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Archive for Election

All that the Father Gives to Me

I truly love these words written in red in my red-letter addition of the Bible. “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of Him Who sent Me. And this the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day” (John 6:37-38).

 

Let’s look more closely at Jesus’ words! If the reader believes, like me, that God says exactly what He means, that He never misspeaks, and that every word is placed exactly where He wants it to be….then, “all” means……well, all!

 

But in this case Jesus qualified the “all.” He did not mean all as in “everybody.” He put a gigantic monumental big water swell condition upon it. He said “all that the Father gives Me.” I am sure these words gave many people listening that day pause. I have meditated on this portion of God’s word for many years with the understanding that each and every word in the Bible matters. Every word!

 

The truth that it conveys at one point in my life gave me pause, but now it gives me praise. Since I have come to Christ by placing my faith in Him, His words mean that I am a gift given by God the Father to Him. Wow! Then I pondered this piercing question: Which came first, the giving by the Father or the coming to the Son? First came the giving! This means that those of us who have come to the Son by faith were first given to the Son. Again, we are gifts given to God the Son by God the Father. No giving, no coming! Jesus confirmed this truth in John 17. This is why the people were not believing. They missed the “spiritual.”

 

As miraculous as this may sound, this truth is verified by God speaking to God in prayer. Hold it! Did you understand that right? God praying to God!  Yes! As my good friend Danny Forrest once said to me, when we read John 17, we are eves-dropping on a conversation of God talking to God. That entire chapter is a is a jaw-dropper of information.

 

The second person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ, is praying to the first person of the Trinity, God the Father. He said that He had given eternal life to as many as God the Father had given to Him. The exact same line from John 6. Of course, He was speaking in John 17 only of the disciples…… I thought? After all, He continued by saying that He had manifested the name of God the Father to as many as He (God the Father) had given to God the Son out to the world.

 

Speaking again of the disciples, Jesus made it crystal clear.  “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world.” We cannot deny this. Jesus confirmed this truth to them. He told His disciples,“You did not choose Me but I chose you out of the world” (John 15:16-19). I thought at the time, “That’s it! He just chose the disciples.” And then I thought, “Wait, do not underestimate the weight of this truth.” HE CHOSE THE DISCIPLES. HE WENT TO SPECIFIC ONES. HE CALLED THEM BY THEIR NAMES. HE KNEW THEIR PROFESSIONS. HE PERSONALLY CHOSE THEM.

 

Speaking of them, Jesus said, “They were Yours!” Note again meaning of the words, their tenses and their order. “They were (past tense) yours” means that they were always yours. They did not become yours at the moment or after I called them. Even before Jesus went to them and called them, they already belonged to the Father. The Lord Jesus Christ simply went only to God’s select group of men. He already knew their names, everything there was to know about them, every blemish of their skin and the number of hairs on their head.  The second person of the Trinity also said that He had prayed for them and them only.  “I pray for them (the disciples), I do not pray for the world but for those whom you have given Me!” The reason once again: “For they are Yours.”

 

And then He said, “I do not pray for the world!” That sounds strange, does it not? Are we not told to go into the world with the gospel and to pray for the unsaved of the world that they may hear the gospel and believe? Are we not to pray for the lost? Certainly! We are compelled! Why? Because there are many other “gifts” out there waiting for the good news. God has many waiting and wanting, hungering to hear, longing to learn the gospel! The Good Shepherd has many sheep waiting to hear His call. They will not recognize the voice of a stranger, but they will know His voice when He calls them by their own name (John 10:1-4; 24-31). Incredible!

 

Recall God’s words to Paul. God knew that Paul was afraid because of the treatment that he had received in response to the message God had given him to speak. “Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.’ And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:9-11).  Paul was not to worry because God already had many in the city who were waiting for the truth of the gospel. They were already gifts.

