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Free-Will Faith in the Plan of God

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Question #1:  Greetings Robert,  What does John 14:20 tell you, as you read it in Greek?

"On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you."

Do you understand it as Pietists, such as John Arndt, did?

The Lord bless you and keep you, The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

Your brother in Christ Jesus

Response #1:   I don't want to speak for others. To me this verse means that through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we are one with Christ and in Christ just as He is one with the Father. The Spirit's ministry of baptism accomplishes the fact of this, while His teaching ministry allows us to appreciate the blessing of being united to Christ as members of His Bride here and now (though we will fully appreciate what this means only when we have been experientially wed to Him at the resurrection; cf. 1Cor.13:12). For more on what this wonderful truth of our position "in Christ" means, please see the following link:

In BB 3B, section V.2, "The Principle and Process of Sanctification".

One with you in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

As Christians, I commonly hear how God puts in our lives the right people at the right time, to help us on pilgrimage. I am certain that you are such a person in my life. I am not only excited to be able to ask you a question, but am extremely excited to read your inspired answers. Like Ester4:14, you have come to a time such as this for God's purpose. From this I hope you see that I do not take your ministry for granted, but prize it and the access to it.

I have been trying to simplify God's purpose for man in my own mind. Here is my could it be:

1. Satan was created many years before man, and God had bestowed upon him attributes no other angel had. He was to serve God in special chosen ways.

2. When Satan chose, by his free will, to elevate himself above his created level (to be as God), he created sin by his disobedience to God's intent.

3. God could immediately take corrective action, but that would be God using His Supremacy. Satan needed to see that he was the problem and God was justified in his condemnation.

4. God created man in His image, but lower than the angles, but with the same free will. Now a creature actually lower than Satan would have the ability to be remain perfect as created by choice.

5. Satan was thrown down from the heavens and given the power to be ruler, or God of this world, for a time.

6. Satan's plan was to deceive this new creature that God loved, and prove his power by separating God from the creature he created and loved. (I am not sure angles had known God's love)

7. This was all part of God letting Satan hang himself. When God in Christ took on human form with human tendencies and abilities, Satan provided temptation for Christ to sin. When this did not happen, he Satan appealed to the human nature of sinful man, and God's Christ was unjustly condemned and killed. When God raised his Christ from 3 days of death, He broke sin's power in death. Our God, through Christ's victory over death, has made a New Covenant in Christ's blood. This "the everlasting covenant" offers eternal right standing before God for those who accept Jesus as God's answer and salvation for the inherited sin we have.

8. Now we are back to the real problem. Satan can not throw himself on Gods mercy because of his PRIDE. I is now proven that a lesser creature that God loved, now by the same free will that put him in Satan's situation of God's condemnation , can by that same free will chose Gods savior and no longer be condemned.

9. Satan is left with his sin, and part of mankind with theirs, and both destined for the final JUST judgment and eternal lake of fire.

Question: Is man created to provide the means to Justly judge Satan?

Response #2: 

First of all, thank you so much for your kind and encouraging comments. Please know that this relationship works both ways, as I am benefitted by your questions, your prayers, and by your response to the truth fully as much.

As to your very thoughtful list and overall question, I would say that you have got it about right. The main point I should like to add is in response to your final questions, to wit, "Is man created to provide the means to justly judge Satan?" To this I would respond with a definitive "yes", but would also say that this clearly is not the sole purpose for us. God did not have to create the angels anymore than He had to create us. Satan's fall was no surprise to God, nor anything else that actually did or even could occur in history from the beginning to the end. There is a tendency in some theologies (shared by the devil) to see angels as having priority over human beings, but while that is true in terms of power, precedence of creation et al. in the short term, in the end human beings will occupy a higher place in God's eternal order. For "it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants" (Heb.2:16 TNIV). Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Ruler and Creator of the universe has become a human being, not an angel; even though He "was made lower than the angels for a little while" (Heb.2:9 TNIV), yet for all eternity, "exalted to the highest place", He will have "the Name above every Name" (Phil.2:9) and before Him "every knee will bow" (Rom.14:11 TNIV). As Christ's Bride, we the Church are His special possession, and together with Him will rule the world at His return.

Or do you not know that the Lord's people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!
1st Corinthians 6:3 TNIV

Our creation was not really a reaction, even though in the tactical and strategic terms of the conflict between God and Satan it may indeed be helpful to see it in those terms (and I myself have written in a similar vein in the Satanic Rebellion series). God planned human history and our eternity specifically with us in mind, not only collectively, but also individually. Each one of us is known by our dear Lord Jesus Christ by name, and has been since before the universe was created. Each one of us who are fellow members of His Body will enjoy sweet fellowship together with Him and with each other for all eternity, and that has always been the purpose of the all-encompassing plan of God. He foreknew us as dear and inseparable parts of His Son, and began the process of history with all this in His boundless mind. We are no accident. We are "the joy set before Him" which motivated Him to bear the sins of the world (Heb.12:2). You and I and all who ever have or ever will call Jesus our Lord have ever been the prize He sought to win and did win in the darkness on the cross when He faced the flames of eternal condemnation in our place and on our behalf. He did this even for those who refuse Him, but He certainly did this also and effectively for us whom He chose and who chose Him in response (1Jn.4:19). Jesus wants those who want Him (cf. Jn.4:23). Indeed, this statement sums up the entire plan of God and the whole conduct of history, angelic and human alike. Because of the very nature of free will, that inexpressibly wonderful and quintessential power that makes us who we are, makes us "gods", so to speak (Ps.82:6; Jn.10:34), as those who bear the image of God in this ability to chose, it was inevitable that not everyone would respond to Him (please see the link: Free-Will Faith in Salvation). God could have made us like robots who had no choice but to respond. He didn't. He could have fast-forwarded past history entirely and rendered all eternal who would choose for Him and His Son while condemning immediately those who would not. But He gave everyone an actual opportunity in real time to make clear to the world and to themselves precisely what they would choose, did choose, have chosen, and will yet choose. For me, retaining this perspective is crucial in order to walk the best possible Christian walk. For everything we think, say and do is of the utmost importance, because the application of our faculty of free-will faith lies behind every action and demonstrates the quality of our allegiance to our Lord . . . or lack thereof. This is the basis of our salvation and our reward – not what we might have done, but what we actually did do in choosing for Jesus Christ and in spending our lives for Him (to the extent that we actually do so; please see the link:  in CT 6, "The Judgment of the Church").

