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GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY/MAN'S CHOICE

Was our salvation God's choice or our choice?  We will look at what the Bible has to say about God's sovereignty and man's choices.  Then, we will learn about the three main theological positions that attempt to systematize what the Bible teaches in these areas.
You are encouraged to come to your own personal conclusion about which position best describes what the Bible teaches.
What we know about God's sovereignty:
1.  All that takes place is God's choice:  (a) Nothing happens by chance (Prov 16:33).  (b) God is in charge even when we make decisions (Prov 16:9,33, 21:1,31).  (c) God is in charge even of the evil that takes place (Prov 16:4; Isa 45:7; Amos 3:6; Lam 3:38; Eccl 7:14; Lk 22:2,22; Acts 2:23).  (d) What God purposes, will happen (Isa 14:24-27, 46:11 48:3; Jer 49:20; Rom 8:28; Eph 1:11).  (e) God determined that Jesus would die for us before the world began (Lk 22:22; Acts 2:23; I Pet 1:20; Rev 13:8).  (f) God purposed to choose a people for Himself from this sinful world (Eph 1:11; Rom 8:28-30; II Tim 1:9). 
2. God draws men and women to Himself (Jn 6:44)
3. God uses everything to draw men and women to Himself (Rom 8:28; Gen 50:20; Jer 29:11-14)
4. God desires all men to be saved (I Tim 2:3,4; II Pet 3:9)
5. God gives grace to the humble (Lk 18:9-14; James 4:6; Provs 3:34; Ps 18:27; II Chron 33:23; Matt 5:3-6, 23:12)
What we know about man's choices:
1. Men will be judged by God based on what they do in response to God's word and their consciences (Rom 2:6,14,15).  Therefore, we are responsible for our choices.  We can only be responsible if we have the ability to respond in the right way or the wrong way (respond-ability).
2. Men are limited in their choices: (a) men know God, but choose to reject Him (Rom 1:18-23,28; Jn 12:37,38) until they are unable to believe (Jn 12:39,40); (b) men are dead in sin (Eph 2:1-3; Isa 64:6; Jer 17:9); (c) no one seeks God (Gen 3:8-13; Rom 3:10-12); (d) men are unable to understand spiritual things (I Cor 2:14; Jn 1:5); (e) men are slaves to sin and unable to free themselves from it (Rom 5:12, 6:17, 7:23,24; Jn 8:34; (f) our flesh is hostile to God (Rom 8:7); (g) man's mind is blinded by Satan (II Cor 4:4); (h) children are limited in their ability to know right from wrong (Isa 7:5,16; Jonah 4:11)
3. Men are able to make many choices: (a) men choose to reject God (Rom 1:18-23,28); (b) men are urged to choose to be wise and not foolish (Provs 8:1, 9:10-12); (c) men can choose to resist God's Spirit (Acts 7:51; Matt 12:31,32; Hebr 6:4-8); (d) sinful man can choose how sinful he is going to be (Rom 2:14,15)(not all are criminals, adulterers, etc.); (e) men can choose how hardened to God they are going to be (Matt 11:20-24; Zech 7:12; Jn 12:37-40)(the "would not verses" Jn 12:37,38; the "could not" verses 12:39,40; they would not, so they could not!) (the 4 soils - Matt 13:18-23)
4. Men are given many invitations to choose God (Isa 1:18, 55:1; Jer 4:3,4; Hos 10:12; Ezek 3:4-11; Matt 11:28; Jn 7:37,38 Rev 22:17)
5. We are saved when we choose a Savior (Acts 16:30,31; Jn 1:12; 3:36)

Three attempts to systematize what the Bible teaches on the sovereignty of God and the choices of man:

THE FIVE POINTS OF CALVINISM (THE REFORMED VIEW)
(EMPHASIZES GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY) (WILL WE BE SAVED? WHAT GOD DOES IS ALL THAT IS IMPORTANT)

