The Pure in Heart

October 6, 2014

The Pure in Heart

            In Matthew chapter five the pure in heart are promised the blessing of God.  “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).  They are those who grieve because of the impurity of their hearts.  The only way to have a pure heart is to be aware of impurities in your heart, ask for God’s forgiveness, and for his help in cleansing your heart.

To clearly understand what it means to have a pure heart we need to understand what the Bible means when it speaks of the heart.     It is where we make decisions of life.  In our terminology, as well as in the Bible, the heart could be called the command center of our being.  In some cultures, it is said to be the bowels. It is most likely in our mind that we make decisions, but we sense an emotional feeling in our mid-section.  The heart is what influences our thoughts.  Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”   Proverbs 4:23 exhorts us to keep our hearts. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

Having a clean heart is not just a matter of intellect.  It is possible to be highly educated and still have an impure heart.  We have to be educated to the extent that we know what is right and wrong. A pure heart doesn’t come from formal education.  It is by means of a humble acceptance of the moral values that God wants us to have.

Biblically, the heart is the center of our emotions, intellect, and will.  That is why Proverbs 4:23 says that the issues of life flow out of the heart.  If our heart isn’t pure, many of our thoughts and actions will be impure.  We have all had our hearts broken when someone we thought was a spiritual Christian was suddenly caught in an act of immorality.  It was because he was harboring impure thoughts in his heart.  Jesus said, in Matthew 15:19-20 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:    These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.”

Many modern people think and say that crime and bad behavior stem from a bad environment.  They think that if people are surrounded by those who set a good example they will behave right.  We can’t deny that our environment has an influence on our behavior, but it is possible to have a pure heart in a bad environment.  It is also possible to do wrong in a good environment.  Adam and Eve were in the Garden of God when they sinned.  They weren’t influenced by bad people.

We also need to give some consideration to what is meant by the word “pure” in Matthew 5:8. It is only logical to think that if something is pure, it doesn’t have impurities in it.  When we buy salt we don’t want it to have grains of sand in it.  When we buy milk we don’t want it to have water mixed into it.  A pure heart doesn’t have impure thoughts in it.

When God saves us he wants to clean up our hearts.  He wants us to be “a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).  Even though we never arrive at perfection, that is what God aims at when he works in our lives. In the Bible the word “perfection” often speaks of arriving at spiritual maturity.  I Peter 5:10 says, “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

When we think of a pure heart we think of someone who   is genuine.  It is one that is free of hypocrisy.  A hypocrite is one who plays a part.  He presents himself as a clean person when he has a dirty heart.  In Matthew 23:27 Jesus compared the hypocrites to whited sepulchers.  “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”

How can we clean our hearts?  Psalm 119:9 says, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” If you really want a pure heart you need to be willing to pray honestly the prayer of David found in Psalm 139:23-24.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

The promise given to those of a pure heart in Matthew 5:8 is that they shall see God.  That means they shall be admitted to heaven.  In this life we will never have a heart that is 100% pure.  If we have put our faith in Christ for salvation, we will enter heaven on the merits of Christ who died for us.  Christ is the only one who ever passed through this life without impurities in his heart.  If we are in Christ we will have his pure heart.  Psalm 24:3-4 says, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?   He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.”  If you have never put your faith completely in Christ for your salvation you will never see God.

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September 10, 2014


            What is legalism?  In the last 20 -30 years we have started hearing Christians use the term “legalism,” but what do they mean by it?  The word isn’t found in the Bible.  The dictionary definition of the word is “Strict adherence to the law, especially to the letter rather than the spirit. The doctrine that salvation is gained through good works” (The Random House Dictionary). The purpose of this article is to help you have a clearer concept of the word “legalism” and be able to use it appropriately.

We need to use caution when we accuse someone of being legalistic.  Frequently someone is accused of being legalistic because he or she has higher moral standards than the one making the accusation.  It may be done to relieve the conscience of the accuser.  It is a way of putting down those who have higher standards than the accuser has.

We all have standards of conduct, but why do we have them?  It they are for the wrong reason, we could be legalists.  Some have standards to make them acceptable in the sight of others.  Some have standards because they hope thereby to obtain salvation.  Others expect to gain favor with God.  With that motive they are getting closer to the fundamental reason for having standards.  The most honorable reason for having standards is that of pleasing and glorifying God.  Ephesians 1:11-12 says, “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:   That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” What God most wants of his children is found in Colossians 1:10.  “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.”  We shouldn’t think we have the right relationship with God because of our standards.  We should have standards because of our relationship with God.

When you accuse someone of being a legalist, you are judging his motives.  Do you know why he has the standards that he has?   If he does what he does to please God, who are you to judge him for it?  If he is doing it with the wrong motive, he has a doctrinal problem and needs help with that.

Some say that legalists are those who try to impose their standards on others.  That is something most of us aren’t very successful at.  Even if we are, it’s only a superficial success if they just accept our standards because we told them to.  We should want others to have higher standards; not just our standards.  We often see people hurting themselves and others because of their immoral standards.  We don’t just want them to accept our standards.  They need to see that what they are doing is wrong.  It is always more honorable to raise our moral standards rather than lower them.

Some say that legalists are those who have standards that are higher than those found in the Bible.  If you have convictions against smoking or taking illicit drugs, does that make you a legalist?  Those things aren’t mentioned in the Bible.

Romans 14:1-6 gives us a warning about judging others because of what they do or don’t do.  “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.   For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.    Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.    Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.    One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.    He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.”  Just because someone doesn’t eat vegetables doesn’t make him inferior to you.  Does it make him more of a saint than you are?  Maybe it does, but maybe it doesn’t.  We had best let God be the judge.  We will all give account someday.

Most people have standards because of what they were taught as children.  They have grown up with them.  It is just their way of life.  Some have higher standards than others.  Unbelievers don’t have the habit of accusing others of being legalists because they have higher standards than they do.  It is a bad testimony to people of this world when they hear Christians label their fellow Christians legalists.  It gives them reason to question whether we love one another as we should.  Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

If you know someone who is a legalist, pray for him.  Don’t offend him by calling him a legalist.  If someone called you a legalist, would you take it as a compliment or a criticism?  Don’t try to convince a legalist to lower his standards.  He needs help in having the right relationship with God.   If one lives by rules, with a shallow relationship with God, he most likely is a legalist.

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The Laws of Sowing And Reaping

“But this Isay, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (II Corinthians 9:6).

In this verse the Apostle Paul tells us that we reap in proportion to what we have sown.  It gives us reason to guard against laziness.  We are always tempted to do less than we should.  I’m glad for lessons I learned in my childhood and youth.  We lived on a farm and there I learned the importance of sowing generously.

There is a lot more involved in sowing than just going out to the field with a wagon load of seed and throwing it out.  Before sowing, my father worked for several weeks preparing the soil.  He began by plowing.  Then he passed over the fields with machines to break up the clods.  He often began this work in cold weather.  Sometimes the wind picked up grains of sand that cut into his face.  He wasn’t like the man we read about in Proverbs 20:4.  “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.”  If he had been negligent in the preparation of the soil he would have paid for it at harvest time.

