I have been asked to do a post on free will and the charge that those who believe in free will are heretics. For those who are questioning why I have a new post on Free Will under password protection, it will be released soon. I am just waiting for the article to be reviewed and then I will be removing the password protection and releasing it to the public. I hope you find it helpful. It is very detailed and I believe will help many.
What is the problem? It is common for Calvinists to argue that humanity can’t have free will because free will would necessitate a salvation based on works. Although the Bible does not make this claim, people have been subject to unfair accusations of heresy by overly zealous Calvinists. This article is a four-point answer to some of the main concerns used to attack free will.
Is faith a work?
Does free will nullify salvation by grace alone?
Does acceptance of free will prove that one has “another gospel”?
Does man’s free will response to God’s gracious gift stop God from receiving all the glory for salvation?
Challengers who define repentance and faith as a works-based gospel also claim that God must gift us with faith in order for us to believe. They argue that only those whom God has unconditionally chosen to be saved from eternity past will be drawn by God. I am deeply saddened by the division that has resulted from such charges against Bible-believing Christians and I hope that this article will be a comfort to many who find themselves confused by this controversy. Note: my first point is the most detailed, and points 2-4 are short.
I welcome respectful dialog and I also welcome other questions that I may use as the basis for other blog posts. I am currently editing a DVD project on John 6 called The Giving. This project may make me slower to answer questions. Please be patient with me.
1. Is Faith a Work? God’s Testimony of Abraham the Believer
If faith is a “work”, then God would have established this assertion through the account of Abraham who is called the believer. Abraham is central to the question of faith because the Bible tells us that the gospel was preached to Abraham and he believed.
Galatians 3:6–9 (NASB) 6Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” 9So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
The testimony of God is:
Abraham responded to God by believing Him
Abraham’s faith was reckoned to him as righteousness
Those who believe are sons of Abraham and justification is by faith
Abraham had the gospel preached to him
Abraham is called the believer
The transfer to Abraham was righteousness NOT faith
Let’s dive a bit deeper to investigate the meaning of “and it was reckoned to him”. The BDAG Lexicon lists Galatians 3:6 as an example of the word reckon that means “to determine by mathematical process, reckon, calculate, frequently in a transferred sense“:
What was transferred to Abraham? Let’s double-check the original narrative in Genesis that identifies the transfer of righteousness to Abraham’s account and look at what Abraham believed.
Genesis 15:3–6 (NASB) 3And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” 4Then behold, the word of the Lordcame to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” 5And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
In Genesis 15:5, the NASB says, “your descendants” but the literal wording is your seed (singular), not plural. Galatians 3:16 points this out and identifies exactly who that one singular seed is.
Galatians 3:16–18 (NASB) 16Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. 17What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.
The elements of this testimony of Scripture are:
Abraham was promised that his seed (the Christ) would come through his body.
Righteousness was gifted (granted) to Abraham because he believed God.
The promises given to Abraham were ratified by God’s covenant 430 years before the law was given.
We notice that the promise to Abraham came before his action of offering his son.
Abraham’s faith was not called a work by God.
The gift of righteousness and the promises to Abraham were ratified by God through a covenant. As a gift it was not attached to merit.
God “granted” to Abraham the same inheritance as Christ, who is Abraham’s righteous seed. The gracious gift to Abraham was not a result of works. Below is a screen print of the Greek term translated as “granted”. Notice the terms give, graciously, beneficent, and goodwill.
Abraham was “granted” the sign of God’s goodwill. God’s promise to Abraham and his seed was the inheritance of the world. Romans 4:13-14 reveals this promise and the passage also acknowledges how that promise could be canceled.
Romans 4:13–14(HCSB) 13For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14If those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made empty and the promise is canceled.
Once again, what is commonly translated “descendants” is a single seed, not many seeds. Below is a screen print showing the grammar.
God’s gift cannot come through the law, or else the promise would be canceled, and faith would be left without having any effect. The works of the law are on one side and faith is on the other. They are separated and cannot co-exist. If faith IS a work then faith would be eliminated and the promise would be canceled. Consequently, nobody would be saved.