Thank you again for your encouragement. Keep running the race in confident expectation of your reward in Christ Jesus on that great future day.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi again, Doc!

I've asked a few people with different interpretations, some believing in eternal security and some don't. One response I got concerning the parable of the sower was:

"The parable of the sower is about varying degrees of faith. Not everyone that hears the gospel is effected by it. You must be effected by it otherwise it will not take root in your heart. Faith in Christ and his gospel is more than just belief. "The devils believe and tremble." Saving faith is faith that has forsaken all of its self righteousness and embraces the work and person of Christ alone. Jesus said, Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, didn't we...? These are the counterfeits that were trusting in their good works and religion, They did not posses saving faith. Those who posses saving faith are sealed with the Holy Spirit and are placed in Christ. They can never lose their salvation."

Is this biblical? Thanks in advance!

Response #3:   

Well, this paragraph doesn't really address the parable except to say that it's about "varying degrees of faith". That is certainly true:

1) Hard-packed ground: no faith: seed of the Word never penetrates

2) Rocky ground: faith at first: seed of the Word penetrates but not far enough to stick under pressure; person loses faith

3) Weedy ground: faith, but distracted by the world so no production

4) Good ground: faith, and production resulting in rewards

Those in category four have eternal security; those in category three are marginal, and are saved "yet as though through fire" (1Cor.3:15); those in category one never believe in the first place; *those in category two, had faith, but renounced it when times got tough; i.e., as Jesus says, "They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize (i.e., fall away from the faith)". Category two were believers for a time, but in the end proved unfaithful. They lost faith, and stopped being believers, forfeiting thereby the eternal life that could have been theirs. Unfortunately, I know people like this. Often they have suffered a severe disappointment or setback, and they blame God for it. The loss of a loved one or betrayal by some "Christian" are two of the most common reasons that otherwise "good" people throw away their faith. And of course many are tempted by wealth, sex, possessions, power, fame – all the pointless baubles of this world, and give up their faith in exchange for a mess of potage. It happens all the time. One of the reasons I find the false teaching of "once saved always saved" so abysmally awful is that churches who buy into this lie feel that if they can just get someone to accept Christ, well "game over!" Even if said person makes bad choices later on, well, at least they are "saved". As a result, there is less urgency to teach the truth – but only the truth, Bible truth taught and believed and applied – can produces the spiritual muscle and spiritual sticking power to avoid falling prey to the pressures and the temptations that "swamp faith".

We are completely secure as long as we are believers, followers of Jesus Christ. If we turn aside to follow Satan, rejecting our faith, we are not believers, and have no eternal security of any sort.

(22) Yet God has now accomplished reconciliation [for you] through the death of Christ in His physical body so that you may stand before Him as holy, without blemish and free from accusation – [this you will do] (23) if you remain solidly grounded and firmly fixed in the faith, and un-moved from your hope in the gospel which you have heard proclaimed in all creation under heaven, of which [gospel] I, Paul, have become a minister.
Colossians 1:22-23

In anticipation of that glorious day when we see our Lord face to face.

Bob L.

Question #4: 

 Hi, I just happened to come across your site and I find it very informative. I have a quick question. I once mentioned in Bible study that I was a sinner saved by grace. My pastor almost rebuked me saying that once I trusted God as my Savior, I stopped being a sinner. Although sin does not control me, I sometimes miss the mark. Do Christians ever stop being sinners saved by grace?

Response #4: 

I am always reluctant to contradict a person's pastor when that person has clearly put him/herself under said pastor's authority. For it is certainly true that none of us is perfect, and part of that imperfection may come in the way we express things or understand things (i.e., in communication) rather than in any error of doctrinal substance. Beyond all question, even believers continue to have the sin nature residing in this mortal body of dust as long as we inhabit it. And beyond all question that means that, in spite of heroic efforts, godly intentions, and aggressive spiritual growth, we will continue to fail from time to time as long as we live because of the corruption of our flesh. No one has ever been or will ever be sinlessly perfect this side of resurrection except for our dear Lord Jesus Christ, and it is a very dangerous heresy to assume or teach otherwise. This is fairly involved topic about which I have written extensively and I would invite you to read Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology, especially section V., "The Believer's Dealing with Sin".

