“Therefore I ought first to show that the faith by which we are Christians is the gift of God, if I can do that more thoroughly than I have already done in so many and so large volumes. But I see that I must now reply to those who say that the divine testimonies which I have adduced concerning this matter are of avail for this purpose, to assure us that we have faith itself of ourselves, but that its increase is of God; as if faith were not given to us by Him, but were only increased in us by Him, on the ground of the merit of its having begun from us. Thus there is here no departure from that opinion which Pelagius himself was constrained to condemn in the judgment of the bishops of Palestine, as is testified in the same Proceedings, ‘That the grace of God is given according to our merits,’ if it is not of God’s grace that we begin to believe, but rather that on account of this beginning an addition is made to us of a more full and perfect belief; and so we first give the beginning of our faith to God, that His supplement may also be given to us again, and whatever else we faithfully ask.
Tag: election Page 1 of 2
This is the great question, from Romans 9:14, that has caused much debate over the centuries as it pertains to election, going back to Pelagius and Augustine, and even as Paul shows, during his own day. If God chooses to have mercy on one and not another, is He at fault, is it unjust? Paul’s answer? By no means! But why? He gives two pieces of evidence from the old testament to back up his claim that God is indeed not unjust in His sovereign election:
Job’s Suffering Under a Sovereign God
In the Book of Job, Job is essentially sifted like flour at the hands of Satan, by the permission of God. Job loses just about everything except his life and his wife. He loses his children, houses, live stock, servants, everything. He even loses his health for a time.
From the very beginning of the book, in the first chapter, it is clear God is the one in charge and in control of Satan’s sifting, using it and even purposing it for His good, just and right purposes that are pure and free from evil. In fact, God initiates the conversation with Satan, the one who would perform this very sifting. He says to Satan in Job 1:8, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” He then goes on later to give Satan permission, as well as boundaries, of what he can and cannot do to Job.
While all of this is true, God cannot be charged with evil or injustice of any kind. He is pure and holy, wise and almighty. There are no evil motives with God in this. And yet, to the difficulty of our understanding, He permits and even asks Satan to consider Job as a target for calamity. He initiates and prompts Satan to strike Job. This is hard to swallow. What is God up to? What is His goal in this?
Close to the end of the book, after all the calamity of the first two chapters Job experienced, he goes through a list of sins and trespasses to try and figure out what he has done to have received such calamity. It seems he assumes those things happened because of something wrong he had done.
If you really want to dive deep into the implications and ramifications of God’s grace and mercy to us in Christ, you really need to take the time to listen to this series of sermons on Romans 9 by John Piper. It is unfortunate these passages get skimmed over, ignored or nuanced to such a great degree there is nothing left but hollow theology. There is gold here if you will spend the time with it. Romans 9 answers these questions (though Romans 10-11 continues the answers as well):
- “If God has made such great promises to us in Christ that will NEVER fail (as explained in Romans 8), why is it that a majority of Israel rejected Christ, the only One who could save them?”
- “If all of Israel is not saved, and God’s promises have failed them, what are we to make of the promises of God given to us in Romans 8?”
- “Is God required to show mercy to everyone?”
- “Is God free to show mercy to whom He pleases?”
- “Is God bound by what the creature does or doesn’t do, or is He free to do as He pleases, to His own glory and for His own purposes?”
- “From where did our faith come from?”
As I have been reading through Genesis the past couple of weeks, something has become clear to me as the story line has progressed. We all know the story of Jacob and Esau, well, at least some of you reading might. As Paul says and properly interprets of this story in the latter part of Genesis, particularly as he says it in Romans 9:10-13, “When Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'”
Now of course everyone’s first immediate reaction to Romans 9 on election in particular is that this story of Jacob and Esau Paul cites is talking about God electing their temporal lots in life, not their eternal lots. And even then, the election spoken of, so goes the popular thought, is one of groups of people, not individual people, that is the election of Israel instead of Edom, as opposed to Jacob and Esau. That is at least how most people immediately interpret it nowadays, so as to lighten the hardness of the verses that come after these later in Romans 9.
After the election, in my own thinking, I have been working through how we as believers are to approach the preaching of the Gospel and politics. Particularly from the Reformed camp, I keep seeing two answers to this (broadly speaking, knowing there are probably more).
