On Knowing the Eternal State of Another

The Challenge: Though I agree with most things that you have written, I do not personally hold to the Calvinist viewpoint,

The Response: You are quite free to agree or not with anything I write. I have no ego investment in the articles I post; at least I try not to. When preparing an article, I strive to support my position with citations from what I consider to be appropriate and informative sources. I frequently call upon the Bible when addressing issues involving religion or the Christian faith.

I do not doubt that the bulk of professing Christians read the Bible, at least occasionally. There is, however, a significant difference between devotional reading and studying the Bible. The examination of God’s written revelation to man demands serious study and prior preparation.

The first task of the interpreter is called exegesis. Exegesis is the careful, systematic study of the Scripture to discover the original, intended meaning. This is basically a historical task. It is the attempt to hear the Word as the original recipients were to have heard it, to find out what was the original intent of the words of the Bible. -- Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth, © 1982 Zondervan Corporation, p. 21

The effort to reach this goal involves acquiring a familiarity with the culture, times and linguistics of the people to whom the passage was first delivered. When drawing from the Scripture I utilize, to the best of my ability, a literal-historical-grammatical approach. In this process, one examines the biblical passage in the light of historical and literary context and the actual content of the passage.

The historical context, which will differ from book to book, has to do with several things: the time and culture of the author and his readers, that is the geographical, topographical, and political factors that are relevant to the author’s setting; and the occasion of the book, letter, psalm, prophetic oracle, or other genre. All such matters are especially important for understanding…The more important question of historical context…has to do with the occasion and purpose of each biblical book and/or of its various parts. Here one wants to have an idea of what was going on in Israel or the Church that called forth such a document, or what the situation of the author was that caused him to write…The answer to this question is usually to be found—when it can be found—within the book itself.Ibid., pp. 23-24

The Literary Context…is the crucial task in exegesis…Essentially, literary context means that words only have meaning in sentences, and for the most part biblical sentences only have meaning in relation to preceding and succeeding sentences. The most important contextual question you will ever ask, and it must be asked over and over of every sentence and every paragraph, is, “What’s the point?Ibid., p.24

The second major category of questions one asks of any text has to do with the author’s actual content. “Content” has to do with the meaning of words, the grammatical relationships in sentences, and the choice of the original text where the manuscripts have variant readings.Ibid., pp. 24-25

Exegesis is the first task involved when interpreting Scripture. The second task is involves hermeneutics, the science of interpretation.

Although the word “hermeneutics” ordinarily covers the whole field of interpretation, including exegesis, it is also used in the narrower sense of seeking the contemporary relevance of ancient texts…proper “hermeneutics” begins with solid “exegesis.” The reason one must not begin with the here and now is that the only proper control for hermeneutics is to be found in the original intent of the biblical text…Otherwise biblical texts can be made to mean whatever they mean to a given reader. But such hermeneutics becomes pure subjectivity, and who then is to say that one person’s interpretation is right, and another’s wrong. Anything goes.Ibid., pp 25-26.

To read a more detailed, and easy to follow, explanation of literal-historical-grammatical hermeneutics click here

To assist folks who seek to enhance their hermeneutics skills, I strongly recommend they obtain a copy of the current edition of Fee and Stuart’s book.

Having established a foundation, I shall now respond to the content of the challenge. Having declared that he does not “personally hold to the Calvinist viewpoint,” my correspondent explained his position

since I believe that it tends to highlight certain scriptures while ignoring others that appear to contradict it.

Herein lies the reason for my lengthy preamble. I believe that the Scriptures were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Given the divine authorship of the Bible, I would argue that, in the original autographs, there are no contradictions. While there certainly are a few changes/errors that apparently were introduced into ancient transcriptions of the biblical texts by scribes, none of these involve texts of soteriological significance.

As for the issue of Calvinists highlighting certain writings while ignoring others that appear to contradict it; I agree. However, I should like to point out that this is a basic condition underlying every so-called Christian church that I can think of. The founders of those denominations that drifted away from the rootstock of the church established by Jesus Christ did so because they had “highlighted” certain portions of Scripture while tending to ignore others. So long as the differences in denominational emphasis involve forms and practices of worship, I see no problem. However, when the differences involve foundational doctrines of the faith once delivered to the saints, the issue of whether a particular denomination merits being considered “Christian” becomes significant.

My antagonist continued:

One such example is where it speaks of God's elect being according to God's foreknowledge (1 Peter 1:2). This and other scriptures fly in the face of what you have written concerning whether God knew in advance whether they would repent or not.

I wish that he had identified the conflicting Scriptures and explained how they “fly in the face” of God’s foreknowledge. The Scriptures are clear that God indeed does have foreknowledge.