“IF those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made empty and the promise is canceled.” Romans 4:14. This verse is a conditional statement yet a condition that cannot stand alongside God’s promise. If faith is a work of the law, then faith cannot be approved nor can the promise stand. But since God’s promise stands by His oath and His oath cannot be invalidated, faith cannot be a work of the law. God proved this by giving Abraham the gift of righteous before the law came and before Abraham obeyed God by offering his son on the altar.
Romans 4:14 is highly important and it is listed in the BDAG lexicon as an example of what would be rendered void with no effect.
God makes it abundantly clear that Abraham’s faith brought righteousness as a gift, and that if faith was a work, then the promise would be canceled. How could God be more clear?
Abraham’s faith was tested and shown to include the belief in the resurrection
After Abraham believed God, God tested him. This is where we find out the completeness of Abraham’s faith in God. Abraham’s works are evidence of God’s testing after he was said to have believed God.
Genesis 22:1–2 (NASB) 1Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
Abraham was obedient and he did exactly what God had instructed him. In the book of Hebrews, the author reveals the extent of Abraham’s faith and his motivation.
Hebrews 11:17–19 (HCSB) 17By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He received the promises and he was offering his unique son, 18the one it had been said about, Your seed will be traced through Isaac. 19He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead, and as an illustration, he received him back.
The HCSB translation does a good job of translating this verse. Abraham “considered” God to be able to raise him from the dead. The Hebrew term for considered has the sense of a conviction. Here is a screen print of my Logos software’s entry for this word.
The BDAG lexicon goes further by listing the Hebrew word as ponder or letting one’s mind dwell on something.
Abraham gave careful thought to God’s ability to resurrect the dead.
Since the Messiah was to be called (or traced) through Isaac and God told Abraham to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice, Abraham understood that the one seed would die with Isaac. Yet, Abraham was convinced that God would raise Isaac from the dead. In that resurrection, Abraham believed the promised seed would live. Abraham believed the gospel- the death and resurrection of the Messiah by receiving back Isaac as a type or parable of the future event when God would offer up His one and only Son on that very same mountain.
Abraham was recompensed for his actions. The Greek term means to be paid back — to be recompensed, conceived of as being or becoming remunerated for something one has provided.
Abraham received back Isaac and in him Abraham’s one seed. The BDAG lists Hebrews 11:19 as an example of getting back what is one’s own or owed to one.
When God transferred righteousness to Abraham’s account because of Abraham’s faith, it was not a debt that God owed. Righteousness was defined as a gift to Abraham. But later God gave Abraham a test of obedience and this test resulted in a recovery of what Abraham already had through faith. God paid back Abraham’s actions of offering his son with a restoring of what belonged to Abraham. Abraham’s son was borrowed by God as a parable for the death and resurrection of the Messiah.
Abraham received Isaac back as a type (literally a parable) for Jesus.
The BDAG lexicon specifically lists Hebrews 11:19 as a model or example pointing beyond Isaac for later realization…as a type (of the violent death and of the resurrection of Christ).
Summary: Is faith a work? It is not possible for faith to be a work that merits salvation because of God’s testimony to Abraham. God gave Abraham the gift of righteousness because of faith before Abraham showed his works in obedience.
Challenge: For those who say man’s response to God’s offer is a work, I ask you to prove that from the Scripture. Show me where the Bible defines saving faith as a work?
2. Does free will nullify salvation by grace alone?
It is impossible for faith to nullify God’s faithfulness. Nothing, not even unbelief can nullify the faithfulness of God. In Romans 3:3, Paul lists God’s faithfulness as something that cannot be invalidated.
Romans 3:3–4 (NASB) 3What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, “That You may be justified in Your words, And prevail when You are judged.”
The BDAG lexicon lists Romans 3:3 as an example of the term nullify and that God’s faithfulness cannot be nullified.
While God’s faithfulness cannot be nullified, the Bible does list a condition that would nullify the promise of righteousness.
Challenge: For those who believe that free will can nullify salvation by grace alone, please give me a biblical reference that explains how man cannot positively respond to God? See also my short article on What can the spiritually dead do? click here.
3. Does accepting free will prove that one has “another gospel”?
The charge of having another gospel is very serious. Paul said that having another gospel contrary to the Scripture would bring a curse.