     Total Depravity (Gen 6:5; Rom 3:10-12; II Cor 4:3,4; Eph 2:1-3; I Cor 2:14)
          Man is dead and incapable of any response to God.
     Unconditional Election (Rom 9:15,16,20,21, 11:2; Eph 1:4,5; Jn 6:37, 15:16;
          Matt 20:13-15; Exod 33:19; II Tim 1:9, 2:19; I Pet 1:1,2)
          "God operates with such unapproachable sovereignty that his choices are           made with total disregard for the choices of moral men." Sproul
     Limited Atonement (Isa 53:5,18; Matt 1:21, 20:28; Jn 10:11; 17:9; Eph                5:25; Tit 2:14; Acts 20:28)
     Irresistible Grace (Acts 13:48; Eph 2:8; Jn 1:12,13; II Thess 2:13; Tit 3:5)
     Perseverance of the Saints (Rom 8:28-30; Jn 10:27-30)
Their worldview summarized: Total Depravity – Sin affects every area of area of man's life.  He is dead in sin and is, therefore, completely dead to God.  Unconditional Election – God's election of us is not conditional on anything that we will do to merit His election of us. God elects a few to be saved for His own unrevealed, but just purposes (It is just for Him to be merciful to a few, for it would be just if He was not merciful to anyone.  It would be just for us all to go to Hell.  Also, if God did not elect some to come to Him, no one would come.)  Limited Atonement – Jesus Christ died for only the elect (If He died for everyone, He would have died for many who will never be saved.  So, His death would not really pay for their salvation.  His death only paid for the salvation of the elect.)  Irresistible Grace – God inwardly calls the elect to Himself in an effectual way (all who receive this inward call, are regenerated, and then believe in Christ).  Perseverance of the Saints – All who are chosen will be saved and will never become unsaved.

ARMINIANISM
(EMPHASIZES MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY) (WILL WE BE SAVED? WHAT MAN DOES IS MOST IMPORTANT)

(1) Man is a sinner.  Previenient grace makes it possible for men and women to respond to God (It sufficiently counteracts the effect of sin.) (the universal invitations – Jn 3:16; Matt 11:28-30) (Pelagius – man not born with Adam's fallen and sinful nature)
(2) God foreknows who will believe in Jesus Christ.  These are the elect (Rom 8:29; I Pet 1:1,2) (They see the Calvinistic view of election as fatalistic: The elect will be saved regardless of our actions.  It turns people into programmed robots.)
(3) Christ died for all men (I Tim 2:3,4; I Jn 2:2; Ezek 33:11; Acts 17:30; II Pet 3:9)
(4) Man can resist God's call (Acts 7:51; Zech 7:12; Heb 6:4-8;10:26-31;Matt 12:31,32)
(5) A man can choose to persist in sin and rebellion against God and lose his salvation (Gal 5:4; Hebrs 6:4-8; 10:26-31; II Pet 2:22; Rev 3:5; 22:19)
Their worldview:  (1) Man is sinful, but all men are enabled by God to reject or choose Jesus Christ.  (2) God has known from all eternity those whom would ultimately receive Jesus Christ and persevere in their faith.  These are the elect who are foreknown by God.  (3) Jesus died for all men, so God's invitation is made to all men.  (4) Those who harden themselves to the gospel will face damnation because of their sins and also because they have rejected God's grace to them.  (5) Because men do not lose their ability to choose or reject Christ even after they become Christians, they can still choose to reject Him after they become Christians.

BALANCED VIEW
(EMPHASIZES BOTH GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY AND MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY) (WILL WE BE SAVED?  WHAT GOD DOES AND WHAT MAN DOES
ARE BOTH IMPORTANT)

(1) Men and women are dead in sin in that they have a propensity to sin (but, not a necessity to sin).  Men are sinful in their desires (Ps 51:5, 58:3; Isa 64:6; Jer 17:9; Rom 8:7), but they do not have to do every sin they have a desire to do (Man is sinful by nature, but each man chooses how sinful he will be.  Man is totally depraved, but not necessarily utterly depraved – Gen 6:5).  Though men are incapable of freeing themselves from their slavery to sin, they are able, with God's help, to despise their sinfulness and desire to be free from it – Acts 2:37.  Also, men are able, with God's help, to acknowledge their emptiness and hunger for God (Luke 18:13,14; Acts 16:30; Matt 5:3-6; 11:28-30; Jn 4:10, 6:35; Lk 15:17-21 – The Parable of the Prodigal Son describes the humbling process that God uses to enable a person who is enslaved to sin to come to his senses until he cries out to God for His help.)   Because the Bible talks about degrees of punishment for non-believers, we can be confident that man can choose how sinful he is going to be (Matt 11:20-24; Rom 2:6).  That is why non-believers are responsible for their choices.  Though they desire to sin, they do not have to do every sin they desire to do (Rom. 2:14,15).  The more the restraints on sin are removed in our world, though, the more likely it is that men will choose to sin.  Each time men choose wickedness over good, they harden and darken their own hearts (Rom 1:28; Eph 4:17-19; John 12:37-40).

