Pilgrimage--From Free Will to the Sovereignty of God in Salvation

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by OldRegular, Apr 22, 2005.

  1. OldRegular

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    Please note: This topic was initially and mistakenly posted on the Calvinism/Arminianism Debate Forum. I am restarting it here in the hopes that it will produce some meaningful testimonies.

    There was a time early in my Christian life when the doctrine of election was repugnant to me. I could not understand why God would choose some unto Salvation in Jesus Christ and leave others to perish in their sins. Like many on this forum I either ignored or rationalized away Scripture that clearly taught that Salvation was by the Sovereign Grace of God.

    Having stated the above I also believed that no one could come to Jesus Christ for Salvation without the wooing or drawing of the Holy Spirit, but that was as far as I would go. However, with the passage of time three things [I originally indicated only two] began to affect my viewpoint of the Biblical Doctrine of Salvation.

    1. I noticed, with some wonder, that there were many people who exhibited absolutely no interest in their relationship with God or for that matter anything having to do with the Christian Faith.

    2. It gradually dawned on me that I could not continue to ignore or rationalize away the clear teaching of Scripture.

    3. As I learned of the righteousness of God I began to see my self as I really had been and understand that I would not, could not, have come to God for Salvation of my own sinful free will. John Dagg says it well in his Manual of Theology, page 322: "Every proposed method of salvation that leaves the issue dependent on human volition is defective. It has always been found that men will not come to Christ for life. The Gospel is preached to every creature; but all, with one consent, ask to be excused. The will of man must be changed; and this change the will cannot itself effect. Divine grace must here interpose. Unless God works in the sinner to will and to do, salvation is impossible.”

    Salvation, the blessing of grace, is that work of the Triune God by which He eternally redeems and reconciles to Himself those chosen in Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world [Ephesians 1:4], freeing them from bondage to sin and His holy wrath. That Salvation is purchased by the blood of the Incarnate Son [Romans 5: 9; Hebrews 9: 14; 1 Peter 1: 18; 1 John 1: 7; Revelation 1: 5; Revelation 7: 14], the blood of the everlasting covenant [Matthew 26: 28; Hebrews 13: 20], and is made effective in the life of the elect by the Holy Spirit through regeneration and union with Jesus Christ. Salvation from beginning to end is entirely by the Sovereign Grace of the Triune God.

    During his earthly ministry Jesus Christ expressed the truth of the sovereignty of God in Salvation by the following simple statement:

    John 10:26-29, KJV
    26. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
    27. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
    28. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
    29. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.


    The Sovereignty of God in the Salvation of the elect is also demonstrated very clearly in the following Scripture: Romans 8:28-30, Ephesians 1:3-7, Ephesians 2:1-8, Philippians 2:6-8, Revelation 1:5, Revelation 5:9, 1 Peter 1:18,19.

    From this sampling of many such Scripture we see that:

    1. It is God the Father who fore knew and chose His people before the foundation of the world [Ephesians 1:4].
    2. It is God the Father who predestinated that His people would be conformed to the image of His Son that they might be adopted as His children [Ephesians 1: 5] and become heirs and joint heirs with Jesus Christ [Romans 8: 16, 17].
    3. It is God the Son who humbles Himself, take upon Himself the form of man, Jesus Christ, and sheds His blood on a Roman cross to pay the penalty for the sins of those whom the Father has chosen to Salvation [John 17; Philippians 2:6-8].
    4. It is God the Holy Spirit who applies the work of the Jesus Christ to those chosen by God unto Salvation so that none are lost [John 6: 37, 39, 40, 44].
    5. It is the Triune God who, in time, will regenerate, call, justify, and glorify those whom He chose to Salvation before the foundation of the world, therefore, they can never fall away or lose that Salvation [Romans 8:28-30].

    The Holy Scriptures from the first words in the book of Genesis, In the beginning God created to the last words in the book of Revelation, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you all. Amen, are a testimony to the sovereignty of God. By Sovereignty is meant, not simply the omnipotence of God, but the exercise of that omnipotence in the governing of all things. Similarly, from the shedding of blood to provide a covering for the nakedness of Adam and Eve, to the birth of Jesus Christ - God the Son, His death and resurrection, and finally to the declaration of His return in power and glory, Scripture clearly declares the Sovereignty of God in Salvation. God not only takes the initiative in Salvation but completes that good work.

