Wednesday, March 29, 2006

we cannot ignore it forever...

This past weekend, we began our study of the book of Titus in "the Contenders" Adult Bible Fellowship class. Normally when I begin the study of a book, I like to get all of the facts out on the table. Other than discussing when it was written, to whom and by whom it was written, and the main points of the book, I felt compelled to go over another issue.

In our studies, we have worked through Jude, Colossians, 1st and 2nd Peter, and now we're on Titus. In all of these books except 2nd Peter (unless I am mistaken), words like "chosen" or "foreknowledge" make plain references to the biblical idea that God has chosen specific people for himself that He would save (Col 3:12-13; Titus 1:1-2; 1 Peter 1:1-3; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Peter 5:13-14; Jude 1-2).

So far, we have not really dealt with this concept in depth, but I felt like it was now the time to tackle this one, head on. I have a few goals to frame our study, and here they are:

  1. this is not designed to be the final word in a debate that is centuries old
  2. this is designed to show biblical texts germane to this concept
  3. it is designed to wet your appetite and spur you on to study this for yourself
Main goal: My primary goal is to attempt to be faithful to and understand what the Bible talks about and what it means when it deals with words like elect, chosen, etc. I am not, nor will I ever, be able to clarify or focus things that the Bible leaves as somewhat of a mystery. Furthermore, if I avoided explicit verses and texts because of a paradox that I am unable to effectively explain, I could not teach or discuss the doctrines of the Trinity or the incarnation of Christ.

A brief survey:

"for the faith of those chosen of God" (Titus 1:1 NASU). This presents (or reinforces) the idea that people who believe in God are chosen or a specific and distinct group.

"in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago," (Titus 1:2 NASU). The phrase "long ages ago" literally means "before time began". Before time began, this promise was made to God the Son, because He is the Bridegroom. The plan of salvation was in place before Adam and Eve sinned.

Ephesians 1:3-14 This entire section is one long expression of how it is God doing everything relating to salvation, and that it is from the goodness and kindness of His divine will.

John 6:35-40, 44 This is a great picture of security for the believer as well as a picture of how one becomes a believer. The picture is this: All who come to Christ are accepted. The only ones who come to Christ are given to Him by the Father, and noone can come to Christ unless the Father draws them. This passage seems to paint the clear picture of the salvation "flow chart".

Acts 13:48 Luke does not misspeak: all of those who were appointed, believed. Not visa-versa. That order is important.

Romans 8:28-30 This clears up any misconception about what it means to be “called” or "foreknew". If you are foreknown, you are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ; if you're predestined, you're also called; if you're called, you're also justified; if you're justified, you're glorified. We're justified (by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone), we go through life being sanctified (by the work of the Holy Spirit), and then we die and go to be with God and are glorified. This all happens after we've been foreknown and predestined by God. We cannot miss this order of the stages that God has ordained and shown us in His Word.

Romans 9:10-24 Paul shows examples of how God's choice is not dependant upon us (notice verses 11 and 16 specifically), and then he answers any objections that would malign the character of God or find fault with God for acting in the way that He has chosen.


Again, the purpose of this post is not to be the end-all be-all of a debate. Some people (myself included) have never really been exposed to how saturated the Bible is with texts relating to this topic.

but what about...

John 3:16 "whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." What does "whosever" mean if not everyone can? That is a common type of objection raised with this verse. "Whosoever" by itself doesn't throw the argument one way or the other. If anyone believes, they are granted eternal life. I neither disagree (I cannot disagree with scripture rightly understood), nor do I see this as contradicting the biblical understanding of being chosen.

Q: If I (or anyone) believe in and have true faith in Christ, will I be saved?
A: Yes (John 3:16; Rom 10:13)

Q: Does God desire all men to be saved?
A: Yes (1 Tim 2:1-9)

Q: Does God delight in the death of the wicked?
A: No (Ezekiel 18:23)

Q: Was salvation "brought" to all men?
A: Yes (Titus 2:3)

Q: Did God command everyone to be saved?
A: Yes (Acts 17:30)

how do we harmonize this?

In one simple answer: I don't know. And that is why this is such a contested topic in our faith.

If you want to know how I understand it, here it is:

I believe that God is sovereign and, in eternity past, He freely chose to set His love on and save some people. These people will, during the course of their lives, have faith in Him. I also believe that everyone is free to accept or decline the gospel message, and that all humanity would (if left to ourselves) always choose to reject Christ, the gospel, and that we would be evil continually (Gen 6:5). Praise be to God that any of us are saved...ever.


sj said...

good, thorough job of outlining what we covered in Sunday School. You were very clear on all your points, and I appreciate your effort in keeping this up! I love you!

EJ said...

"all faith on the part of the elect, rests on the divine foreordination: they do not become elect by their faith, but receive faith, and so become believers, because they are elect." Parallel Classic Commentary on the New Testament - compiled and edited by Mark Water p. 975 (Comment cited attributed to A.R. Fausset on Acts 13:48)

Nate J. said...

Eric, I missed reading this blog until tonight (Saturday). Good way of dealing with a tough topic. I like the ballance you have presented.
I think this is a topic we will never be able to rationalize or fully understand in our finite human minds. That is why I think it is so important that we include BOTH sets of scripture verses on this topic (like you did). I fully believe that God chooses some people for the praise of His glory because the Bible says so. I also fully believe that the offer is open to ALL who will believe and that we MUST individually believe and place my full trust in Him - because the Bible says so. In fact, those who don't repent and trust in Him are held personally responsible for not trusting in Him. How do these two concepts work together? I don't know - nobody does except God. All I do know is that we have to believe all of Scripture and take God at his Word that He knows what He is doing - Romans 9 (I think) has a good answer for those who question God about this topic.

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