He was also careful about the seed he sowed.  He spent money to buy the best seed corn.    He could have thought, “This seed is expensive.  I’m going to sow it sparingly.” No, he knew that wouldn’t be prudent.

Now let’s make some applications to what Paul said in II Corinthians 9:6.  I’m sure he didn’t just write this with farmers in mind.  There is nearly always a period of time between sowing and reaping.  For that reason, we need to keep looking to the future.  Sometimes we may wait years before we come to the full fruits of what we have sown.  At other times, it comes rather suddenly.  With regard to children and young people, it is sometimes hard for them to comprehend that they are making an investment in their future when they are studying.  It may seem to them that they aren’t getting much recompense for the time and effort they are putting into it.  If they yield to the temptation to be lazy, they won’t reap the reward for their negligence until they reach their adult years.  Then it may be too late to recuperate what they lost.

There are yet other applications.  In Luke 6:38 Jesus said, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”  This verse doesn’t need to be limited to the money we give.  It could also include sacrifices we make and time we spend.  Colossians 3:22 says, “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye service, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God.” This verse has to do with our work ethics.  He who does the least he can on the job isn’t going to prosper.  In fact, he might even lose his job.

Some years ago I heard an interesting illustration of this.  I’m not sure if it was true, but it illustrates the truth.  It has to do with two boys who were friends in high school.  They both graduated from high school the same year and went out to look for work.  They both landed jobs working for the railroad.  Their jobs sent them to different parts of the country and they lost contact with one another.  Let’s call them Paul and Frank.  Several years went by.  One day Paul was working with a group of men repairing the railroad tracks.  While they were working a passenger train came by.  The train had to stop for a little while so the men working could clear the tracks.  It was a hot day and the passengers had the windows open.  That was obviously before the days of air conditioning.  Paul happened to notice a man dressed in a suit and tie looking out the window of the train.  He looked familiar.  Then he realized that he was his old friend, Frank.  They chatted for a while.  Paul found out that Frank was now working in an office in the city.  He ask Frank, “Why is it that we both started working for the railroad at the same time, but you have an office job and I’m still working as a lineman?” Frank said, “Could it be that you started working for a buck fifty an hour and I started working for the railroad?”  If we work for the good of our employer we are sowing seed that will reap a harvest.

In II Corinthians 8:7 Paul mentioned some things in which we should abound.  “Therefore, as ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.” From the context, we know he was talking about money, but if we abound in those other things he mentioned we shall also reap a harvest.  Each deed is like a seed planted.  When we reap the harvest, we can’t attribute it to any particular seed.  All of them together make their contribution to a bountiful harvest.

In Galatians 6:7-8 Paul says we reap according to what we sow.  “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.    For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” He warns us about the danger of deception.  If we spend the bulk of our time learning how to win computer games, we may be proficient at it, but it won’t add anything to our net worth.  Paul wants us to know that what we sow to the spirit will have eternal rewards.

In II Corinthians 9:8-11 Paul tells us that he that sows good seed will be enriched in everything to all bountifulness.  “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:   (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.    Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)    Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.”

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The Earnest of the Spirit

“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.   For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:    If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.    Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.    Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)    We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.    Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him”   (II Corinthians 5:1-9).

God gives us much reason for having hope.  The Apostle Paul began this chapter by saying “for we know.” In two other verses in this portion he makes mention of the confidence we have.  In verse six he says “We are always confident.” In verse eight he says, “We are confident.” Hope gives us reason for living.  If we are without it, it’s easy to be despondent and depressed.

The “earnest of the Spirit” is verification that God still has something better for us.  The word “earnest” means a pledge.  When the Bible speaks about earnest money it meant a down payment.  If we count our blessings, we will most likely be amazed at all God has already done for us.  Would you believe that he is saving the best for last?

The Bible teaches that at the moment we are saved the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us.  Romans 8:9 says, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” If someone is genuinely saved he can’t help but realize that he has another spirit.  Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

When a believer comes near the end of his life it’s a consolation for him to know that God has something better for him.  His body, which Paul calls his earthly house and his tabernacle, begins to fall apart.  He is more and more limited in what he can do.  What a thrill it is to know that God has waiting for us “an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” That is speaking of our new body.  I Corinthians chapter fifteen gives us reason to believe that it will have abilities that far exceed those of our physical body.  Even this earthly body is a marvelous manifestation of the power and wisdom of God.  Our heavenly body will be even more glorious.  Verses 41-44 say, “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.    So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:    It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:    It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”

When we die we will enter into what theologians call an intermediate state.  We will be with Christ, but we will not immediately have all that God has planned for us.  We will need to wait until the day of the resurrection.  That will take place when Christ comes back in the clouds to call his own to come up and be with him.  We read about it in I Thessalonians 4:16-18.  “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:   Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.    Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”  In Luke 16:19-23 we read about the beggar Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom.  He is still waiting  for the day of the resurrection.  Paul says in verse two that we groan “desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.”  In verse eight is the promise that we shall be “absent from the body” and “present with the Lord.”

The truth is that the Bible leaves us with some questions about the intermediate state.  The Bible offers nothing to substantiate the Catholic teaching about purgatory. After death there is nothing left for us to do to be admitted into heaven.  Christ finished the work of our redemption when he died on the cross.  There is no reason to believe there will be a time when we are unconscious, or what is sometimes called soul sleep.

Unless he is alive when Christ comes in the air, the believer passes through three stages of life.  First is the time from birth to death.  After death he enters into the intermediate state.  The third stage is when he is given a heavenly body with some amazing capabilities.  For all we know, God may have even more stages planned for us.

It is hard for us to understand how we can function without a body.  When the Bible uses the word “tabernacle” it really means a tent.  We usually think of a tent as a temporary shelter.  Our earthly tabernacle, our body, is made from dust of the earth.  It goes from dust to dust.  It is delicate and deteriorates.

For the child of God, the best is always ahead of us.  We have a glorious future.  Dear reader, if you haven’t accepted Christ as your Savior, for you the best is in the past and the worst is yet ahead.  Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”   God will judge and punish you if you have rejected his gracious offer of pardon and provision for a glorious future.  There is still hope for you if you will repent and ask God to forgive you and make you a child of his.  It is a decision you need to make now because no one knows how much more time we have.  Why not do it now?

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Below is an article that was written by my grandson, Kaleb George

Foreknowledge and Freedom:

An explanation


Among Christians throughout the ages there has been a constant theological debate. It is one that is beyond reason, but not against reason. It is beyond our comprehension, but not our ability to apprehend. It is a mystery, but not mysterious. It is the issue of predestination/foreknowledge and free will. The Bible affirms God’s sovereignty and our freedom of choice as being true. But they are not equal and opposite each other. In fact, when understood, they complement each other, providing a richer understanding of our Father, our Faith, and our responsibilities

There are four basic views about these doctrines – Calvinism, Arminianism, Irrationalism, and Traditionalism. Calvinism defends and exalts God’s sovereignty at the expense of man’s free will. Arminianism defends and exalts man’s freedom at the expense of God’s sovereignty. What I call the irrational view does not even try to have a stand on the issue, since the question of how sovereignty and free will relate to each is supposedly a mystery. The last view is the traditional view which tries to maintain a balance between sovereignty and freedom of the will. Before we go into looking a little deeper into these different views, first let’s lay the groundwork with Scripture passages that appear to affirm both the Sovereignty of God and the freedom of man, depending on the reader’s presuppositions, give a summary of the arguments for predestination and freedom, and then define a key term that is imperative to understand for this explanation

How the two concepts of predestination and free will correlate and work together is a hard concept to grasp, but not impossible. I will try to summarize the four views briefly, state their underlying presuppositions, and evaluate them Biblically. Please note: I will mostly be dealing with the extreme versions of these views. Not all Calvinists believe alike, nor do all Arminians believe alike. There are varying degrees of how strongly and to what extent people hold to and take their views.

