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Free Will and God's WILL in Salvation

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Question #1:

Dear Bob,

I had a quick question that so far I've yet to come across, and was curious about. Going back to how I haven't left my house in quite awhile because of what I've been going through. I can't seem to focus on doing anything, as I think I have to keep God on my mind all day, every day. I don't mean in terms of 'what would God want me to do?' if something ever happened, but I mean literally, the entire day, I feel like I need to keep God on my faith on the forethought of my mind, constantly. Am I doing this wrong? Is this an extreme I am taking things towards? I know there's the extreme of just not thinking about God and His will, ever, but there is the opposite extreme, right? Like, I cannot seem to do anything, just about, without associating God with it or not wanting to think about anything else at all, to a potentially detrimental effect, as you've read about here. I am just not quite sure what to do in this situation.

Another thing I wanted to ask about, or at least get some clarification on, is repentance. I don't know if I am doing this wrong or not, but whenever I sin and repent, I feel the need to say what the sin was (even listing them out), and I often find myself repeatedly asking for forgiveness. This may fall a little bit into the 'mental illness' category, as I often feel the need to repeat certain things. I'm not full-blown OCD about anything that comes to mind, but sometimes I feel like I have to repeat certain actions 'to perfect' or to make sure it 'takes', and I seem to do it with repentance, as well. I guess that part of me wants to 'make sure' that my repentance was indeed sincere, or that I want to 'make sure' that God knows I'm sincere or what my sin was? I want to know if this is unhelpful, as God knows all, and I know that, but the impulse to repeat myself or spell out my sin continues to rise up. I even still feel the need to repent of sinful thoughts that come to mind.

Part of me still feels for those who are not saved, especially those who do know and just reject the word. That same part of me, which last night was going "it doesn't seem fair", has quieted down some. I think the more I tell myself that I need to stop leaning on my own understanding (IE my own 'sense of right and wrong') and focus on the Word and God's understanding. I make sure to try to see the whole picture, from his point of view (not that I possibly can see everything the way God does).

At first glance or face value, it is easy to think 'it doesn't seem fair to those people', but when you think about it from God's point of view, they are quite content just ignoring Him or, in many cases, flat out rejecting or mocking Him. I also remember that, while in appearance it may seem harsh, I remind myself that there is a battle going on right now that none of us can see. I still wish to see all saved, but I then remembered that faith is all about our own personal relationships with the Lord. Why is this no different? In this particular sense, I need to stop being worried about other people. Whether people are saved or not is between them and God, not me and them or all of us.

Response #1:

That is the correct perspective. I like to point out that any unbeliever who ends up staying in that state to the end of life would do it again if he/she had a thousand lifetimes. God set this all up perfectly, and I believe (and teach) that He being perfect did so in the perfect way, so that, Jesus having died for all, all who are willing to be saved are saved. That is the perfect plan of God as opposed to all other possibilities which didn't happen.

On confession and repentance, I think you should focus on the attitude of your heart rather than on the mechanics. God is not a lawyer. He knows your heart perfectly. If you are honest and heartfelt in your confession, then one time does it and, as it goes on to say in the 1Jn.1:9, "and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" – meaning that even if we are not exactly correct in the evaluation of our conduct from a strictly technical point of view or forget something, He will still honor our prayer of confession. God, after all, is "greater than our hearts" (1Jn.3:20).

Here are a couple of links on this:

Unbelievers, Free Will, and the Plan of God I

Unbelievers, Free Will, and the Plan of God II

Unbelief and its Consequences

Salvation, the Gospel, and Unbelief.

It's none of my business, but I think you would be happier overall and make more progress spiritually too if you got outside and did some regular exercise and developed a regular out of the house routine. If jobs are hard to come by, there is always volunteering (just as an example). Outside of the garden, none of us does particularly well if we don't have a day's worth of responsibilities, even if they have to be self-imposed.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hi Bob,

I am making a distinction between terror and horror in the subject line. I am not terrified of hell, but I am horrified that 99% of humanity is going there. I am sobbing and in intense spiritual anguish. I woke up from nightmares about this.

I am incapable of seeing any good or redeeming feature in this world. Please pray for solace.

This didn't bother me before, but this bothers me now, for some reason. I believe that God is just and that I am not more merciful than He is, but now, emotionally, this bothers me.

Response #2:

We are supposed to hate this world, because all that is in this world, what the eyes and flesh lust for and what the ego boasts about, is not from the Father but the world under the devil's sway (1Jn.2:15-16; 5:19). Once we finally have it "up to here" with the world, we are ready to set our sights on the next one. That is the proper Christian perspective. The fact that most human beings would rather go to hell than accept the Gift of Christ so as to live with the Father and the Son forever just shows that we are all better off for their having a free-will choice about this. They wouldn't be happy in heaven and we would be unhappy with them there – as it is we won't give them much thought at all if any in our blessed eternal future. On the other side we will realize these truths about eternal self-determination all that much more deeply.

YOU are going to be in heaven, so YOU do not need to worry at all. But if your concern for others is a catalyst for ministry in fighting for the truth, well, that is a good thing as well.

A few links:

Unbelievers, Free Will, and the Plan of God I

Unbelievers, Free Will, and the Plan of God II

Unbelief and its Consequences

Salvation, the Gospel, and Unbelief.

Your friend in Jesus Christ the only way to righteousness and life eternal.

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi Bob,

This is a question brought to me by an unbeliever that I simply do not have an answer to.

Suppose that, in an alternate version of WWII, Hitler repented of his crimes just before he was killed in an airstrike. Then Hitler is in heaven while his six million victims, being Jewish, are in hell. How is this fair?

Note that I do not believe that the concept of grace is unfair, but this is a question that I do not have an answer to.

Sincerely,

Response #3:

Since you know the principle, and people who ask these kinds of questions really do "get it" too, I think my answer would be something like: "Suppose that you find yourself at the eternal judgment bar in a few short years and try to lay that kind of specious argument on the Lord. Do you really think that will get you anywhere with Him? Your clever arguments are only succeeding in giving you a false confidence that because YOU think there is some horrible inconsistency in the way God is working things, that therefore He ceases to be God? Or that He will give you a free pass out of hell because you are so very clever? The devil thought the same thing; he was wrong – and he is much smarter than you. And all this is based upon hypothetical arguments cooked up in your own mind! You should realize that in any situation or event which actually DOES happen there is so much you cannot know about what went on the hearts of those concerned. But you think you have hypotheticals which never did and never will happen figured out?" There is only ONE plan of God: what actually did, is happening and will happen. There are no alternatives because only THE plan is perfect – nothing else would be.

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.  

Question #4:

I like the answer! This kind of questioning reminds me of Psalm 73

"When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you."
Psalm 73:21-22

But as he became focused on Christ, those questions were stilled, and he remembered the correct perspective to view these matters. (Psalm 73:17). The same solution lies in Christ, whose mind and reason exceeds all sophistries of this age. 

Response #4:

You're very welcome, my friend.

Keep running a good race – it results in a rich reward.

In Jesus who is our all in all.

Bob L

Question #5:

Given a million monkeys a million typewriters for an infinite amount of time, will one of them type out a work of Shakespeare?

The answer is that we cannot say that they will. But the probability that they will is 1.

You see, most non-mathematicians don't realize that a probability of 0 doesn't mean "impossible," and that a probability of 1 doesn't mean "inevitable." When dealing with infinite sets or infinite time, it becomes important to note that probability can sometimes stop corresponding to potentiality.

Sincerely,

Response #5:

I don't know the math, but I do know that there is only one Plan of God, the one in which Jesus Christ actually did die for this sins of every single human being. For that reason, hypothetical alternatives are just so many angels dancing on so many pinheads – when in fact angels have more important things to do than dance on pin heads.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Dear Dr. Bob,

Seek your advice to determine whether Paul speaks to in 1 Corinthians 3 to saved people practicing sinful acts or those saved and now gone back to their old sinful way of living?

The fact that he says you still live in flesh tells me that they are not the ones that Holy Spirit indwells.

