The Golden Chain of Redemption – Broken!

In one of my recent post about mans ability to freely reject or receive salvation, titled Predestination & the Doctrine of Election – Part 2 (Salvation), I was asked the following by one,  Nicholas Provan:

“Interesting, so how would you reconcile that view with the Golden Chain of redemption (as explained by most Calvinists)?”

For those who are unfamiliar with this term, it is referring to the Calvinist assertion of Romans 8:29-30 as the basis for God exclusively foreknowing, predestining, calling, justifying and glorifying someone before the beginning of time.

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

I must admit, when I first read this scripture I got quite the headache trying to reconcile it with my existing beliefs; being someone that firmly believes everyone has been created with the free-will to receive the knowledge of God on the grounds that He has first revealed himself to us through his creation and his son Jesus. For days I chewed and chewed, reading over and over hoping something would click and I would finally be able to make some sense of it all. Fearing that perhaps I had been wrong all along; that maybe the only reason why I believed in God and others didn’t, was simply because He chose me over them.

So I suppose I owe an explanation of how I got here today – without reforming my faith that is. Over the years I have learned some valuable lessons when it comes to reading scripture. While many of us would like to treat the Bible as a piece of 21st century American literature, I have come to the reality that we can not approach the Bible as a superficial reading. Because the scripture is both foreign and ancient in relation to the English dialect, we must apply ourselves in a scholarly manner.

The quickest way to misinterpret a scripture is by isolating it. When seeking to understand the meaning of a passage it is necessary that we understand the context of the scripture; the surrounding body of text is often just as important to understanding a passage as the actual passage itself. That being said, I will begin my approach to Vv. 29-30 by first appealing to the preceding v.28; which I believe will ultimately offer immense insight into to understanding the rest of the chapter.

v.28 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good to them that love him, to those who are called according to his purpose”

I would like to start off by addressing the second sentence in this passage, in the original Greek text it is translated word-for-word as such:

to those – according to – his purpose – being called – existing”

What initially stood out to me was the word – existing (eimi), which simply translates – “I am” or “to be” often used in the present tense to describes someones mood. This word eimi seems to be missing from most of the translations. When adding it into the mix of things we see the interpretation is slightly tweeked to read something like:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good to them that love him, to those who are existing in the call which he has purposed.”

While the the language in Vv. 29-30 are often interpreted as very exclusive. we notice that the language in V. 28 is rather inclusive – implying more of a free-will. This should be a red flag, indicating something has been misinterpreted in the translation.

Now that we have some context for Vv. 29-30, I would like to introduce another valuable lesson that I have learned over the years: That is the need to define a word in its original language, because English is not the original text of the NT, we must be careful not to assume that the interpretations in our Bibles are always going to retain the original meanings of a specific word. Often times there will be several distinctly different English word used interchangeably for just one Greek word.

If your going to be doing a study, one of the best ways for defining a words true meaning is by seeing the the context that a word is used in throughout multiple scriptures. Once we begin to apply this technique we begin to manifest the original definition.

Thus let us examine the word foreknow, which in Greek is proginisko – “to know before”. Proginosko is used a total of four other times throughout the NT; no where in the scripture is this word ever used to describe a relation between someone or something that doesn’t yet exist; rather it is used to describe a literal relation to something that is already in existence. In a sentence it would go something like this; “Did you ever meet Bob? Yeah I foreknew Bob since college” no where in the Bible is it ever used to say something like “Did you ever meet Bob? Yeah I foreknew him 10 years before he was even born.”

Acts 26:5

They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a pharisee.” we see here prognisko is being used to describe the Jews knowing Paul as a Pharisees who persecuted Christians, implying familiarity through a literal relation.

1 Peter 1:19-20

“..A lamb without blemish or defect. God foreknew him long before the creation of the world, but was revealed in the last time for your sakes” God knew Jesus long before the creation of the world, we see again the application of familiarity through actual relationship; the scripture is not saying God knew Jesus before He created him, its saying He had a relationship with Jesus before the world was created, yet He didn’t reveal him unto us until later when he appeared as the Messiah.

2 Peter 3: 15-17

“And remember our Lords patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him – speaking these things in all of his letters. Some of his commandments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different. Just as they do with other scripture and this will rest unto their destruction. Therefore beloved, foreknowing this, be aware; that you will not be carried away by the error of the lawless, that you should fall from your steadfastness .” Paul is saying, now that I have told you these things you are aware of them; thus he has manifest the truth to them that they might become aware of it and guard themselves when the time comes. We see foreknown happens after you are acquainted with something or someone, not before.

Romans 11:12

“God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew Just as the word was used in Acts to describe the Jews having foreknew Paul as a Pharisee. Its a literal relation to someone.