The Bible is very clear in the fact that God, having foreknown all things from the foundation of the world, is sovereignly controlling all things and working all things to accomplish His perfect will,

and that we as humans created in the image of God have the freedom of choice.

The argument for predestination/election normally goes like this: It is obvious from many passages in the Bible that to join with the elect, we must be called of God: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” John 6:44. God is sovereign over everything, and this includes salvation. John says that we as children of God are “born not of natural descent, nor of human decision, or a husband’s will, but born of God” John 1:13. In writing to the Romans, Paul says that “it is not of him who will, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy… God has mercy on whom we wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden” Romans 9:16, 18. But God is also sovereign over the decisions of rejection of Him: “They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed” 1 Peter 2:8. God even has prepared vessels of wrath for destruction and vessels of mercy for glory (Romans 9:22-23). God’s sovereignty over the human will includes His initiating, pursuing, persuading, and saving grace, without which no one could ever be saved. Romans says in chapter 3 verse 11, “There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks after God.” The only reason why we love God is because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). We can only be saved if the Father draws us to Him (John 6:44). We do not have any choice in regard to the initiating or attaining our own salvation. God initiates it brings it to completion out of His benevolent and irresistible grace, apart from any work or act of man.

The argument for free will normally goes something like this: we have the free will to choose to accept the pricking of the Holy Spirit unto salvation or reject it. We have the freedom to accept or reject God’s gift of salvation. Belief is our responsibility and is rooted in our ability to respond. Freedom is described as having no constraint, where one has authority over his own will, 1 Corinthians 7:37. Free choice is freedom that is not under compulsion but voluntary; it is not compulsion but consent of our own free will (Philemon 14). God has designed salvation so that whoever believes can be saved (John 3:16, 18; 6:37; Revelation 22:17). Thus God expects us to respond to His drawing us. What God

calls us to do He will give us strength to do (Philippians 4:13). But we can refuse His benevolent grace and not be one of the elect. We have the responsibility to use our freedom of will to choose God.

One thing that must be clarified before exploring the different views is the definition of God’s Foreknowledge.

God has perfect foreknowledge of all events. He has declared the end from the beginning and from ancient times what has yet to happen (Isaiah 46:10). His foreknowledge is knowledge of what will happen in time. To make this easier to understand, let me illustrate this. God is eternal [Psalm 90:2 “Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”]. This is not denied by any of the opposing views. God also inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15) Thus He lives outside of time (unless He so chooses to live in our chronological time, as He did in the Person of Jesus Christ). God created time but is not bound by it. He exists from eternity past to eternity present; He stands apart from time; He inhabits eternity [Colossians 1:17 “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”]. God does not exist on a time line. God stands back from the time line of human history (past, present, and future) and can look at the creation of the universe, the birth of the Messiah, and at the Second Coming of Christ at the same instant. Thus He knows what will happen before it will happen [Acts 15:18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works”; Isaiah 46: 9-10 “I am God…declaring the end from the beginning.”]. This is God’s foreknowledge – His previous knowledge of the future.

An easy to understand analogy of this concept of God living outside of time is to imagine a parade. You are on top of a tall building where you have a panoramic view of the entire parade, from the police cars blaring their sirens in front, to the Fire trucks heading up the rear, and everything in between. But only you have this perspective. Those on the ground watching the parade pass in front of them can only see a few floats at a time. In comparing this with the concept of God living outside of time, God would figuratively be at the top of the building (outside of time) where He could see all of the parade (history) and we would be on the ground (inside time). This analogy could also be applied and understood on the same basis of a passing train with all its railcars. We are sitting in the car at the railroad crossing wondering when it will end and watching each single car pass by, while God would figuratively be up

high, able to see us, the engine of the train, and the last rail car.

Now on to the views on how people try to understand the concepts of God’s sovereignty and our free will.


The claims are contradictory and cannot be reconciled. It is an unsolvable mystery, only known to God.

Key Verse:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

The View:

This dual view holds that God both predestines all things, and that we have free will to make decisions. But it makes no attempt to reason this out or come to Biblical solutions, since the two doctrines apparently contradict each other. Verses of the superior thoughts, judgments and ways of God are used to justify these seeming irreconcilable truths. It makes no claim as to predestination as such or when or how God elects or how our free will works in God’s eternal plan. It merely affirms the two doctrines are true and ends there.


God predestined all events and all the elect based on His foreknowledge.

The View-

This view holds that God predestined all events and all the elect based on His foreknowledge. This means that God first

looked at the timeline of human history and saw what would happen and who would believe. Based on what He sees will happen, He makes prophesy and determines His will; based on who He sees will believe, He makes them the elect. According to this view God foreknew first, and then decided how He would work in history and who He would make to be the elect. This view also holds that God is in sovereign control but does not actually determine what happens. It suggests that God’s foreknowledge (knowledge of what will happen) is

dependent on our free will. But this is contrary to Scripture since the Bible affirms the Creator-creature distinction. The Scripture is clear in that God is independent of His creation and He does not need us for Him to exist or to know. Thus God’s knowledge cannot be dependent on our actions. What God has, He is. If God has love, He is love and it is not due to us (1 John 4:19). If God has knowledge, He is knowledge and His knowledge is identical to His eternal and independent nature; it is independent of us.

Classical Arminianism holds that man is totally free to accept or reject God, being under no coercion from Him. It also holds that since God is all knowing, He is in sovereign control of the whole universe. He knew exactly what everyone would choose to do even before He created the world. Up until here, I don’t think we have a problem. But Arminianism goes on to hold that

based on the fact that God foreknew who would choose Him, God chose them unto salvation. This is where the issue lies. Geisler says, “If God’s choice to save was based on those whom He knew would choose Him, then it would not be based on divine grace but on human decision. It is contrary to the clear teaching that salvation does not spring from the will of man.” “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” Romans 9:16. John 1: 13 carries a similar note where it says: “[we] were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, not of the will of man, but of God.” John 15:16 says we did not choose Christ but that He chose us. This is not to diminish human responsibility. God calls us, thus He is the Initiator. But it is our choice to accept or reject Him. He chooses us but we have the freedom to go against Him, as we will see later.