Blessings

Response #6:

These are believers Paul is addressing in Corinth. They are not, however, walking in all ways as they should. When it comes to certain things wherein Paul upbraids them throughout this epistle their conduct is so out of line that as here he has to address them "AS fleshly" not as "AS spiritual". By position, we are sanctified. By salvation, we have the Spirit. But just because a believer is a believer does not mean that he/she is always (or even mostly) going to live in the perfect holiness to which we have been called. And just because a believer has the Spirit as all believers do, does not mean he/she is going to respond to the Spirit's guidance at all times and in a perfect way. These are our objectives as believers, and we should be pursuing them aggressively day by day. Not all do. If we do move forward spiritually we will get better about responding to the Spirit in all things and we will become more sanctified in our conduct in all ways just as a matter of course (which does not mean that it wont' be a struggle or that there won't be regressions to deal with as well as progress). This pursuit of sanctification is part and parcel of what the Christian life is all about (or should be: Heb.12:14): growing in Christ, passing the tests of life that come to the advancing believer, and helping others do likewise as we come into the ministries our Lord has for us. The Corinthian believers are a good example of the occasional disparity between what a believer should do and look like and what believers sometimes actually do and do look like. Paul's exasperation here shows that he wants them to come along on the road with him more quickly and more consistently, and this epistle is a guide and a prod and an encouragement to do so. There is much more about this issue of sanctification and the difference between position and experiential sanctification at the link: "Peter #30: Sanctification in Time".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hi Bob,

Why are humans the only animals to be unsatisfied by food, water, sex, health, and shelter? Give any dog those five things and he'll be happy indefinitely. Give humans those things and he'll probably be sleepless and in discomfort.

Sincerely,

Response #7:

It has to do with free will (mixed with a sin nature). It's a nice observation to show people who wonder about it why God did not just make everyone perfect in a perfect world without going through the angelic rebellion and human history. In that case, we'd merely be pets. But Christ has thrown in His lot with us, becoming a human being Himself! Not to mention buying us with His blood on the cross, so that we might have free will and a choice about whether or not to call Him "Master". God the Father really does love us – and that is why we can only be "indefinitely happy" through Him through Jesus Christ our Lord.

In our dear Lord Jesus.

Bob L.

Question #8:

Bob,

First, thanks again for all you do and for your ministry. You are equipping the saints, and that's what we desperately need.

I have been discussing/debating a friend of mine all summer on the whole election/free-will debate. We have over 50 pages of back and forth on this. I have read all your various studies and email responses on this and equipped myself with personal study of the Word as well.

I have summed up my position as this:

The way to salvation was predetermined before time. The Holy Spirit draws sinners to God by hearing the word of God. God foreknew who would heed the call of the Holy Spirit by hearing the Word of God; those are the Sheep for His Shepherd. He thus predestined them in time and space where He saw fit, and they will be called and they will hear the Shepherds voice, and they will follow Him. He will justify them by their faith in the Shepherd, and glorify them in eternity. It's all based upon His foreknowledge of their acceptance.

I also mentioned to Him the story Christ provided about the Rich Man and Lazarus: The rich man, who was in Hades awaiting judgment, wanted Abraham to send someone from the dead to his brothers to warn them. Abraham said, they have Moses and the Prophets, and if they failed to listen to them, then they will not listen to someone who has been risen from the dead. It is the Spirit that speaks through Moses and the Prophets; it is the Spirit that raises the dead. Christ makes it clear (I believe) that it's not about our circumstances, but the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and whether we hear and believe. It doesn't really matter what we've done, or when we were, but the simplicity of acknowledging the truth of the Holy Spirit and believing. Those who fail to listen and accept what the Holy Spirit is shows as truth commit Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

He brought up a passage that seems to contradict this:

Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24 Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you."
Matt 11:20-24.

This seems to imply that some people received special revelation (demonstrations of God's power), and had others received that same revelation, they would have repented. What is the answer to this apparent 'unfairness' of God.

After further study of these verses, it appears that there is no contradiction. These verses are not talking about salvation, but God's judgment.

Salvation comes from repentance followed by believing. This passage isn't saying those Tyre and Sidon would have been saved, it says they would have just repented of what they were doing. The same goes for Sodom. God would have relented His judgment against them, not that they would have all been saved. It doesn't say Tyre and Sidon would have been given eternal life, it only says that their day of judgment will be more tolerable. God is amazing, and perfect in His ways.

Response #8:

Good to hear from you again, and thanks much for your kind words.

As to your question, for me this always seems to get back to how "big" a person thinks God is. If God is just a sort of superman in the clouds, well then perhaps figuring all this out and keeping track of it would be too hard for Him. Of course in truth our God is infinite; the universe is inestimably tiny in comparison with Him. Moreover, He is not subject to time or space, and nothing that happens in time and space could have happened were it not for the fact that He decreed it. Wrapping our minds around the magnitude of Him, His power and His goodness, is well nigh impossible – except to realize that in regard to any aspect of Him and His creation we might consider, the proper way to describe them is "absolutely perfect in every way".

"Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father."
Matthew 10:29 NASB

"Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God."
Luke 12:6 NASB

Consider: God tracks the life of every small bird – in the history of the world; and nothing happens to even one of the smallest of God's creatures without it having been reckoned into the plan of God and foreordained. Our Lord's point here surely is to let people like your friend know that every detail of life in this world has been given precise consideration in the plan. Of course it goes even deeper than this; it would be impossible to know everything about every bird and not know very much more. In fact, nothing happens, ever happened, or will happen in history from the original creation to the end of time when the present heavens and earth are destroyed that has not been foreknown and entered into the divine decree of the all-comprehensive plan of God. Now to do this of course, God had to anticipate every action by every agent, whether possessed of free will or not; and so He has. Human calculation is not able to fathom a number so large that would encompass every alternative possibility even in the universe actually created just with the actors actually created in it. But God has indeed done this, decreeing only what has, is, and will actually happen in this one, perfect plan – and this is child's play for Him. The hard thing was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ dying for our sins.

Once we come to recognize something of just how big, how powerful, how capable, and how good our God is, the concept of Him being able to allow free will and yet anticipate every action so as to also decree it ahead of time is easier to understand and accept. Indeed, as I often say, free will is only possible because of God's decree, because we are only here by being created by God and could only even have free will, the image of God, through His gift of it to us, and we can only exercise that free will in an environment He has provided - - the world of time and space – and all of this is founded on the Rock of Christ, His perfect person and perfect work for us on Calvary's cross.

As to the "problem passage", I think you have got it right. Our Lord is talking about a hypothetical that did not happen; if these people had been interested in being saved, these miracles would have been provided – for God is absolutely just and fair. They were not provided because they in fact not willing to be saved (see the link: "Woe to you, Bethsaida!"). There is also a lot about the Plan of God in BB 4B Soteriology under "God's Plan to Save You".

Good job on your part here!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Long time since I've written you but your writings have really helped me. I love how you show Scripturally that God extends saving grace even to those who have not heard the Gospel! I can see that apart from taking away mans free will to choose his own destiny, its OK to be a Universalist! God wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth! The least real repentance will be noted by God, who would much rather correct a sinner than send him into everlasting destruction! I found an old reading that I think resonates with your reading by C. L Parker over 100 years ago.

http://www.truthforthelastdays.com/completeworks/completeworks.html

There is the sin mentioned by our Lord in John 9,41; 15,22-25. This Sin is so enormous that our Lord speaks as if no other sins counted in comparison; "If I had not come and spoken unto them they had not had sin", He says. He describes this sin as a whole-hearted hatred for His Father and Himself in the light of His perfect teaching backed up by His perfect works. It is irrational hatred of God in the light of full understanding. There is nothing to be said in extenuation of such sin: it is the sin of Satan who urged Job through his wife to curse God to His face. Even the men of Tyre and Sidon, of Sodom and Gomorrah, had not gone so far as this, but would, as our Lord Himself said, have repented if they had had the opportunity which was given to Bethsaida and Chorazin!4 We are to remember here that the men of Sodom and Gomorrah had actually had the testimony to The Living God of Melchizedek, Abram, and Lot. Yet this testimony had not been backed up by such works as our Lord performed in Galilee, which would have produced repentance. No man (including one who has never heard the Gospel) therefore is hopeless in our Lord's eyes until he has committed this sin of deliberate rejection of the Gospel of God preached in the convicting power of the Holy Ghost; "but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men" (Matt. 12,31). The horror of this Sin is that even God has no argument left wherewith to bring such men to repentance: this hatred is eternal (ongoing) (Mark 3,29 R.V.).

Response #9:

It's good to hear from you again, my friend.

Thanks much for your thoughtful email. God knows the hearts of all, and He knows how those hearts would respond in each and every hypothetical circumstance. Those who are lost, therefore, are completely culpable, because not only did they fail to accept Christ in this life (whether or not they rejected Him outright) – and that is proven by an examination of their actual lives – but also because their hearts were such that they would have rejected / failed to accept Him no matter what circumstances the Lord graciously provided for them – apart from Him actually taking away their free will.