Galatians 1:8–9 (NASB) 8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
Challenge: If a person is to charge a non-Calvinist with having another gospel, one would have to show how free will is having another Jesus, a different spirit, or a different gospel than what Jesus or the apostles gave.
This question also hinges on the Calvinist claim that God has “purchased faith” on the cross that is a necessary gift given only to those who will be saved. My refutation of purchased faith is here.
4. Does man’s free will response to God’s grace stop God from receiving all the glory for salvation?
This question is one that is not even conceived of in the Scripture for it is an invalid claim that something can take away God’s glory. Is there anything listed in the Bible as having the power or ability to take away God’s glory? According to Calvinists, God can fail to have glory if man has a free will choice to respond to His grace! But the ministry of the Spirit cannot fail to have glory according to 2 Corinthians 3.
2 Corinthians 3:7–9 (NASB) 7But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, 8how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? 9For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.
How can the ministry of the Spirit fail to have glory? Free will cannot take away the glory that belongs to God. Unbelief cannot leave God with less glory and neither can man’s response take away His glory. God’s glory is not diminished by anything that man does or does not do, for that is impossible to take away what God has in Himself.
Our free will cannot take away anything of God, and God cannot deny Himself.
2 Timothy 2:13 (NASB) If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
One last thing
I have written this article with the understanding that those who are throwing out the charge of heresy, sincerely believe that faith is a gift that God gives only to those whom God unconditionally chose from eternity past. These are challengers who do not believe that faith can be a response to God’s revelation. But to those who will believe the testimony of the Bible, two powerful witnesses should end the controversy about whose faith is in view. Romans 4:4-5 and Romans 9:30-33 testify:
Faith is said to be the faith of the ungodly, and
Righteousness can be pursued by faith.
Romans 4:4–5 (NASB) 4Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,
Romans 9:30–33 (NASB) 30What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33just as it is written,“Behold, I lay in Ziona stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,And he who believes in Him will not bedisappointed.”
If faith is God’s gift, then faith would not be the faith of the ungodly. The faith of the ungodly is credited as righteousness (Romans 4:5). The ungodly person who receives righteousness as a gift is the one who does not work for it but who pursues it by faith.
Was God’s wrath satisfied in Christ? If so then how can sinners suffer God’s wrath in hell? This question is one that is often asked by Calvinists to those who do not hold to the teaching of Calvinism. The question implies that Jesus could not have died for all people since many people experience God’s wrath in hell. Yet, John Piper, one of the better known Calvinist teachers, admits that those for whom Christ died can still be subject to God’s wrath. Piper concedes that God’s wrath is “being poured out on us” in our unrighteousness. He references those for whom Christ died when he says:
In other words, the reason we need God to reveal HIS righteousness to us in the gospel and give it to us as a gift through faith is because we are unrighteous and resist the truth in unrighteousness and, therefore, God’s wrath is against us. We need righteousness. We don’t have it. God’s wrath is being poured out on us in our unrighteousness. Is there any hope? Yes, the gospel is the power of God to save because in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.
John Piper also makes a statement that all people without a Saviour are under the wrath of God and sentenced to eternal torment in hell. He says in his sermon: …
We are preparing to film the last portion of The Giving DVD project. The full title is The Giving A Balanced view of The Sovereignty of God. The subject of the DVD is John 6 with the hard sayings of Jesus that seem to teach that Jesus did not die for everyone. Was Judas predestined to be lost? Did God guarantee the salvation of a group of people including John the Baptist? This video tackles the controversial topics that have caused a split in the church today. The video brings a biblically strong and balanced view, yet with gentleness and respect for the opposition.
The DVD will present a positive rendering of John 6 and several sections on God’s election and predestination. There is also a powerful section on the subject of eternal damnation and the character of God. Included is a video review of popular teachers who advocate the opposing Calvinist viewpoint. In another segment there are answers to key Calvinist’s objections from the context of John 6. Lastly, there is an interview with a Reformed theologian.
This project is a massive undertaking that we have been working on for several years. We are very excited that the final filming has been scheduled. The project was on hold for a long time while we were fighting cancer.