 

Continuing Jesus’ prayer, we discover that it was not just the disciples whom He would call. Jesus said in His prayer, “I do not pray for these alone (the disciples) but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.” That’s us! This includes numerous people throughout history. As we will see later, the seed of the gospel will spread like spiritual seeds blown in the wind throughout the world, generation after generation. “That they may all be one; as You, Father, are in Me and I in You; that they may be one of Us and the world may believe that You sent Me” (Jn. 17:20-21). Amazing!

 

Election: Navigating the Elephant in the Room

January 16, 2015

elephant-in-the-room-wip-leah-saulnier-the-painting-maniac“Dad, it’s the elephant in the room.” My son made a point that he felt was extremely obvious, but no one wanted to admit that they got it. That was the first time I remember hearing that expression. I have heard it many times since. The term refers to a question, problem, solution, or controversial issue which is obvious to everyone who knows about the situation, but which is deliberately ignored because to do otherwise would cause great embarrassment, or trigger arguments or is simply taboo.

It struck me that the words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ are so very profound, yet they apparently go without notice. These truths become spiritual “elephants in the room.” I get the fact that His words – the words written in red in my Bible – are no more inspired by the Holy Spirit than those of Peter, Paul, James, and John. But I admit that His words weigh heavily upon this writer’s heart. This blog starts a short series on the seven “I Am’s of Jesus Christ.” In these “I Am” statements I want to look closely at some recognizably clear but painfully ignored statements (elephants in the room) of our Lord.

Why do people who hear the gospel reject the gospel? The short answer is that all are spiritually dead in trespasses and sin and the dead cannot hear.  Secondly, Satan blinds the minds of people to the truth contained in the gospel. Adam’s entire race is born dead and blind. It should be obvious that unless God works to allow His word to penetrate the mind of the dead by breaking the hold of Satan’s blindness, the person cannot hear and believe the gospel. The real reason why people do not believe comes from the lips of Jesus Christ.

Let’s visit our Lord’s “I am” found in John 10.  Jesus begins by identifying Himself in verse 11 as the Good Shepherd, “I am the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep.” This was in contrast to the hired helper that really does not own the sheep and would most likely not lay down his life for them (vs. 11-13). In verse 14 He repeats, “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know my sheep, and I am known by My own.” How He knows His sheep or how they know Him, He does not say. Then in verses 27 and 28, He crystalizes this truth by a further explanation. The Good Shepherd uses the personal pronoun, “My sheep.”

He is plainly identifying a special group of people that He owns, a people branded as His own possession. This is obviously in contrast to some who are not His sheep. He continues, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me.”  Again, He does not tell us how He knows His sheep or how His sheep hear His voice or how they know Him or how they follow Him, He just states that it is so. One has to work hard to misunderstand these words written in red. Amazingly, He then says that He gives these sheep, the ones whom He knows and the ones who follow Him, eternal life,  that they will never perish.

This forced me to ask a few questions. “When were these sheep His sheep? Did they become His sheep after they heard His voice and decided to follow Him? Or were they His sheep before they heard His voice and followed Him?” They belonged to Him before they followed Him and before He gave them eternal life. As far as we know, they were always His sheep. A group of Jews surrounded Jesus and demanded that He tell them if He was truly the Christ (John 10:24).  He strongly informed them, “I told you and you do not believe.”

Belief in Him is the subject. He said that the works that He had done were sufficient to convince anyone that He was the Christ. He was obviously referring to His amazing miracles. Verse 26 answers the question as to why people do not believe in Jesus Christ. “But you do not believe because you are not of my sheep.” This can’t be missed! It is so very clear. It is the elephant in the room. The Jews who rejected Jesus Christ rejected Him because they did not belong to Him. Those who belonged to Him believed! This is the reason people reject the gospel.

Ah, Jews, you say. Yes, He is speaking specifically here about Jews. Those coming to Him were Jewish sheep not Gentile. But in verse 16 He says, “And other sheep have I which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear my voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” These “other sheep,” which will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd are Gentile sheep.  Some Gentiles will hear His voice and come to Him. And then there will be one flock (made up of both Jews and Gentiles) and one shepherd. Who could miss this? It’s the elephant in the room.