    Philippians 1:6, KJV
    6. Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ:

    Please note: I do not submit this post to start another debate but to see if there others out there who have experienced a similar pilgrimage they would be willing to share.
     
  2. av1611jim

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    I experienced a similar pilgramage but came to a different conclusion. I am not here to debate it but only offer it for what it is worth.

    My own salvation was such that in the course of time I had made many sinful, selfish choices which led me to a little twon in Idaho. I was invited to a small UPchurch and it was there I heard the gospel as if for the first time. Although raised in a home which professed to be Southern Baptist, I saw my own responsibility which God has decreed that all men should hold. I saw it was my own accountability for which I would be jusdged. Who did I say Jesus was? I repented, and was saved on that day in Jan 1980.

    Over the course of time I also learned of the free grace of God and I had a very hard time reconciling that with my own accountability. Eventually I embraced the Grace of God and was freed from trying to "work it out" and not "lose it". Time marched slowly on and I found myself "backslid" and in prison. It was there that I learned that the Grace of God is not license. I again repented, this time with a view to restored fellowship with my Father and God.

    God then worked in my life and gave me many wonderful opportunities to serve Him. Through the course of time, I learned that God still expected me to be accountable for my actions. Not with a view to salvation but with a view towards my being judged as a child of His as Paul has said we would be.

    Today, God has graciously led me and guided me through the working of the Holy Spirit and His people to the point where I am now at. I certainly do not have it all figured out, but I am certain God is not willing that any should perish. Not willing means not willing. Therefore He does not decree certain people for hell and certain people for salvation. However, after we have come to Him, we have a greater responsibility than when we were lost. We now ought to serve Him who has called us. God calls, we either answer or ignore but it is up to us whom we will choose.
    These days, I look not for my eternal home, for it is sure, but I look for that day when I hope to hear, "Well done thou good and faithful servant."

    And thus, God has allowed me to come full circle and find that the acountability I saw and the grace I saw are both true. God's grace has saved me for I surely do not deserve it, and yet I am accountable to Him for my actions as His child.

    Why is it that I have been saved and my 4 brothers have not? I truly do not know. My choices led me on a different road than they. That is the only answer. For it was through the course of those choices as I responded to the light that God provided, He in His mercy has given additional light to which I responded and so on.

    Someone has said that when we enter the gates of heaven there will be a sign which reads "Whosoever will, may come". As we pass through that gate the back side of the sign will read, "Chosen before the foundation of the world". There truly is no conflict. Just a mystery.

    In HIS service;
    Jim
     
  3. Sularis

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    Im kinda of the opposite - Im still young - tho at times my bones feel like Im an old man.

    May God come before I get too old - and the pain really kicks in - arthritis "runs" in my family

    well back to the point

    I grew up in a church that basically believed God saves em but we gotta tenderize em - we smacked people upside the head with rules and Bibles - and what not till we thought they was soft enough for God - if God called em - good for God - if He didnt obviously elect unto damnation and kick that bugger out - in a friendly Christian way.

    But when I got saved it wasnt because I was tenderized and beaten down - it was because God uniquely called me - I feel perhaps since nothing I can recall or feels explains this concept of rightness or sense of correctness I had - that indeed I was elected. But somehow as I grew up more and more I became more and more disillusioned with our tenderizer approach.

    Ahhhhh I could go on - and babble - my heart aches anytime anyone screams free will only or election only - In fact in pains me to have to argue so much for free will/agency when I know both are true - but until someone can present a balanced view which is currently beyond my abilities to expound.

    I have gone back and forth throughout my young life - but once I stood on the Bible and Christ - I found my home - just wish the Arminians and Calvinists would stop sniping us unsheltered middlegrounders.
     
  4. HankD

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    Agreed, and when we try to figure it out we are frustrated.

    Ecclesiastes 3:11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

    Ecclesiastes 8:17 Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

    Isaiah 55
    8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
    9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

    Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

    Genesis 18:25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

    HankD
     
  5. Hoot

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    I agree with HankD. This is a point of theology that has come to me to seem pointless. I've talked to people who believe in the predestination thing, but I just can't get past where Jesus says "whosoever" in John 3:16. "Whosoever" implies to me that salvation is open to everyone.

    At any rate, even if predestination is the true reality, we must operate as if free-will were the true reality. HankD referred to Isaiah 55:8-9 and this pretty much tells us that we can't know the mind of God. If that is true, then we cannot know who God has elected.