The Giving A balanced view of the Sovereignty of God
Please subscribe to this blog to receive a notification when the DVD and the digital download are completed.
The death of Jesus for the world is a delicate question for Calvinists according to John Piper. Piper answers a question from one of his listeners in a post called “In What Sense Did Jesus Die for the Non-Elect?” In the audio transcript of an interview Piper says:
Well, the apostle Paul says Christ died for all people, even the non-elect, and of course that raises delicate questions for us Calvinists to answer. How does Christ’s atoning sacrifice apply to the non-elect? The question comes from an anonymous listener to the podcast: “Pastor John, many times I have heard people say, ‘Yes, Christ died for all people but not all people in the same way.’ I know Reformed theology teaches that Christ’s atonement is particular in that the extent of the atonement to save souls is limited to the elect only. However, I am having trouble adequately explaining how Christ died for all people but not in the same way. For what tangible reason did Christ die for the non-elect?”
It is quite revealing how the listener was having trouble explaining John Piper’s explanation of the death of Jesus for the world. This article will demonstrate where John Piper takes a wrong turn and how to answer his description of an “offered” salvation vs. a “guaranteed” salvation. One thing that I like about John Piper is that he is clear about what he believes. Let’s examine his statements about salvation.
What tangible reason DID Christ die for the non-elect?
This question is often asked of those of us who do not believe that God initiates evil. If God predestined the death of Jesus, does this mean that God commanded or ordained the evil acts of men? A Calvinist website describes God’s ordaining of evil this way:
Remember, regarding the death of Jesus the Biblical text says, “…both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” (Acts 4:27-28)
So the Bible itself testifies that God ordained evil men to crucify Jesus. Acts 2 says the same. So you need to be able to develop a theology which fits that into your view. While you may not understand it, you must yield to what the Scripture teaches regarding God’s meticulous hand of providence in all things:
Was the death of Jesus evil: Let’s look at the facts.
Jesus’ life was not taken by the will of man. Jesus claimed that the authority to give up His life came from God and the action was His own initiative:
17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
The death of Jesus is a commandmentto Jesus, not a commandment to evil men.
John Piper’s article “For Whom did Jesus Taste Death?” focuses on Piper’s premise that disallows Jesus from being a ransom sacrifice for all people. There are many parts of Piper’s article that I would like to address, but I will deal with them one at a time in individual posts. This post addresses Piper’s claim that our faith was purchased on the cross as a gift.
Was Our Faith Purchased on the Cross as a Gift?
In my last post, I addressed the question of whether there was one verified example of a man for whom Jesus did not die. For if there was such a man who did not have a kinsmen Redeemer, then Jesus could not have died for all. Similarly, if there is a biblical example supported by the testimony of Jesus that He died for one particular man who is now in hell, then the premise that it would be unjust for a man to be in hell if Jesus died for him, is untrue. So, what about the claim that faith is a gift purchased at the cross? John Piper says that one will believe this if “you believe as you ought to believe”.
And when you believe as you ought to believe, you will discover that your belief—like all other spiritual blessings—was purchased by the death of Christ.
Where does the Bible say that your faith was purchased on the cross as a gift? Piper claims that Hebrews 10:14 shows that our sins were paid for and ultimately forgiven at the cross so that no judgment will ever fall on our head, no sin can be brought up against us, and the wrath of God was wiped out at the cross – before we were born! …
Did Jesus’ death leave no man left behind that was not covered by His death on the cross? For many Christians who identify as Calvinists, the gospel includes the conclusion that Jesus died only for a select group of people who were predetermined by God before the world was created. Consequently, some men were left behind because the blood of Jesus was not meant to cover their sin, according to their belief system. Instead, Calvinism says that if Jesus paid for the sins of all the world, then He must have also died for unbelief, leaving Him unable to judge sinners in hell for their unbelief. R.C. Sproul’s ministry Ligonier Ministries Inc says it this way:
If God’s justice is totally satisfied by Christ’s work on the cross, then it would follow that God would be unjust in punishing the unrepentant sinner for his unbelief and impenitence because those sins were already paid for by Christ.
