John 3:16 vs. Election

Q. One question bothered me all along. When I first learned the Bible, Jn 3:16 moved me with God’s forgiveness of sinners. Yet at the same time, the Bible often mentioned “election” e.g. “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”, which led me to feel God loved some people more. Perhaps “God so loved the world” does not mean He loved everyone the same as I first thought. What’s your view?

A. Some feel either God loves everybody equally, or He wouldn’t be fair. The Bible actually does not teach this “either/or” type of love, but a “both/and” kind – God loves both the elect and the non-elect, just not in the same way. Let me show what I mean:
Mt 5:44-45 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
• Acts 14:16-17 In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; 17 and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.
• Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
• 1 Tim 2:3-4 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
• 2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
• 1 Jn 2:2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

At a basic level, God loves the good and the evil by sending physical provisions to both, not just the righteous but the unrighteous as well. He desires all to be saved, and does not wish any to perish, even though some do not receive Him. God loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die for us, while we were yet sinners. Jesus’ death is not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world.

However, at a deeper level, God has a saving love for the elect, those whom He had chosen:
Jn 10:14-15 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
• Jn 17:9 I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours;
• Rom 1:7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
• Rom 8:28 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.
• Eph 1:3 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,
• 1 Tim 4:10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

Believers are beloved of God and called as saints. The Lord knows them and asks on their behalf, not of the world. God causes all things to work together for their good, and has blessed them with every spiritual blessing. He did not do the same for those who reject Christ.

Not only did God differentiate between the elect and the non-elect, we are supposed to do the same:
Ga 6:10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
• 1 Tim 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

We are to do good to all people as He did, but especially those of the household of the faith. This is understandable. Those with a good heart love all people, not just their own, but it is reasonable for them to love and provide for their family first. Not to do so is worse than an unbeliever. Hope this helps.

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Child’s Faith

Q. Since I was a child, I have always believed in John 3:16 but had no concept of Eph 1:4-7 or 2 Co 5:21. All I knew was that Yahweh is the only true god instead of Buddha. Was I saved as a gentile child?

A. Only God who knows your heart, then and now, can answer your question. However, I can offer a few comments:

1. Being saved depends on your relationship with God, not how much you know:
Jn 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
• Jn 3:36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
• Jn 20:31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
• 1 Jn 5:11-13 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Note that John’s consistent testimony is that:
• Eternal life is in the Son
• Has the Son = Has life
• Does not have the Son = Does not have life.
How do you have the Son? By believing in Him.
What does believe mean? Not intellectual assent, but:
• Trusting that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God or God the Son;
• Obeying the Son to demonstrate that the trust is genuine.
John said nothing about head knowledge, how much theology you know. It’s all about trust, as a child trusts in his/her parents, and depends totally on them for everything. It is a matter of the heart. I’ve heard lectures and read books by unbelieving “theology professors” with several doctorates, but I don’t think they are saved. Now whether you have the simple, complete, faith of a child, only God knows and you know.

2. You quoted Eph 1:4-7 and 2 Co 5:21, both deep truths penned by Paul:
Eph 1:4-7 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
• 2 Co 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Eph 1:4-7 teaches:
1. Election (He chose),
2. Sanctification (holy),
3. Perfection (blameless),
4. Predestination,
5. Adoption,
6. God’s will,
7. Free grace,
8. Redemption,
9. Forgiveness, while
2 Co 5:21 teaches:
10. Jesus as perfect Man (no sin),
11. Substitutionary atonement (to be sin on our behalf),
12. Imputation (righteousness of God).

I doubt any new Christian would have a full grasp of these dozen subjects, yet they are saved the moment they placed their trust in Christ alone and commit to follow Him. Christ gave them the right to become children of God (Jn 1:12). I do not mean to belittle theology, but it’s the heart that counts, not the head.

Predestination

Q. Is there such a thing as predestination? Paul had chosen to be a Pharisee. Saving grace was forced on him and he repented and accepted. The Israelites had chosen to reject Yahweh but all Israelites will repent and be saved at the end times. The gentiles have quite a different fate. As a gentile, I treasure God’s saving grace and mercy.

A. Yes there is predestination. I have written on the subject before so I won’t repeat myself. Please refer to the previous posts:
https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/predestination/

https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/is-everything-pre-determined/

https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/election-based-on-foreknowledge/

https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/election-of-saints-election-4/

Paul was a Pharisee, but saving grace was not forced on him:
Php 3:5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;

For the conversion of Saul, read Acts 9:3-9, 17-18; 22:6-16; 26:12-18. Unlike ISIS who put a knife to the throat to force people to recant their faith, God did not threaten him. Paul was not coerced or under duress, but saw the light when he was struck blind temporarily. He repented willingly when he realized how wrong he was about Jesus.

Nor is the privilege of knowing God offered to Jews alone, but Gentiles also:
• Acts 26:23 that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
• Rom 3:29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,
• Rom 9:24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
• 1 Co 1:24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
• 1 Co 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
• Ga 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The difference is only of timing –
• Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
• Rom 2:10-11 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.

Hope this helps to clarify your issues.

Why Evangelism?

evangelize 1

Q. If God foreordains who would be saved, then why bother with evangelism at all? He has already predestined everything, so it really does not matter what we do.

A. We evangelize because:
1. Christ commanded it:
Mt 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
• Mk 16:15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
• Lk 24:47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
• Jn 20:21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
• Acts 1:8b and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

When our Lord commanded it in the Great Commission, that alone is more than enough reason for us to evangelize.

2. God ordained not just the ends, but also the means:
Rom 10:13-15a for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?
God chose who would be saved, but He also chose that they would be saved through hearing the gospel. So He sent preachers to preach the good news.