2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
- 1 Peter 1:2-5, KJV

Now let us turn to the verse mentioned. In his study Bible, John MacArthur writes concerning 1 Peter 1:2—

2 elect. From the Gr. Word which connotes the “called out ones.” The word means “to pick out” or “to select.” In the OT, it was used of Israel (Deut. 7:6), indicating that God sovereignly chose Israel from among all the nations of the world to believe in and belong to Him (cf. Deut. 14:12; Pss. 105:43; 135:4). Here the word is used as a term for Christians, those chosen by God for salvation (cf. Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 3:10). The word is also used for those who receive Christ during the tribulation time (Matt.24:22, 24), and holy, unfallen angels (1 Tim. 5:21). To be reminded that they were elected by God was a great comfort to those persecuted Christians…foreknowledge. The same Gr. Word is translated “foreordained” in v. 20. In both verses, the word does not refer to awareness of what is going to happen, but it clearly means a predetermined relationship in the knowledge of God. God brought the salvation relationship into existence by decreeing it into existence ahead of time. Christians are foreknown for salvation in the same way Christ was foreordained before the foundation of the world to be a sacrifice for sins(cf. Acts 2:23). “Foreknowledge” means that God planned before, not that He observed before (cf. EX. 33:17; Jer. 1:5; Amos 3:2; Matt. 7:23). Thus, God pre-thought and pre-determined or predestined each Christian’s salvation …. sanctification of the Spirit. To sanctify means “to consecrate,” “to set apart.” The objective of election is salvation, which comes to the elect through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit thus makes God’s chosen holy, by savingly setting them apart from sin and unbelief unto faith and righteousness (cf. 1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13). Sanctification thus begins with justification (declaring the sinner just before God by graciously imputing Christ’s righteousness to him, cf. Phil. 3:9), and continues as a process of purification that goes on until glorification, when the Christian sees Jesus face to face. for obedience. Believers are set apart from sin to God in order that they might obey Jesus Christ, True salvation produces obedience to Christ (cf. Eph, 2:10; 1 Thess. 1:4-10). sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. This phrase is based on Moses’ sprinkling sacrificial blood on the people of Israel as a symbol sealing their covenant as they promised to obey God’s Word….Likewise, in the New Covenant, faith in the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross not only activates God’s promise to give the believer perfect atonement for sin, but also brings the believer into the covenant by one’s promise of obedience to the Lord and His Word.—John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible. © 1997, Word Publishing

I hope MacArthur’s exposition clears up confusion as to the meaning of the term “foreknowledge” as used in 1 Peter 1:2.

With that issue out of the way, my correspondent opened the topic that was his real concern:

What is the point of God crying out to the rebellious Isrealites, if He created them specifically to go to hell? The bible says "whosoever will", and that is where I stand.

This statement appears to address the Doctrine of Predestination; specifically the pseudo-doctrine sometimes called "double predestination."

Indeed, the Bible does say “whosoever will,” in a number of places. Unfortunately, he failed to identify to which places he was referring. In Revelation 22:17, the term is used in a passage describing God’s clemency; that whosoever will may drink freely of the water of life, because He would give that precious gift. To me, this verse makes a clear statement that salvation is available to anyone who sincerely and persistently seeks it and believes in his heart that Jesus Christ, was/is the Incarnate Son of God the Father. It might be argued that, in eternity past, God knew who would meet that standard because He had foreordained thus. In the KJV, the verse reads:

17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

Elsewhere in the Scriptures, however, we are informed that there is more involved than simply deciding to follow Christ. In chapter 9 of Luke’s epistle, for example, we read Christ’s statement to His disciples concerning what is involved in “whosoever will:”

23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.

In the Old Testament, King Artaxerxes gave a letter to the prophet Ezra in which he declared draconian measures to be applied to whosever would refuse to keep God’s law and that of the king:

25 And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not.
26 And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.
27 Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem:
(Ezra, Chapter 7)

The man then declared his position relative to Arminianism; a declaration I have no reason to doubt. However, I do believe that he lacks a clear understanding of the foundational Doctrines of Predestination and Election.

I'm not an Armenian,

.

Before closing, I should like to point out that I am not aware of any statement in the Scriptures that declares that only the elect might be saved. It should be noted, however, that the Scriptures make it clear that, since Adam’s fall, all are born in sin. To be born in sin is to be out of fellowship with God. It is, in fact, another way of saying that man is born alive in the flesh but dead in the spirit.

Salvation is a spiritual matter, as is the believer’s relationship with God. What can the spiritually dead do to help themselves? They can do nothing until quickened by the Holy Spirit—God reaching out to bring the dead spirit to life by grace and the gift of saving faith.

I now invite my antagonist and all to read again the words that I posted from my Statement of Faith:

Election

I believe that election is the act of God by which, before the foundation of the world, He chose in Christ those whom He graciously regenerates, saves, and sanctifies.

(Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:4-2:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 1:1,2).

I believe that Sovereign election does not contradict or negate the responsibility of man to repent and trust Christ as Saviour and Lord

(Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11; John 3:18,19, 36; 5:40; Romans 9:22,23; 2 Thess. 2:10-12; Rev. 22:17).

Nevertheless, since sovereign Grace includes the MEANS of receiving the gift of salvation as well as the gift itself, sovereign election will result in what God determines. All whom the Father calls to Himself will come in faith and all who come in faith the Father will receive (John 6:37-40, 44; ACTS 13:48!!!; James 4:8). THE UNMERITED FAVOR THAT GOD GRANTS TO TOTALLY DEPRAVED SINNERS IS NOT RELATED TO ANY *INITIATIVE* OF THEIR OWN PART NOR TO GOD'S ANTICIPATION OF WHAT THEY MIGHT DO BY THEIR OWN WILL, BUT IS SOLELY OF HIS SOVEREIGN GRACE AND MERCY!!!!!

(Ephesians 1:4-2:10; Titus 3:4-7; 1 Peter 1:2).

He closed with these words:

and I found Dave Hunt's book "What Love Is This?" best expresses what I believe the bible teaches.

I learned nothing from this declaration. I have not read this book.

With this and my post on Predestination and Election, I will have finished with this issue.


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