Now it is also very true that we are no longer under the law of sin and death but under grace, that we have been redeemed from our sins, that they have been forgiven, that we have our Lord's righteousness by faith, and that we have been sanctified and washed by the blood of the Lamb. The question then becomes whether the use of the particular phrase "a sinner saved by grace" is in any way at odds with or derogatory to the wonderful position of eternal life we now enjoy in union with the Lord who saved us. Certainly there can be no denying that we are "saved by grace through faith", for Paul tells us this in exactly those words (Eph.2:5-9). Paul also tells us that Jesus came into the world "to save sinners, of whom I am the worst" (1Tim.1:15). This was the refrain of a popular hymn of that time and Paul applies it to himself. Note that the verb is in the present tense, so that while it is true that Paul is referring to his past behavior the notion of not being above sin at present is present here as well (cf. Ps.51:5; Lk.18:9-14). On the other hand, Paul also puts the notion of being a "sinner" into the past for believers on several other occasions (e.g., Rom.5:8; 5:19). We find this same tension even in the same book in the case of 1st John where John affirms in no uncertain terms that we still sin (1Jn.2:1-2; cf. 1Jn.1:5-10), but then goes on to say latter that "no one who is sinning abides in Him. No one who is sinning has either seen or known Him" (1Jn.3:6). While this may seem contradictory, the fact is that we are sinless in Jesus in principle (for Jesus is sinless), and fallible in our human flesh in fact (for we reside in bodies corrupted by the sin nature). As believers in union with Christ we are positionally perfect. As human beings in bodies of sin and corruption we are of necessity imperfect. We strive for perfection, following the example of our Lord, but no matter how close we come to a perfect walk with Him it can never be completely sanctified. That doesn't mean we don't strive to be perfect, but it does mean that we should approach the subject with appropriate humility.

So it really comes down to what a person means when they say what they say. I take your statement to mean that you humbly understand that you are incapable of ever being perfect; that you are with these words acknowledging your past mistakes and glorying in the forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ who saved you (and me and all of our brothers and sisters) from our sins by His death in our place on the cross. I understand you to mean that you are building on this foundation of humility and gratitude with spiritual growth and production, and not at all that you are attempting somehow to justify a sloppy approach to the issue of sin. As someone who is greatly concerned for the spiritual welfare of anyone connected with this ministry, while it would not have been something I would have done, I can see how a pastor might want to make sure that people understand that as believers in Jesus Christ our "job description" is now not "sinner" but "sanctified". This I take your statement not to contradict but to affirm.

So it may well be that in terms of the theology involved here you and your pastor understand and believe the same exact things, but that this is merely a question of phraseology. If so, I would certainly counsel peace and reconciliation (although as I said above any idea that we are or can become experientially "sinlessly perfect" in this corrupt world and especially in these corrupt bodies is something with which I would strongly take issue).

Please feel free to write me back on any of this, especially if I have misconstrued the situation in any way (and you have my apologies in advance if so be the case).

In the One who died for our sins and saved us by His matchless grace, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #5:

Dear Dr. Luginbill

Sir, I hope you are fine? I have a few questions and I do not know how exactly to ask them. I will try my best. It's about human spirit. I wanted to ask this a few months ago, but I thought I better read "Image & Likeness" and "Human Spirit" first.

More than once you have said "God could have put "us" anywhere in the history" (I don't exactly remember where you have said this), which made me think so many things. Sir, we all have the ability to choose for Him, but only a few choose. God plans the life of the persons who would choose for Jesus, and gives them opportunities to make this choice (I hope I am correct up to this point).

1) Did my spirit get something extra from God that I am different than others (because of the choices I make) and also that I chose for Him? or, is my spirit different than the others?

2) Or is it the combination of the body, spirit and the circumstances of life that makes me choose differently?

3) My body is given to me by my parents, and I must have got a few qualities (related to my behavior, nature) from them, does this make any difference in the choice making?

I hope this makes sense. I am very confused. May be I didn't understand the basics properly. I don't mind asking foolish questions to you, because your replies are always precious to me.

In Jesus,

Response #5:   

I am doing quite well. Thank you for asking.

It seems to me that you have indeed correctly understood what I have written about these matters; I don't find anything to disagree with in your rephrasing of them. As to the question of what makes us different, it is not an easy one to answer. God made us:

Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
Romans 9:21 NIV

I think this verse demonstrates God's sovereignty over His creation well enough: He made us all, and He has the right to make us, whether that means that "we" are going to believe (vessels of honor) or reject Him (vessels of dishonor). This verse also shows that all human beings are essentially the same in their basic elements, and especially in the area which counts the most, the human spirit which distinguishes us from the animals since it (we) possesses the ability to express faith (or not). That is what, from God's point of view, free will really is. For some people the supposed dilemma of God making us while at the same time we must decide seems too much to accept. But for me, all that is necessary is to accept the fact of God's foreknowledge: He is perfect, and knew perfectly what each "person" would do, given the choice. Sadly, there are some "persons" who would reject Him and His offer of life eternal in Jesus Christ, no matter what circumstances they found themselves in.

In short, we all have the same substance of spirit as human beings, but we are all "us". Our uniqueness as individuals is absolute: we are who we are. We are all the same in essence, made in the image of God (i.e., our free-will is parallel to divine WILL), but we are all individuals (i.e., according to the likeness of God: we all are different, because that is how God made us). So the choices we make are not at all pre-programmed in the sense that we "have to make them". Rather, God knew that we would make them, knew what they would be, and put us into time to demonstrate by actually doing so what it was we really wanted, what it was we really honored. What God did was create to "us", who we wanted to be. We are the ones who chose and choose whatever we chose and choose. The fact that God made your spirit, and knew ahead of time what you as an individual would choose when He did so, does not mean that you as you are not actually you and are not actually freely choosing for Him (because that is exactly what you are doing). This issue is at the heart of the forthcoming part 4B of Bible Basics, "Soteriology". As I say there in summarizing the principle, "God made us who we chose to be and we choose to be who God made us". So there is much to say on an issue like this, and until the release of the above I invite your attention to some of the links below where the topic is discussed further.