(2) Just as before the world God determined according to his foreknowledge that Jesus would die by the hands of wicked men who would freely choose to kill Him (Acts 2:23), so God determined beforehand according to His foreknowledge to work all things together for good for those who would love Him and those who would ultimately become conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:28-30).  God chooses and determines the end result.  Nevertheless, men make real choices.  God chose all that He would work together for good in our lives, so that we would be humbled and ultimately acknowledge our need for Him.  (How God is working to bring Israel to a place of humility is a picture of this humbling process – Dan 12:7; Zech 12:10. God's humbling of Israel in the wilderness -Deut 8:2,3; and the humbling of Jacob or "Israel" are examples of how God works all for good to bring His people to Himself.) (Rom 8:28-30; Eph 1:4,5: II Tim 1:9)

3) Jesus Christ died for all men, though not all men will choose his gift of forgiveness and eternal life (John 3:16-19; I Tim 2:3,4; I Jn 2:2; II Pet 3:9; Acts 17:30; Hebr 2:9; II Pet 2:1; Lk 23:34)

4) Men do not seek God, but God seeks men (Lk 19:10; Jn 3:17; Rom 10:20; Matt 23:37).  Nevertheless, men still can and do choose to resist God's seeking of them: Men can and do resist God's Spirit (Matt 12:31,32; Acts 7:51; Hebr 6:4-8; Prov 29:1; Jn 9:41).  Only a few choose the narrow path (Matt 7:13,14; Jn 6:66).  Only those who are willing to acknowledge their sinfulness before a holy God will come to Him who alone can save them (Lk 18:13,14; Lk 15:17-21; Matt 5:3-6).  God must open our hearts spiritually before we will understand the gospel message (Acts16:14; Matt 16:15-17; Jn 6:65).  Those who will die the second death are those who stubbornly resist God's seeking of them until the end (Zech 7:12; Matthew 23:37; Rev 22:11; Heb 6:4-8; II Thess 2:10-12; Rom 2:5; I Tim 4:2).  Those who choose to believe in Him are born again (Jn 1:11-13; Rom 6:17,18; Acts 2:38).  The Bible is filled with invitation verses to those who have been humbled (like the Prodigal Son) and are hungry and thirsty for a relationship with God: Isa 1:18; Jer 3:13,14, 4:3,4,14; 29:11-14; Ezek 18:31,32; Lk 13:3; Jn 3:16-18, 6:28,29, 37, 7:17,37, 38, 11:40, 12:36; Acts 16:31, 17:30, 20:21; Rom 3:22, 4:11, 24, 10:9,13; I Cor 1:21; Eph 1:13; Heb 11:6; Rev 22:17

5) Those who become truly born-again children of God will never lose their salvation (Rom 8:28-39; Jn 10:27-30)
Their worldview summarized:  (1) Men are slaves to sin and unable to free themselves from this slavery.  Men not only do not seek after God, but all men are opposed to God (Rom 3:10-12, 8:7).  But God draws us to Himself in many ways: (a) by lifting up Jesus Christ on the cross (Jn 12:32);  (b) with His love (Jer 31:3);  (c) through the conviction of the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:8-10; I Thess 1:4-6); (d) through the discipline of parents (Prov 3:11,12, 6:23, 10:17, 22:6,15, 23:13,14, 29:15); (e) through suffering and the trials of life (Rom 8:18-22; Deut 8:3-5; Prov 6:23, 20:30; Jer 4:18); (f) through the Scriptures ( Heb 4:12; I Cor 14:24,25; Jer 4:3,4; Hos 10:12); (g) through God's law (Rom 3:19,20, 5:20,21, 7:13; Gal 3:24); (h) through the godly testimony of Christians (Matt 5:13-16; Jn 13:35, 17:20-23; Acts 2:47; Phil 2:14,15); (i) God's kindness (Rom 2:4); (j) through the preaching and sharing of the gospel message in the power of God's Spirit (Rom 1:16; I Cor 2:1-5; Col 4:3,4; II Cor 2:14-16); (k) through our emptiness without God (Eccl 1:2,3) (l) through the light of Jesus' life (Jn 1:9); (m) through jealousy when others come to Christ (Rom 11:13,14; I Cor 1:27-29); (n) through prayer (I Tim 2:1,3,4; Col 4:3,4); (o) through the stubbornness of God's spokesmen (Ezek 3:7-9; Eph 6:19,20; II Tim 1:7); (p) through the consequences of sin in others' lives (Provs 21:11); (q) through government (Rom 13:4,5), and (r) through everything in life (Rom 8:18-22, 28).  Those who have chosen to humble and not harden themselves through all that God does to draw us to Himself are ripe for harvest (Jn 4:35,36).  (2) God has determined that His elect will become His children.  He will do everything necessary to bring them into an eternal relationship with Him (Acts 13:48) (God's working in Jacob's life).  (3) Jesus died for all men, so anyone can come to Him to receive eternal life (I Tim 2:3,4; I Jn 2:2).  (4) Though God seeks men, men can and do voluntarily choose to harden themselves to Him and to the conviction and work of the Spirit (Matt 12:31,32 23:37; Heb 6:4-8; 10:26-31; Provs 28:14, 29:1).  The elect are those who humble themselves and admit their slavery to sin and neediness without God (They come to God like the prodigal son came to his father) They are those whom God predetermined and effectually worked in their lives until they came to Him, but when they came to Him it was also because they chose to come to Him that they came.  God's part is all the things listed under (1) above and more (everything).  Man's part is to cry out for help (Lk 18:13,14; Acts 16:30; Lk 15:18,19; Jn 4:15; Matt 5:3-6), put his faith in the Savior (Rom 10:9,10), and be willing to turn to God from his old life (repent) (Acts 2:38) .  This is not meritorious and it is not a work (Rom 3:27).  (5) Once a person believes and becomes a child of God he is spiritually born into God's family.  There is nothing in the Bible about a born-again Christian becoming unborn.

