Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Predestination and Free Will - First thoughts

Predestination and Free Will
Tough topics - and not for the faint of heart. I grabbed a post I did August 14,  2014 and I'll repost it now, but I will certainly need to delve into the subject again. Repeatedly, no doubt. That's probably predestined.

August 14, 2014
Last Sunday, Pastor Dr. Denny Autrey (our interim Pastor at First Baptist Church Pearland) preached a familiar sermon on Romans 8:28 and a bit more.

It was almost familiar, but it got me thinking. You'll see what I mean.

First of all, Romans 8:28 is a verse a lot of Christians hold on to during bad times, that God will knit all these bad times into something good. I have no doubt that God does this, but it is good according to His purpose, and sometimes I just don't see it.

If you're like me, you know what I mean. You've known people who got hurt, died, suffered horribly in their lives and you have to wonder. Maybe you ARE that person. My heart goes out to you. Most of us have seasons in our lives when there is more pain than we think we can endure. Christians grab 8:28 like a life preserver. (There were also many times I cried out because life was too hard, and it was, but those are different stories.)

Romans 8:28-39 (NKJV)
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I don't normally keep the verse numbers when I quote, but since Pastor Dr. Denny referenced them, I have to this time. (I tried to do color coding, too.)

Verse 30 is often called The Golden Chain of Salvation. Look at the order of the words: Predestined to Called to Justified to Glorified. Dr. Denny mentioned that we don't see Sanctified in the list because the people God Justifies will be Sanctified - in other words, the sanctification is implied. I notice that verse 29 says God Foreknew us before the Predestined bit. I guess that goes without saying. Accepting God is God means you have to accept that God foreknew us all, I suppose. That seems trivial, doesn't it. I'm sure I'm not thinking deeply enough for that one.

Just from this verse, I think that the entire question of predestination is now answered. How sad that seems to me, and I have a hard time with it. Not for myself. I know where I stand. I'm ignorant and (though not proud of it) I can accept that state of being and work to better myself.

Dr. D also said that Salvation cannot be taken from us. His logic is remarkably simple (which suits me). If you did nothing to earn your Salvation, since it is a gift from God/Jesus, then you can do nothing to lose it. I have to ponder that one. Most Baptist preachers will point at a person who once acted "saved" but now doesn't as someone who never really accepted Jesus in the first place, rather than as one who has fallen away.

In 1 COR 5:11 Paul says that "if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat...Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person." That sounds like "kick them out because they don't really belong."

Just a few verses earlier though (v 5:5) Paul says to take the immoral person and "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." That sounds like "once accepted, always accepted." It's all a bit confusing, so deserves further thought.

I like the idea that I can't give back a gift that was freely given - sort of like when Arwen in LotR doesn't let Aragorn give her back her ring. Yeah, that's a nice visual.

In verses 38-39 Paul makes it personal, saying I am persuaded. It certainly sounds like Arwen (sort of).

Verse 31 is famous, too. If God is for us, who can be against us? That's the same argument Gamaliel used with the Synagogue.

Martin Luther died in 1546 and his lifetime friend and co-worker Melanchthon preached his funeral using Romans 8:31. Philipp Melanchthon died in 1560 with Romans 8:31 on his lips.

Dr. D said that 100 years later, in 1660, a young man named John Bunyan was rescued by the same text. (Bunyan wrote Pilgrim's Progress.)

I guess that makes it a pretty good verse.

So what is my summary of the sermon?

I know where I stand with Jesus; it's a personal relationship, not a religion. As one brother tells me, if Jesus were here on Earth today, we'd go out for a beer. Well, I don't drink beer. I'd order water and ask Jesus to remove the fluorides.

I haven't really changed my mind about anything. God is God. Check. He died for me (even though I don't deserve it.) Check. I don't understand most of what He does. Check. Someday (and soon in geological concepts) I'll be in Heaven and see a lot of people. Maybe I'll see some I didn't expect. That would be nice.

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