If you haven't already done so, you might want to take a look at the section in BB 4B Soteriology where this is discussed at length: "God's Plan to Save You".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

We humans want creativity and spontaneity, and yet we want a stable, unyielding foundation.

Is this a desire for God?

Response #10:

I would say on both hands that it ought to be. Only with God is there discovery of anything good; only with God is there anything that actually lasts. But if the proposition were true in every respect, everyone would come to God. He has put "eternity into the hearts" of all in this way (Eccl.3:11), that all might come to see that only in Him through Christ is there anything worthwhile or lasting, while everything on this earth is evanescent and fundamentally unsatisfying. However, to want Him is to want to respond to His WILL, and most people prefer the transient and terrible to the everlasting and fulfilling – when it is a question of subordinating their will to His. That's why history and free will within it are such a crucial part of the astounding plan of God: it's the perfect device for having all self-select for Him or not for Him, for heaven or hell respectively.

In Jesus who is our all in all,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hello Bob I pray that all is well with you and your family.

What about those who died never hearing the word; what will they be judged by? Did you know they are airing on fox tv a series called Lucifer …. Just saying….sign of the times

Evan so come quickly, Lord Jesus

Your sister In Christ, (impatiently waiting for his return)

Response #11:

Good to hear from you!

As to the question of "what about those who never heard the gospel", this is something that seems hard for people to answer but it is not hard for God. God knows the hearts of all, and knew them all perfectly before He created the world. Everyone has been put in the perfect place and in the perfect life circumstances to bring about the perfect result: the salvation of all willing to be saved. For those who were not going to be willing to be saved, and who subsequently presented negativity to God about becoming His when they reached the age of accountability, there was no obligation on God's part to present them with a gospel message they already had no use for. The Tribulation will be unique in that there will be a universal presentation of the gospel to all who are still alive (this takes place at the Tribulation's mid-point: Rev.14:6-11), but even so few will repent of their evil and turn to God instead (e.g., Rev.9:20-21; 16:9; 16:11; 16:21). Here are some links on this issue:

Are Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel Lost?

Is God fair to condemn those who never heard the gospel?

In BB 4B: Natural Revelation and Accountability

Yes, the times are scary ones. All the more reason to prepare for what is coming in a diligent and godly way.

I'm keeping you and your family in my prayers day by day.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hey Bob,

First, I thank God for your ministry, and I pray you are in good health, and good spirits.

I have a question on God's hardening. From my study, it appears that much of the hardening that occurs from God is indirect. In that He presents truth to you, you stubbornly reject it and suppress it, and believe a lie. Every time God presents truth to you and you stubbornly reject it, you build up your stubbornness and truth in the lie (that what He is proclaiming is not true). So God proclaiming more of the truth to you, knowing full well you are going to reject it, is God indirectly hardening your heart.

It also appears that even with this hardening, that you are still capable of repenting (the Jews that have a 'spirit of stupor' and a partial hardening) and can turn back to Him.

Is there anything in Scripture that confirms that God directly causes us to build up a wall (harden our hearts) to the truth? It seems that would be completely antithetical, as He proclaims the truth to us, and then fights against Himself by making us not believe.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

In Christ,

Response #12:

I think you have this very well thought out! Hardening is something "we do", but the process is one which God has set up (the inner workings of human "psychology" are divinely engineered, after all). This process of hardening of the heart is not there to prevent the truth from being known; it's there to preserve free will. If we saw God face to face, we couldn't help but to "believe". Unbelievers who don't want to believe have to be allowed to disbelieve, so that much of the way the visible world works via divine construction is to allow just such "plausible deniability" for all things true. Satan and his angels who see God face to face all the time would be unable to persist in their horrific course if they were unable to harden themselves against the obvious truths of God's foreknowledge and omnipotence (for example). The most famous case of hardening is that of the Pharaoh of the exodus who was given by God a special ability to harden himself precisely so that he could do what he really wanted to do even in the face of divine power so unmistakably demonstrated. Without such special dispensation, even the most (normally) hardened human being would have "caved" in the face of such an awesome display of the power of God.

"But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth."
Exodus 9:16 NKJV

Here are some links which explain all this further:

Hardening Pharaoh's Heart (Exodus chapter 14)

Hardening of the Heart (in BB 4A)

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Bob,

You quoted a passage I have been studying in terms of this topic, and your language expertise would be of great help:

Exodus 9:16 (NASB)
"But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth.

The verb here, and the context, seems to indicate that God withheld destroying Pharaoh and Egypt. God allowed Pharaoh to continue to exist (and continue to harden his heart against God's power). The Hebrew verb from what I see in the concordance is "to stand, to remain, to endure". But this raises a question with Paul's quote:

Romans 9:16 (NASB)
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH."

Paul seems to alter the meaning of the Hebrew, and instead uses the Greek verb meaning "to raise". I see that the only other time this is really used is "He will raise us by His power" (1 Cor.6:14). Paul seems to alter the meaning from Exodus to say something different: God's purpose from the beginning was to raise Pharaoh up (make him ruler of the world) and harden Pharaoh's heart so that God could show His power and declare His name.

It seems like these two verbs are different, and thus give us completely different meanings of the text.

Are they both true? Is that Paul's' point? Pharaoh hardened his heart, and God allowed him to continue (by giving him the ability to do what he wanted) by supernaturally hardening his heart. God foreknew all of this, and predetermined to raise Pharaoh for this exact purpose?.

Is Paul making the point that National Israel was called and chosen for His purpose (to be the people that received the law, the prophets, the oracles, etc), and they were chosen by nothing they did. Furthermore, despite all that God showed them of Himself, they still wanted to be disobedient, so God allowed them by giving them a spirit of stupor to have ears that didn't hear, and eyes that didn't see. Even in all this, God continued to have His hand outstretched to them, a disobedient and obstinate people (He didn't have to, but He was showing them mercy). Finally, because they willfully rejected the Messiah, God has allowed (partially hardened them, is this active or indirect?) and brought salvation to the Gentiles, all in order to make them jealous. They can still hear Him and be grafted back in. Lastly, all this was foreknown and Israel was raised up for this specific purpose, just like Pharaoh. Is that anywhere near what Paul is trying to say?

In Christ,

Response #13:

Here is how I have translated the verse:

Indeed, for this very reason I have raised you [Pharaoh] up, namely, to demonstrate my power to you and to proclaim my Name in all the earth.
Exodus 9:16 (cf. Rom.9:17)

The Hebrew verb 'amadh does mean "to stand" in the qal stem, but in the hiphil stem as we have in this context it is causative and usually has a very decisive force, especially when the Lord is the subject; e.g., "establish" (1Ki.15:4); "assigned" (2Chron.33:8); "appointed" (2Chron.35:2); "caused to stand [firm]" (Ps.31:9); etc. The verb in this stem never has a concessive force. The incorrect translation you include is found, as far as I can tell, only in the NASB. This is rather puzzling a little disturbing. My guess as to the reason is that it is an attempt to solve a theological "difficulty" by means of a wildly inappropriate translation – precisely the sort of thing that the NASB vaunts itself as correcting. I suppose it's really just a question of what theology motivates the particular version when it comes to such "inventions". So Paul's translation at Romans 9:17 – which does not follow the vexed LXX here by the way, so that we may be sure that the apostle felt strongly about providing his own literal translation – is saying precisely what we find in the Hebrew.

I think if you will have a look at the previously provided links you will find the answers to all these other questions – which I think are really one question. The answer, in a nutshell (without the details) is that God is the Agent of this action . . . but so is Pharaoh. God does not take away Pharaoh's free will; God empowers it (by hardening him so as to be to act against God in spite of the overwhelmingly obvious folly of it in the face of such signs of divine omnipotence). God puts Pharaoh where he would have chosen to be (absent being subject to divine will) for God's own purposes, and thus makes use of the "wrath of man to praise Him" (Ps.76:10), when Pharaoh does as predicted which is precisely what he chose and wished to choose.

There is much more about the interaction between human free will in the image of God and how it syncs perfectly with the plan of God and God's predetermination of all things at the link in BB 4B: Soteriology, section I: "God's Plan to Save You".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Thank you Bob. Good to know that Paul wasn't using horrible exegesis, and it was just my lack of understanding! FYI, I have read your links, and before I send you questions, I always do thorough searches on your site first.

Another language question from Malachi 1:2-3:

I have loved you," says the Lord. But you say, "How have You loved us?" "Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?" declares the Lord. "Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness."

From looking at the language:

The first loved in the Hebrew is written in the perfect. Can you explain what that means here?

