Sunday, January 08, 2006

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

Several months ago Nathan and Andrew were kind enough to provide me with scripture which they feel prove the doctrines of Calvinism. The discussion can be read here, here and here. I've studied the scriptures provided and have finally taken the time to repsond, though I do plan to make at least one more post on the subject which hopefully will be a little more cohesive.

My response to the latest discussion:

Let me preface this post by saying that when I type in all caps I am not yelling; I am merely emphasizing my point, so please take it in the spirit in which it is meant. Thank you.

Also, any emphasis to the scripture is added.

Nathan: “First off, we do choose to ‘accept Jesus’, but only after He changes our will so that we then desire spiritual things. We are unable to perform or desire spiritual things until God grants us a new nature which in turn grants us the ability for faith and repentance."

That is not completely true. We have the God-given ability to choose right from wrong and have faith enough to believe in God. (John 1:9; Romans 1-2, 12:3 (more on this later); John 12:46-48) We are all born with a conscience which is the law of God written on our hearts (Romans 2:15). We are dead in sin, but that does not mean that we cannot make a decision to do good. It simply means that our spirit is dead and that we cannot fully understand the things of God or enter the kingdom until we are born of God. Our soul (mind, will and emotions, in other words our heart) is NOT dead; therefore, we can make good decisions. I understood that I was going to Hell if I did not accept Jesus and I didn’t accept Him right off the bat, though I KNEW better. I was dead in sin. I was also a slave to sin. That doesn’t mean that I could not ask for HELP from Jesus Christ to get out of sin and to avoid Hell. There was no POWER within ME that could revive my spirit or keep me from being a slave to sin. That’s all that means. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have the ability to recognize and choose the means to get ourselves out of sin and avoid Hell. I agree that after God has given us a new spirit that we will desire and understand the things of the spirit. But HE first draws us (no autonomy here) and He has given us the ability to accept or reject him: see below. Why would God need to DRAW us if there were not some sort of decision to be made on the part of the person? Why not just QUICKEN OUR SPIRITS?!

None of us is good because we are judged by God’s standards. And yes, we are truly depraved in the eyes of a Holy and Righteous God, but being truly depraved does not mean that we cannot do good. (It is our so-called righteousness that is as filthy rags, thus the need for a savior. Our righteousness is ONLY through the applied blood of Jesus Christ.) Ted Bundy was able to do good and he was about as depraved as they come. Like I’ve stated before, if we can choose not to murder or steal, then we can certainly choose to follow the Lord Jesus when he draws us. I’m not saying that WE are good for we are not. But we DO have the ability to accept or reject Jesus. If we did not then he would not command us to repent or say that IF we would believe on Him we would have eternal life. OF HIS OWN VOLITION, God leaves the choice up to us.

John 12:46-48I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

Acts 7:51Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

Proverbs 1:24-33Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.

John 5:38-40And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.

You have twisted the word of God to mean what you want it to mean by stating that we cannot choose God without first being born of God. You do that because you believe that God has predestined people to heaven or hell due to their so-called "inability" to make a good choice. So everything is predicated upon that doctrine; a doctrine which is inherently and patently false. Being born of God is to be born again which only happens once someone has received and believed on Jesus. John 1:12-13 explains this very well.

John 1:12-13 "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: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

ANYONE (God is no respecter of persons and God died for the WHOLE world) who RECEIVES God, God GIVES them the POWER to BECOME the sons of God. It doesn’t say that one must be born of God FIRST. Saying otherwise, now THAT would be eisegesis. The part that says, “nor of the will of man” doesn’t mean what you try to make it out to be. It simply means that through our own wills we CANNOT (meaning we have not the POWER to) make ourselves sons of God. The power is simply not in us, that is what God must GIVE us. Let the reader understand.