Some Arminians take the doctrine of human responsibility to such an extreme that they deny God’s omniscience. These people are called Open Theists. They hold that God created us with unlimited will

and freedom to the degree that even He, the Creator and Sustainer of our existence, cannot exercise control over our will nor can He intuitively know how we will use our freedoms. However, they do hold that God can make pretty accurate predictions on what decisions and actions we will take, as evidenced by fulfilled prophecy. They believe that our free choices can change the future and what God has determined and known from before the foundation of the world what will occur. This extreme view is most certainly un-Biblical and undermines many crucial doctrines. It makes God dependent on His creation since He is not powerful enough to control it and it even makes man more powerful than God since man can change what God has declared will happen. In effect, it makes man a god.


God predestined all events and all the elect independent of His foreknowledge.

The View –

This view holds that God predestined all events and all the elect independent of His foreknowledge (knowledge of what will happen in time). Calvinists hold that God decided what events would occur and who would be saved regardless of our personal choice and without looking at the timeline of history. God decided first, then He sovereignly forces His will on history and human beings to accomplish His perfect will. According to this view, nothing we do is outside the will of God since all our actions are predetermined based on the will of the Father. God says in Daniel 4:35 “He does according to His will in…heaven…and…the earth. No one can restrain His hand.” But the extreme Calvinist view negates human responsibility.

If God has predetermined everything and nothing we do is outside His will, then whatever we do or think is the will of God. I once heard a lecture from R.C. Sproul JR. about being in God’s will. He told

a story about a man from his church who came to him wondering what God’s will was about a job opportunity he had been offered. Sproul responded by saying that if he took the job, it was God’s will; if he turned down the job, it was God’s will; if he took it then lost it, it was God’s will; if he turned it down and later accepted, it was God’s will too. So, in essence, whatever action we take is the will of God for us, even if it is obviously sinful or in direct conflict with our Maker! This teaching almost makes us to be our own gods because whatever we do is right – even if we do evil! Now, most Calvinists do not take this teaching to the extreme that God wills evil (though some do but cannot explain how God who is Holy could be the author of sin and evil; even Augustine, the originator of this extreme view, did not believe that God created evil) but this is the logical result of this thinking. This thinking makes God the source of evil and good, of sin and righteousness. But this is contrary to Scripture. It is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18) and therefore cannot be the author of it. “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace” 1 Corinthians 14:33. Evil does not come from God; it can’t. Sin comes from us and we were captive to sin before we accepted Christ. But this does not mean that sin is unavoidable. Norman Geisler said, “…we are born with a propensity to sin but not a necessity to sin. Actually, while it is inevitable that we will sin, it is not unavoidable that we must sin. Even though we are depraved and by nature bent toward sin, nonetheless, each sin is freely chosen…There is no responsibility where there is no ability to respond…”

Christian historian Rodney Stark in his excellent book “Victory of Reason” has this to say about our God and how our God differs from pagan gods: “…the Christian God is a judge who rewards ‘virtue’ and punishes ‘sin.’ This conception of God is incompatible with fatalism. To suggest otherwise is to blame one’s sin upon God: to hold that God not only punishes sin but causes them to occur. Such a view is inconsistent with the entire Christian outlook. The admonition ‘Go and sin no more’ is absurd if we are mere captives of our fate. Rather, Christianity was founded on the doctrine that humans have been given the capacity and, hence, the responsibility to determine their own actions.” This brings out a key point with extreme Calvinism. This Calvinistic view of God is borrowed from pagan Greek philosophies. The Greek view of the gods

was that they were impersonal, distant, controlled all things, and did not interact with people. Often this view had an ultimate impersonal force that governed them and caused all things to occur. This force was called fate. The Calvinistic view of God that has Him making arbitrary decisions regardless of the responsibility, character, and personalities that He gave each one of us is extremely close to the Greek view of Fate (known before the Greeks as the tablets of destiny). But God is not fate, impersonal, or distant. He is near to every one of us and especially to those who call on Him. He also knows all that will come to pass and those who will repent. But this does not mean that God is arbitrarily forcing people to sin or to love Him. Justin Martyr, opposed to the view of God as Fate, explained the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and human decision when he said: “God, wishing men and angels to follow His will, resolved to create them free to do righteousness. But if the Word of God foretells that some angles and men shall certainly be punished, it did so because it foreknew that they would be unchangeable (wicked), but not because God created them so. So if they repent, all who wish for it can obtain mercy from God.”

The extreme view of sovereignty that denies human responsibility also nullifies the commands all throughout the Bible that challenge us to choose God, remain loyal to Him, testify, witness, go into the harvest, love Jehovah, honor our parents, pray, praise God, be just, repent, show compassion, submit, show reverence, and the list could go on and on. Geisler summed it up this way: “…what we ought to do implies that we can do it. Otherwise, we have to assume that the Moral Lawgiver is prescribing the irrational, commanding that we do what is literally impossible for us. Good reason appears to mandate that if God commands it, then we can do it. Moral obligation implies moral freedom.”

If God predetermined all that will happen and we can only do that which He wills and He wills that some specific people will obey and some will not, then why on earth did He give us the commandments, the prophets, the Bible, and ultimately Jesus Christ? Irenaeus noted this very thing when writing: “If then it were not in our power to do or not to do these things, what reason had the apostle, and much more the Lord Himself, to give us counsel to do some things and to abstain from others? But because man is possessed of free will from the beginning, and God is possessed

of free will in whose likeness man was created, advice is always given to him to keep fast the good, which thing is done by means of obedience to God.”

When Jesus was here on this earth, as He was traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover just before He was crucified, He made an astounding statement that flies in the face of the extreme sovereignty view. Jesus is lamenting the fact that Jerusalem, God’s holy city, has been in rebellion to the point of killing and stoning prophets and others who preached repentance. Matthew 23 verse 37 says, “How often I [Jesus] wanted to gather your children together…but you were not willing.” Here Jesus Himself, being fully God, willed that Jerusalem would return to Him. But the rebellion and unwillingness of the city caused God to postpone His wonderful plans to establish His kingdom there. Here is an example of God, who will accomplish His perfect will, putting off that will to a later time because of the people’s free choice to reject Him. The early Church father Irenaeus said this about this passage: “This expression… set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free [agent] from the beginning, possessing his own soul to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God… in man as well as angels, He has placed power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves.”

Calvinists use three basic passages in the Bible that they claim support their views. They are

John 6, Romans 9, and Ephesians 1.

John 6

is one of the top three chapters used in support of Calvinistic predestination. This chapter has such statements as “No one can come to Me unless the Father…draws him” (44), “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me” (37), “Did I not choose you?” (70), and “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father” (65). Even reading these verses in context, one can come away with an idea of unconditional election and irresistible grace, so these verses deserve special attention.

Upon examining verses 37-40, something interesting is found:

there are two different things that will be given to Jesus and raised by Him “at the last day.” Verse 37 includes both categories while verse 39 has only one and verse 40 has only one. It is obvious that one category is speaking of people, even Calvinists and Arminians agree with this. The other category is debated. Some propose that verse 39 and the first half of 37 is speaking of the disciples, but I disagree with this proposition. Jesus is referring to inanimate objects or things, not individuals or groups or a church (the terms “it” and “nothing” are used instead of personal pronouns such as those found in verse 40 and the second half of 37).

