Thursday, March 9, 2017
Sovereignty vs. Freedom—Part VI
And finally we come to Romans chapter 9. In this chapter Paul uses a lot of metaphor and figure of speech which lends itself to easy manipulation and misinterpretation by Evangelical and Reformed theologians. Chapter 9 begins as follows:
1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
In these verses Paul expresses sorrow and distress at the unbelief of his kinsman, the Jews. He wishes that he himself would be damned, if it could bring about the conversion of the Jews. But notice that at the same time in verse 4 he does not deny that the promises which were made to the Jews or Israelites (i.e. the literal descendants) were for real. The promises still apply—even though the dispensation of the gospel has been taken away (temporarily) from the Jews, and given to the Gentiles. Then he continues:
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son.
Here Paul engages in a metaphor. What he is basically saying is that the promises of God to Abraham concerning his seed were not exclusive to the literal descendants, but included the Gentiles who would be adopted into that lineage through faith; whereas those of the literal descendants who did not remain faithful would not be assured of the promise. John MacArthur, after going through a convoluted commentary on these verses, concludes it with these words:
“What does that mean? God never intended to save all Israel. Not all physical Israel, not all Jewish people who are Jewish by race are intended to be in the Kingdom. That’s exactly what he’s saying. No, not all Israel is spiritual Israel, nor are they all children because they’re Abraham’s descendants. Not everybody who came out of the loins of Abraham is going to be a child of God. God is selective.”
There are several problems with that commentary. Firstly, nobody ever said that every single literal descendant of Israel would be saved. Neither the Old Testament says that nor the New. So that is a non-statement. It doesn’t say anything that means anything to anybody. The Bible teaches that only the righteous are saved—be they Jews or Gentiles—and the wicked are condemned. That is the story of the house of Israel throughout the Old Testament. So what his point is in saying repeatedly that “God never intended to save all Israel” is anybody’s guess. I suspect that what he really means to say is that Israel as a nation will not be saved, or will not be restored to their original status, which is also false, as attested by Paul himself:
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
By the “fulness of the Gentiles” (also called the “times of the Gentiles” in Luke 21:24), is meant the period of time when the Gentiles gain the ascendancy over the house of Israel. That period will eventually come to an end, and the house of Israel (the literal descendants) as a nation will regain the original ascendancy over the Gentile nations which it once had before.
But the most serious error that he makes is the last bit where he says, “God is selective,” by which he means that God is arbitrarily selective in whom he saves and whom he condemns. He arbitrarily determines who will be saved and who will be damned, without reference to any merit or demerit on their part. That is utterly false and an evil perversion of the gospel. It goes against the express teaching of scripture that God is “no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34–35). Nothing of the kind is suggested in the verses he is discussing.
To digress a little, when R.C. Sproul discusses the doctrine of election from the Arminian point of view, he keeps referring to it in terms of God “looking through the corridors of time”. God doesn’t “look through the corridors of time”. There is no “time” with God. God sees the whole of the past, present, and future as one great ever-present NOW, and elects them according to their righteousness as if it were NOW. I can turn that question around to R.C. Sproul. Here is the question: When it says in the scriptures that God is “no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11), but that “in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him” (Acts 10:35); does that mean that God does not know in advance who will “fear him and work righteousness,” and has to sit and wait to see what happens before deciding what to do next? Of course not! Did God know ahead of time that Cornelius would “fear God and work righteousness?” Of course he did! Was Cornelius “elected” accordingly, long before he was born? Of course he was! Was Cornelius predestined to “fear God and work righteousness”? Certainly not! Just because God knew ahead of time that that is what he would do (and elected him accordingly), it does not follow that he was predestined to. That is how the doctrine of election works. John MacArthur then continues his narrative as follows:
“He rejected Ishmael, the first son of Abraham, and brought blessing to and through Isaac.”