You say that John 1:9 doesn’t mean that the light that shines on every man that comes into the world is the light that Jesus gives in order for us to have a measure of faith, then what does it mean? (I see you’ve answered this question further down and I have responded further down.) He is the light which shines throughout our darkness. THAT is the point. Those who love darkness REFUSE to see or come to the light. They KNOW God exists, but they reject Him and are “without excuse.” How can man be "without excuse" if he has no ability to choose? He can't, not if God is a just God, and He certainly IS a just God.

Romans 12:3 is talking about faith IN GENERAL which encompasses the faith it takes to believe AS WELL AS the faith it takes to use the gifts God has given His believers. Even if the context is only speaking of the faith in accordance to the gifts (and I don’t think it is), the statement is ALSO true for faith in general. Romans 1:17 speaks of degrees of faith. And we know that faith comes by hearing the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

There are myriad scirptures which state that we have the ability to choose, to seek and to call upon the Lord without having first been born of God. I will list those in my next post.

Nathan: “Why did these Jews not understand the truth Jesus was speaking? He says the He speaks truth and because they were not of God they could not understand Him. He didn’t say they couldn’t hear God because they WOULD not hear God, He says they couldn’t hear God because they were NOT ‘of God’, or in other words, born of God.

They did not understand because they chose not to believe Jesus to be the Messiah. They were not "of God" because they chose not to believe on whom God sent to be the Messiah. (Matthew 13:15) There are many people who believe in God but who do not believe Jesus to be God come in the flesh. It is when they BELIEVE Jesus is the only way to salvation that they can THEN become the sons of God as shown in John 1:12-13. BELIEF from their God-given ability (the light that lights every man i.e., God has shown them: Romans 1:19) must come FIRST. God allows us to choose whether or not to believe (It is stated throughout the entire Bible). Their hearts were evil and they were religious. They thought just because they were born of Abraham (physically) that they were Godly people when they were only religious. God didn’t make them that way, they did it to themselves. Those who choose to disbelieve cannot understand the things of God.

So to recap: They first WOULD NOT hear and BECAUSE they would not hear they COULD NOT hear. God kept their eyes and their ears closed upon their choosing to NOT hear and choosing to NOT believe. God did not close their eyes and ears first.

Matthew 13:15 "For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

John 8:24I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

But of course your stance is that God arbitrarily chooses whom he gives belief to and that it is not given to every man. That is not what the Bible teaches. That interpretation is one of eisegesis and not one of exegesis. God loves the WHOLE world and He would that NONE should perish. NONE. That means NONE of mankind. US. US=Mankind, not just believers. Remember Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who crucified Him because they knew not what they had done? Who killed Jesus? The Jews that rejected Him along with the Romans. He STILL loves them and does not want them to perish, but rather wants them to repent! (Ezekiel 18:21-32)

[Edited to clarify and correct part of the first sentence in the above paragraph. It should read:

But of course your stance is that God arbitrarily chooses whom he gives belief to and that He does not give faith to every man. That is not what the Bible teaches.]

Ezekiel 18:32For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

Nathan: “If this is a man-made doctrine, why does Jesus say that ‘all that the Father gives to Me will come to Me’? Is there the possibility that the Father will give someone to the Son and that one will fail to come to the Son?

No, like the scripture states, the Father gives to Jesus all who hear and learn of Him. (John 6:45) Those aspects are key. The parts that are man-made are the notions that God is arbitrary in his selection and that man has no freewill when it comes to accepting or rejecting Jesus. Calvinists always assert that God chooses whom HE will to go to heaven or hell out of His own good pleasure and for no apparent reason. That is NOT what the scripture teaches. It teaches that out of His good pleasure He chose to provide a way of salvation for mankind even though man does not deserve it. A way of salvation is His good pleasure, not that He sends people to heaven or hell. He LOVES us ALL.

Nathan: “Since the bible says we are dead in sins and then Christ awakens us to the light, this analogy works perfect for those who are humble enough to accept it.

I’ll humble myself and just let that jab go.