So what are these “things”? Looking at this passage from a Kingdom context (after all, the whole Bible is telling the story of God building His everlasting Kingdom, and the Messiah coming to establish it on earth for all eternity and it was the central message that Jesus, His disciples, and Paul proclaimed throughout the Gospels and the Book of Acts) it would follow that these terms are referring to Christ’s Kingdom, redeemed creation, all authority, all might, and all dominion. These things will be given to Jesus the King. This proposition fits perfect. The term “last day” always refers to the time of the end when Jesus returns to set up His eternal reign. When He returns, the Father will give Him all that pertains (will come) to Him. Christ will receive His Kingdom and be exalted in all power, might, dominion, and authority in a redeemed creation.

Verse 40 and the second half of 37 refer to people. All those who come to the Father will be given to the Son. When will they be given to Christ? When the Father gives Him the Kingdom, after the resurrection. God invites us to enter into the Kingdom, but it is our decision to enter or stay without (Matthew 22:1-14, Luke 14:15-24). Who are those who will be given to the King and enter His kingdom? Whoever believes in the King (3:16; 6:47) and anyone who eats of His bread (the bread of life – verse 51 and 54). This is not a predetermined or pre-selected special elite class of people that God chose to save regardless of their submission to or rebellion against Him. No rebels will enter Christ’s kingdom. Only those who submit and follow their King will be allowed in. These followers of the Way will come to Jesus when He returns to set up His Kingdom, because the Father allows them to enter the eternal kingdom and gives them to Christ at this time (verse 65). Those who do not sub

mit will not be given by God the Father to God the Son to spend eternity with Him in paradise. These rebels He will destroy with an everlasting judgment. This leads us into the next key verse in John 6.

Verse 44 is another verse that needs clarification. Calvinists claim that God draws only a few select individuals. But the Bible says that God loves the world and is not willing that any should perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). His grace is offered to all but is received by few. He draws all, but not all accept. If God does not draw some it is because they would not have accepted His grace in the first place. God knows all men’s hearts. He draws (speaks to, convicts) by the Holy Spirit. But man is free to reject the Spirit’s pricking.

“If the sinner voluntarily rejects the offered mercy of God, he is culpable for doing so, and is therefore amenable to the charge of culpability and responsible for the divine tribunal because of it… So man is responsible for sin because he is both the author and actor of it… [Thus] the sinner is free in accepting or rejecting the invitations of the gospel. If he accepts them, he does so freely under the actuation of the Holy Spirit. If he rejects them, he does so freely without this actuation and solely by his own self-determination.”

– W.G.T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, pg 298-299

As for verse 70, this does not refer to Jesus selecting believers throughout time, but rather Him selecting those people, disciples, who He would use for building His kingdom. Even Judas, called a devil by Jesus, was chosen in accordance with God’s foreknowledge of what Judas would do (Psalm 41:9; Acts 1:16).

Ephesians chapter one

is also a favorite of Calvinists. But by reading this passage without any preconceived ideas about Calvinistic predestination, it is clear that this is not what it is teaching. This passage is designed to bring glory to God. We are saved, all to the glory of God. We were predestined to Glory, to be holy, without blame, to redemption, to praise Him, through the Son. This passage does not teach that God predestined individuals to salvation or damnation. Those who freely trusted in Christ are destined to or chosen for the things mentioned in this chapter. All those who have and will believe were predestined before

the foundation of the world to be conformed to the image of Christ. Another thing about this passage to note is where the sentences begin and end. In the King James Version, there are two sentences (one – 3-6; two – 7-11) and it ends with “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” Other versions divide this passage into more sentences, probably to make reading easier for today’s generation. But, nevertheless, it is clear that this passage is refering to all those who freely trusted in Jesus Christ.

Romans chapter 9

is probably the most used passage to support the pre-election of the saved to adoption and the predestination of those who God chose to destruction. But even a brief look at this chapter in context shows that this was not what Paul was teaching. Paul was dealing with the rejection of the Messiah by Israel. He said that because of their rejection, which God knew would happen and had a plan for it, God would then go to the Gentile world to gather a people for Himself. This was actually a fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. This passage deals with God’s election of purpose, God choosing to use our mistakes to glorify Himself and to advance His plan for man. No where in this passage does Paul teach God has chosen certain individual people (regardless of their choice to repent and serve God or not) for everlasting destruction. (For a more detailed study on Romans 9, see my notes at the end of this article.)

Yes, God will do all His pleasure and accomplish all He knows what will come to pass, but He accomplishes it without negating or disregarding His beloved creation’s responsibility. According to extreme Calvinism we are essentially robots, who have no freedom, no will, no responsibility, and no choice to love God or hate Him. We are pre-programmed to do what we will do and think and nothing we can do (or think) will change it. The tablets of destiny and Greek philosophy become the standard for hermeneutics (Biblical interpretation).

Now that we have looked at the two prevailing views on the issue of predestination, election, and free will we now have a better under

standing of them. We have seen their valid points and their attempts to not do away with a doctrine of Scripture. But both of these positions end up diminishing and even abolishing other doctrines and when taken to extremes they make man more powerful than God and in effect make him a god deciding good and evil with actions. If whatever I do is right or in accordance with the divine, than I have become god or a god. This heretical doctrine lies in both extreme views.

Augustine had this to say with regards to these two views: “The conclusion is that we are by no means under compulsion to abandon free choice in favor of divine knowledge, nor need we deny -God forbid!- that God knows the future, as a condition for holding free choice.” Please note that Augustine said this (as well as all the other quotes in this article) before he reverted to his Platonic Manichean Gnostic beliefs of a sovereign yet static fate (God) in his arguments against the Pelagians.

Now, as mentioned earlier, what you read about the views are not held by all Calvinists or by all Arminians. There are various levels of belief and

action upon that belief in both of these camps. There is one last view that we will look at. This view tries to balance God’s predestination and human responsibility in reasonable terms.


God predestines all events and all the elect in accordance with His foreknowledge

The View-

This view holds that God predestines all events and all the elect in accordance with His foreknowledge. This means that God looked at the timeline of human history and at the same time knew what would happen, what He would do, what actions we would take, and who would become the elect. But this does not nullify our free

will – it complements it. Based on this view, God’s foreknowledge and Predeterminism are one in Him. Whatever God knows will happen, He determines to accomplish; whatever God determines to do, He knows will come to pass. If God is an eternal Being, then His thoughts must be eternally coordinate and unified. We who have chosen Christ are predestined to adoption and sanctification (Ephesians 1:4-5) and to have an inheritance (11)

according to the foreknowledge and will of the Father. God knows from all eternity what will come to pass – therefore it will come to pass. But we most freely act in accordance with God’s foreknowledge and therefore fulfill what God knew what would come to pass. Therefore one and the same event can be both determined and freely chosen at the same time. Determined solely because God in His infinite foreknowledge knew it would happen.

Augustine had this to say about God’s foreknowledge and free will: “No one sins because God foreknew that he would sin. In fact, the very reason why a man is undoubtedly responsible for his own sin, when he sins, is because He whose foreknowledge cannot be deceived foresaw, not the man’s fate or fortune or what not, but that the man himself would be responsible for his own sin. No man sins unless it is his choice to sin; and his choice not to sin, that, too, God foresaw.”