RESOURCES:  Reformed view: CHOSEN BY GOD, by Sproul; DOCTRINES THAT DIVIDE by Lutzer; THE BONDAGE OF THE WILL by Luther ; EVANGELISM & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD by J. I. Packer (excellent).  Arminian view: GOD'S FOREKNOWLEDGE & MAN'S FREE WILL by Rice.  Balanced View: CHOSEN BUT FREE by Geisler; INTRODUCING CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE by Erickson; UNRAVELING THE BIG QUESTIONS ABOUT GOD by Boa; THE ONLY WISE GOD by William Lane Craig; THE DARK SIDE OF CALVINISM by Bryson; GETTING THE GOSPEL RIGHT by C. Gordon Olson

ASSIGNMENT:  Look over the list of issues and decide on which two you would to discuss.

God's Sovereignty/Man's Choices: The Key Issues!
(Which view provides the most biblical answers to these questions?)

1. Men begin with no desire to seek God (Rom 3:10-12), yet some eventually do seek God.  How, when, and why does this happen?

 

2. Must God be just to all, but not gracious to all?  Please explain your answer.

 

3. Why are most people going to Hell?  Is it because only a few are willing to choose the narrow road or is it because God is only willing to choose a few to regenerate and save?  Is it because they do not choose God or because God does not choose them?  If God really loves all men, then why does He not give to all men the desire to be saved?

 

4. Why does not God elect everyone (Or, at least, why does He not elect more than a few?)

 

5. How can God judge mankind, if the non-elect have no choice but to sin and reject God?

 

6. When a non-Christian sins, how much control does he have over that decision and to what degree is he responsible for that decision?

 

7. Can a non-Christian make choices that are contrary to his conditioning, parental up-bringing, and fleshly desires?  Can he resist any impulse to sin?  Can he ever will to do something good?

 

8. Why did the Devil choose to sin? (He was holy and pure at the time.)  Why did Adam and Eve choose to sin? (They did not have a sin nature at the time?)

 

9. Is it predetermined how much we will sin?  For example, was it predetermined that Charles Manson and Mother Theresa would be the type of persons that they became?  Or did they become the type of persons they became by their own choices?  Or both?

 

10 What is an actual free choice?  What is the difference between a voluntary and a coerced choice?

 

11. Does irresistible grace result in a voluntary choice or a coerced choice?  If it is not a voluntary choice, can it be a choice made in love?

 

12. What part does a man or woman have in their own salvation?  If he or she does not have a part, then why are there all the invitations in the Bible?

 

13. Does Romans 9 teach that it is just for God to arbitrarily show mercy to some and not to others?

 

14. Does God predestine people to Hell (Are they a damned caste?)

 

15. Is the only difference between (1) Judas and Peter, (2) Saul and David, (3) the Pharaoh and Moses, (4) Herod and John the Baptist, (5) Cain and Abel, (6) Jezebel and Elijah that God chose one and not the other?

 

16. Which comes first, regeneration or our choice to believe?

 

17. How were the Old Testament saints saved?  Were they first regenerated and then they believed?  If being born-again began in the Church, how were they able to believe?

 

18. Could it be true that God choosing us and our choosing Him are both true?

 

19. Why should we pray and evangelize if it is already determined who the elect are?

 

20. Is it possible for a man to choose to receive God's gift without it being a meritorious work?

 

21. Why are children of Christians more likely to be saved than those who are not raised in Christian homes? (Does how we raise our children have anything to do with it?)