The second loved (as referencing Israel) is in the imperfect. What does that mean here?

Lastly, the hated (as referencing Edom) is again in the perfect.

It seems to indicate from the passage that God is saying if you look back at the two nations, you can see my love for you since the beginning. The Edomites served the Israelites, and furthermore, I have destroyed the Edomites because of their envy and anger towards Israel.

If this means what I think it means, it seems to indicate favoritism, preferential treatment, and God doesn't show favoritism. He even commands us not to show favoritism. Now I know that God does favor and treat His children (those that have faith) better, and that is according to His promise. He has decreed that if you are wicked, He will treat you accordingly, and if you are good (which only comes by faith), He likewise treats you accordingly.

God foreknew the faith, or faithlessness, of both nations, and called and elected them for His purpose? He uses our will within His purpose. But, Romans seems to indicate that our will isn't a factor in God's purpose?

I understand God places us all exactly where He so desires (Acts 17) and our greatest purpose is to seek and put our trust in Him, and He gives us everything we need to do that. I also understand that our earthly purpose (and even gifts) are completely His will.

I guess it really boils down to these phrases: Mercy upon whom I will have mercy, compassion on whom I have compassion, and harden who I harden.

I know God is not arbitrary. I know God does not show favoritism. I know salvation comes by faith alone. I know our earthly purposes are completely up to Him. I know God desires all to be saved, and He is patient with us.

If we are without faith and being wicked (like Israel creating the golden calf) and God shows mercy in not destroying us, is that considered favoritism if He doesn't do the same for others?

Are we saying that if you don't have faith, and God knows you are not going to ever put faith in Him, then His treatment of you, to include your calling and purpose, Him showing mercy, Him hardening the will you have in your heart, is totally up to Him and His purpose? In mulling this last line over, I can't see any reason this violates scripture, and seems to support it.

Your brother in Christ,

Response #14:

The tenses in the Hebrew are as you describe, however, the imperfect is waw sequence here – which means that it has the force of the perfect (they used to call this this "waw conversive", though now it is more often called the "waw consecutive"). In any event, this is a BH idiom (unknown to Modern Hebrew speakers who don't study the Tanakh, by the way). The bottom line is that we can't make anything out of the difference in tenses since to the native speaker of the time there was no difference in the force in this particular grammatical construction.

On the other issue, I think you have the elements of the answer in your email. As I say in BB 4B about this issue, "God makes us who we wanted to be, and we wanted to be whom God makes us". In other words, God does not take away the free will of those He chooses to harden; rather He hardens whose who choose to reject the truth through their own free will. There are two ways to look at this issue used by scripture. The most common way is that everyone "gets what they deserve", and that explains the multifarious commands, warning and exhortations in the Bible (pointless indeed if we were who we are independent of any decisions we might take). The other way to look at it is from the standpoint of the Will of God and His foreknowledge and foreordination of all things in His perfect and all comprehensive plan. From that point of view, He hardens whom He chooses, and He has mercy on whom He chooses. But as you say, this decision on God's part is by no means arbitrary: only those who choose to reject Him, His mercy and His truth, come in for this treatment. The free will we each have as a function of the image of God we have been given is the key to all things in history; with it we act "like God" – except for the very important point that we are NOT God. Yet we can decide what we deem to be true and what we will reject as untrue. Truth is truth, so everyone who rejects the truth is making a godlike decision which makes clear that they despise the actual God and would replace Him if they could. These two things, the Will of God and man's free will, are not actually incompatible; much to the contrary we could not have free will / the image of God without God's decree of all things, for that provides the environment (i.e., the world and creature history, all proceeding according to the plan of God as He has decreed it) for us to exercise that free will. As I say, much more about this at the extensive link in BB 4B.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hello Bob

You are always in my prayers. Bob, Isaiah 24:5 speaks of the inhabitants defiling the earth and they have transgressed laws, Changed ordinances, Broken the Everlasting covenant. What is the Everlasting Covenant and how can It be broken if it is everlasting?

And he will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.
Isaiah 25:7

Sincerely asking

Response #15:

It's good to hear from you.

As to the "eternal covenant" in Isaiah 24:5, I take this to be the testament of salvation, anticipated under the Old Covenant and made manifest under the New one:

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV

The veil spread out over all human beings is the veil of death separating us from God which is only removed in Christ. Veils obscure vision, as did the veils of the temple, but our Lord split the veil (Heb.10:19-20; cf. Matt.27:51), making possible eternal life for those who put their faith in Him, so that in due time . . .

. . . he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever.
Isaiah 25:7b-8a

So yes, this veil of death, separation from God, and ignorance about the only solution to it, is only removed in Christ:

But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.
2nd Corinthians 3:14 NIV

Keep up the good walk with Jesus Christ!

I have been keeping you and your family in my prayers day by day.

Yours in our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hello Robert

I have heard of many interpretations of help and I have been meaning to ask you a question. Are there any buildings or things you'd find on Earth in hell (forgive me if this sounds ridiculous).

Response #16:

Good to hear from you. I think it's only natural to wonder about these things. The eternal state of unbelievers is "the lake of fire". The passages where this is discussed (in Revelation 20:10-15 and elsewhere; see the link) don't mention any such thing. While it's not impossible, buildings exist for the comfort of human beings and there is no comfort in hell (M,.9:43-48); also, we who do believe will be in heaven where there is eternal comfort (and where there are buildings – in the New Jerusalem on the new earth), and we will be little concerned with hell at that point.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Hi Dr. I hope all is well with you. As always, your ministry, your family and you are in my prayers.

In reading this morning in Ezekiel 18, where God challenged the saying in verses 1-2 by stating that everyone will be judged for their own actions and not based on the conduct of their parents. I need some enlightenment. There are numerous instances in the bible where God states the obvious. That the iniquities of the parents will be visited upon the children. Here are some bible passages that mention this :Ex 20:5; 34:7, Num 14:18, 16:27, 32, Josh 7:24, 2 Sam 21:1-9.

Why in this particular instance versus the others mentioned above God stipulates that each person action will be rewarded individually? If a person turns away from sin no wrath and if a person sins, then wrath.

Somewhat confused on why mercy in this instance versus the others where it was blanket condemnation. I understand that we all stand condemned apart from Christ but I am specifically speaking about this situation.

Thank you very much In Christ our Lord

Response #17:

I have written about this issue before. Please see the links:

Breaking the cycle

The Third and Fourth Generational Curses

Breaking the Generational Curse?

The bottom line for me is that God has always dealt with us as individuals. There is such a thing as "blessing by association" (see the link), and also the reverse: if a person is in a long line of individuals who despise God and His truth, then piling on the cursing is an understandable thing. However, whenever anyone turns to the Lord, there is forgiveness and mercy, regardless of the antecedents.

Keeping you in my prayers day by day, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Bob,

I pray all is going well. As I said in my last email to you, I have been having a many-month discussion with a good friend of mine on election/free-will. I have no questions on this; it's perfectly clear to me that God desires us to be saved, and gives us everything we need to be saved, and only wants us to accept Him; those He foreknew would accept, He then predestined according to His purpose.

I have recently went through a detailed study of Romans, and have learned a great deal. These were things I "knew" but didn't necessarily have the "scriptural proof". Anyway, my study and discussion has led me to a question regarding Regeneration vs. Baptism of the Spirit. I have read through your Ministries of the Spirit but still have some questions.

Clearly the scripture teaches that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Baptism) is new to us, starting at Christ's glorification (John 7:39).

I was always under the impression that Regeneration/Circumcision/Baptism from the Spirit was all the same thing. However that raises questions, and it appears to be wrong.

The OT Saints did not receive the indwelling of the Spirit like we do today. However we know that there were people saved in the OT. The NT teaches that no one can see the kingdom of God without being born-again (John 3:3-5).

Titus 3:5 states:

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit

I have always seen 'washing' here as spiritual baptism. Is that not the case? The Greek definitely has the 'and' (kai). So we see here a washing, AND a renewal, both done by the Spirit.

So my questions:

Those that accept the Truth of God (like in Romans 1:18-31) and don't suppress the Truth, and in turn seek to honor God; are they 'renewed' from Titus? This seems to match with Romans 12:2, which says we who don't follow the world but are transformed by the 'renewing' of our mind. It appears that this renewal has happened to all (even the OT saints) when they put faith in God. NT Saints, on the other hand, also receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; this is possible because Christ has been glorified.