The Saved and the Unsaved

Choosing Hell

Against Universalism II

Our will and God's WILL

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security I

Please do feel free to write me back about any of this.

Yours in Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hello Robert,

Hope that you are doing well and were able to have a reasonably enjoyable holiday vacation, even with the typical Christmas and Holiday Hype that has always bothered me. It is nice to see family though, the only real thing I like about Christmas. From what I have gathered from the internet, you are a PhD, a teacher of modern languages, is this correct? I don't typically pry into people's person lives or occupations but I needed to do a Google search to find your site again, I've had a series of computer crashes and am about to have another one (clunking hard drive again!) at any rate, all that stuff popped up. I just glanced at it because I was more interested in your site but I must say, you are an impressive man! It was clear to me from reading much of your website that you had a gift, but you are also in a profession that is so worldly (for lack of a better word) and yet you continue to serve Christ and teach us about him, putting that as your number one priority. Obviously your profession is also one that can do good things for people, language is the most important thing to us! It's neither good nor evil, it's people who determine that. No one could do as much work as you've done to that site and not have it be a top priority (outside of your family of course) At any rate, I always found college campus one of the most tempting places as a young man. This is not to say that all professors and people with advanced degrees are not Christian, but it doesn't *seem* like many of them are, perhaps I am not looking clearly. At any rate, just wanted to thank you for your emails this past year, I tried to write once but I found out about your email debacle when reading through my old Yahoo emails, I don't use that address much anymore. If you could kindly add this email address to your list (when you send out special notices) I would be grateful. I was catching up on the tribuation but stumbled across something I never finished before, an very informative piece about how Satan operates in this world.

After months of stress, illness and family problems, I am more driven then ever to become a better Christian and turn away from my past vices and towards the only one who is able to guide me away from separation from God, Jesus Christ. I believe Christ has allowed me to go through some suffering to draw me closer to him, do you think this is possible? Temptations, dreams about sex, demons and many things have plagued me, along with physical illness and stress over the last year. Your article about Satan's world is pretty much how I see things myself, but your words bring new meaning to how I see these things and how I see this world. I came to the conclusion after years of internet research and reading sites like yours that this world (at present) does indeed belong to Satan, and that we are living the Genesis Curse. Why would God put us on such as place, what did we (you and I) do to deserve a world that is not run by God or Jesus, but by Satan? We are not Adam or Eve, these thoughts do cross my mind occasionally. I wonder why we couldn't just be born and live with Jesus, as we love him with all our hearts. I put those questions behind me now and realize that I don't have to have all the answers, even if something doesn't make sense to me, it made sense to God and that's really all that matters, isn't it?

Satan's World System covers every single important topic when it comes to his world and how those who do his bidding (along with demonic forces) run it. It should be read aloud by every pastor in services this Sunday, but that won't happen. Your comments about death are something that I sent to all my relatives, Christian or not, and most of my friends. The bottom line is, death IS the great equalizer, cliche perhaps but nothing could be more true. Bill Gates, Tiger woods, President Obama, me and even the homeless man living downtown will all bring nothing out of this world. So life it seems, is completely futile, but why carry on? I think Jesus wants us to live a peaceful and quite live, spreading the word when we are able but not to get involved in wordly things, is this true? I believe he wants us to be happy in this world as Christians, but is it really possible to do so in this age? How do you think Jesus really wants a single man like me to live. I am content with being single, I have nephews and a niece who I love very much, a wonderful Christian mother and a father who has yet to find the Lord (I am working on him.) In my mind, I have a lot of be grateful for. I am glad I never have been in a position of wealth, it would have easily corrupted me, I grew up the son of a doctor so we had money, but I have always been a working class man myself. Do you think Jesus is all that concerned with what we do in our careers? Many Christians I talk to seem to think so, God wants you to do well, to make money (they say) This would go against everything you are saying in Satan's World System! So they are wrong. Watered down Christianity has gotten so bad that there are now Christian single sites, with semi-pornographic photos of men and women. I don't need to tell you about the world we live in! These are just some thoughts that I had, if you care to comment on some of them, I am always happy to read, if not, I do have one question for you that I hope you will answer, actually, a short series of questions relating to the same topic, Heaven and Hell.

Is there any one sin that man can commit that would make it impossible for him to see heaven? Is it ever too late (while one is still breathing) to accept Jesus Christ into our hearts and enter Heaven? Say for instance, if a man has led a life of corruption and turns to Christ hours before he dies, will Jesus always hear and accept him? I have read different opinions about these questions. I do have a great deal of concern for my father, who is ill and may not live more than another year or two. I don't want to be separated from him.

Thanks and I am sorry about your email problems. Again, thanks for your dedication to our one true Lord, Jesus Christ and for bringing light into a dark world.

In Christ,

Response #6: 

Always good to hear from you. It seems you have gotten your glitches fixed and I'm glad to hear that (mine seem to be fixed as well). I have updated my list so all future emails will go only to this new address you've given me. Thank you for your interesting comments, and also for your kind words and encouragement. One small correction about my C.V. I am a member of a "Classical and Modern Language" department, but I am the "Classical" part. I teach Greek and Latin, and the in-depth study of Greek in particular has continued to be a benefit for all my New Testament exegesis. The better one knows a language, the more that seems to surface in close translation et al. It is true that not many in academia are very interested in the Lord (and some are downright hostile). I have the blessing of having some very good colleagues, even if most are not believers, and I always have a few students who are motivated to learn Greek in order to understand the New Testament better through study of the original language.

