God’s Choice vs. Man’s Choice (2 of 2)

God's or Man's choice 1

(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we examined 3 out of 4 combinations of God’s choice versus man’s. Let’s look at the last one today:

God vs Man Choice

4. God bypasses the person, but he chooses to receive Christ:
a. If God has the final say (Calvinist), he is lost.
b. If man has the final say (Arminian), he is saved.

The Calvinist view is that if God passes over an individual and leaves him to his devices, his fallen state is such that without the enabling of the Holy Spirit, he does not have the ability to choose Christ on his own. Arminians disagree, believing that though a sinner is spiritually sick, he still has the capacity to receive Christ. Who is correct?

The Bible description of a fallen man is:
Jn 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him;
• Eph 2:1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
• Eph 2:5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, …
• Col 2:13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, …

Jn 6:44 says “no one can”. “Can” speaks of ability. No one has the ability to come to Christ “unless the Father draws him”. The precondition for coming to Christ is the Father’s drawing, His enablement. Why can’t he come on his own? Because he is “dead” according to Eph and Col. A spiritually dead person does not have the ability to respond to Christ’s invitation, unless the Father draws or enables him. Arminians feel that man has prevenient grace so that he is only sick and not dead, and can still choose to accept Christ. I don’t find this in Scripture. It is a view held by many who overvalued man’s ability and understated God’s sovereignty, but there is no biblical basis for it.

Furthermore, the Arminian position would lead to an absurd conclusion, a reductio ad absurdum. Let’s play along and assume that a non-elect person does have the capacity to exercise his free will to choose Christ. If man has the final say, he is saved despite God bypassing him. Man becomes sovereign, not God, which is wrong by definition. What if God has the final say? Since God did not choose him, He overrules the man’s free choice of Christ. This would make God a capricious despot denying eternal life to a person who receives Christ. That is certainly not the God of the Bible. So I am persuaded both by Scripture and logic that the Arminian position is untenable.

Finally, why would God waste time in letting us convert those predestined to hell? He wouldn’t waste time. We witness to all as we don’t know who the elect are, but we won’t succeed in converting the non-elect. They would either resist God’s offer of salvation, or there would be false conversion in which there is an emotional response which withers away, but no real life that perseveres because it does not abide in Christ. God permits such activities to train us to be obedient and sharpen our evangelistic skill. Plus we learn to be more Christ-like in the process as you pointed out. Hope this is clear.

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God’s Choice vs. Man’s Choice (1 of 2)

God's or Man's choice 4

Q. Seems to me that allowing men to choose does not eliminate God’s sovereignty. God in His sovereignty allows man to exercise his free will in the matter of accepting Christ, just like He allows man to decide things in his every day life. However, He can also overrule and take that away any time. (Just like parents to kids.) He can choose to have mercy to anyone He wants, and He can choose to allow man to exercise his free will within the confines He defines. Otherwise why would God let us waste time to convert those who are predestined to hell?

A. I never said allowing men to choose eliminated God’s sovereignty. What I said was allowing men to have the final say eliminates God’s sovereignty. One word makes all the difference. Arminians claim that man has the final say in matters of accepting Christ, otherwise how can God hold man accountable? Calvinists claim that God has the final say in who gets saved, otherwise God is subject to man’s choice and not sovereign. The two views are mutually exclusive as both can’t have the final say. I side with the Calvinists based on scriptural evidence.

We can analyze this issue logically and biblically. For the moment, let’s put who has the final say aside. From God’s perspective, He can either elect (choose) to save a person, or pass over (bypass) him. From man’s angle, he can choose either to accept or reject Christ. There are thus 4 possible combinations:

God vs Man Choice

1. God chooses the person, and he chooses to accept Christ. The outcome is that he is saved.
2. God bypasses the person, and he chooses to reject Christ. The outcome is that he is lost.
So far so good. Both Calvinists and Arminians agree on the above outcomes. But 3 and 4 is where who has the final say becomes important.

3. God chooses the person, but he chooses to reject Christ.
a. If God has the final say (Calvinist), he is saved.
b. If man has the final say (Arminian), he is lost.

Sometimes the Calvinist view is caricatured as God dictating and cramming His will down man’s throat. We must avoid such fallacious straw man arguments. In fact God the Holy Spirit works on man’s conscience to draw him to Christ:
Jn 16:8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;
He arranges events and circumstances such that man comes to Christ willingly, because his eyes had been opened to see the plight he is in, and his heart, mind and will convicted of his need for the Savior. Calvinists call this irresistible grace or effectual calling, which precludes the possibility of those called rejecting Christ.

The Arminian view maintains that God gives prevenient grace prior to conversion that offsets the damaging effect of sin on a man’s ability to understand the gospel, releases him from bondage to sin, restores his freewill, but which comes short of efficaciously saving the person. This leaves the final decision of whether to accept or receive Christ with man, not God. Biblically, who is correct? I believe the former.