With Regeneration (in Titus); this appears to be the born-again act, or indwelling act of the Spirit. We know all must be born-again to enter the kingdom of God. I assume that when Christ descended to Hades, and moved the OT saints from Hades to the Third Heaven, that they were regenerated/born again at that time? This couldn't have occurred yet, because Christ was not yet glorified. Is this correct?

Praise and Glory to Him,

Response #18:

Good to hear from you, my friend, and good for you that you are continuing your work in service of the truth of the Word!

As to your questions, I think we do have some conflation/confusion here which I will try to help you clear up. Regeneration, being "born again" as in Titus 3:5 is salvation. Salvation has always been the same for all – except for the fact that while today, after the cross, we see Christ clearly as the only object of salvation, in the Old Testament the soon-to-be-believer looked forward to the cross, shrouded yet in mystery, having faith in God's promise to forgive sin through the redemption wrought by His Chosen Sacrifice and give eternal life to those who put their faith in Him:

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;
Job 19:25-26 NIV

The saved person has always been regenerated by the Spirit – which means receiving eternal life on the one hand (placed among the ranks of the living in "God's books"), and a new lease on spiritual life on the other (the cleansing of the heart by the Spirit so as to be able to see things from God's point of view; please see the entire section in BB 4B: Soteriology: "Spiritual Rebirth"). This is all accomplished by the Holy Spirit. He also was ever "with" OT believers, helping them to learn, understand and apply the truth (Jn.14:17). Our great benefit is to actually have the Holy Spirit within us, and oh what a benefit that is! We are much closer to the Lord as a result, even though that may not seem to be the case for many believers who are not making full use of this wonderful blessing. So the baptism of the Spirit, that is, the Spirit's taking up of residence within us on the one hand and entering us into union with Christ on the other is unique in the Church Age since the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. But all believers have always been saved through the same basic method and the agency of the Spirit. It's what we get at salvation now and what happens for us at salvation now which is so different.

The believers in Paradise were not allowed into the third heaven not because of any deficiency in the process of salvation but because their sins had not actually yet been atoned for. They were saved "on credit", so to speak, and accompanied our Lord Jesus to the third heaven only after His successful disposition of all human sin on the cross (Rom.3:25).

I recognize that there are many aspects to these somewhat involved questions. I think that the link above will be helpful in tying up and loose ends, but do feel free to email me back in any case.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hi Bob,

How could the Old Testament believers be saved if they didn't know about the Trinity?

Sincerely,

Response #19:

Salvation has always been the same: faith in God's deliverance from death through His rescue/redemption of us in forgiving our sins through judging a Substitute in our place. OT believers looked forward to this solution to sin dimly seen in the shadows of animal sacrifice; NT believers look back to the cross and the actual sacrifice of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the God-man. Both have believed in the One who would and now has saved us from our sins. Now that Christ has been clearly revealed, He is the only proper object of faith for salvation; trusting in the Lord to provide that Substitute before the cross and before the revelation of Christ was precisely the same act of faith. So it's not a question of knowledge but a question of faith. Today, if anyone wants to be saved, even if they grow up in an environment of OT focus (such as an Orthodox Jewish household), the truth will be made known to them. At that point, it's no good saying "I have faith in God generally to provide a substitute for my sins" because God already has now provided the actual Substitute. After the cross, things have changed from anticipatory ritual to blessed reality; anyone who pretends to be equal in faith by clinging to the former is of necessity willfully rejecting God's provision and unveiling of the latter. Christ has thus always been the object of faith in fact, anticipated "through a glass darkly" before the cross but seen clearly afterwards.

(10) Even as they foretold this salvation that was to come to you, the prophets of old diligently investigated and inquired about this [gift] of grace, (11) being eager to discover the precise time the Spirit of Christ within them was signifying as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories [of salvation, among other things] that would follow [the cross]. (12) For it was revealed to them that in prophesying these things, they were not so much serving themselves as they were you – and these same things have now been proclaimed to you through those who gave you the gospel through the Holy Spirit, sent from heaven – even angels want to look into these things.
1st Peter 1:10-12

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hi Bob,

Strictly speaking, it would then only be necessary to accept the deity of the Son, the deity of the Father, and the hypostatic union of the Son with humanity to be saved, not necessarily the Holy Spirit.

Sincerely,

Response #20:

Blessedly, the Lord is not an accountant. Even when things seem impossible for us to the point that we may be tempted like the disciples to ask the question, "Who can be saved then?", we take refuge in our Lord's rejoinder, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matt.19:26 NKJV).

Anyone who has ever been willing to be saved has been saved. Faith is the channel God has provided us through which this salvation comes by grace, namely, our free will responding to the true offer of deliverance He provides (Eph.2:8-9). I am sure that throughout human history the average of all the spiritual I.Q.'s of those who have been saved at the point when they were saved has been exceptionally low (mine certainly was). What matters is not knowledge but the acceptance of the truth through faith – as the Holy Spirit makes the essentials of the gospel clear to each and every heart willing to hear the message. No one has ever gone to hell through a technicality or a lack of knowledge. God knows the hearts of all, and the Spirit is the perfect evangelist, making sure that everyone willing gets just what they need to know about the Substitute our Savior in order to put their faith in Him and be saved. Anyone who resists salvation will find plenty of reasons for doing so (as in getting embroiled in technicalities); anyone who is overjoyed to accept Him will be helped to do so. Thus has it been since Adam and Eve (having only the symbol of substitution in the animal skins God used to replace their human works fig leaves), and so shall it be until history's end. This is why, for example, Paul can say with a clear conscience . . .

The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.
Philippians 1:17-18

Even when the gospel is presented by unbelievers from wrong motivations, the Spirit is not restrained and can take the truth and make it clear to those receiving it with joy. God works all things out together for good for those who love Him – including those who want to do so.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Romans 11:38 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi Bob,

One comment: it appears that the prophet Daniel may have had some understanding of different hypostates within God, as evidenced by Daniel 7:9-10. So it may not be true that all of the Old Testament saints were ignorant of the Trinity.

Response #21:

It's a great example, and I would agree that there are actually a good many places in the OT where the Trinity is obvious or at least it is obvious that there is more going on than modern Judaism would admit, for example. As in the quote previously offered, the OT prophets accurately recorded the truth under the inspiration of the Spirit, but that doesn't mean that they completely understood everything they wrote (1Pet.1:10-12). They were "diligently inquiring" but "in prophesying these things, they were not so much serving themselves as they were you", meaning that they were looking "through a glass darkly" on this subject. I would also add that there is a huge difference between inflexible anti-Trinitarianism (as in Judaism today) and understanding that one is dealing with mysteries which have yet to be fully revealed (but fully trusting in God all the same). The latter is the godly position of OT saints (and ours too on other subjects about which the Bible does not give us all the details we should like to have). Here are a couple of links on this:

The One True God and the Trinity in the Old Testament.

The Trinity in Isaiah 63:10-15.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hello sir I've read through your website and really enjoy the way you balance scripture and divide the word of truth. I was born again 14 years ago and served the Lord faithfully for about 7 years. However I ran into some problems with the independent fundamentalists I was involved with. I began to question some of their doctrines and had a fallout. My wife's family tried to get her to leave me and it hardened my heart and my mind was blinded. I became addicted to alcohol and marijuana and stopped going to church consistently for years and I was unsure what church to go to. I had assumed since I was saved in an IFB church that their doctrine was correct. So I gave up on church but still believed in Jesus Christ, still prayed, watched tv church, and read scripture occasionally. I've committed many terrible sins and my heart is broken. For years I tried to quit drinking and finally when I forgave those who hurt me and let the anger go I was delivered from the bondage of addiction. Once I returned to the Lord I started reading some troubling doctrines online that say I can lose my salvation. I had never thought that was a possibility. I have taken full responsibility for my sins and forsook them. A tremendous fear came over me and for about 3 weeks I couldn't eat, sleep, or function. I saw all my horrifying sins for what they were. I felt as if demons were tormenting me telling me I'm doomed to hell and to kill myself etc. well I held on throughout this ordeal and eliminated anything sinful in my life. I'm terrified I've committed apostasy since I sinned willfully and I knew it was wrong. Yes I was addicted and yes I was weak and at times I fought sin but other times I just went my own sinful way.

I am starting to feel the peace of God return to my life and I've had consistent victory over sin for a month, church attendance, and scripture reading. My heart is broken for what I've done. Have I disqualified myself from eternal life. I believe osas is a dangerous doctrine but I still believe deep down God is giving me another chance even though I have all these fears of loss of salvation. I'm still not sure if I believe in eternal security or not. I'm just so upset and broken that I've disgraced God and given Satan an opportunity to accuse and mock him. If I were lost would I even be asking these questions? I know Hebrews speaks of a fearful expectation of judgement and I wonder if that's what I'm feeling although I've always had a panic disorder. Another part of me praises the Lord for showing me the error of my ways and teaching me to hate sin again.