This reasoning is faulty because it is man’s reasoning and not the testimony of Scripture. The Scripture NEVER makes this claim and, in fact, the testimony of Jesus refutes it. The understanding of the extent of Jesus’ death (for whom did Jesus die?) must take into consideration the testimony of Jesus. Did Jesus leave any man behind not paying for their sin?
Before we look at the evidence left to us by the words of Jesus, let’s consider the claim that Jesus merely “passed by” the sinner that He does not intend to save. …
How does God harden a man’s heart? We know that God can and does harden hearts because the Bible tells us this, but how and why does God choose to do this? And if all people are created with pre-hardened hearts as some suggest, then why is it necessary for God to harden a man’s heart? Let’s consider a balanced view of God’s sovereignty.
Let’s also consider Pharaoh, a man NOT after God’s own heart.
WHY does God harden a man’s heart?
We know why God does things when He reveals it to us. God does harden some hearts because He said He does this and God tells us this is His desire.
Romans 9:18b …and He hardens whom He desires.
Whom does God desire to harden? It is not a mystery or a hidden secret. God has revealed His will to us in James 4:6.
James 4:6b …Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
The literal Greek in the screen print below shows God is against or He exhibits an expression opposition to the proud.
God desires to harden stubborn, prideful people who oppose Him. God sets Himself up in opposition to these prideful people as He opposes them.
We know that God opposed Pharaoh from what God told Moses. God intentionally elevated a stubborn, prideful man to the position of the highest authority in Egypt. God put that stubborn man on the throne. And then He hardened Him for a godly purpose.
What comes before the giving in John 6:37? Nothing according to Dr. James White on his October 23, 2017 podcast of the Dividing Line Program (segment starts at 1 hr 2 min 30 second mark). But is James White correct that John 6:37 shows that only unbelievers are given to Jesus? Let’s walk through the context of this verse and compare it to what Dr. White claims is the only proper way to understand this passage.
An important note:
Dr. White defines those who disagree with him as “Anti-Calvinist”, in particular, he identifies a “lady anti-Calvinist”. I appreciate that James White remembers that he reviewed my work on John 6 on the Dividing Line a few years ago. However, for many of us, the term anti-Calvinist is not true or fair. One can vigorously disagree without having an “anti” label attached. Does James White call himself an anti-nonCalvinist? I have never heard him refer to himself that way. …
Women in Ministry Silenced or Set Free? videos are now available on VIMEO
“Women in Ministry Silenced or Set Free?” provides in-context answers for all the passages that seem to limit women’s ability to teach the gospel. There are 7 sections suitable for Bible study groups or personal study. This unique set of videos is fast-paced and visually entertaining. Each disputed Scripture is dealt with thoroughly and decisively to bring the viewer to an understanding of Scripture which connects all relevant Scripture together without contradiction.
Each of the DVDs is listed below with the specific information on each video. Next to the information are links to watch the videos free on YouTube. If you would like to purchase the DVD version, it is available from the “Add to cart” button at the bottom of this post for only $24.99 plus shipping.
The Information and the Links
Video 1: Introduction, Genesis 1-3 The Designer Knows Best. …
Those who believe in Calvinism are quick to accuse those who do not believe the same way. The accusation comes in the form of two questions. The questions that are commonly asked: “Why did you respond positively to the gospel, and your neighbor did not? Are you better than he is?” The implication is that if you believe that God created man a moral agent who can respond positively to God’s offer, this positive response makes you “better” than the one who rejects God.
Breaking down the argument
There are several assumptions in the Calvinist argument that should be tested by the Scripture. In this article, I will present three main assumptions that are hidden underneath the questions “Why did you respond, and your neighbor did not? Are you better than he is?” Included will be a biblical answer to these challenges.
1. If man freely responds, all are not equal
The first assumption of Calvinism is that if we can respond to God positively, that would mean we must be better than others. Or put another way, if you believe that God created man a moral agent who is able to respond positively to God’s offer of the gospel following the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, and only some respond positively, then all people are not equal, and you are better than the unbeliever. Paul refutes this in Romans 3:9.
Romans 3:9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;
If Paul stated that no one is better than the rest, what biblical precedent would you have to accuse a Christian that he is claiming he is better than others? Better is an indicator of nature. All were created with the same human nature, and all have sinned. …
In John 12:32 Jesus draws all men to Himself. Is this true or must we reinterpret Jesus to remove His promise?