Nathan: “So we have freewill to give ourselves physical life? No, we cannot choose to give ourselves physical life. So then, if you are consistent with yourself (in the above statement), then you must affirm that we do not have the freewill to give ourselves spiritual life. Man is DEAD in his sins, and can do nothing but sin. Why would the scriptures repeatedly say we are dead if we are in fact only injured?

I affirm that we do not have the power to give ourselves spiritual life. Do we have the ability to choose spiritual life? YES! Freewill to choose to receive spiritual life is very different from actually giving spiritual life and that is where Calvinists err.

We ARE dead spiritually, but we are not dead mentally. It is our spirits which must be raised so that our souls can have true life!

Nathan: “Man’s will is enslaved to sin until we are granted spiritual life.

True, but that does not mean that we cannot choose to want out of that enslavement. You are inserting your beliefs into the biblical teachings. Again, we have the ability to not commit murder, so we certainly have the ability to choose to accept the love of Jesus who will free us from that BONDAGE of sin once we are shown through the law that we are indeed sinners and that we are in need of a savior in order to escape the penalty of hell.

Why would the bible say that the law is our schoolmaster if we are not able to see that we are evil and that we NEED a savior?

Nathan: “Paul is not talking about his response to Christ in the matter of salvation. He is talking about his obedience to PREACH the resurrected Jesus.


Nathan: “There is nothing in the passage to suggest that God forsees anything or that the Father gives those who ‘accept Him’. The text says exactly the opposite! You are inserting your own beliefs into the text, not getting it out of the text, and that is called isegesis.

Believe on Him means to accept Him! Does it not?!

I know very well what eisegesis is and that is what Calvinism (total inabilty/irresistible grace/predestination) is based upon. I was referring to John 6:64-65 which explains 6:37-42. This could be a word of knowledge, though God does have foreknowledge of EVERYTHING. I don’t know if this scripture is saying that Jesus knew from the beginning of when He began His ministry or from the beginning of the foundation of the world. Now that I’m thinking about it is probably since His ministry because Jesus (as a man) got His information from God as in words of knowledge as in “I do as my Father tells me or I know what the Father shows me," etc.

Having said that the actual text is speaking of whom the Father gives to Jesus, though it is in no way an irresistible grace/predestination thing as taught by Calvinists. Again, the Father gives to Jesus those who truly believe.

John 6:64-65But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

Nathan: “John 1:9 says nothing of the like. John is simply stating that God coming in the flesh gives the glimpse of the Divine to every man.

I thought it was your belief that unregenerate man cannot SEE the divine. How is it that God can give a GLIMPSE of the divine if WE, who are not born of God, CANNOT SEE? It says that Jesus LIGHTS every man. That means, as Romans 1 and 2 teach, that WE KNOW BETTER! You’re the one who is inserting their beliefs into the scripture by taking certain scriptures and not reading them with the WHOLE counsel of the word.

Romans 1:19-21Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Please tell me how, with your theology, a man who is NOT born of God can KNOW God as this scripture reveals. The scripture is quite clear that it is MAN who puts Himself in hell because of His REFUSAL to acknowledge and obey God. True, WE cannot SAVE ourselves. It IS a gift from God. True, God GIVES us our faith, but He gives that to EVERY man. It is up to MAN to do right by it from His GOD-GIVEN abilities to CHOOSE as we ALL have a conscience and the commandments of God written on our hearts.

While you’re at it, please exegete this:

1 Timothy 2:3-4For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who desires to have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

John 3:14-21And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 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. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Deuteronomy 30:19 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

2 Peter 2:1 “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”

Acts 3:19Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;”

Why would God command men to repent, to choose or to believe when they have no ability to do so. Isn’t it a bit absurd for Him to say things that are IMPOSSIBLE? And God makes these commands THROUGHOUT the Bible. It is what the Bible is about! It is about God’s love for every man and providing a way to salvation! I feel very sorry for anyone who cannot see the love of God in His book to us. It is SO obvious.

Nathan: “Again, your not reading the full text [John 6:37-45]. Jesus says that ALL who are called are RAISED. So then, if you believe that ALL are called, that is, every single human, then you have to believe ALL are going to be raised on the last day. That is what the text says, and I’m certain you are not a universalist.”