I very much appreciate all of your comments here and I do encourage you to hold fast to your intention of drawing closer to the Lord. Some of that will involve good "defense", and it is often difficult to change one's behavior for the good in any respect. But in my experience all real change always comes from the inside out. Once a person learns more, believes more, and starts to respond to the truth internalized by faith and made dynamic by the Spirit, that person is more motivated and empowered and stimulated in the conscience not only to refrain from wrong but also very importantly to engage in the work that the Lord has given him or her to do.

On your specific question, I firmly believe that "where there is life, there is hope". This gets back also to something you said earlier about fast-forwarding through history – something which God certainly could have done. But He did not because it was and is so important to demonstrate to the world and to ourselves precisely what we really do think and what we really are going to choose. History is all about faith free-will. That is why we are here, to show whether or not we are willing to respond to God in Jesus Christ (and if so, to what degree: that is the basis for our eternal rewards). Suffering is most definitely a part of it, sometimes through discipline as the Lord weans us away from bad behavior, but also as part of our testing, since every good decision must be challenged in order to demonstrate the depth of our commitment. It really isn't even a question of being rich or poor, or sick or healthy, or lonely or content: God is working out everything together for the good of all those who really do love Him and His Son our Lord Jesus. The "best" for any of us is not to have a little happiness here on earth in what is not even a nanosecond compared to eternity, but to maximize our eternal reward, something that will bless us beyond our imagination forever at the same time that it glorifies Him. And in the process of pruning us for this purpose, our Lord does not allow us to be tested beyond measure (it only occasionally seems so), and He certainly does bless us as well, as any who love the Lord can faithfully attest (even in the midst of fiery trials). But if there were no resistance to our progress, what possible merit would there be in our perseverance? We can certainly be confident that regardless of what the evil one throws at us, God is sufficient to deliver us and to bless us in spite of everything, remembering that the spiritual blessings we have are far superior to any material thing we might ever attain, and that God will never allow us to lack what we need in either category.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 16:33 NIV

In the One who loved us so much that He gave Himself over to death that we might have eternal life in Him, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #7:

Dear Dr Luginbill,

Thank you for your last response. It was helpful. Do you think that we always have free will - unfettered

? If so, how would that apply to a person with brain damage from an accident, who was previously even tempered but now is impulsively enraged in response to what most would consider minor frustrations? Do you believe a person who is unable to bond with and thus adequately provide for her child because of a known, specific set of genetic defects has total or partial free will? Dallas Willard speaks of what is within our Kingdom, that over which we have effective control as being within our free will, as opposed to that which is not within our Kingdom. Do you think that is biblically accurate?

Sincerely,

Response #7:   

Good to hear from you. I am not familiar with the "in/out of our kingdom" construct. I do not like to reject other people's teaching examples out of hand without hearing their entire rationale. I will say that I can't think of any biblical justification for elevating such an explanation to a doctrinal principle – but if it is just a way of explaining things, it may be helpful for those who are more familiar with D. Willard's teaching style.

There is no question but that life is complicated, and that no set of "rules and regulations" can ever fit or match everything that has or may happen. To my mind, that goes a long way toward explaining why the Bible is written the way that it is. The truth is there, and it is so perfectly incorporated into the whole that if rightly discerned, all questions can receive a sufficient answer (i.e., one which is both completely true and which provides us with all the information we need, even if not with all we would desire).

My own understanding of this is issue is based first and foremost on the principle that God knows everything. We may not know whether a person's perceptual or behavioral faculties are degraded past the point of leaving them still "responsible" for the decisions they make in God's eyes (the only important standard), but He knows very well. Secondly, the person in question will also not be in the dark about their personal responsibility in the area of the choices they make. God will not leave them unaware as to whether in fact their will is truly "free", that is, that it has sufficient latitude and can deploy sufficient perceptual faculties to pass the threshold of accountability before the Lord. So while "we" may not know, there is no doubt that God knows and, I would argue, little doubt that He causes every concerned party to "know" that they are responsible for what they are choosing.

There are countless situations about which we wonder, which may not seem to "fit" the mold of the things we know for certain by faith, but on that great Day of Days we will see as the Lord sees now (1Cor.13:12) and it will be clear then that He was completely fair in every action, and that things worked precisely as He said they have and are and would, even if our eyes seem to perceive the opposite on occasion today. There is also the fact that someone, as in the situation you describe, may not be able to "do" what they would choose or formerly would have chosen. There are without question innumerable limitations on human behavior both normal and exceptional, and no two people on this earth have ever played precisely "the same hand" or found themselves on precisely the same "playing field". Unquestionably, God takes everything into account (as when Jesus assured the disciples that the widow who contributed the "least coin" had in fact given more than all the rich men who preceded her – in God's eyes). We can only give what we have; we can only serve through the gifts we are given; we can only function in the plan of God in the time and the place and with the body and the resources we have been given. God knows all this; He also knows that our ability to change these essential facts of our existence is very limited (Matt.5:36). It's not the hand we are dealt or the field on which we play that determines our eternal reward, it's how we play. If that is what Willard means by "what is within our Kingdom", then I would agree.