As we have seen, nowhere in Scripture does the idea of people being predestined to salvation or destruction independent of their free will exist. The closest teaching to support this view is the concept of hardening. To this we shall turn our attention and draw the framework of the balanced view.

Scripture is quite clear that God hardens people unto their own destruction and shows mercy to others. The best way to understand this is to look at the classic allegory of the potter and the clay. Take a moment and read Jeremiah 18:1-11 and THEN Romans 9:14-24. The picture given is the Potter (God) forming vessels (people – believers and unbelievers alike) to be used for His glory and His purposes to accomplish His will. When the clay is hard, has clumps, is stubborn or weak, God works with it until He gives up (due to the form of the clay) and forms a vessel of dishonor or wrath. This vessel is still usable for Him. Notice that this vessel of dishonor was not formed based on its characteristics, but rather

in accordance with its characteristics. Jeremiah 17:10 says, “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to every man

according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” It is not based on our choices as the Arminians say (this makes God dependent on man), nor is it independent of our actions as the Calvinists say (this makes God to be static Fate). Just as God forms vessels of wrath adapted for destruction, like Pharaoh, He also makes vessels of honor adapted for glory. But He forms these vessels in accordance with the formability and usefulness of the clay.

One extremely important thing to notice in Jeremiah 18 is that as God is forming a nation, a people, or an individual for glory and is blessing them and has promised to build and plant them. If they do evil and refuse to obey, be submissive and moldable for God’s purposes, God will relent and will instead pluck up, pull down, and destroy them, in perfect

accordance with their actions. On the other hand, if God is forming a nation, people, or individual for destruction in accordance with their rebellion, if they repent and turn from their evil, God will fashion them into a vessel of honor and be able to use them. Notice that it does not matter what we choose, God will use us to advance His sovereign plan. Now, how we will be used will be in accordance with how pliable we are. If we are hard to begin with, He will continue to harden us in accordance with our own hardness unto our own destruction. This is precisely what happened with Pharaoh. God did not arbitrarily harden his heart. Scripture says that first Pharaoh hardened his own heart and that later God hardened it more so that God could make His name great (Exodus 7:4-5).

The following points are asserted by the traditional view:


God has a master plan for mankind and creation that He established before the foundation of the world.


God is the Creator of all things and is sovereign over His creation and is able to do with it as He pleases.


God has given man freedom of thought and action to love God or hate Him.


Man is morally responsible for his uncoerced actions. If an action is coerced, it is not free and man has no responsibility for that action.


God calls all men to repent and does not want to destroy the wicked out of His love for them.


God loves all people but a different more special love is shown to those who have elected to follow Christ.


Atonement is limited in its application (to those who believe) but unlimited in its extent (available to the entire human race). For atonement to be applied it must be accepted.


God is the one Who initiates salvation, Who completes it, and Who sets the rules for attaining it. All we do is repent, believe, submit, and follow, as is commanded for all men to do.


God molds us and uses us in accordance with our own free actions and willingness to be submissive to His hands or rebellious to His hands.


Jesus Christ will not lose any of those given to Him when they are given as He inherits His eternal Kingdom.

Norman Geisler, in his book “Chosen but Free”, summarizes very simply how the concepts of foreknowledge, election, free will, and personal responsibility work together in regards to Salvation (my summary and Bible references):

God loves everyone in general (John. 3:16). God chose to express His special love to those who will accept it (John. 1:12). His love is not based on His foreknowledge of who would accept it but on His choice to have a bride to whom He could express His special love (1 Peter 1:2; John 1:13). God’s love works persuasively but not coercively. We must freely respond to God’s love in order to enjoy it. Even though God loves all, nevertheless, He knows all are not going to respond to it (John 1:11). God chose to accept all who respond and make them the special object of His love and have an intimate relationship with them (John 1:12). Those who do not have this special relationship to God would not have accepted it.

Chosen But Free, 3rd edition page 147

Norman L. Geisler

The Bible commands us to study. As we study the Scriptures we may come to different conclusions on certain matters and therefore to make a dogmatic assertion that our view is the view of the Divine is wrong. We must be humble enough to admit that we may be mistaken in our views because we will not find what the perfect interpretation of the Word of God is until we are resurrected. Whatever the case may be, certain truths stand and will stand for all eternity such as the one stated in the most famous Bible verse of all: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that

whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

Romans 9

is talking about Israel and its rejection of Christ as the Messiah and God’s purpose for this rejection.

Rom 9:11-13

(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but

Esau have I hated.

Verses 11 -13.

Election in verse 11 is not salvational election but rather purpose election. In this case, His purpose is choosing a people, a group to carry His name. God elected Jacob for a certain work and Esau for a certain work. But God does not elect independent of His foreknowledge. He knows what will be the condition of our hearts in the future. He knew if we would be submissive to Him or rebellious. He knew how we would use our free choice. This is why God could say, “The older shall serve the younger.” This would not happen solely because God decreed it but also because God knew Jacob’s and Esau’s hearts and ways before they were born or could do any good or evil. Nowhere in this passage does God say He predestined Jacob unto salvation and Esau unto destruction. This passage is dealing with God’s election of purpose in accordance with His foreknowledge of our uncoerced actions. God even had a purpose for Israel’s chosen rejection of the world’s Messiah.

As for God hating Esau, there are two points to consider. One is that this is referring to Nations, not specific individuals (Malachi 1:2-3). Second is that the Hebrew word for hate means to love less. This is made clear in passages like Genesis 29: 30-31 and Luke 14:26 and Matthew 10:37. God’s expressed love is the same to all people and nations regardless of religion. But God’s received love is greater for the believer.

God in this passage is not dealing with His choice of who will be saved but rather which lineage will be His chosen one to bring salvation to the rest of the world. The Jews came not only from Abraham – but from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Savior did not come from Ishmael or from Esau. But this does not mean that they and their descendents were chosen for everlasting destruction and could never be saved. All this passage shows is that God has selected a chosen group with which to show Himself to the world.

Rom 9:14-24

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh,

Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Verses 14-24.

What God decides to do has no unrighteousness in it. It is right because it is in harmony with His law and His holiness. He can choose to pour out mercy on whom He will and compassion on whom He wills. It is His choice, but it is not arbitrary. As we shall see, it is done in accordance with our submission to Him.

Verses 17- 18.

This section deals with God’s selection of a Gentile for His ultimate glory. God chose to harden Pharaoh’s heart and raise him up so that God’s name could be great on the earth. At first glance this may look like God predestined Pharaoh unto destruction and there was nothing he could do to the contrary. But upon examining the text in Exodus, we notice something interesting. First of all, Pharaoh hardened his own heart first (Exodus 7, 8, and part of 9). Later it is God who hardens Pharaoh’s heart (chapters 9 and 10). God is not hardening his heart actively, but only passively in the sense of giving him up to his own sinful desires (Romans 1:24). Pharaoh himself did the initial hardening. Furthermore, God did not arbitrarily harden Pharaoh’s heart for eternal destruction. Exodus 7:3-5 and Romans 9:17 (God’s purposes for hardening Pharaoh’s heart) have nothing to do with God choosing or predesti

nating people or Pharaoh for salvation or destruction. It is dealing with God’s election of purpose. God elects (or raises up) certain people or nations for a specific purpose, though that purpose is accomplished in accordance with our free will. However, God can show mercy and cause us to break our stubbornness and advance His Kingdom, or He can harden us in our rebellion and still use us to advance His Kingdom (Exodus 7:3-5).