3. It is our privilege:
Rom 10:15b Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”
Most feet are not beautiful, but those who bring the gospel are. It is an honor for those who are given the opportunity to share, and brings great joy when those we witnessed to come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior. That’s why we evangelize.

Foreknowledge or Foreordination?

foreknowledge foreordination 1

Q. My Sunday school teacher explained that there are two views with respect to our salvation. The foreordination view says God foreordains everything that comes to pass according to His good pleasure. The foreknowledge view says God foresees who will believe Him, and chooses them based on this foreknowledge. I spoke to people in my cell group and their opinions are divided. Which is correct?

A. My short answer is the foreordination view is the biblical one. Here is my rationale. The key issue is the sovereignty of God. Both views agree that God chooses the elect before the foundation of the world
Eph 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.

However, their reason for God’s choice differ. The foreknowledge view asserts that God foresees who will believe in Jesus, and chooses these to be saved:
1 Pet 1:1-2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.

In this view, the final decision of who gets saved rests with man, whether he believes in Jesus. God simply confirms man’s decision by choosing those who would believe. Man is sovereign, God is not, in the matter of salvation.

The foreordination view, on the other hand, claims that God chooses according to His purpose, the kind intention of His will:
Eph 1:5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
• Eph 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,

In this view God’s choice is not pre-conditioned by man’s action. He does whatever His hand and His purpose predestined to occur (Acts 4:28). God is sovereign, man is not.

Logically, the foreknowledge view cannot be true, because by definition, God is sovereign. God is the Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe, with authority over everything. If God is not sovereign, then God is not God. How can man the creature dictate the final outcome and God the Creator simply rubber stamp? It just does not make sense. But then how do we explain 1 Peter 1:2?

To begin with, foreknowledge is simply a subset of omniscience. Since God knows all things, of course He knows what will happen before it happens, including who will receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. But His choice is not based on man’s action:
Rom 9:11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,
• Rom 9:16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

Man’s will does not have the final say, God’s purpose does.

Secondly, foreknowledge mean more than prior knowledge. It includes that, but is not limited to cognition. The word “foreknowledge” translates the Greek noun prognosis, which means both foreknowledge and forethought, pre-arrangement:
Acts 2:23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
Jesus was delivered over by the pre-arrangement, not just prior knowledge, of God. It was His pre-determined plan.

Furthermore, foreknown means more than being known beforehand. The Greek verb proginosko can also mean predestined, foreordained:
1 Pet 1:20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you
“Previously known” would be inadequate, only predestined would do.

1 Pet 1:2 could therefore be translated “chosen according to the prearrangement of God”. So both logically and biblically, I believe the foreordination view is the correct one.

Why did God create Satan? (2 of 2)

Lucifer 1

(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we traced Satan’s blame back to himself. But why bother creating him who caused all the trouble?

In the first place Lucifer, like all angels, was created to serve:

Heb 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?

Those who will inherit salvation are men and women who trust God, to which angels were sent to render service e.g. Gabriel as a messenger:

Dan 8:16 And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and he called out and said, “Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision.” (See also Dan 9:21; Lk 1:19, 26)

So Lucifer was created for a purpose, as the villain in God’s plan of salvation, which plan was only partially revealed to us in the Bible:

Eph 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,
• Rev 13:8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (Also 17:8)
• 1 Pet 1:20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world,

Secondly, God chose some but not others to be saved through Christ before the foundation of the world, but did not explain the basis, except that it was His sovereign will. By the same token, He ordained Lucifer to become Satan, but did not give the reason why him and not another. Had God chosen another fallen angel to be the villain in the salvation plan, we could have asked why that angel instead of “why Lucifer”.

Third, notwithstanding Satan coming to steal and kill and destroy (Jn 10:10), God overrules his plans to accomplish His purpose, and will destroy his work:

Gen 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.
• 1 Jn 3:8 The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.

For example, ISIS committed heinous crimes against humanity, but many Muslims are turning to Christ in reaction to their monstrous, wicked acts.

In short, God knows how Lucifer will turn corrupt and profane others, his unspeakable evil acts, but turns his vilest deeds around to save many lives. Those who question “can’t He come up with a better plan?” are in fact saying they know better. Their limited knowledge and power can concoct a better world and a better plan than the omniscient and omnipotent God can, and that allowing Satan to exist is foolish and unwarranted. I dare not make that claim, nor should anyone with sense.

Curse on Rebekah?

Isaac Jacob 4

Q. Jacob said to Rebekah that if Isaac found out he wasn’t Esau, it would bring a curse to him. Rebekah responded that let the curse be on her. Was there ever a curse on Rebekah in the end?

A. Isaac did not curse Jacob, because he himself said, “Cursed be those who curse you” (Gen 27:29), and he knew Jacob shall be blessed (Gen 27:33).

He did not curse Rebekah either, probably because he loved her (Gen 24:67), and likely knew that she was more aligned with God’s choice of the younger than he was, as he favored the older (Gen 25:28).

Her “curse” came in the form that she never saw her favorite son Jacob again. She thought she was sending Jacob away only a short time – a few days with Laban plus the duration for the return trip:
Gen 27:43-45 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice, and arise, flee to Haran, to my brother Laban! Stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury subsides, until your brother’s anger against you subsides and he forgets what you did to him. Then I will send and get you from there.

In fact Jacob stayed with Laban 20 years – 7 years for Leah, 7 years for Rachael, and 6 years for the sheep and goats:
Gen 31:38 These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten the rams of your flocks.

By the time Jacob returned, Rebekah already died. She never got to see him again for her trickery. Sin always pays.