In the One who made every right choice for us though it cost Him more than we can know, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #8: 

I am still working through my second story, and have come on some translating I would like your opinion on. The passage especially v.17 on in Num. 24:15-23:

Now, God came to Balaam at night, and said to him, "Since they come, get up and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you—that…are you doing." So, Balaam went, and here is his parable: Balaam the son of Beor, an utterance of Balaam, the son of Beor…a man's utterance from the opened eye…an utterance of he who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of the Most High—a vision of Shaddai he beholds as he falls and his eyes are uncovered. I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A Star shall march forth from Jacob. A Scepter shall rise from Israel. He shall smite the corners of Moab, and make all the sons of Seth broken down. Edom shall be a possession, but Israel acts in might that He out of Jacob shall tread down, and make a remnant destroy Edom from dwelling. Amalek was head of nations, but his latter end shall be even to destruction. Woe, who lives apart from God determining it?

Also…to continue the discussion on eternal security, you said,

"I don't find the fact that our sins are forgiven to be an argument for absolute eternal security. Jesus died for all sins, but unbelievers aren't saved. He did not die for the sin of rejecting Himself (else all would be saved)."

Doesn't the above opinion do total damage to two passages taken together—1Jn.2.2 and Col. 2.13, i.e. all sins were judged on Christ rendering them all forgivable, and Colossians says at salvation all have been forgiven…future sins, also. Now, if you are talking about Matt. 12 blasphemy of the Holy Spirit's 7-fold ministry with the Messiah being a national sin of Israel's Leadership…yes, the hammer fell at that time, and they did at that time commit the unforgivable sin. There was no turning back, and the nation was doomed. Scripturally that is the only sin He did not die for…it sounds you may need a good messianic Jewish friend.

Response #8: 

Good to hear from you. To take the second question first, I don't see it as a time-specific issue. Regardless of when we believe or whether we believe or if we apostatize, Jesus died for all sin and, in your parlance, "rendered all sins forgivable". But that forgiveness is given through faith in Jesus Christ, else all unbelievers would be saved. Unbelievers are condemned for lack of faith. If a believer becomes an unbeliever, said person is condemned for lack of faith. If you want to put it in terms of sin, unbelief is the sin for which all who are condemned are condemned. The fact that a person disbelieved before is not held against him if he now believes, because he is now a believer. The fact that a person believed in the past avails him nothing now if he no longer believes, because he is now no longer a believer. We are born again through faith in Jesus Christ, and that new life is intimately connected with, in fact cannot be distinguished from, our belief in Him. But if that faith dies (cf. 2Pet.2:17-22; Jude 1:12), the new life dies with it, since they are essentially one and the same thing (Jn.3:14-16; 3:36; 5:24; 6:40; 6:47; 11:25; 17:3; 20:31).

They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
Luke 8:13 NIV

For the one whose sowing is directed to his own [sinful] flesh from that [sinful] flesh will reap corruption, but the one whose sowing is directed toward the Spirit, from that [same] Spirit will reap eternal life.
Galatians 6:8

The oracles of Balaam, being poetic in form and archaic in nature, are problematic as to their translations. For example, here is how I have translated verses 23-24 of chapter twenty-four, which I see as a prophecy about antichrist set in opposition to the earlier prophecy of the Messiah in v.17 – exactly the same sort of true and false Messiah opposition one sees in Judah vs. Dan in Jacob's blessing of his sons in Gen.49:10-12 vs. 49:16-18 (for details about the specifics of the translation, see the link: "The Second Campaign against the South" in CT 3B):

Then [Balaam] pronounced his oracle, and said, "Alas! Who can survive once God unleashes it (i.e., the Great Tribulation)? For ships will come from the direction of Kittim, and they will afflict Ashur, and they will afflict Eber. For this is even the one (i.e., antichrist) . . . until he perishes."
Numbers 24:23-24

As to verse 17, I translate the first half of the verse, the Messianic part, to all intents and purposes just as you do. Interpretation and translation of the second half of the verse depend in great degree upon whether or not one wishes to see Jeremiah as quoting (or at least paraphrasing) this verse at Jer.48:45b. We know of course that parts of the OT are indeed quoted elsewhere in the OT (Psalms in Psalms and in Samuel/Kings; Micah 4 from Isaiah 2, etc.), and on occasion the two texts are slightly different, leading us to wonder in such cases whether we have an instance of sanctified modification or a textual error (and if so, in which of the two texts). For the line in Jeremiah 48:45 to have ever been a direct quote from Balaam's oracle seems a bit of a stretch (for one thing, the Messiah is the subject in Numbers, "fire" the subject in Jeremiah, different enough in diction, even if the Messiah is meant in the latter). But the similarities between the passages, both talking about judgment on Moab, are also impossible to ignore. The real trouble is with the second clause of the second half of the verse, and your translation, "make all the sons of Seth broken down", is a good rendering of the Masoretic Text as it stands. Keil and Deilitzsch agree with your choice of verb over noun in "broken down". The question is whether the MT QRQR should really be QDQD (D daleth and R resh are, of course, very similar in form); the latter means "skulls" resulting in "and [smite] the skulls of the sons of Seth". Jeremiah has QDQD, and it is certainly easy enough to posit how the two might have become confused in the text, since the resh and the daleth are often confused. A bigger problem is "the sons of Seth", since there is no good reason why Moab should be described in such terms. Jeremiah has "the sons of tumult" (or, as I would prefer, "the sons [doomed to] destruction"), reading sha'on, and yielding an altogether more likely sense. It is not necessary to alter the Numbers passage to sha'on to get this meaning, moreover. Gesenius (in his lexicon in loc.) had already posited that she'th was a contracted form from this same root from which sha'on is derived (i.e., sh'eth, with a quiescent aleph). If such is the case, then perhaps we can understand Jeremiah as using a more familiar word to paraphrase the Numbers passage. I am inclined to think that Jeremiah is indeed paraphrasing the passage, and that therefore he is right both about this and also about "skulls" instead of "break down", but I will note that K&D agree with your translation on that last point.

