Thursday, January 31, 2013

Whosoever Will?

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.
John 3:16 KJV

In John 3:16 Jesus loved the world (all mankind including Jew and Gentile) in such a way that he redeemed a particular people (Titus 2:14, Heb. 10:14) for himself that includes all people from all nations and tongues (Rev. 5:9). John 3:16 does not say "whosoever will", it simply says whosoever or whoever believes. This "whosoever" (KJV) is best translated as "whoever believes" (NKJV, ESV, NASB, et al.) or "the believing ones". This verse in no way is teaching universal atonement. It is true that all that believe in Christ will be saved, both Reformed and Arminian are in agreement with that. Those of us that are Reformed truly believe in the free offer of the Gospel, and are commanded to share the Gospel with all sinners. Any sinner that repents and turns to Christ will be saved!

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. – John 6:44 KJV

The question is how do sinners get to the point of belief? Is it free-will (Arminian) or sovereign election (Reformed)? The Bible makes it very clear it is not the will of man (John 1:13, Rom. 9:16) but the divine choice of God (Rom. 8:29; 9:15, Eph. 1:4-5; 11) as to who gets saved. Man is unable to seek God (Rom. 3:10-18), cannot come to Christ (John 6:44, 65), and is dead in sin (Eph. 2:1). Since we are in such a dire situation the only hope for salvation is God changing our hearts (Eze. 36:26) and doing all the work of salvation for us. We can not boast in our own works and even the faith we have is by grace and is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-10). We do come to Christ freely, not forced, but it is God that gives us the ability to come to Christ freely. Just like how God had to first opened Lydia's heart before she could believe (Acts 16:14), he must do the same for all of us. As John 6:37 states, all that the Father gives to Christ will come to Christ. Verse 39 shows plainly that those given to Christ will be raised up on the last day, and verse 40 shows it is the Fathers will that those that believe on Christ get raised up. All those that receive this changed heart and work of the Spirit will come to Christ, it is guaranteed (John 6:37).

So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills – Romans 9:18 ESV

It is only Christ's "sheep" that can hear his voice and those that are not of his "flock" do not have the ability to believe (John 10:26-27). Paul in Romans 9:19-23 explains after answering an objection, similar to the one Arminians ask, that God makes one people for "honorable use" and another for "dishonorable use" (v. 21). He explains that certain people are "prepared for destruction" (v. 22), and others "prepared beforehand" for glory (v. 23). This is how God can hate Esau and love Jacob (Rom. 9:13) even before they are born or done good or evil (Rom. 9:11). Paul even explains that this is the case "in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls" (Rom. 9:11). Peter also says that those that reject Christ do so because they were destined to (1 Peter 2:8). Jude even mentions people "ordained" to condemnation (Jude 1:4 KJV), and Acts mentions those "ordained" to eternal life (Acts 13:48 KJV).

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: – Isaiah 46:9-10 KJV

I believe the problem lies in the inability of people to grasp God's sovereignty. Ask any Christian (Arminian or Reformed) if they believe in God's sovereignty and both would agree wholeheartedly. Ask them if they believe that God knows all events past, present and future and both will still agree. Ask them if God ordains every event that comes to pass and they might agree (some Arminians would say yes and all Reformed would say yes). Ask them if God ordains the salvation of the elect and the damnation of the reprobate and you will get a heated debate (Arminians saying no and Reformed saying yes). The Bible teaches us in Isaiah 46:9-11 that God declares the "end from the beginning" (v. 10) and that he will bring to pass all that he purposed (v. 11). There is simply no event in time or space that has come to pass unless the Lord has ordained it and given a purpose for it. As Romans 9 and others declare that even includes the reprobate (those going to hell).

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory – Romans 9:22-23 ESV

You must understand that even those that believe in an autonomous "free-will" have a problem with those destined for hell. Since God knows all things even before one molecule of the universe is created then he must know who will go to heaven and who will go to hell. Could not God have only created people that would choose him out of their free will? Since God created people that he knew would not free-will love him, then he still created people knowing beforehand they would go to hell. God could have chosen not to create these people but he did. In the Reformed view we see a purpose in the reprobate. God, from eternity passed, elected some to salvation and others to reprobation. He actively works faith and salvation in the elect, but passes over the reprobate so that they will stay in their sins. God is not producing unbelief in the reprobate, since we all reject Christ by nature (Eph. 2:3), he is simply leaving them in their sins and rebellion. God actively works in the elect, passively works in the reprobate. The elect receive mercy, the reprobate receive justice. Nobody gets injustice.

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. – 2nd Peter 3:9 KJV

Alas the problems of taking a verse out of context! 2nd Peter 3:9 seems to be the go-to Arminian verse. There are some questions and context that need to be resolved. First who is Peter talking to? The answer is the "beloved" (v. 3:1, 8, 14) or "those who have obtained faith" (1:1) in other words believers. So in 2nd Peter 3:9 when it says God is not willing that "any" should parish and "all" come to repentance who is the "any" and "all"? The answer is quite simple. It is the ones that he is “longsuffering” for, the "you" or "us-ward" (KJV), in other words believers. In following the context and seeing who Peter is talking to it is easy to see that he is addressing believers here. 2nd Peter chapter 3 is stating that God is willing to wait millennia (v. 8) until all the elect are brought to faith (v. 9) before the second coming of Christ (v. 10-13).

In conclusion we as Reformed believe the Gospel message is open to all. We don't know who the elect are and so we proclaim the Gospel liberally to all sinners everywhere (Matt. 28:19). God has ordained the method in which people are drawn to faith and that is through the preaching of the Gospel (Rom. 10:14-17). We can join our Arminian brothers and sisters in proclaiming that whoever believes in Christ will be saved (John 3:16)!

To the Glory of God,

Colby Braden

1 comment:

  1. Woow, so this is almost exactly the same way that I strongly believe that God has graced within my understanding. Understanding that God knows everything that will ever be and all that ever was, seems to go over people's heads. In turn, we try to figure out the entire concept of predestination but we are called to proclaim the Gospel, reach the lost, be disciples, make disciples etc.
    This has been a debate for quite some time, and I feel like we should truly be set on seeking and living out the great commission just as Christ has commanded us to, in taking up our cross, denying self, and remembering that we have a Savior that absolutely knows our hearts and everything about us, we should rather rejoice in that and not be completely bogged down by not knowing everything. I enjoyed this article!