    Romans 10:13-14 tells us that salvation cannot occur without a person actually hearing the gospel. (13:For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14: How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?)

    If that is so, and we (those of us who are of the elect and His church) are charged with teaching that gospel to all people everywhere, then we have no choice but to treat everything as a free-will reality. If it were otherwise, then God would give us a list of people to contact.

    Whether God has hand-picked a few to receive salvation or whether He has left it up to each individual whether to seek Him, it is clear to me that we don't know a person's status and must treat them as if they are as eliglble to receive God's grace as any other person on earth.

    Given this, it really wouldn't matter to us whether it was a free-will world or an elect world.

    I can't believe that God would direct His servants to write down a lot of material in His word that wouldn't matter to us. That's the basis of my reason for not really buying the theory of election.
     
  6. Bob Krajcik

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    OldRegular

    While my pilgrimage has not been just as yours, I think I understand, and appreciate what you are saying.

    I started off my pilgrimage after having been convinced that there was nothing I could do of myself to gain salvation, and those clear passages that confirm it is of the Lord if one is to be saved or not were understandable enough to me, very clear to me, and with this I discovered there is a direct involvement of the Holy Spirit, a drawing to Christ. Throughout my walk I have not excluded those that have not learned the same as I have understood, for I believe the Lord teaches as He will (Ps 25:12), revealing one thing but not another. All must be taught of the Lord, for that which is flesh is flesh and that which is spirit is spirit. Those that were not of the sovereign grace understanding, as I saw, nevertheless sometimes manifested evidence of the new life, not to imply my light always shines brightly.

    As a caveat, I do distance myself from what is seen as easy believism, and the abuses of the invitation system. Please, if any are interested in pursuing these matters, start a new thread.
     
  7. Hoot

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    I agree with your last statment, Bob. I sought God for 10 years. Until I completely surrendered to Him, I wasn't saved. I don't like the "accept Christ" terminology and what it teaches because what saved me was not that I accepted Him, but that He accepted me, and then only when I met His conditions (a broken heart and contrite spirit).

    This is another problem I have with election. If I was chosen before time, why wouldn't God just bestow salvation upon me instead of a 10 year struggle? I know I can't know His mind, but if I was elected to begin with, I shouldn't have ever been convinced that I was hell-bound, which I was for 10 years.
     
  8. webdog

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    I was saved at the age of 7. After attending a church that didn't really show me how to be a disciple of Christ, I began to do my own thing around 13. This was the biginning of 20 years of living like someone who had never been saved, except even when I was drunk out of my mind or with a different woman each night, I could FEEL the Holy Spirit being vexed within me.

    Every time I did something that was contrary to the way a Christian should live, I had a great amount of embarrasement and shame at the way I was living.

    After my sister passed away in '03 at the age of 25, I began to feel like the world was caving in around me. This was around the time the Passion came out. God really spoke to me through that movie, and the next week while jogging with my wife we bacame separated by 2 different jogging paths. I poured my heart out to God and asked Him to forgive me for the way I had been living.

    It is because of the way my life has gone I KNOW that the moment you accept Christ as your personal savior, you are His FOR LIFE, ETERNALLY! For 20 years I tried to turn the Holy Spirit "off" when He tried to intervene. If I was never saved, I would not have cared about how I was living my life, I am convinced, and would still be living a destructive lifestyle.
     
  9. mcgyver

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    My pilgrimage is still on-going...

    I came to know Jesus as Lord and Savior at the tender age of 33. I was a career soldier and had always been with the most "elite" units in the US Army. I am eternally grateful that he didn't let me die jumping out of airplanes before I came to know Him.

    Soldiering was my whole life, I ate, slept, walked and talked the art of war; and I still look back in amazement at how hard I had become. Three tours of combat and it didn't bother me in the least. Other operations on just about every continent seeing things the average Joe never has to see....And still it didn't bother me. My life was defined by the uniform and the awards I wore on my chest.

    I to this day remember how it happened. I was driving in New England and saw a grave yard, and the first thought that came to me was "is this all there is?" coupled by the greatest sense of despair I had ever felt in my life. All at once my career brought me no comfort, the "fruit salad" on my uniform was empty, and I started looking.