That is not quite true either. Ishmael was not “rejected”. He also received great promises and blessings (Gen. 17:20). But the greater blessings were reserved for Isaac. Continuing with the rest of Romans chapter 9, we have the following:
10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;
11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
There is a mistake here made by Paul. It is an understandable mistake. He is making inferences from passages in the Old Testament which say that God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart”. (The biblical text is actually inconsistent. In four instances—Ex. 8:15, 32; 9:34; 1 Sam 6:6—it says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. In the rest, it either says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, or that Pharaoh’s heart “was hardened,” without specifying by whom.) The Prophet Joseph Smith was commissioned by the Lord to make an inspired translation of the Bible. In that translation, all those instances where it says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart was changed to saying that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. That was due to a scribal error (intentional or accidental) in the Old Testament text which Paul was not aware of. God never hardens anybody’s heart. People harden their own hearts. Joseph Smith knew something that Paul didn’t know. Paul is relying on the text of the OT as he has it, without realizing or suspecting that the text might have been altered. Just because somebody is an Apostle, it does not mean that he is incapable of making a mistake. The Apostles had disagreements among themselves. Peter and Paul disagreed (Gal. 2:11). Paul and Barnabas disagreed (Acts 15:36–41). They couldn’t have all been right. One of them must have been right and the other one wrong.
When God says to Moses in Exodus 33:19 that “I … will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy,” it does not mean that God does so by means of an arbitrary fiat without any regard to a person’s worthiness or righteousness. No such thing is suggested or implied in that scripture. John MacArthur concludes his discussion of those verses with these words:
“Paul understood divine sovereignty. He understood that salvation was a work of God, a selective choice by God. He has mercy on whom He chooses to have mercy. You have to understand that. That’s what the Bible teaches...divine sovereignty.”
By which he means total predestination and foreordination of everything, including God’s selective and arbitrary choice of who will be saved and who will be damned, which is entirely heretical and false. God does not arbitrarily save or damn anybody. On the contrary, the express teaching of scripture is that God is “no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34–35; Rom. 2:11). That is the basis on which God saves or damns people. Both Peter and Paul agree on that one! Then skipping quite a lot of waffle and useless rhetoric, we come across the following comments which John MacArthur makes as he nears the end of his sermon:
“What is the final answer? The harmony of divine sovereignty and human responsibility is not available to you. It’s not. It’s unsearchable, unfathomable, inscrutable, incomprehensible, inconceivable.
“Psalm 139 says, ‘It’s too high.’ Psalm 92 says, ‘It’s too low.’ You don’t need more information. There it is. That’s all you’re going to get, folks. That’s all you’re going to get. Do you understand divine sovereignty? Do you understand human responsibility? Do you understand gospel duty? That’s enough...that’s enough.”
Well, he is talking a lot of nonsense as usual. It is possible to harmonize divine sovereignty with human freedom, as already explained several times in the previous posts. He then continues:
“And then verse 34 [Romans 11] just seals the deal here. ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord?’ Stop here, folks. Look, that’s taken out of Isaiah 40 verse 13, ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord?’ What is that saying? You can’t think the way God thinks. Okay? You’ve already reached your limit, folks. That’s it. …”
He is wrong about that too. It is possible to “know the mind of the Lord”. Paul explains how:
1 Corinthians 2:
16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
We have the “mind of Christ” when we have his Spirit; then we can fathom what is in the mind of God. He continues:
“… The reason I can’t answer your question is, I don’t know any more than you know. All I know is what the Scripture says. …”
Not very well apparently! He continues:
“… And I am content to say I can’t know the mind of the Lord, but I can know the Lord and I can trust Him and some day maybe it will all be clear. Not an individual mind, nor the collective mind of all created beings could comprehend these mysteries.”
No surprise that he “can’t know the mind of the Lord;” that is because he does not have the “mind of Christ”. And he can’t “know the Lord” either, unless he has the “mind of Christ”. But if he wants to know the “mystery,” he has come to the right place to find out!
This concludes our discussion of John MacArthur’s sermon on God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom. The bottom line is that the Calvinistic and “Reformed” theology of predestination, “faith alone,” and TULIP is pure heresy. There is no other way to describe it. It is the most corrupt, evil, damnable, abominable perversion of the gospel that has ever been invented since the Arian heresy of the 4th century. It curses anybody who goes anywhere near it. And it has an awful lot of “false prophets” in the form of Evangelical and “Reformed” theologians, pastors, and preachers who are advocating it.
One more episode to go, stay tuned!