John 12:32 (NASB) “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men to Myself.”
Are all people drawn to Jesus? We know for sure that not all people come to Jesus because we know that not all will believe in Him. However, Jesus said that He WILL draw ALL men to Himself. So, what does Jesus mean in this context? Let’s lookout His words to understand His meaning.
In John 12:27 it states the purpose He came is for this hour so although He is troubled He will not ask to be saved from this hour.
John 12:27 (NASB) “Now My soul has become troubled: and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
Jesus is speaking to a crowd of unbelievers (see verse 37). And in verse 30 Jesus says that the voice from heaven was for the benefit of this unbelieving crowd.
John 12:30 (NASB) Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.
John 12:37 (NASB) But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him.
Jesus said that He came for this hour. Jesus came to die, yet so many of those who heard Him speak did not believe. They weren’t just not believing Jesus. They did not believe God the Father. Some say that their unbelief was what God predestined for them from all of eternity. But there is a problem with this view because of the words of Jesus. Jesus speaks about drawing all, not just some. If God did not desire for all to come to faith, then Jesus would never draw all. John 12:32 is a dividing line between the truth and error, but to some, it doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t seem to be true.
Is there purposeless evil if God did not foreordain all things?
Calvinists often talk about “purposeless evil.” In fact, Dr. James White, a Calvinist apologist from Alpha and Omega Ministries, has stated that if God did not ordain all things including the evil actions of men, then evil has no purpose. Dr. White gives Isaiah 41:22, Genesis 50:20, and Acts 2:23 as proof that God ordains evil. Dr. White says that everything is for God’s ultimate glory so that there is no purposeless evil. But are these verses really saying that God ordains all evil acts of men? This post will address the three texts that Dr. White proposes as proof that God ordains all things including all evil.
Isaiah 41:22 (NASB) Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; As for the former events, declare what they were, That we may consider them and know their outcome. Or announce to us what is coming;
When Dr. James White debates God’s Sovereignty he appeals to Isaiah 41:22 to prove that God ordains all evil actions. Dr. White says that the words “know their outcome” (in Isaiah 41:22) means to “know their purpose.” He uses “purpose” as a synonym for “outcome,” but “purpose” cannot be exchanged with the word “outcome.” That would completely change God’s meaning.
What does Jesus mean when He says “the flesh profits nothing”? There are several different meanings for “flesh” so to understand what Jesus means, let’s first understand the rest of His saying so we can gain the intended contrast He has in mind.
John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
Jesus identifies who gives life. It is the Spirit who gives life. The Father gives life and the Holy Spirit gives life. Does Jesus also give life?
The Spirit Gives Life
Jesus said in John 4 –
John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
Jesus said, “I WILL give him.” What will Jesus give? Jesus will give eternal life. Jesus said the same thing again in John 6.
John 6:27 “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”
Jesus said that He will give eternal life to the crowd. What kind of life is He giving to the crowd? Jesus is giving eternal life. However, the way Jesus would give them eternal life is embedded in His use of the term “came down from Heaven.” It was the “who” not the “what” that came down from Heaven, that will provide eternal life.
Jesus is the life-giving spirit. 1 Corinthians 15 shows that Adam at his beginning became a living soul, but Jesus as the last Adam, came in the beginning as something more..
1 Corinthians 15:45 So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
In my post on John 6:64-65, I showed how the reason Jesus gives for why no one can come to Him unless it has been granted him from the Father, is connected back to verse 64 and unbelief.
John 6:64 (NASB) “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.
One of the comments on that post suggested that the connection was not between verse 65 and verse 64, but was between verse 65 and verse 63. Here is the comment that I am responding to in this post:
Sorry, I disagree. Jesus’ statement in verse 65 is referring to verse 63. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” Verse 64 is simply a narrative of the unbelief of those hearing, because they had not been given life by the Spirit. Then Jesus says in verse 65, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”
John 6:64-65 connection
Here is a screen shot of the sentence structure showing the emphasis.