 

22. Was Cornelius and the Ethiopian Eunuch hungering for God before Peter and Phillip talked to them?  Were they regenerated before they heard the gospel?  What about Rahab the harlot – When was she regenerated?  Are there those who are beyond the reach of the gospel right now who are hungering for God, even though they have not heard the gospel?

 

23. Are we dead to spiritual truth or do we become deadened to spiritual things by our choices?

 

24. Can God predict infallibly the future choices of men (Mic 5:2; Acts 2:23; Isa 46:10; Dan 11)?

QUOTES
(Quotes from all sides of the issue)

 

C. S. Lewis: "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done, and those to whom God says in the end, "thy will be done.  All that are in Hell choose it.  Without that self-choice there could be no Hell."  "I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside."

"Perhaps the classic instance of this way of thinking was provided two centuries ago by the chairman of the minister's fraternal at which William Carey mooted the founding of [he asked them to assist him to start] a missionary society [to reach out to India].  'Sit down young man,' said the old warrior; 'when God is pleased to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine!'  J. I. Packer in EVANGELISM AND THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD (p 33)

What is an antinomy?  The Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines it as 'a contradiction between conclusions which seem equally logical, reasonable or necessary.  For our purposes, however, this definition is not quite accurate; the opening words should read 'an appearance of contradiction.'  For the whole point of an antinomy---in theology, at any rate---is that it is not a real contradiction, though it looks like one.  It is an apparent incompatibility between two apparent truths.  An antinomy exists when a pair of principles stand side by side, seemingly irreconcilable, yet both undeniable."  J. I. Packer in EVANGELISM AND THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD (p 18)

MIDDLE KNOWLEDGE: "In between God's natural knowledge [God's knowledge of all truths, which includes the knowledge of all possible things that He could choose to do] and his free knowledge [God's knowledge of what He has created, which includes the foreknowledge of everything that will happen in the future], in the second moment of omniscience, stands God's middle knowledge.  In this moment God knows what every possible creature would do (not just could do) in any possibility set of circumstances.  For example, he knows whether Peter, if he were placed in certain circumstances, would deny Christ three times.  By his natural knowledge God knew in the first moment all the possible things that Peter could do if placed in such circumstances.  But now in this second moment he knows what Peter would in fact freely choose to do under such circumstances.  This is not because Peter would be causally determined by the circumstances to act in this way.  No, Peter is entirely free, and under the same circumstances he could choose to act in another way.  But God knows which way Peter would freely choose.  God's foreknowledge of Peter in this respect is not simple foreknowledge.  For maybe God will decide not to place Peter under such circumstances or even not to create him at all.  Middle knowledge, like natural knowledge, thus is logically prior to the decision of the divine will to create a world."    William Lane Craig in THE ONLY WISE GOD (p 130)

PREVENIENT GRACE – "grace that precedes human action---on all men, every sinner (though fallen) is able to believe the gospel…God gave each man enough grace to counteract the effects of depravity."  Erwin Lutzer in DOCTRINES THAT DIVIDE (p 179)

"As to why some are touched by the law and others not, so that some receive and others scorn the offer of grace, that is another question, which Ezekiel does not discuss.  He speaks of the unpublished offer of God's mercy, not of the dreadful hidden will of God, Who, according to His own counsel, ordains such persons as He will to receive and partake of the mercy preached and offered.  This will is not to be inquired into, but to be reverently adored, as by far the most awesome secret of the Divine Majesty.  He has kept it to Himself and forbidden us to know it [where?]; and it is much more worthy of reverence than an infinite number of Corycian caverns!"  Martin Luther in BONDAGE OF THE WILL

"I agree with the New Testament scholars who conclude that the unforgivable sin is to blaspheme Christ and the Holy Spirit by saying Jesus is a devil when you know better.  That is, the unforgivable sin cannot be done in ignorance.  If a person knows with certainty that Jesus is the Son of God and then declares with certainty that Jesus is the Son of God and then declares with his mouth that Jesus is of the devil, that person has committed unpardonable blasphemy." [But, how can the non-believer know that truth? I Cor 2:14  If Sproul is right, then, non-believers can know the truth about God by being illuminated by the Holy Spirit without being first regenerated!]  R. C. Sproul in CHOSEN BY GOD (p 202)

But the second death is not annihilation, but separation from God. Regeneration must precede belief (but what then of the "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" where Sproul says it is when a person knows what and Who he is rejecting.  How can a person "know" without being regenerated; also Hebr 6:4-8 & 10:26-29 – either a Christian falls away or a non-Christian who understands and freely rejects; SO there must be a drawing to God that gives understanding, but can be resisted.