Sorry for the long message but I need some help. Do you believe that I've gone too far and lost my salvation? I just want to get back into the Lords service and have sweet fellowship with him again. And of course not be condemned.

Thank you

Response #22:

Good to make your acquaintance.

Let me start by assuring you that you are saved. You are a believer, and all believers are saved (e.g., Jn.3:18). Only those whose faith dies out entirely to the point where they are no longer believers in Jesus Christ at all anymore are apostates. That is what apostasy is. It is true that rebelling from Christ's authority and falling deeply into sin is a dangerous business, and it can result in apostasy occasionally. However, the way in which that happens is often misunderstood through approaching this issue in an emotional rather than a scriptural way.

Sin is "lawlessness", that is, a rebelling against Christ. We all sin (Rom.3:23), we all stumble (Jas.3:2), we all require confession to restore us when we do sin, and we make God out to be a liar if we claim we have no sin or haven't sinned so as not to need to confess (1Jn.1:5-10). However, there is a difference on the one hand between fighting the fight out step by step and becoming more and more sanctified day by day on the one hand (i.e., doing a better job in resisting "to the point of blood"; Heb.12:4), and on the other hand giving in to sin and ceasing to fight. It is possible to stay close to the Lord in the former case (after all, there is no man who does not sin at all; 1Ki.8:46), but falling into the latter pattern always involves "a far journey" away from the Lord – as in the case of the prodigal son analogy our Lord gives us. In that latter case, we can expect divine discipline to ramp up and our lives to become more and more miserable . . . with the precise purpose of leading us back to Jesus, just as the prodigal son came back – just as you came back. Please understand: God disciplines us so that we might come back. God wants us to be saved, wants all to be saved, and takes "no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezek.18:23; 18:32). I doubt that there are many believers who have not at some time in their lives taken the sort of prodigal son "far journey" that you describe. The details vary, but what we all have in common in this regard is our restoration to fellowship when we do come back to the Lord, just as in the parable.

What is God's attitude to our return? We may be down on ourselves (and rightly so); but even though we might be willing to throw ourselves out of the family of God in our guilt and remorse, here is what the Father says:

"The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ "But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate."
Luke 15: 21-24 NIV

You came back. So you don't have to worry about your status as a born again child of God. You are a believer, and all believers are saved.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

What happens for those who don't come back like the prodigal son (and you and me and most Christians who are walking with the Lord today have)? That is where the problems you fear lie (not in the case of those who do return). For those who refuse to return to the Lord, eventually one of two things happen. The first possibility is that the discipline and trouble which falls to the lot of those who are backsliding away from the Lord ramps up to the point where they are taken out of this life; this is the "sin unto death" of 1st John chapter five. Some believers who get to where the prodigal son got never return. At some point, the Lord becomes unwilling to put up any longer with their increasingly poor witness, and they are removed from this life. This is not apostasy, however. These people, poor Christians that they are, are still believers, even though their spirituality is at a low ebb. In eternity, they will have the lowest rewards, but they will be there along with us.

Apostasy is something different. In the parable of the Sower, our Lord notes that there is a category of believer who is only temporary, one who receives the Word with joy but then falls away: "they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away (Greek: 'apostatize')" (Lk.8:13 NASB). The testing or temptation which leads to falling away from the faith, that is, which leads to a complete loss of belief in Christ, may come in many forms. In many cases, the person in question suffers some loss or disappointment and blames God for it. Once a person is no longer a believer, that person is an apostate. The definition of apostasy is no longer being a believer when in the past the person was a believer. In such cases the individual is generally allowed to live the rest of his/her life (as opposed to being taken out of life in a horrible was as in the case of those dying the sin unto death); that is because it's no longer a case of coming back (the person is not interested in doing so), and no longer a case of being a bad witness (the person is no longer a Christian). Please see the main link on this for the details: Apostasy and the Sin unto Death (in BB 3B).

I do understand about the guilt of removing oneself far from the Lord and doing things that afterwards one is ashamed of doing (Rom.6:21). However, once we do confess our sins, we are forgiven (1Jn.1:9). At that point, any residual discipline we receive is for blessing, not for cursing (Heb.12:1ff.; cf. Ps.109:27-28); sorrow may "last for a night" but "joy comes back in the morning" (Ps.30:5); so we may say with the Psalmist that"it was good for your servant to be afflicted" by the Lord's discipline, because this is the way we "learn" (Ps.119:67; Ps.119:71; P.119:75). Looking backward is only salutary to the extent that it will actually help us to avoid the same pitfalls in the future. In general, we Christians are to be looking forward, not backward.

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

Inordinate guilt about past mistakes is a trap many Christians fall into (see the link). Agonizing over the past does no good and is a questionable practice: Christ died for the sins that we are upset about; we have been forgiven these sins; and all sins are sins for which Christ died. Inordinate feelings of guilt past a certain point by their very nature question the character of God and His promise to forgive, fail to understand the sacrifice Christ made to cleanse away all sins (as if our sins were more important than His work), and reflect an unbalanced perspective on this issue (we may be upset by sins ABC, but not XYZ – but all sins result in condemnation absent propitiation, and Christ had to die for XYZ for us to be saved, regardless of whether or not we think them as bad as ABC).

If you believe in Jesus Christ, you are a believer. Period. Whatever happened in the past makes no difference to your present position in Christ. Peace will come to you on this issue with concomitant spiritual growth. So take my advice and commit yourself to a course of growing in Christ so that you may advance and produce a bountiful crop that yields a wonderful eternal reward.

Here are some links on all this which I hope you will find helpful (do feel free to write me back about any of this).

Salvation and Sin

No, Hebrews does not teach that you lost your salvation

Combating Legalism V

Confession of Sin in John 1:9

Sin according to the Bible: Hamartiology I

Sin according to the Bible: Hamartiology II

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Bob,

As usual your teachings and explanations make more sense than any others I’ve found, especially on the most confused and muddied issues of theology. Thank you. Also, thanks for the link to A.B.E. This week I purchased all the works recommended at Ichthys, and I can’t wait to begin studying. The other translation of Gesenius I was referring to was the pdf linked at Hebrew Language Resources, with the description "…Users of Brown, Driver, Briggs will often be surprised to find that Genesius' [sic] definitions and root derivations are often at variance with BDB (but always helpful and often superior)." There are several pdfs of other printings of the same Gibbs edition online, but I was seeking a print copy. I may have found an 1832 printing (I’m not picky about condition as long as the text is all there and readable).

Things are going really well with my mom. We got up to chapter 21 in Matthew this past weekend, and she seems to be believing. She said that she wants to read the Bible from cover to cover now. I had ordered one and it came on Friday (before the snow) so she has it in print as well as the app on her phone. We got 30" of snow in that big storm, and I’m very glad I was there to help shovel.

I have some other things that have been on my mind for a while:

1. As I learned from your writings, during the Jewish Age God dealt with Israel corporately and everyone was considered to be a believer. So, therefore, assuming an Israelite made it through life without losing their faith, they went to Abraham’s Bosom when they died and are in the Third Heaven now with the Lord. Does that mean that if an Israelite happened to commit a sin that required their death under Mosaic Law (e.g. adultery), but they still hadn’t completely lost their faith, when they were killed under the Law they still went to Abraham’s Bosom? If no one goes to Torments or the Lake of Fire because of their sins, then as long as this person wasn’t an apostate but simply a sinner, they wouldn’t lose the salvation that was theirs by nature of being an Israelite, right? So, does that mean that because Israel was supposed to be a purified and sanctified, holy people who were to represent their Holy God to the world, all of the sins outlined in Mosaic Law that were to be punishable by death were really "sins unto death" for the Israelites? This would be a grand case for demonstrating the benefit of taking a Godly point of view instead of a worldly one. From God’s eternal point of view, in the death of these people under the Law for their particular sin, He would be concerned with making the nation of Israel holy, and with making sure these people retain their eternal salvation. Thus their only real "punishment" would be the loss of potential opportunity to gain further eternal rewards in their lives on earth. When one focuses on eternity, instead of the short life we live in which everything is passing away, it becomes clear that the "harsh" punishments in the Law were not decreed by an "evil", but rather a benevolent and loving God. Regardless of whether that interpretation about how things worked in a bygone age is correct, it is still important to recognize that as long as you have faith in the Lord now, death is not something to be feared no matter how that death comes about (as long as you don’t commit suicide, that is).