Verses 21-24.

If one comes to this text with the presupposition of eternal predestination, then this section appears to validate this belief. But just as with the rest of the chapter, in reality it has nothing to do with predestination of eternal destiny. God is the potter and we are the clay (Jeremiah 18:1-11). God will use every vessel for His glory and for His own purposes to advance His plans. If we are submissive to the Potter’s hands, He will make us into vessels of glory and honor. If we reject God and refuse to cooperate and be conformed to His will, He will form us into vessels of wrath, dishonor, and destruction. The point here is that it is up to us as to what vessel He will make us into. The ultimate decision is God’s, but is in accordance with how we conform to the molding and shaping of the Potter’s hands (Jeremiah 17:10). Nations and people being prepared for destruction by God can be changed and adapted into vessels of glory if they repent and turn from evil. Vessels being prepared for honor can be adapted for dishonor if they rebel. Romans 2:5-10 looks at the same principle.


The Confirmation of The Believer

The Bible talks about confirmation, but it isn’t what it is for many people in this world.  Biblically, it is partly a work of God, and in part a work of man.  We read about it in Acts 14:21-22.  “And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,   Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” These verses clearly imply that it is a work that is done by God’s servants.  In Bible believing churches it is what is called “discipleship.”

We read about it again in II Corinthians 1:21-22.  “Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;   Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” Here we have the word “stablish.” This Greek word, and the word translated “confirming” in Acts 14:22, have basically the same meaning.  Both mean to confirm.  God wants us to have the assurance that we are his child.  We don’t go bouncing in and out of salvation from one day to the next.  John 10:28-29 assures us that if we are in God the Father’s hand, we are safe and secure.  “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”

In II Corinthians 1:21-22 Paul mentions the work of the Holy Spirit.  He makes note of three things that the Holy Spirit does for the believer.  He says he is anointed.  In the Old Testament when someone was anointed he was ceremonially and publicly set apart for a special purpose.  Oil was poured upon the person’s head as we read in Exodus 29:7.  “Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him.”

Then it says that the believer is sealed by the Holy Spirit.  We read about that again in Ephesians 1:13.  “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,” This isn’t a seal that we can see.  In biblical symbolism, it signifies three things. (1) a finished transaction. (Jeremiah 32:9-10) (2). ownership (Jeremiah 32:11) and (3) security (Daniel 6:17).

Then it says he is given the “earnest of the Spirit.” The Greek word “earnest” was something like a down payment; a pledge.  In Argentina, when we agreed to buy a house, we had to make a down payment.  When all the paper work was done and the title to the property was in our name, we had to be ready to finish paying for it.  If, for some reason, we repented and decided not to buy the property, we would lose the down payment we made.  Therefore, the earnest made the transaction binding.  The manifestation of the Holy Spirit is given to the obedient believer.  Acts 1:8 says, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth

We read about Man’s part in confirmation, in Acts 14:21-22. It is best understood as a teaching ministry.  New believers need to be taught the basic truths of Bible doctrine and Christian living.  That is often done on a one on one basis.  If new believers sincerely want to learn, they will be faithful in church attendance.  Even so, they are greatly helped if a mature believer spends time with them the first few weeks, answering their questions and helping them learn how to use the Bible to guide them.  This serves to confirm them in their faith.

What, in the minds of many, constitutes confirmation is an invention of men.  It has no biblical basis.  In the Bible, confirmation has no relationship with baptism.  New believers should be baptized, but that doesn’t add anything to their salvation. (See the article on baptism under Bible doctrine.)







Salvation Before Surrender

August 18, 2012

Salvation Before Surrender 

            People still debate the question, “What comes first; the chicken or the egg?”  There need not be any debate about whether salvation should precede surrender.  There is a great difference between accepting what God offers us and surrendering our life to him.  We aren’t saved by surrendering ourselves to God.  Our submission to God has to come after we are saved.  We don’t have anything to offer God that would be of any value to him.

We stand condemned before God.  John 3:18 says “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  We bring shame and disgrace on the name of God by thinking that we are good enough in ourselves; that we don’t need the shed blood of God’s Son to save us.  Isaiah 64:6 says “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”  What reason do we have for thinking that God would be pleased with an offering like that?

Some people use the wrong terminology in speaking of their salvation.  It may be that they were saved after a period  of months or years of resisting the goodness of God that leadeth to repentance. To them, it seemed as though they surrendered.  In a sense, they did.  They stopped fighting and recognized their need of God.   It’s a surrender that comes when one is defeated.  It isn’t our surrender that saves us.  If  you think it is, maybe you aren’t saved.  We are saved by Christ’s sacrifice onCalvary.  It’s not by anything good we have done.

The word that is most often used in the Bible in speaking of salvation is “believe.”  John 1:12 says “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”  It’s a matter of believing from the heart.  It is an acceptance of two biblical truths:

1.  I was dead in “trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).  We already noted in John 3:18 that we were condemned.

2.  Jesus Christ gave his life on the cross ofCalvaryto pay the penalty for our sins.

Isaiah 53:5-6 says “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised    for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.   All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

There does need to be a time when the Christian surrenders his life to God.  That may come at the time of salvation. If so, we need to make it clear that the surrender is not a part of their salvation.  There is what some call “lordship salvation.”  That is the belief that we aren’t saved unless we are also surrendered.  That’s adding something to the finished work of Christ.

The obedient Christian is one who has submitted his will to the will of God.  Romans 12:1-2 speaks of this.  “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.   And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  If we surrender our will to God he will be free to do what he wants to with our body.

God gives his people what, in the Bible, are called “gifts.”  Romans 12:6-8 lists some examples of gifts.  “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.”  Some know what their gift or gifts are before they are saved.  Some don’t find out until after they are saved.  God wants our wills so he can use us.  He may not choose to use what you think is your talent. All God wants is our will.  Don’t offer what you think God could use.  He may not want that. There may be some other talent you have that he wants to use. Part of our life he may use one talent and later on another talent.  God has a plan for your life.  If he has your will he will reveal his plan and enable you to accomplish his purpose through you.


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Believers In Bondage

August 17, 2012

Believers In Bondage

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another”  (Galatians 5:1,13).

It’s unfortunate that there are many believers who are in bondage.  Christ has made us free.  In this article we are going to examine some of the misunderstandings that leave some believers in bondage.

Some are not 100% convinced that salvation is 100% by the grace of God.  Perhaps they are familiar with Ephesians 2:8-9, but they still think “There must be something I have to do.”  Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:   Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Some have been taught that salvation is by grace, but that they can lose it if they don’t do their part.  If one thinks that way, he can’t rest completely in the finished work of Christ.  He lives in bondage, fearing that he may lose his salvation.