I think it is you who needs to read the full text. It does NOT say all who are called are raised. It says that all whom the Father GIVES Jesus will be raised. Who are the ones whom the Father gives to Jesus? Those who HEAR AND LEARN. Who are those who HEAR? Those who choose to BELIEVE. Those who choose to believe THEN LEARN and are thus BORN AGAIN. Those who refuse to hear cannot hear and are damned already.

Matthew 10:14 ”And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.

Matthew 13:15 “For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”

There are plenty more scriptures where God shows us that it is the people THEMSELVES who CHOOSE not to hear or see. It is because they love the darkness more than the light.

Nathan: “Again, where is any notion of ‘foreknowing’ in this text? It’s absent once again. You cannot keep inserting your own beliefs into such a clear text and expect the truth to be revealed. And no, you cannot read the text backwards. I’m not sure where you got that interpretation, but whoever provided it doesn’t know anything about Greek.”

I got the interpretation from my knowledge of the scriptures as a whole. And no, I don’t know anything much about Greek other than looking up greek words in the concordance. What? Are you a greek scholar? Must I know greek before I can exegete the scriptures? I think not. Please, Nathan, don’t let your seminary teaching go to your head and think more highly of yourself than you ought.

Nathan: “If you want to accuse me of wrongly dividing the word of truth, please show from the actual text of Acts chapter 13 where exactly your belief is stated, otherwise, your accusations are baseless."

That is precisely the problem with the doctrine of “irresistible grace/predestination,” those who hold to the belief have to take scripture out of context to prove their point while disregarding the whole of the scripture. Predestination and Grace are taught in the Bible, but not as the Calvinist would teach it. You want me to stay with Acts 13:48 because of how is SOUNDS. It SOUNDS like ONLY those whom God has “arbitrarily chosen” are ordained to eternal life. But a proper exegesis of the scripture says otherwise.

Acts 13:48 "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."

Who are those who are ordained to eternal life? It is those who(soever) believe and receive. (John 1:12) Romans 8:29-30 tells us that those who are ordained to eternal life ARE foreknown. Ephesians 1 shows us what exactly it was that was foreordained/predestinated. It is predestined that those who believe and receive (accept) Jesus will be saved. (Not that God arbitrarily chooses a person out of His own good pleasure. That God chose to provide a savior AT ALL was what was out of His own good pleasure. That is not to say that God does not do other things out of His own good pleasure, but this is certainly one of them.) So all that put together (a right division) is where I get my interpretation of Acts 13:48. No greek needed! Imagine that! :-D

Nathan: “So ‘breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord’ was Paul with his heart right? [Later down in verse 15]: “[Paul] is a chosen vessel of mine”. Amazing how similar this wording is to Romans 9. But you affirm that Paul could have rejected the Lord while he was lying on the road blind?"

When I say that Paul’s heart was right, I mean that he was not evil like some of the other Pharisees. Paul says he did all that he did out of ignorance and unbelief. I could be completely wrong about the condition of Paul’s heart, but that doesn’t change the fact that Paul could have rejected Jesus.

1 Timothy 1:12-13 “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.”

Yes, I believe that Paul could have rejected the Lord, but I think God knew that He would not.

Ok I’m confused, are you now saying that anyone who is a “chosen vessel” cannot disobey? Because this is what you said before:

Nathan: “I never said that we are unable to be disobedient....But again, you do not understand my position. I never state that we have no choice in the matter. We DO have a choice, but unless one is born of the Spirit we will always choose the wrong choice.”

Romans 9 doesn’t mean what you make it out to mean. None of it has to do with salvation. It certainly doesn’t mean that God created someone evil or created someone for the PURPOSE of going to heaven or hell. And maybe I’ve misunderstood you and that’s not what you are saying either, but that’s what it seems like to me. That’s all I’ll say about it because I plan to go more into it in my next post.