Me, A Calvinist?

August 5, 2009

I was taught clearly from my years at Dallas Theological Seminary the extreme importance of studying the Bible word by word. I believe that all scripture – every word, every line, every paragraph – is inspired by God and profitable for truth, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness in order that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  I believe that every word – every noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, preposition and clause – is placed in the Bible exactly as the Holy Spirit designed it to be. There are no wasted words, and the words are to be taken in their proper context. This belief has been used by God to launch me into a lifetime of studying and teaching God’s word literally and word-by-word, line-by-line, paragraph-by-paragraph, and book-by-book.

It wasn’t long before I began to navigate through some minefields of truth that both puzzled me and challenged me.  I remember the first time I worked through the book of Romans.  Romans 8 began to plunge me into another world. The Holy Spirit opened to me small glimpses of an incredibly awesome eternal God who had a predetermined plan for this universe and for me.  I remember the excitement that filled me when I sensed in awe just how very small I am in comparison.

Then I ran into Romans 8:28-30 and Romans 9-11. As I weaved my way through this text, I began to ask myself why these words did not really mean what they appeared to be saying. I remember going back to the text time and time again to ponder its meaning and to find a way to escape the incredible truths that they were opening to my small mind. The truth that God had chosen to set His love upon me before time began. The truth that I had always been in His mind and in His plan.  He knew me long before I stood by the old fishpond at Boca Raton, Florida, and trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior. He knew me when he shaped me in my mother’s womb. I wept!  My continued study has led me to the fact that God’s divine election is indeed a part of His plan.

I had never read a book by any of the reformers in Europe. I had learned bits and pieces about these great men from Dr. John Hannah at DTS.  As a part of his required reading, I read books on the history of the Reformation.  I developed a deep sense of gratitude for the work of men like Luther, Calvin, Wycliffe, and Latimer.  They are a part of my spiritual heritage, and I’m proud of that. Their personal sacrifice retrieved and clarified the gospel message that had been confused for years by a web of religion. Every believer on the planet should feel a deep indebtedness to these men. But that had no bearing on what I began to see in the word of God concerning God’s elective purposes. Said simply, I had little knowledge of John Calvin and the system called today, “Calvinism.”

As I began to teach passages from Romans and Ephesians and John in their proper context using their plain common sense meaning, I noticed that people – even some of my friends – began to refer to me as a “Calvinist.”  A Calvinist?  I remember the first time this happened. A friend said to me, “Oh you’re just like Wayne Neal; you’re a Calvinist!” That line was used by God to launch me into a serious study of the issues. It seems that today I have to place myself in one of two camps, Armenian or Calvinist – although I do not totally agree with either group.  If I am going to teach the Bible’s view of election the way I understand it, then I am going to be branded a “Calvinist.” This is the case even though I have never considered myself as such at all.

I have discovered something else through this process. The Bible’s teaching of election has never been popular. In fact, it was this very teaching that led ultimately to the cross of Calvary.  In Luke 4 Jesus had begun His ministry and, as was His custom, He went to the synagogue in Nazareth to teach.  He read and explained a section of the prophet Isaiah and applied it to Himself.  The text implies that at first His teaching was well received by everyone. In fact, the people marveled at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth (Luke 4:22).

Our Lord knew that the people expected Him to perform miracles there in His hometown, but Jesus said that no prophet has honor in his own country. Then He said something amazing. He said that there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, but God sent him to only one, the widow of Zarephath (Luke 4:26). He also said that there were many lepers in Israel at the time of Elisha the prophet, but God cleansed only one, Naaman the Syrian. This is simply divine election!   But note the result. “So all those in the Synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and threw Him out of the city and led Him to the edge of a hill planning to throw Him off of it, but He slipped away” (Luke 4:28-30). This wrath against the teaching of Jesus Christ led men eventually to crucify Him. If you ask me things haven’t changed a whole lot.