In light of all this  I interpret proginosko in V. 29 as referring to those whom God is acquainted with through relationship, with the emphasis on being known by God. Galatians 4:9 “but now, after that you have known God, or rather are known of God” both concepts are ultimately one in the same, but the emphasis is on God being acquainted with us, in this way we are foreknown by him.

One will thus ask the question – how then do we enter into this relationship with God?

1 Corinthians 8:13 “But if any man love God, the same in known of of him”

Thus we see “to love God” is interchangeable with “to be known by God” ergo we become foreknown through loving God. We are now beginning to see a seamless harmony between V. 28 and V. 29. Ultimately God knows and enters a relationship with those who choose to love him (obey his commands). Yet how could V.29 be referring to people entering a relationship with God when it is spoke in the past tense? – you might ask.

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.. “

Isn’t God simply referring to a an act which has taken place in the past? If we turn to V.30 we notice something rather interesting “and whom he justified, them he also glorified” We see that this can’t be referring to something that has already taken place because the scripture tells us that we won’t actually be glorified until the resurrection! Then why is Paul speaking as though it has already happened?

To understand this conundrum we briefly turn our focus to the grammar of Ancient Greek: The tense of the word foreknow is aorist as opposed to the perfect or past tense (this is true of all the verbs used in Vv. 29-30), thus the verbs aren’t used to describe a past event that has already been concluded, rather it’s describing an ‘action without indicating it’s completion,’ meaning it’s dependent upon those who  choose to enter into the relationship with Him. Paul is simply elaborating on V.28  by explaining the process in which all things will work to the good of those who love Him. We also know this because in the Greek text the two verses are joined by the conjunction “because”, indicating that V.29 is elaborating on V.28. Essentially, to paraphrase what Paul is saying is:

For all things work to the good of those who love God, to those who are existing in the call which He has purposed. This is true because, those who love God (aka those known by God aka proginosko) are predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son that he might be the first born among many brethren.” Paul further explains the process of how God has a plan for those who love him “for whom i did predestinate,  them have I called through the Gospel: and whom I called, them I also justified through the Cross: and whom I justified, them I will also glorify on the day of my coming.”

In the proceeding V.33 we come across another interesting indication that Paul is not referring to individuals that have been saved according to the sovereign choice of God, but rather that he is speaking of all who willingly choose to follow and love him.

“Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?”

In my aforementioned post I described how the word elect is used interchangeably for two different Greek words; there is eklektos and ekloge. Ekloge is used to describe those that are specifically selected out by the grace of God for a divine purpose (such as is described of Paul and Abraham). Eklektos is used to describe those who become God’s choice by freely receiving his general call which is extended to all (Matthew 22:14). The elect which Paul is mentioning in V.33 is eklektos, as opposed to the ekloge that is being used in the proceeding chapter which describes Israel’s election (Romans 9:11).

The scriptures are infallible even when it comes down to the slightest details. Thus If we apply ourselves with a open heart and honest desire to know the word of God, and in all sincerity seek the truth above all else, the revelation and knowledge of God will sing forth in harmony.

God Bless

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Predestination & the Doctrine of Election – Part 2 (Salvation)

the-cross.jpg

It should be understood that God is the one who initiates salvation; for apart from God initiating salvation we are all like sheep gone astray. This is not to say that man does not exercise his free-will in choosing to reject or receive salvation, but only that it is God’s arm throughout history which continually stretches forth unto us; and thus salvation is ultimately born out of God’s will and not from the desire of man.  In John 1:12-13 we are to understand this relationship between God’s will and man’s free choice.

“But as many as received him, to them he gave the 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”

While we know that God extends his call to everybody, It should also be understood that he sovereignly elects people for his divine purpose; such as the apostle Paul and the nation of Israel. This doesn’t mean that God forces them into submission (as the history of Israel clearly illustrates), but rather he persuades them of his prevailing majesty by various different ways and methoods e.g. divine revelation or supernatural encounter; thus “to everyone who has been given much, much will be required.”

How then are we to reconcile the idea of God’s elect with the call of salvation extending unto all men? In order to understand this we first need to understand more about the elects purpose, for this we turn to John 1:6

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might be saved.”

We see that God does not elect people in order that they might simply enjoy salvation from a private booth; rather, they are vessels of mercy that bear witness to the glory of God. The elect are beacons of light through which God initiates salvation unto the world. We see how even Jonah in his day was sent to the Assyrian capital Nineveh to preach repentance among’st the gentiles. God’s election is ultimately reserved for more than that of a remnant, the elect of God are to bear the image of Christ and offer themselves as living sacrifices for the sake of the Gospel.

Now we know that God initially elected Israel as his chosen people, and yet through them rested the abundance of the world:

Romans 11:12

“Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the gentiles, how much more their fulness!”

Was it not also said unto Abraham?