To be honest, there are verses in the Bible that could give one reason to think he could lose his salvation.  They must be interpreted in the light of the verses that give us assurance that salvation is all by the grace of God, and not by human merit.  We are going to look at two verses that make some think they need to contribute to their salvation.

Some ask, “Didn’t even the Apostle Paul think he could lose his salvation?” They take us to I Corinthians 9:27 where Paul wrote “Lest I myself should be a castaway.”  Paul’s fear was not that of losing his salvation, but rather that of not being able to go on preaching.  There are servants of God who have had to leave the ministry because they have done something that left a bad stain on their character.  In Romans 8:38-39 Paul wrote “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,   Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Some cite Philippians 2:12 which says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Most commentators tell us that Paul meant we should enjoy and put into practice all that is included in our salvation.  Christ has set us free from the bondage of sin.  After salvation we can live a fruitful life.  Romans 6:18,22 says “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”

Some people look for a means of measuring their spirituality.  There is a satisfaction in adding up our virtues.  That way we can think “I’m really not that bad.  Look at all the good I have done.”  No one says we shouldn’t do good works.  I tell people, “That’s what you owe to your fellow men.” Ephesians 2:10 tells us that one reason why God saves us is that we might do good works.  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  When we add up our good works we are in danger of being proud of what we have done.  The Apostle Paul said “There is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Jesus said in Matthew 6:3 that we shouldn’t let our left hand know what our right hand does.

Some Christians like to deny themselves.  That gives them a feeling of superiority.  If we do our good deeds to be seen of men, we already have our reward.  In Matthew 6:1-2 Jesus said, “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.   Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.” Self denial, for some, is a great sacrifice because they have their eyes and heart too much in the things of this world.  To them, the denial of worldly pleasures is for those who have reached a high level of spirituality.  The desire of the obedient Christian is to please God.  Often he isn’t conscious of making sacrifices.  He can honestly say “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

The Christian life doesn’t consist of restrictions and good works.  It’s a loving relationship with Jesus Christ.  Be not in bondage, thinking you have to do your part. Libertydoesn’t mean freedom to do as you please.  That’s why I included verse 13 at the beginning.  Please read it again.  Salvation is not something we work to keep, but something to be enjoyed.  When we get to Heaven we will enjoy the full measure of all that is included in it.


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Biblical Thinking About Tithing

            It’s extremely important that Christians have the proper understanding and attitude about tithing.  It’s unfortunate that many sincere Christians feel guilty before God because they aren’t tithing.

In the Old Testament it’s obvious that God’s people were under obligation to tithe.  The first mention of tithing is found in Genesis 14:20.  Abraham delivered Lot who became a prisnor of war when Chedorlaomer invaded Sodom and took everything of value.  Genesis 14:16 says that Abraham not only delivered Lot, but he brought again the goods and the people.  On his way home Melchizadek met him.  Since he was “the priest of the most high God” Abraham gave him tithes of all the goods.  Since this took place before the law was given, some say the tithe was not part of the law.

Later on we see that God’s people were commanded to tithe.  Leviticus 27:30-32 says that the tithe is the Lord’s.  Again in Deuteronomy 12:6,11 we see that it was the obligation of God’s people to bring the tithe to the sacred place.  Malachi 3:8-10 speaks of the tithe as a sacred obligation.  God’s people were accused of robbing God if they didn’t give the tithe.

There is much that we can learn from the Old Testament, but we need to turn to the New Testament to know what God asks of us today.  There we only find six verses that mention the tithe.  They are the following: Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42 and Hebrews 7:5,6,8,9.  None of these verses lay upon us the obligation to tithe.  Hebrews 7:5 says that the priests, the sons of Levi, had a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law.  Later it talks about how Abraham gave the tithe, but of his own free will. Some say Jesus commanded us to tithe based on Luke 11:42 where it says “these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone”, but Jesus spoke those words to the Pharisees when they were still under the law.

In our day we are under what is called “the dispensation of grace.”  In each of the dispensations God tests his people under different circumstances.  Now he is proving us to see if we will serve him out of love and gratitude. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  For us, the key verse about giving is II Corinthians 9:7 “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” Pastors do well in encouraging their people to tithe, but they shouldn’t make them feel guilty if they don’t. What we give should be our own decision.  Many Christians choose to continue with the custom of the Old Testament saints in giving the tithe, but they do it from their heart.

In the New Testament God never threatens to punish his people if they don’t tithe, but there is the promise of his blessing if they do.  II Corinthians 9:7 is followed by verse 8 which says “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”  There is also the promise of Luke 6:38. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

Due to the importance that God gives to the New Testament church, it seems only logical to think that our giving, in great measure, should be to our church.  Every believer, of his own will, should make a decision to give a certain percent of his income to his church.  Someone has said, “This is saying thanks with money.”  “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (I Corinthians 16:2).  We might start with only 5%.  As our faith increases, it might go up to 10% or 20%.  I have read about one business man who was giving 90% and he was still prospering.

Above and beyond the percentage that we regularly give to the Lord, we ought to be willing to take part in special offerings.  Frequently a special need comes up and God lays it on our hearts to help.  It might be a missionary, a relative, or someone in our church that has a special need.  Often churches take up special offerings to meet those needs.  The good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10 is a good example.  The offering could be given through our church or it may be personally.  I Corinthians 16:1-2 talks about offerings.  These were offerings they took up to help the poor saints in Jerusalem (Romans 15:16).

II Corinthians 9:7 says we should be cheerful givers.  “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”  We should give because we love the Lord.  If we have a clear understanding of what the Bible says about tithing, we will have the right attitude towards it.  Don’t miss the joy of giving or the blessing of the lord for doing it.


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   What is the Significance of Baptism?

Many times what is called “baptism” doesn’t agree at all with what the Bible says about it.  After I became a Christian I decided I should join a church.  The first church I considered was going to sprinkle some water on me and call it baptism.  I decided I should study to see what the Bible says about baptism.  To my surprise, I learned that the word means to immerse.  For that reason, I joined a Baptist church.

From Acts 2:41 we learn that those who were baptized were those who, first of all, “gladly received his word.”  That indicates that baptism is not for infants that cannot make a personal decision.  Acts 8:36-37 indicates that baptism is for believers.  When the Ethiopian asked Philip “What doth hinder me to be baptized?”, Philip answered, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.”

Some give the wrong significance to baptism based on the wrong interpretation of Acts 2:38  “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” The little word “for” in the phrase “for the remission of sins” can be grammatically translated “because  of.”  This translation is more in agreement with what the Bible teaches about baptism.

The New Testament was written in Greek.  Therefore we need to go to the Greek dictionary to see what the word “baptism” meant to them. It is abundantly clear that it meant immersion.  To baptize by any other means doesn’t agree with the meaning of the word.  The Greeks had other words for sprinkle and pour.

Romans 6:3-5 gives us a clear understanding of the significance and purpose for baptism.  “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?   Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:”  Being submerged in water is a vivid and public testimony to our identification with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection.  We aren’t saved by baptism.  Our baptism is a public testimony to the fact that we have been saved and that we are “in Christ.”


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