Unless one is born of the Spirit we will ALWAYS choose the wrong choice?! No, you dit-unt! I guess everyone who warms a pew, feeds and clothes the poor, visits the prisoners, donates money and time to charities, etc. MUST be one who is born of the Spirit? I know you don't believe that! Do you?

Nathan: “No matter how hard you may deny it, but if you ‘made the right call’ while others failed to repent and place faith, the final glory goes to you. Yeah I know you will affirm that you could never earn heaven, or that God gets the glory because He supposedly provided a way out, but if the FINAL decision lies in your will, your will is to be gloried and honored above all else. Please review the Martin Luther quote Andrew provided to you in the comments section several months back.”

That is absurd. That is NOT what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that man sinned and deserved death and that God has provided a way for man to reconcile with God. God provided that reconciliation for EVERY MAN.

"He supposedly provided a way out"? (emphasis added) Care to explain that one?

1 Timothy 2:3-4 "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."

1 Timothy 2:6 "Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."

Romans 5:18 "Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."

John 12:32 "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."

1 John 2:2 "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

Hebrews 2:9 "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man."

No, the final glory does not go to me and I don’t regard ANY glory in myself for having heeded the call of God. I don’t get ANY glory for making the right choice. How could I? There wasn’t anything “I” did to provide salvation. What I feel is THANKFULNESS! What I have done is to humble myself before God. (Matthew 18:4; James 4:6) But the other side to that is that you all could boast that you were CHOSEN. How is that any different than what you’ve stated? It could still be perceived that God loves those HE supposedly arbitrarily chose MORE than those He did not. God is no respecter of persons. He loves us all equally as the few scriptures I’ve provided above show.

I’ve just re-read Andrew’s Luther quote and I still disagree with it. To have a freewill does not negate the need for Jesus. The idea that it does is absurd.

Nathan: “You [Dawn] said: All who "hear" or "believe" (i.e., accept or put their faith in) and "learn" come to the Father.

Nathan: “That is not what the text says. You cannot read it backwards and ‘rightly divide the word of truth’.
Let’s look at it again."

John 6:44-45 "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me."

Where have I read it backwards? When we’re taught of God that is one way in which God draws us. Every man who has heard and learned comes to Jesus. Again, where have I read it backward. Jesus makes a statement and then EXPLAINS the statement. In other words, everyone who has ears to hear and eyes to see because they CHOOSE to believe and do not REJECT but rather RECEIVE the commands of God are those whom the FATHER GIVES TO JESUS. It is really very simple.

Nathan: “Actually, it makes no sense to elect someone who ‘elected’ themselves. Why would God need to choose us if we chose Him? Again, this is not what the verse says. It says that NO MAN can come to Jesus unless the Father draws. And does the Father draw every man? No He doesn’t, because the rest of the verse says ALL who are drawn are raised.”

When you elect a candidate do you not elect them on certain criteria? Are there certain credentials that must be met in order for them to get your vote? And no, I’m not talking about works here. I’m talking about making a decision which in no way means “works.” God elects us when we meet certain criteria (i.e., belief, receipt and a willingness to repent). Yes, the Father draws every man. (John 12:32) And no, you are wrong, everyone who is given to Jesus is who is raised, not everyone who is drawn. (Please provide the scripture if I’ve got the wrong one.) Why would Jesus die for every man (Hebrew 2:9) if every man weren’t capable of being saved?

The bible teaches that we are all invited to receive salvation, those who receive and believe will be given the power to repent. Those who do not receive and believe are not given the power to repent. It is that simple.

Nathan: “Why would you have us believe that ‘no man can come’ actually means ‘every man can come’?

It means that no man can come to the father on his own and that it is God who first DRAWS someone to Him. Once a person is drawn by God and chooses to believe and receive that drawing by believing what he is taught through the scripture, that person will then be given the power to repent. Read John 6:44 AND 6:45. The fact that all men are drawn has already been established. That is the WHOLE counsel of scripture, not scripture taken out of context.