“And in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed

In the scripture the word elect is used interchangeably for two different Greek words: Ekloge and Eklektos. Up until now we have only been dealing with Ekloge. Ekloge occurs a total of 9 times in the NT, and is used to describe those that are specifically selected out by the grace of God for a divine purpose, those “whom he set apart while they were still in the womb” if you would. Ekloge is used primarily throughout Romans describing the election of Israel and is also used in Acts to describe Paul as a chosen vessel “for a vessel of Ekloge(choice) is this man to me.”

The word Eklektos occurs 23 times throughout the NT and can be used to describe those who become God’s choice by freely receiving his general call which is extended to all. For example, in the parable of the wedding feast Jesus says

“so go to the street corner and invite to the banquet anyone that you can find.. for many care called, but few however are Eklektos(chosen)”

this refers to man’s ability to partake in the election of God by freely responding to the gospel, which is the power of salvation to all that believe.

Both Ekloge and Eklektos represent the body of Christ, as such we are to be extensions of the Lord himself, we are his mouth piece, his instruments for publishing salvation unto all the world. God so closely identifies himself to his followers that we are in essence ambassadors for the Kingdom of Heaven, we are emissaries for the King himself that whoever will believe our message shall be saved.

Luke 10:16

“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

God has never excluded any from salvation; we must never think in this way, for God shows no partiality to men, but He is gracious unto all. Rather it is man that takes side against God; in doing so God allows the wickedness of man to be carried out, giving them over to depravity. Even so He is constantly stretching forth His hand in mercy, sending His Son that all might be saved.

2 Peter 3:9

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Amen!

Predestination & the Doctrine of Election – Part 1 (Introduction)

election

The doctrine of election is a central debate among’st many theologians and scholars today. Those who advocate the doctrine of election generally state that God dictates everything that happens through the sovereignty of his own will. That having foreseen the wickedness of his creation before the beginning of the world, He arbitrarily selected out those who would and wouldn’t obtain salvation. It’s the idea that God has predetermined everything that is going to happen, and nothing happens which He has not sovereignly ordained.

 The doctrine of election is commonly used to answer the philosophical question, why do some choose to believe in God while others don’t? Though the doctrine is inconsistent with many scriptures throughout the bible, one of the most common and compelling passages used in support of it is 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.”

I presume that ones initial interpretation of this reading (as mine was) is that salvation is ultimately a God given desire. However, when examining this scripture a little further, particularly in its original Greek text, we begin unraveling what could be Paul’s intended meaning. If we read the end of v.48 in its word-for-word Greek translation, it goes like this:

 “and – believed – as many as – were – appointed – to – life – eternal.

There’s two key words when studying this passage, first is the word believed; interpreted from the Greek word episteusan, which is derived from pisteuo – “to have faith in“. Secondly is the word appointed, which comes from the Greek tasso, it’s a military expression literally translated – “to assign” or even “to commission“. Notice the word for appointed here is not the word we find for predestined or foreordained, which is proorizo. Thus one could reasonably interpret this scripture to read something like:

“and as many as believed (had faith) were assigned to eternal life.”

 This translation parallels with the language of scripture throughout the bible:

John 3: 16

“For God so loved the world that whoever believes(has faith) in him, shall not perish but have life eternal”

Mark 16: 16

“Whoever believes(whoever has faith) and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe (have faith) will be condemned.”

The bible makes it quite clear, faith comes by hearing the word of God; and God gives man free-will in choosing whether to obey or disobey the word of the Lord. We further understand this truth in Jeremiah 18: 7-10

 “if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.”

This passage clearly illustrates the harmony between Gods sovereignty and mans free will. While its a common assumption that God foreknew every decision that man was ever going to make, this is not what the bible teaches us. God is sovereign over the affairs of man, He has not predetermined them, meaning He can do what He wants when He wants to do it, He could shine his glory down and reveal his power and make all the heathens call out to him in fear and trembling, but this is not what God desires, for he establishes the righteous through faith, as it says “the just shall live by faith”.

Ultimately God is orchestrating a divine work in the world, but this is not to say that He predetermines our choices. Rather He continually yields to will of man just as the prophet Jeremiah describes. In Genesis 6: 5-6 we understand that God neither predetermined nor foresaw the wickedness of his creation.

 “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he made man on earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”

The Lord mourned and repented that He ever made man on the earth! This hardly depicts the creator who preordained everything that was ever going to happen, but rather reveals Gods unique vulnerability to the choices of his creation.

Those who advocate the doctrine of election will often argue that while Gods predetermination and man’s free-will are impossible to reconcile in the human mind, we simply need to receive it by faith. While I acknowledge there are qualities of God which our earthly minds can’t comprehend, I feel that in this case this argument is conveniently being used to bridge the gap between false doctrine and what the scripture actually teaches.