The phrase between the x marks is called a counterpoint. The counterpoint points to the more important Sentence Point shown between the check marks.…
In explaining the meaning of John 6, we need to pay close attention to the context surrounding John 6 as well as the relevant context from the entire book of John. Here are some verses that are HIGHLY relevant and some questions for you to ponder.
John 1 and Questions
John 1:9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. (What does the true Light do?)
John 1:11–12 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, (Who were Jesus’ own that did not receive Him? Who did Jesus give the right to become children of God?)
John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (What is the sin of the world?)
John 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (When did Philip first believe in Jesus?)
John 1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (What does it mean that Nathanael had no deceit in him?)
John 1:48–49 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” (Why did Nathanael say that Jesus knew him? What was it that Jesus said to Nathanael that cause Nathanael to declare that Jesus is the Son of God and King of Israel?)
In our discussion of Jesus, Judas, and the first communion, a Calvinist pointed me to an article by a Calvinist author. The article was said to refute the idea that Judas was commanded to partake of the first Lord’s Supper. I have already answered the first challenge using the inspired words and grammar from Scripture on my post here. In this new post, I will deal with another challenge that was included in the article by the Calvinist author who claims that Jesus would have guarded the table to keep Judas away from communion.
Guarding the communion table happens when people do not believe that Jesus died for all. It also happens when people believe that leaders have the responsibility to keep the sacrifice of Jesus away from those who are not part of their denomination or from those they consider insincere.
Did Jesus guard the table?
Because of the claim that Jesus would have kept Judas away from the communion table, it is important to look at any warning that Jesus gave before He commanded His twelve disciples to partake. We can look very carefully at all four of the gospels and find nothing that would prohibit any of the disciples from partaking. Jesus did not warn them not to partake and in fact, He did the opposite. Jesus commanded them all to partake of the elements of communion. In Mark 14:22 the term “take” is an imperative. An imperative is a command.
Did Jesus Conduct the table properly?
The article by the Calvinist author asks this question.
(3) Did Jesus conduct the Table properly?
Does Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 11 change the Lord’s supper from the way that Jesus first established it with the twelve disciples? I believe that Paul changed nothing about Communion, and instead, he upheld the original way it was given.
Jesus established that the meal was for all just as His death was for all.
Paul agrees with Jesus. Paul’s rebuke to the Corinthians about Communion was primarily about the exclusion of people. The Corinthians were not coming together in unity to celebrate but were being divisive and exclusive.
Paul identifies that their coming together as a church brought divisions.
1 Corinthians 11:18 (NASB) For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it.
Within the one body, there were divisions and factions and in celebrating the meal, they were excluding and separating themselves. …
I received a link to an article found here. The article was sent to me by a Calvinist who said it shows reasons why we can believe that Judas left before the Lord’s supper was served. The article says:
Mathew (Matt. 26:19-30), Mark (Mk. 14:10-26), and John (Jn. 13:1-30) indicate that Judas “may not” have partaken of the Lord’s Table.
The author states that Judas “could have” left between verses 25 and 26 in Matthew 26 and even though the text doesn’t say so, just because something is omitted does not mean it did not happen. It is true that just because something is omitted does not mean it didn’t happen. However, Matthew’s silence cannot contradict Luke’s specific words showing Judas was still there after communion was given. In fact, Luke is the ONLY gospel that directly tells us that Judas was still there until after communion.
Luke 22:19–22 (NASB) 19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. 21 “But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. 22 “For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”
Luke states that the bread and the wine were given while Judas was still there because Jesus identifies the hand of Judas with Him on the table. The author of the article suggests that we should take Luke’s account as topical and not in chronological order, however, I would like to prove that this cannot be true.
First of all Luke’s gospel was written from a chronological viewpoint as we find in Luke 1:3
Luke 1:3 (NASB) it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus;
Luke wrote primarily in consecutive order with very few exceptions where he summarized. One such instance is John the Baptist where Luke summarized John’s end of life to give the focus over to the account of Jesus the Messiah. Luke is the account that we can trust was written with extra care to the order. No other gospel tells us exactly where Judas was during communion. Luke has the most precise detail put squarely into the mouth of Jesus who identifies the betrayer in their midst AFTER communion. …