One answer is that we can do both Gospel-preaching and be politically active on issues such as abortion or feeding the homeless or whatever your pet issue may be, so long as the political activism does not eclipse the Gospel message. One example of this would be someone like William Wilberforce (mp3 audio biography) who fought to abolish slavery through legislation and eventually won in British Parliament (something I am extremely grateful for).
But the other camp says we should not be politically vocal at all really for the sake of the Gospel, stating that all we need in culture is pure Gospel-preaching and living and the culture will change as the Lord uses that preaching and living as He sees fit to save people and move in the core of their being on these issues. At this point, I’m leaning toward this second response, though I sway back and forth.
During the election, I leaned toward the first answer, that we can do both Gospel preaching and at the same time be publicly involved in the political process on various issues, attempting to convince others, as best we can, of the rightness of it. However, in hind sight, and after having read a blog post by Phil Johnson, as well as this one, I’m second guessing my original stance now. I just have to think to myself, “Did others, especially unbelievers, remember what my political stance was or how great Christ is?” I feel like maybe to my shame it is the former answer.
Now of course, I know that the Gospel should take priority above politics; that is a given. But I’m still navigating through this issue and swaying back and forth on what I should do next time around or even before then. I’ll confess to everyone that sometimes, I got a little bit too excited about the whole thing. I saw through the political nonsense at times, and at other points, I got caught up in the nonsense. At times it distracted me from my pursuit of Christ in prayer, the Word and studying of theology. For this, I was clearly in error.
So how involved should we be in politics as believers, if at all? I pose this question to get ideas from others. I think about Tim Keller (along with Phil Johnson’s comments) and see the amazing fruit of not going after political issues. Through pure Gospel-preaching and living, he has transformed an area of Manhattan that would not otherwise have been possible (i.e., I highly doubt anyone in Manhattan would listen to a rant about abortion, knowing of course at the same time that it is indeed morally wrong, abhorrent and murderous, that regardless, a lot of walls would go up instantly with these hearers).
But then I think about John Piper as one of my heroes of the faith and his vocal stance from the pulpit in clearly proclaiming the evils of abortion. I also think about John the Baptist in telling Herod he was in the wrong and as a result having his head cut off. Standing up for morality can be costly, but the question is, why are you doing it? So I’m really wrestling through this issue at the moment. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
“I’m reminded of the work of William Wilberforce in England. You may recall that in debate after debate after debate, and in election after election after election, Wilberforce was soundly and roundly defeated when he sought the abolition of slavery in the British Commonwealth. But if ever there was an exercise in perseverance, it was by Wilberforce. Wilberforce refused to give up. He simply would not walk away from being the conscience of the English nation. And he publicly testified that slavery was wrong and he promised to oppose it as long as he had breath in his body. And finally in the providence of God, Parliament woke up and abolished this unethical practice that was a plague on the English speaking world.
We’ve gone through the same plague in the history of America, and thanks be to God slavery has finally been abolished in America. But I believe that slavery is the second most serious ethical issue that our country has ever faced. From my perspective the number one ethical issue that this nation has ever faced is the issue of abortion. Abortion is not a matter of private choice–not for the Christian who understands anything about the sanctity of life. The first century church made it very clear in their day, explicitly stating that abortion is murder.
I’ve written over 70 books. The book that had the shortest shelf life of all of my books was my book on the case against abortion. I talked to pastor after pastor and sought to understand why they weren’t using this material (for which we also made a video series). They told me, “Well, we agree with it but we can’t do it in our church.” And I said, “Why?” They responded: “It will split the congregation.” And I said, “So be it!” A million and a half unborn babies are slaughtered wantonly in the United States of America every year in the name of women’s rights. If I know anything about the character of God after forty years of study, I know that God hates abortion. And I could never vote for a candidate who supported abortion–even if I agreed with that candidate on every other policy position. If he supported abortion I would not vote for him and I urge you to do the same.
I know that abortion is not the number one issue in this campaign because it has become acceptable. Just like slavery became acceptable. But it cannot be acceptable to ethical people. The people of God have to rise up and say ‘NO’! We are not asking the state to be the church but we must say to the state, “Please be the state. God ordained you to protect, maintain, and preserve the sanctity of life, and you are not doing it.” So that has to be on your mind when you walk into that voting booth.”
Taken from this article: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/2008/10/pr … -text.html