Here's wishing you and your family a blessed Easter.

In our dear Lord Jesus.

Your pal, Bob L.

Question #9:

Every time I ask you something I am blessed. I think I'm looking at the original for Num. 24.17 when I look at Jer. 48:45, rather than the other way, but I shall have to talk to God more about it.

Can you please comment on Num.24.19, "Israel acts in might that He out of Jacob shall tread down, and make a remnant destroy Edom from dwelling"...specifically, simple waw with the impf. for purpose and taking 'the remnant as the subject' of the hiphil causative who will destroy, I believe, Edom as the implicit object, from a dwelling from dwelling at all--as I believe other Scripture corroborates no Edomite shall make Eternal Life.

Speaking of talking to God, you were an excellent exegete a long time before you entered UCI for your doctorate, so your position on eternal security I don't believe comes from exegesis. When and why did you come to this opinion? I'm sorry I lost track of you for many years.

What comes to mind regarding my position of Once Saved Always Saved is our discussion of doing damage to Gen.1.1-2 and 2:4-5. How, my friend, do you not do plain damage to Eph.4.30"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption", and Heb.7:25 "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them."--both passages of which are about those able to grieve or turn back to the Law, i.e. away from Christ. And what about those rascally Corinthians whom Paul constantly referred to as In Christ as in 1 Cor.3:1-3 "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not with meat; for ye were not yet able to bear it: nay, not even now are ye able; 3 for ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal, and do ye not walk after the manner of men?"

I pursue this because behind the bedrock principal of Salvation by Grace through Faith is a second wall: the Security of that Salvation by Grace...the death of that faith in James and elsewhere ever being a problem daily in this strife in which we find ourselves; which would bring on the fiery judgment in James case, that of 70 A.D.--but not of eternal fire. And this is the view of my two good Jewish sources in Christ. If I may suggest...ariel.org and hadavar.org, and I'm going to send you the paramount paragraph No.61 in the life of Christ...stick the cassette in on your way down Florida or somewhere..it is about what A.T. Robertson calls, "the longest day". No, not 6 June 1944, but the day Israel's leadership declared Christ cast demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, and sealed the national fate of "that generation".

If I may...you "don't see it as a time-specific issue" because you haven't seen what I've seen. I'm telling you, Bob, there are more than a few things in Scripture when heard from a mature Jewish teacher in Christ that is a game changer. You also said, "Regardless of...whether we believe or if we apostatize, Jesus died for all sin..." Are you really going to tell me that Col.2.13 which reads, "You did He make alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses" as only the sins before Salvation and 1Jn.1.9 in an eternal sense instead of a fellowship sense?

You said,

"But that forgiveness is given through faith in Jesus...Unbelievers are condemned for lack of faith. If a believer becomes an unbeliever, said person is condemned for lack of faith."

Bob, you know that our faith comes and goes daily—some, yes, more or less fleshly that others…but to place the balance of eternity on whether how our faith is doing the exact instant of our death…? Where does God really draw the line in the sand? Here is another place where blessing the blood sons of Abraham in Christ comes in mighty handy. When Jesus said, "Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby", the Leadership in their writings said all had a part in Kingdom by virtue of their birth as son of Abraham, and that's all they needed—a very wide road. But Christ said…No, it is only by coming to Me… a much more narrow road.

You say,

"The fact that a person disbelieved before is not held against him if he now believes, because he is now a believer."

So, Bob, you have to make this an instantaneous thing and razor sharp fence—what side are you on when you're number is up. Isn't God's grace and the death of Jesus Who was God bigger than our evanescent faith?

You say,

"The fact that a person believed in the past avails him nothing now if he no longer believes, because he is now no longer a believer."

Avails him nothing?—come on podna', if he has produced a 100-fold, then falls away…my head is spinning. God is better and a lot smarter than that. That's not a peace that passes understanding…it's fear from I know not where.

Response #9:   

Hope you and the "fam" had a nice Easter weekend. On Numbers 24:19, your translation, which actually starts with the end of verse 18, misses the future sequence here. The much more common past sequence veyehi (often translated into Greek, esp. by Mark, kai egeneto) has a future cousin used often in prophetic discourse such as we have here. That sequence, vehayah, is what we have at the beginning of verse 18 (it's actually repeated for effect), so that the two waw's plus imperfect in verse 19 should be seen as picking up the sequence. That is to say, all of these verbs should be seen as future just as most of versions interpret them (the partial exception being the first part of your quote, the end of verse 18, where the disjunctive clause calls for a contrast though not for a differentiation in tense: "while Israel will act courageously" or sim.). In the first part of v.19 the verb is the shortened qal imperfect of radhah, not yaradh – at least that is how it is pointed. It is certainly possible that we should read wayErEdh instead of wayEredh (i.e., tsere/tsere instead of tsere/schwa), but even in that case (a change for which I don't see any particular evidence), we would have a qal and not a hiphil (the latter would be yOredh). So I still favor "And He will rule from Jacob" or sim. On the last part of the verse, I don't see any particular reason to make "remnant" the subject, and in fact "He" makes a perfectly good subject in the context: "And He will rule from Jacob, and [He] will destroy the remnant . . .". The last phrase is problematic – at least it has caused the most heartburn for translators and interpreters. The Masoretic Text has meiy'r, which ought to mean "from the city", but on account of the context miseiy'r has been suggested, understanding the loss of a letter sin. The advantage of that suggestion is that we now have Edom as the express semantic object of the destruction: "And He will rule from Jacob, and [He] will destroy the remnant . . . from [Mt.] Seir (i.e., Edom)". I'm not personally convinced. The phrase "from the city" is certainly not impossible, especially if we understand this as being Jerusalem, the place to which the Messiah returns and from which launches the battle of Armageddon. Taking meiy'r as "from dwelling" doesn't seem to me to be workable because the noun 'iyr is always concrete in Hebrew and never substitutes for a verb (as far as I know).

