God’s Calling

God's call 18

Q. What does the Bible say about God’s calling? Does God call us to do specific things? If yes, where does our freedom to choose come in?

A. The Bible has a lot to say about our calling, with respect to both our salvation and service.

Regarding salvation:
1 Co 1:2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, …
• 2 Tim 1:9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace …

And concerning service:
“the word of the LORD came” to His prophets e.g. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, Haggai, Zechariah etc.
• Acts 13:2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

For service, the call could be specific, as in the examples cited above, or general e.g. the Great Commission (Mt 28:19, Mk 16:15, Lk 24:47, Jn 20:21, Acts 1:8).

The calling does not depend on how good or bad we are, and is irrevocable, but those called are required to make certain about the calling, and live up to it:
1 Co 1:26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;
• Rom 11:29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
• 2 Pet 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
• Eph 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
• 2 Thes 1:11 To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power,

What happens to our freedom to choose? We still have it, within the limits God gave us:
Deut 1:26 Yet you were not willing to go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God;
• Isa 30:15 For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.” But you were not willing,
• Mt 23:37 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.

God gave us a choice and we can freely choose to obey or disobey. However, when we disobey we have to pay for the consequences of disobedience ourselves.

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The Power of Words

Proverbs 18 20-21 a

Q. What does Prov 18:20-21 mean? What is it trying to teach us?

A. Although I prefer literal translations for accuracy, this is where an amplified (AMP) or expanded Bible (EXB) can help. I have listed the NASB first, then others to bring out the meaning:

Prov 18:20
NASB With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied; he will be satisfied with the product of his lips.
• AMPC A man’s [moral] self shall be filled with the fruit of his mouth; and with the consequence of his words he must be satisfied [whether good or evil].
• EXB People will be rewarded for what they say [ From the fruit of the mouth of a person is their stomach satisfied]; they will be rewarded by how they speak [the yield/gain of their lips satisfies].

Basically this teaches “You will have to live with the consequences of everything you say.” GNT

Prov 18:21
NASB Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
• AMP Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it and indulge it will eat its fruit and bear the consequences of their words.
• EXB What you say can mean [ In the power of the tongue are] life or death. Those who speak with care [love it] will be rewarded [eat its fruit].

The basic teaching is “What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.” GNT

Essentially the two verses teach the same thing, only using different words.

Visiting the Iniquity of the Fathers on the Children (2 of 2)

Num 14 18 b

(Continued from yesterday)

I believe this is only an apparent contradiction, since the Bible is God’s word and He does not contradict Himself. The difficulty is in the phrase “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations“, which on the surface does not seem fair. What exactly does it mean?

First, let’s tackle the issue from the perspective of “cause“. Notice from the first set of verses the following:
• The LORD is abundant in loving kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin i.e. He is compassionate and willing to forgive.
• He will by no means clear the guilty and leave them unpunished i.e. He is just and will always punish the guilty.
• Thousands is contrasted with to the third and fourth generations i.e. His loving kindness far exceeds His severity.

Ezekiel 18 20 c

Then note from the second set of passages that:
• The person who sins will die. Each and everyone shall be put to death for his own sin. There are no exceptions.
• Fathers and sons shall not be put to death for each other’s iniquity. Each bears his own responsibility. There will be no miscarriage of justice.

The logical deduction then, for both sets of proposition to be true, is that when the Lord visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children, those children themselves are NOT innocent but guilty. Of what? Of the sin they learned from their fathers. What sin? Ex 20:5, 34:7 and Deut 5:9 are all in the context of the 10 commandments, in particular dealing with idolatry.

These fathers hate God (Ex 20:5; Deut 5:9). In what sense?
Disrespectful and ungratefulEven though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks (Rom 1:21).
IdolatrousThey exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures (Rom 1:23). They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator (Rom 1:25).
Ignored GodThey did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer (Rom 1:28).
In so doing they become haters of God (Rom 1:30).

Not only did the fathers do this themselves, by their example they taught their children to do the same (Rom 1:32). The children are therefore guilty of the same sin and deserve the punishment. They are the “cause” of their punishment. God had not treated them unfairly by punishing an innocent “next generation”. Beware of what you are teaching your children. It need not be explicit instructions. They learn far more from your actions and attitudes than from your words.

Secondly, let’s look at the issue from the “effect” angle. Some children suffer the consequences of their parent’s guilt through no fault of their own. For example, parents with AIDS give birth to HIV-positive children. Drug addicts give birth to babies who may be addicted to the drug. They did not ask for it, they did nothing to deserve it, but they are affected nonetheless.

The iniquity of the fathers is visited on the children, who in this case could not exercise free-will to avoid it. Is that fair? Of course it’s not fair, but that’s what sin does. Sin robs and destroys, and through the hereditary principle infect the next generation. But our God is a gracious and merciful God. Even such sad cases could be redeemed through the compassionate action of people who care, or the suffering cut short in infant mortality. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world (Jas 1:27). I hope we can all do our part.