2. In the study of Romans with my Polish friend/coworker, we came to a halt in chapter 9 over the issue of free will vs. predestination. I fully believe and understand from your writings that it’s not free will OR predestination, but rather both exist together; and they’re not contradictory, but rather complement each other perfectly. I spent two weeks trying to explain to him in every way I possibly could, but he couldn’t get it. I read to him from Ichthys about it and he couldn’t understand it. I used scripture to show that free will has to exist, and he accepted that it was true. Then I used scripture to show that predestination has to exist, and he accepted that it was true. I then said that, therefore, both have to exist at the same time, and he said that’s impossible. I was frustrated, and eventually said that we were never going to have a resolution in this argument so we needed to move on. Obviously this is an issue that people have argued about for millennia. I don’t want to disparage anyone, but I don’t necessarily want to blame myself for failing to get through to him. However, I brought this topic up again with my uncle and cousin at Christmas, where there was no potential language or intellectual barrier (although the barrier there was faith), and they insisted that they understood what I was trying to say but they couldn’t believe it was true or possible. You understood this issue completely, enough to write what I feel is a pretty thorough explanation of it at Ichthys, and I have understood what you’ve written enough to feel I completely understand how this works, are we the only two people in all of history who have been able to understand that free will and predestination don’t contradict each other? Are there some people who, even though they believe in the bible, will never be able to understand this concept (until eternity)?

Yours truly in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Response #23:

Great news about your Mom! Keep up the good work in Jesus Christ!

On your questions, with the first one I fear that you have misunderstood my point somewhat. God considers all Israel, corporately, in the nation of Israel under the Law, to be of the status of believers taken together. However, it is certainly the case that individually not all Israel is Israel nor has it ever been (Rom.9:6) – only those of the faith of Abraham are actually his spiritual seed (Gal.3:7). Just as today I dare say only a percentage of those who identify themselves as Christians really are believers, so it was the case with Israel from the day of the giving of the Law until the day of Pentecost (and there is certainly plenty of scripture to show the truth of this). As it says in Genesis:

And he (Abraham) believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
Genesis 15:6 NKJV

So as Paul tells us (Rom.4:1ff.), only those who are of the faith of Abraham are truly his sons and daughters; those who do not believe are not. This is the distinction between corporate sanctification and individual responsibility, something unique in Israel because Israel was uniquely called out from all the nations of the earth to be the Lord's special possession, His chosen people (Ex.19:5-6; Is.65:9; 1Pet.2:9). Therefore the Lord comports Himself toward Israel as a corporate unity – but of course also deals with each individual in absolute justice and fairness on a one to one basis. The Law, which governed Israel both secularly and spiritually, considered all to be of the corporate community (the community "of faith", in principle, but certainly never in practice in its entirety). Merely being born Jewish – while it has always been "an advantage in every way" as Paul tells us (Rom.3:2) – is no more of a guarantee of salvation than being born gentile is a verdict of condemnation. But to make the point for all the world to see of God's people versus "those who are not my people", the nation of Israel as a whole was opposed by God to the gentile nations of the world to demonstrate that critical difference. In practical terms, there were always gentiles who believed (and so were not disadvantaged by their lack of natural affinity to the nation belonging to God), and there were always those of Jewish birth who did not believe (and so did not benefit from their priceless and wonderful heritage). It is for this reason that the Law comports itself towards those under it as if all under it are not only believers but are also walking in perfect sanctification; the net result of which for all who have a shred of humility is to recognize how far short we all fall . . . so as to lead to faith (Gal.3:24)

As to the question of free will versus God's WILL, this is a critically important question, but it is not surprising to find resistance to the answer inasmuch as making an issue out a perceived conflict here is something many groups and theologians have done in the past. I note that it poses no problem for the believers and writers of the Bible, so that – far from being the only ones to understand this matter – we who follow this correct interpretation are following in the footsteps of the apostles and believers of the early Church (n.b., one of the more frequent questions I get about the teachings at Ichthys has to do with this "are we the only ones?" issue, something that is inevitable with an internet ministry where all who share in it cannot really have personal fellowship one with another except in rare cases; but I can assure you that we are not alone, even if, because of the lukewarmness of Laodicea, we are in the minority).

I think the essence of the "problem" for those who see a problem always goes to their notion of who God is. If we are not understanding just how great God is, then something like this will seem impossible. If we are focused on the material universe as the "all", then we will be imagining a god who is small in relative terms, whereas our God exceeds the universe to an infinite degree. Nothing is impossible for Him. If we really do realize just how "big" He is in every way, not only in His size and strength (words which do not really even do Him justice), but also in His goodness, love, mercy and wisdom, then we should have little trouble in understanding that complete anticipation of absolutely everything that even might happen – as well as constructing the perfect unity of all that actually did happen – is a simple thing for Him.

Are we any less free because He knew what we would do? Are we any less free because He allowed us to be who we wanted to be and do what we wanted to do? Are we any less free, that is, because He created us? It seems to me that people who quibble on this point would only admit to free will if there were no God, or if everything happening were unpredictable and not in God's control (which amounts to the same thing because then there would be no true God), or if we were gods too (which is what those who oppose Him really want). God could have made us with no free will at all, with no image of God. But it is that very image of God which allows us to quibble. Assuming or asserting that God didn't know ahead of time that we would do so dangerously underestimates the magnitude, greatness and majesty of Him with whom we have to do.

One last important point, because everything always goes back to the cross. For us to be saved, God had to take on true humanity (which the Son did), and then die for the sins of the world. But how could He die for each and every sin of each and every person who had ever lived or would ever live if anything in the past or the future were unknown to God? Only if everything is predestined could there be absolute propitiation of sin at the cross. Further, God is not the author of sin – heaven forbid! Yet every action we take, every decision we make, is predestined. How is that possible since God is holy? It is only because we have the image of God, genuine free will, that we are able to commit sin by placing our will above His WILL – and only because Jesus died for all those sins that we are able to have that sin forgiven and come back to Him, after we recognize that it is not our will we wish to follow (that only leads to death), but the WILL of the One who loves us and who gave His one and only dear Son unto death for us that we might have the very righteousness of God and live forever with Him who bought us by His blood.

In Jesus Christ who is our dear Lord and Savior.

Bob L. 

Question #24:

Bob,

Thank you for the clarification. I guess I mis-spoke (mistyped?) in trying to figure out my question on Israel. I do understand the distinction between considering the nation as a whole and dealing individually with each person, and that salvation has always depended on faith. I guess my question is: what happened to a person in Israel before the time of Christ who committed adultery and was put to death under the Law (Leviticus 20:10)? Did they go to Paradise or Torments? As long as they weren’t apostate, and still had some faith left, they would have gone to Abraham’s Bosom, right? Obviously their faith wasn’t stellar if they were committing adultery, but of course no one is perfect.

On free will, I have noticed that resistance to accept that our free will isn’t inhibited by God’s knowing everything that would happen comes from an under-appreciation of the omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, infiniteness, and perfection of our God. I have also seen agreement with the objections in Romans 9:19-20. My friend (who is worried about a relative of his in Europe who converted to Islam a couple of years ago) actually said, "If you’re going to end up a Muslim, then you’re going to be a Muslim. And there’s nothing you or anyone else can do about it because who is able to resist God’s will?" And my cousin and uncle argued that if some people are going to end up in the Lake of Fire, "why did God have to make them that way?" I suppose that Paul’s next statement (Rom. 9:21) explains this as an under-appreciation of the authority of God over his creation (although in my cousin’s case it starts from his belief that there’s no "Creator" to begin with). I told them that Paul said, "But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?" (NIV) I tried to explain that only God the Father knows what’s going to happen, and no one else, so that’s why everyone needs to hear the Gospel and it’s all up to individuals exercising their free will (because they don’t know what will happen). But they still could not accept that.

I suppose it was a little impetuous of me to think that we are the only two who have ever understood this. Obviously the writers of the New Testament understood it, but they were also gifted with many other things by the Spirit which are not being given today. I know very little of Church history, especially of the early centuries, but it’s good to know that the early believers understood this issue properly too.

In Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,

Response #24:

Yes, you see my point perfectly. If someone was put to death under the Law, that doesn't mean that they had no faith (although as you rightly point out it's not a good sign, that is if the verdict was correct . . . in this hypothetical case). Believers are saved; unbelievers are not saved. That was true for Adam and Eve – and Cain; that has always been true for every descendent of Abraham and remains true today for every human being. The way of salvation has always been the same; the presentation of the issue (or "dispensation" of the truth), varies from God-given period to God-given period. The truth has never and will never change; how it was given to people before the incarnation and the cross was necessarily different than what we have today.

