Calvin then quotes a few verses later, "  No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day," (John 6:44, New King James Version).  This is one of my favorite verses in favor of predestination.  I think it was Sproul that I heard one time talking about the word "draws" in this passage.  In Greek the word is "elko".  Two other places it is used in the NT is Acts 16:19 and James 2:6.  Both of these places it is translated into English as "to drag".  In other words, those who are given to Christ by the Father aren't simply just invited to believe, but God drags them to Christ because our sinfulness would not allow us to believe any other way.  Another interesting passage from John is this, "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours," (John 17:9, New King James Version).  This is in the middle of a prayer that Christ is praying.  He is selectively praying for those whom God has given Him, but not for the rest of the world.  Calvin uses several more examples from Scripture to show that God has selected those who become believers.  "To sum up: by free adoption God makes those whom he wills to be his sonsl the intrinsic cause of this is in himself, for he is content with his own secret good pleasure."

The church fathers did not all agree in the debate over predestination.  Augustine in fact started off believing that foreknowledge and predestination were one in the same, "but after he had gained a better knowledge of Scripture, he not only retracted it as patently false, but stoutly refuted it."  Augustine debated vigorously with Pelagius over this topic.  Pelagius was a heretic who lived in the same time as Augustine.  He taught that man could earn salvation through good works.  He believed that man could refrain from sinning his entire life.  We do not have many followers of Pelagius that we must content with inside the church any more.  We do however contend with "semi-Pelagians" who believe that man must accept Christ in order to be saved.  They think that it is our choice to receive salvation.  In other words, there is at least one work that man must do to earn God's grace.  This is directly opposed to Paul's teachings that there is not one thing that we can do to earn God's favor and receive salvation.  Augustine writes, "Here, surely, is rendered void the reasoning of those who defend God's foreknowledge against God's grace, and therefore say that we were chosen before the establishment of the world because God foresaw that we would be good not that he himself would make us good.  He who says, 'You did not choose me, but I chose you' [John 15:16], does not speak of foreseen goodness.  For if he had chosen us because he had foreseen that we would be good, he would also have foreseen that we would choose him, and the consequence thereof."  Calvin admits that he could easily write an entire volume around Augustine's works, but chooses not to here.

Calvin mentions the writings of Thomas Aquinas, but I will not go into detail with them here.  Basically, Aquinas understood that there was some mixture of merits in with grace.  He thought that we were predestined to good works.  Calvin calls these ideas absurd.  He quotes an unknown writer, "Those who assign God's election to merits are wiser than they ought to be."

In the debate over predestination, some will argue that it would be contrary for God "to invite all men to him but admit only a few as elect."  He criticizes some for trying to sidestep this issue, then he tackles it head on.  Simply put, there is an outward call to all people to repentance, but only for the elect is there an inward call by the Spirit.  The Gospel is for all people, but the gift of faith is rare.  "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:  who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," (John 1:12-13, New King James Version).  Those who believe in Christ are given special rank as "children of God."  Once again in this passage, John teaches that it is not the will of man, but of God that we believe.  Paul writes in Titus 1:1, "Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness..."  Here Paul "commends faith to the elect that no one may think that he acquires faith by his own effort bit that this glory rests with God."

Not only is election dependent on the will of God, but so is rejection.  We have looked multiple times at the story of Jacob and Esau along with Paul's writing about it in Romans.  Paul writes both about those whom God elects and those whom God rejects: "Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens,"  (Romans 9:18, New King James Version).  Either way, it is God's decision alone and not man's.  "If, then, we cannot determine a reason why he vouchsafes mercy to his own, except that it so pleases him, neither shall we have any reason for rejecting others, other than his will.  For when it is said that God hardens or shows mercy to whom he wills, men are warned by this to seek no cause outside his will."

Tomorrow's reading: 3.23.1-3.23.7

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