On the eternal security issue, I am not saying that a case cannot be made for eternal security. Indeed, this is what I often bump into. The question is not "is the position defensible?", but rather "is the position correct?" There are any number of passages that can be equally read as admitting ES or not. But I know of no passage which I personally find convincing for proving ES. On the other hand, the number of passages, especially in the NT, which are completely inconsistent with the teaching (and which cannot be read any other way or explained away) is large indeed. This is one of those areas where the weight of the truth led me to alter my position while in the process of trying to defend it. All evidence is not equal. That's what I mean about "defending a position". I will certainly grant you that many of these passages are fair "ammo" for requiring anyone to stop and consider the issue anew (as I have done many, many times). But one thing they all have two things in common: 1) none of these passages actually teach ES in and of themselves without the application of some (seemingly) logical deduction; 2) none of them really refutes the host of passages which, on the face, teach the opposite of ES.

Just for example, sealing is something God does for us. But it doesn't take away our free will. All such passages which express the blessed status we now enjoy in Jesus Christ speak to the eternal security we have from God's point of view. God never fails. We often do. Our faith may ebb and flow (sad if that's true), but the plant never dies – for all who continue to believe in Jesus Christ. That's what I mean by a logical assumption. Those who believe in hyper-eternal security are assuming "once sealed, always sealed, even if we throw away our faith", and that doesn't happen to be true. I think the Old Testament scriptures put these things pretty clearly too:

"Again, when the righteous turn from their righteousness and do evil, and I put a stumbling block before them, they will die. Since you did not warn them, they will die for their sins. The righteous things they did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for their blood."
Ezekiel 3:20 NIV

As I say, these are long and involved arguments. If you want to debate them, that is fine. If you really want to know where I am coming from, the best place to start is with the following links (which lead to other links):

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security I. 

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II. 

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

O.K., so I will have to break down and read your website, but last time I went I felt I was fighting the forest to get to the trees. It's good that you didn't give the name of the guy whom you were so cordial with in your response the other day about Bob Thieme. I didn't know Bob had a doctorate in Hebrew...would have been news to him, too. Glad you didn't say who it was...probably know him.

Speaking of responses, I think I noted you are still a "life at birth" guy. Well, after reading another friend's doctorate against Bob Thieme's position I changed. Never say that thing about old dogs, now. I don't see how one get's around John the Baptizer being joyful in the womb without all that reflex motility nonsense. Anyway, he knows better now. No, I don't want to debate you, either...I've seen what you can do to grown men seminary students in a matter of minutes. You remember that?

One more thing...I highly recommend Arnold Fructenbaum's series of the "The Life of the Messiah"....it is enough to change even your outlook on a few things.

In His Grace,

Response #10:   

Don't try and read the whole website tonight (there must be the equivalent of somewhere around 10,000 pages of material all told -- twenty plus years of work). The link in the last email is doable, however, and lays out the main points of my studies on this question (The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security). As to "forests and trees", I have made a concerted effort over the past year or so to make the site more "user friendly". Here's hoping you find it so.

On life at birth, it reminds me of the old joke: A Catholic priest, an Episcopal bishop and a rabbi were fishing when the question of "when does life begin?" came up. The priest said, "A child's life begins at conception!". The bishop said, "No, a child's life begins at birth!". The rabbi said, "You're both wrong. Life begins when the child finally moves out of the house and goes off to college!"

My main quibble with Col. Thieme's position on this is trichotomy (which is a non-biblical hangover from Latin theology and the resultant confusion of terms, especially "soul" versus animus). But life – individual spiritual life when we become who we are – does begin at birth, because that is when God gives it when He gives breath (the Col. got that part just right; cf. Gen.2:7). That is why birth is always emphasized in scripture rather than conception. Think about it. If conception produced a human spirit (which is represented and paralleled by the breath), then human beings would be entirely material, for then the spirit would just be another aspect of our material body, naturally procreated. In such a case, we would really be "unichotomous" since the spirit would be just a facet of our biological identity. After death, there would be no possibility of existence, moreover, because such a genetically, biologically produced spirit would by its very nature be incapable of existence apart from the physical body of which it would then be an integral part (and what is eternal and spiritual cannot of course be produced by what is corrupt and material).

Blessedly, that is not how things stand at all. The spirit comes from God at birth and returns to God who gave it at death. But if we accept the biological theory (traducianism), then human life is a mere byproduct of human action rather than a discrete gift from God (just like the evolutionists claim). I don't mean these as "proofs". There is plenty of biblical evidence for the fact of the gift of the spirit at birth (in fact, in my opinion all of the evidence points in that direction). But the above background is necessary to point out in the face of the "life versus choice" abortion debate (which has colored the theology in many quarters). Most Christians assume that life at birth means "pro-abortion" and therefore ipso facto life at conception is the "holy" position (without ever stopping to think what scripture really teaches). If you want an intro into my take on this, here are the best links:

Life Begins at Birth

The Human Spirit (in BB 3A)

"John "leapt for joy" in the womb - or did he?"

Your pal in Jesus,

Bob L.

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