Who has the final say?
Prov 16:9 The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.
• Prov 19:21 Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand.
• Dan 4:34 All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’

Obviously God.

Is God’s will resistible?
Job 42:2 I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
• Isa 14:24, 27 The LORD of hosts has sworn saying, “Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand, … For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?”
• Rom 9:19-21 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, …

Obviously no. God as Creator has a right over man as creature, who are not His equal and can resist His will. They can try, but they won’t succeed.

(To be continued)

Does Prayer Change Things? (3 of 3)

prayer changes things 7

(Continued from yesterday)

2. There are good alternative explanations to the verses that speak of “not change His mind” other than taking them nominally without considering the context:

• 1 Sam 15:29 – this pertains to the nature of God who will not lie. In His essence God never changes (Heb 13:8), but in His actions He provides room for people to respond without compromising His ultimate will.
• Ps 110:4; Heb 7:21 – the latter quotes the former with respect to the election of Christ as priest forever. This is God’s eternal decree for the salvation of mankind and of course will never change.
• Jer 4:28 – this must be interpreted in the light of what God said later in Jer 18:7-10 At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of (reconsider) the good with which I had promised to bless it.

Clearly God responds to whether people repent or disobey. What about passages in which God said, “I will not relent”:

Ezk 24:14 I, the LORD, have spoken; it is coming and I will act. I will not relent, and I will not pity and I will not be sorry; according to your ways and according to your deeds I will judge you,” declares the Lord GOD.’”
• Zech 8:14 “For thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Just as I purposed to do harm to you when your fathers provoked Me to wrath,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and I have not relented,

Ezk 24:14 must be interpreted in conjunction with Ezk 24:13, “Now your impurity is lewdness. Because I tried to cleanse you but you would not be cleansed from your impurity, you will not be clean again until my wrath against you has subsided.” Taken together, the LORD will not relent because He wanted to cleanse Jerusalem, which won’t repent until it is judged.

Similarly, one must continue reading Zech 8:14 to v 15, “so I have again purposed in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Do not fear!” As in Ezk 24:14, “not relenting” was meant for Jerusalem’s good. The end, or the intention, was always for her benefit, not harm. In this sense God did not change His mind, though in the means, His action, God changed from forbearance to judgment specifically to accomplish His purpose.

One last point, what about God’s sovereignty? Wouldn’t His responding to prayer make God subject to man’s action, and therefore not sovereign? No, not at all! God is always sovereign and in control, but His method is not to dictate everything. In His dealings with man, I believe God’s way is the way of wisdom. Instead of programming each incident to one static outcome, He gave people not only rules and principles to obey, but also freedom to choose for which they are accountable. His way is dynamic, interacting with people in a way that keeps their freewill intact, yet maintaining His sovereignty all the time simply because He is infinitely above His creatures. I have not touched on Jn 14:14, but we will leave that for some other time.

Does Prayer Change Things? (1 of 3)

Hezekiah healing 1

Q. Hezekiah became ill and God told him that he will die. He prayed and wept and God healed him, adding 15 years to his life (2 Kings 20:6). Manasseh, one of Judah’s most wicked kings, succeeded Hezekiah when he was 12 years old (2 Kings 21:1), which means he would not have been born had God not healed Hezekiah. Did Hezekiah change God’s will and the course of history by his prayer?

A. The account of Hezekiah’s healing is in 2 Kings 20:1-7, and Isaiah 38:1-6. The subject is on the immutability of God, and there are opposing views. Some believe “God does not change His mind” because He knows everything and makes the best decisions, and there is no need to change His mind. Furthermore, if God changes His will in response to prayer, His action is contingent upon man’s petition, then how can God be sovereign? Supporting verses include:

1 Sam 15:29 Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”
• Ps 110:4 The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.”
• Jer 4:28 “For this the earth shall mourn And the heavens above be dark, Because I have spoken, I have purposed, And I will not change My mind, nor will I turn from it.”
• Heb 7:21 … but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, “THE LORD HAS SWORN AND WILL NOT CHANGE HIS MIND, ‘YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER’”);

Others, however, believe “God changes His mind” because that’s what this passage plainly implies. If God does not answer prayer requests, why did Jesus ask us to pray? He said, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (Jn 14:14) If He didn’t mean it, why say it? Other supporting verses include:

Ex 32:12, 14 Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. … So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.
• Jer 26:13, 19 Now therefore amend your ways and your deeds and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will change His mind about the misfortune which He has pronounced against you. … Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him to death? Did he not fear the LORD and entreat the favor of the LORD, and the LORD changed His mind about the misfortune which He had pronounced against them?
• Amos 7:3,6 The LORD changed His mind about this. “It shall not be,” said the LORD. … The LORD changed His mind about this. “This too shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.

So which is it? Does God change His mind in answer to prayer or not? Does prayer change anything?

(To be continued)