    Three days later I found myself talking to a Southern Baptist Pastor who shared the gospel with me, and I just knew it was the truth. After wrestling with it for a couple of days, I bent my knee at the foot of the cross in the privacy of my own bedroom....and Jesus responded. Changed my life, my outlook, everything. Three months later I was in the middle of the First Gulf War.....

    I used to wonder "why me?", "why was I saved?" there seemed to be a whole bunch of people better than me.....

    Now I say "Thank you that my name is wrtten in the Lamb's book of life", and the question I ask is "How can I serve you today, Lord?"

    Election/Predestination/Free Will....I don't know that I will ever understand or even know the answers. I just try to do what He has commanded us to do and leave the rest to Him.
     
  10. natters

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    Very insightful!
     
  11. HankD

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    Here is the place where all the questions go away.

    John 13:23 Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.

    HankD
     
  12. JackRUS

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    Agreed, and when we try to figure it out we are frustrated.

    Ecclesiastes 3:11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

    Ecclesiastes 8:17 Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

    Isaiah 55
    8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
    9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

    Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

    Genesis 18:25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

    HankD
    </font>[/QUOTE]I once told a Calvinist deacon in my former church that Ps. 131:1 held the answer to the age old question about election.

    "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me."

    He didn't like the answer because he thought that he was a modern Calvinist intellectual, and that he had God all figured out. And theologians like him (I don't like that term either) will not stop trying to pick God's brain.

    I have a suggestion. Take the Gospel to every creature and stop trying to figure out how smart we can become by figuring out God's motives.

    And OldRegular, don't forget to take in the whole council of God.

    Isa. 66:2
     
  13. JackRUS

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    Good OSAS testimony.
     
  14. JackRUS

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    Good point. And why does God sometimes manipulate our circumstances in order to bring us into submision if our will isn't also a part of the equation?

    Scripture is clear that God makes the dynamic decision concerning election(Rom. 9:15), but He looks for a will in us to believe in Him as He has clearly promised in Scripture. Isa. 66:2.
     
  15. Dave

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    JackRUS,

    I think the answer to why we struggle for years sometimes and why God manipulates our circumstances to bring us into submission might have something to do with our inate stubborness. That old human nature tries to hang on for all its worth. "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."
     
  16. whatever

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    I have another suggestion - when someone opens a post saying "Please note: I do not submit this post to start another debate but to see if there others out there who have experienced a similar pilgrimage they would be willing to share", maybe it would be good to honor that poster's request. Judging the inward thoughts ("he thought that he was a modern Calvinist intellectual, and that he had God all figured out") is a most un-Christian way to behave. If that deacon expressed those thoughts of himself then please let me know and I will apologize.
     
  17. whatever

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    Hi OR,

    My experience is much the same as yours. There were a couple of questions that always bothered me. First, no one could explain to me why, if Christ paid for the sins of the lost, they still had to go to Hell. The usual answer was to treat unbelief as if it were not a sin, which never made sense to me. Second, no one could adequately explain passages like John 6:44 and Eph. 1.

    Finally I met some friends and a pastor, all of whom patiently explained what they believed, and more importantly what they didn't believe. It took several years before I was convinced that their understanding of the Bible was correct, and even longer before I could bring myself to tell anyone. The hardest part has been feeling like I was turning my back on those who raised me. I'm over that now, though - some people actually want to discuss these issues, and some don't, but no one has broken fellowship with me over it.

    I rejoice that God has given me a more complete view of His work in salvation, and that we will have all eternity for that understanding to grow. What a marvelous God we serve!
     
  18. JackRUS

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    I agree Dave, but I was merely speaking of the will of man.
     
  19. JackRUS

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    I have another suggestion - when someone opens a post saying "Please note: I do not submit this post to start another debate but to see if there others out there who have experienced a similar pilgrimage they would be willing to share", maybe it would be good to honor that poster's request. Judging the inward thoughts ("he thought that he was a modern Calvinist intellectual, and that he had God all figured out") is a most un-Christian way to behave. If that deacon expressed those thoughts of himself then please let me know and I will apologize. </font>[/QUOTE]I know this man and you don't. I sat under his teaching in Sunday school for years, and he was the man that caused the split in our church by bringing in Calvinism. So apology accepted.

    And BTW, your post had nothing to do with the subject either.
     
  20. whatever

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    Actually, you are correct about one thing - my post no more to do with the OP than yours did. OldRegular, I apologize and I will say no more about this.
     

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