On free will, it certainly comes down to individual cases. However, in my experience and observation the main reason why unbelievers wish to claim there is no free will (since they are not merely defending a cherished denomination's view) is to avoid personal responsibility for rejecting salvation. Unbelievers all came to the knowledge of God, His justice and omnipotence (Rom.2:19ff.), so to get through this life without responding to Him requires the donning of some sort of mental armor so as not to have to face the truth continually with all the uncomfortable consequences (scripture calls this "hardening of heart"). Recognize, of course, that everyone understands that they have free will – since everyone uses theirs every day. What such people want is not any diminution of their right to choose or their ability to do so; what they want is to be relieved of any eternal responsibility for their choices. So if they can blame God (because He predestined everything), they imagine that they have "an out" if and when they ever have to answer for their choices. This is very much along the lines of unbelievers who are fixated on the "what about the people who have never heard the gospel?" argument; they seem to have convinced themselves that because God "unfairly" denied these people "a chance to be saved" that for that reason "He cannot condemn anyone". This is satanic reasoning (literally, the very arguments Satan used), and reasoning ignores firstly that the person in questions has heard – and is no doubt disputing with someone who has just given them that very gospel. It also greatly misunderstands God, His motives (He wants all to be saved), His love (He actually did condemn Christ for all such person's sins), His ability (He certainly not only knows who wants and who does not want the gospel, and is also certainly able to provide that gospel everywhere to anyone who has ever wanted it), and His character (given the above, it is beyond all argument that there has never been a single person who has gone to hell because of a lack of information – it has always been through choice).

The free will quibble you are dealing with seems to me to be similar because it is being used as a "get out of jail free" card for a relative about whom your friend is concerned. I certainly understand that. But it is obvious to any educated person of normal intelligence that people are making their own decisions. God is not to be blamed for that, and especially when we consider that this is the opposite of what He wants and that He has done absolutely everything possible to prevent the loss of such individuals – short of violating their free will, that is – He sent His Son to die for their sins.

Indeed, it is all about free will. The fact that our decisions have been perfectly woven into the texture of the one perfect plan does not change any of this – in fact it is essential for it. God knew that if He initiated creation, creating the one perfect world wherein there could be free will choice by morally responsible creatures as to whether or not they were willing to live with Him as their God forever, that most human beings would reject Him – and that Christ would have to pay for their sins anyway so that we who were willing might be saved. But He did it even so. That is love beyond comprehension. Selling it short or finding fault with it is . . .

On the early Church, what I mean is that these principles are ubiquitous in scripture and are presented without any need felt to explain this latter day controversy. In my view, the controversy is the result of theology, and demonstrates the problem with theology. The Bible is clear for anyone who studies it carefully; explaining the Bible to growing Christians is needful and beneficial; developing theological systems that are several steps removed from the Bible, and then, worse to tell, developing theology from theology (rather than from scripture) can be terribly destructive – and that is the history of the church-visible in a nutshell.

Best wishes (and continued prayers) for your evangelizing of your family and for your good and patient work with your friend.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25:

Your studies and postings have begun to illuminate for me the true extent of Christ’s suffering on the cross in his taking on all of everyone’s sins. So, He died for every human’s sins from Adam and Eve until the end of the Millennium (and 7000 years of human history), except the "unpardonable sin" of blaspheming the Holy Spirit by rejecting the Gospel (because He couldn’t die for the sin of rejecting Himself). My question involves the unbelievers who die having rejected God. Are they punished solely for the unpardonable sin? Or are they punished for every sin they committed, since they didn’t accept Christ’s paying of that penalty for them, and thus since He did suffer on the cross for those sins the penalty is paid twice? Please correct my understanding of that aspect.

Response #25:

Unbelievers are not punished for their sins in the sense of having to pay the penalty for them – Jesus has already done that. And no human being could withstand judgment for sin and not be immediately obliterated – except for our Lord because He is also God (cf. Heb.9:14). Unbelievers are judged by their works (which are seen to be not sufficient for salvation); they are then consigned to a place of cursing, but that is inevitable since there is only blessing with God. They don't want God, so they can't have blessing, and they deserve all the cursing they receive in the lack of fire, having chosen that for themselves in place of an eternal life with God because they were unwilling to acknowledge Him as God. If the descriptions of the final state of the unbeliever in scripture seem horrible, it is because they are – but this by no means punishment in the sense of payment for sins. Otherwise they might be able, theoretically, to expiate their sins over trillions of years – but it cannot be done, and, in any case, does not need to be done because Christ has already done it. Please see the link: "The Last Judgment".

Question #26:

Hi Bob,

I was reading the life of Elie Wiesel, who, at 15 years of age, had to live through Auschwitz-Birkenau, watch his father die in an extermination camp and know that several of his family members died. I wept. I am deeply disturbed by his story.

More than anything else, I must ask: why did God intervene to save my friend from suicide after fervent prayers, but didn't intervene to prevent this from happening? Before, I praised God, because I knew that I would be devastated by his suicide, and couldn't bear it, but did God give Elie Wiesel an unbearable burden?

Sincerely,

Response #26:

It's amazing to me that people who have suffered so much and seen so much don't rush to the Lord and to His mercy ever graciously extended in Jesus Christ. There is no better demonstration of the fact that we do genuinely have free will and that the human heart is capable of the most appalling hardness.

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

Matthew 13:19 NIV

The Greek here translated by the NIV "does not understand it" (i.e., the gospel) is me synientos and is better translated "doesn't let it in". When those who are "masters of their own fate" hear the gospel and refuse it, they are saying that they don't want to relinquish their self-determination so as to be obedient to God: i.e., they prefer their will to His WILL – even though submitting their will to His is the only way to life eternal in Jesus Christ. They refuse to let the truth in – and when they do reject the truth they necessarily open themselves up to the lies of the evil one. Refusing the truth necessitates accepting a lie. Everything in this world which contradicts the truth is of the evil one. Once the truth is rejected, the evil one substitutes something the person in question will accept in its place. What unbelievers want is to be God in a world of their own making; they can't be (obviously) so they accept some other myth that promises them a type of happiness they find acceptable. It's all so much obvious nonsense that believers of simple heart can't imagine why oh why unbelievers keep doing this, especially when they've seen and suffered so much – all of which ought to scream at them that they are wrong to reject God and His gracious provision for an eternity with Him. But they want self, not God, however they personally construe it.

I praise the Lord that you have put Him first before all that is in the world.

In Jesus Christ our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #27:

Hi Bob,

If I were in Mr. Wiesel's shoes I would be greatly aware of my need for God but I might be inclined to doubt the extent of his providence. Job doubted the extent of God's providence too. But we are after all sentenced to the surface of the sphere of the extermination camp called Earth.

I also believe that there is a difference between suffering and evil. Cancer is suffering, but the Holocaust was pure evil. Suffering doesn't bother me, but evil does. Death is the greatest of all evils.

I still thank God that Mr. Wiesel is still alive, and I have nonetheless prayed for him. I believe that Jesus promised to bless those who are mourning with comfort, even if it seems impossible from the earthly perspective.

However, I am most disturbed that the Holocaust happened in the heart of Christendom.

Response #27:

There is no legitimate reason to doubt God or His provision – something all of us who believe had better remember very well once the Tribulation begins. What we may have to suffer at that point is likely to be just as severe or even worse – but God does work all things out for good for those who love Him (Rom.8:28). He protected the exodus generation from Pharaoh, even though they suffered much, and He delivered them with an upraised hand. He can and will do wonderful things for us as well when the darkness falls. But only those who have faith and endure until the end will be delivered (Matt.10:22; 24:13). I do note that Mr. W. was delivered is still alive – isn't that a demonstration of the mercy and love of God, even if Mr. W. chooses not to respond to Him? I'll say a prayer for him too.

As far as "Christendom" is concerned, however, the world may think there is such a thing, but in fact there is "the true Church" composed of believers around the world who have actually been born again. The correspondence between this group, the true "Church militant" and visible "Christianity" is far from overlapping or exact. Using the church visible as a touchstone is thus a grave mistake. Unbelievers who do this are merely appropriating an easy excuse for what they believe (and refuse to believe) as they rightly point out the deficiencies of a Christianity which is Christian in name only, but "God is not mocked" on this or anything else.

It all comes down to what we as individuals choose to do with the

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

 

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