Reconciling Desire with Election


On the heels of Sunday’s message on John 15:16, wherein Jesus declares to his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you,” at least one important question has come back to me regarding how this could square with 2 Peter 3:9, at which place Peter writes that the Lord is “not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Here is a somewhat feeble effort toward an explanation:

Clearly, biblically, God offers a general call to all to believe, and he does desire that no one should perish. However, the effects of sin are such that man it utterly incapable of choosing God. “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God” (Rom 3:9-11). All are damned.

It would appear then, that there must be some intervention. God, not willing that any should perish, provides the means by which a damned humanity can move from darkness and damnation to light and liberty. This means, of course, is the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Based upon Jesus’ work, God now has the legal means to extend grace to the damned. But because no one on his or her own can yearn for God due to sin’s blinding power, God has to initiate this awakening within those who would be saved. And within the confines of the Scriptures we discover that despite God’s desire that all be saved, what we might call his wish or hope, the reality is that not all will be given that special intervention from him. Acts 13:48, for instance, states this: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (italics mine). Because “as many as were appointed” appears, we discern that some were not appointed to receive eternal life.

I’d be lying if I knew why this tension existed. I simply don’t. On one hand the Master desires all to come to him. On the other hand the weight of the Scriptures suggests all will not; and that God will not elect them unto salvation. It is here that I rest on Romans 9’s exhortation to let him be the potter who does what is best.


  1. Michael The Red says:

    I agree that on the surface it seems contradictory but I dont see the antinomy.

    There are a number of good books to read that work hard to exegete these difficult scriptures.

    Arminian (well, moderate arminian) >
    Chosen but Free – Norman Geisler

    Calvinist >
    Living for Gods Glory – Joel Beeke
    Chosen by God – R.C. Sproul
    The Potters Freedom – James White

    If you want a one-two discussion, read Chosen but Free first then The Potters Freedom.

    Soli Deo Gloria

  2. Arne says:

    Is anybody still reading comments on this post? Probably not, but I’ll add something anyway. I was nudged to doing so by reading 1 Corinthians 1 today. Two points: 1. Apostle Paul BEGGED people not to quarrel by proclaiming allegiance to one teacher or another. 2. He really dissed human wisdom. We creatures just ain’t got what it takes to understand, much less explain, God’s wisdom.

    “Come unto me all….” and “…chose us in him before the foundation…” are contradictory, I believe, only in our finite minds. Embrace the delights of worshipping and loving a God whose wisdom cannot be expressed in human language without using an antinomy here or there.

  3. Jake says:

    Jon – If i might just respond to two things:
    1 – I think there are some mis-understood (perhaps mis-taugh) views of what many on this blog are calling “Calvinism” and in fact, although I lean that way theologically I would hesitate to label myself with anything other than “Jesus’ follower” and it seems that “Calvinist” is being used as a “put-down” on this blog.

    2 – I think there is a mis-understanding when you are giving this example:

    “If this is the truth, just think of those who have read the Bible for what it says, and believe the gospel, and on the last day, find out that they weren’t “chosen” and get sent to eternal damnation: people like you and me, who hear the word and make a choice.”

    I think that’s part of the doctrine of election. Those who truly believe the Gospel and trust in Jesus WILL persevere to the end. Just as there are many who have paid lip-service to Jesus but who have never really had a converted heart. There isn’t a danger of us TRULY living for Christ, surrendered to His Lordship and then find out… dang… guess I’m not elect.

    I understand your frustration here and I agree with you whole heartedly… and that is not what the doctrine of election teaches.

    The reality is that we DON’T know the hearts, motives, intentions of everyone… so we proclaim boldly the Gospel of Jesus so that the Holy Spirit of God would, at that time, open the eyes of the blind that they might see Jesus and believe in him. We should be the greatest evangelists because the work of Salvation is not ours… its Gods.

    There is tension here in our hearts (not just our blog responses) but I believe we can hold that God elects and that we respond, both personally in belief & in proclamation to those around us who are lost. We proclaim and let God sort it out.

  4. Jake says:

    Dan, while I see your point I am afraid that you are missing mine. I place seeking God as taking place before choosing God.

    Yes, in a very real sense, you and I choose to submit to God in Christ Jesus (as per the scriptures you mentioned) however, my argument is that we cannot choose unless our blindness is removed… SO THAT we can seek God… and, UPON SEEING CHRIST JESUS, surrender our lives to him.

    I’m not saying we don’t “choose”… I’m just saying that without God’s intervention by His Holy Spirit… we CANNOT choose God because we cannot seek him not see Him…

  5. Dan Lien says:

    Jake, to be honest both scriptures used to defend your view on Calvinism are not correct. 1- “No one seeks for God.” (Romans 3) You imply this verse teaches that we are unable to choose God, this text does not say that. It says no seeks God. But the Bible makes it clear we can choose God. (Jeremiah 29:13, Heb 11:6, Acts 17:26-28, Isaiah 55:6-7, Psalms 9:10, 27-8, 42:10) Here are some of favorites. Dueteronomy 30:19 I call to heaven and earth as a witnesses today against you, that I have set bebore you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life. Proverbs 1:29 Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD. No where in the Bible can I find any scripture where its stated that I cannot choose, no not even one. If I took your view or Calvinism’s view of Romans 3 and applied it to Dueteronomy 30:19, the verse would be written as “therefore you are unable to choose life.” Proverbs 1:29 changed to “Because they hated knowledge they were unable to fear the LORD.” John 11 and the raising of Lazarus has nothing to do with salvation as you suggest. Main teaching is found in John 11:4 and verse 40 for the glory of God and His Son. The Calvinist says God could through Irresistible Grace, thats the I in TULIP, cause all mankind to believe in Christand obey Him. If that be true, then the fact that He does not do so runs counter to all the Bible says of His lovingkindness, mercy and grace. If anyone would like to know more about Calvinism there is an excellent book by Dave Hunt-What Love Is This? John 17:3And this is eternal life , that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

  6. Matthew says:

    Randy . . .

    I am so thankful for you. What you have shared could not have been stated any better. Thank you for your grace and wisdom. It is an honor to be a partner with you at Bethel Church. May your tribe increase.


  7. Randy Rusten says:

    Sometime subsequent to the sermon, Reconciling Desire With Election, I was informed about the existence of this blog. Guess I have been “out of the loop” – although this would be quite a common occuance for me!

    Let me first commend you Pastor Matthew for taking a humble servant approach in your sermon on this sensitive subject. There are relatively few pastors or teachers that hold to either a Calvinistic or Armenian position that would begin their sermon by giving consent to not “… agree with a thing that guy said.” In addition, you acknowledged that “I’ve not cornered the market on who our God is…” If that wasn’t enough, you have condeded that we may not ever be meant to reconcile the tension between these two concepts. That doesn’t sound like the language of a dogmatic, narrow-minded individual!

    It is my intention to employ that same humility you exhibited in my response here. Let me start out by asserting that many Christians do not feel comfortable classifying themselves as either Calvinists or Armenians for good reason. That is, they don’t entirely agree with either the five tenants (T.U.L.I.P.) of Calvinism, or with the corresponding five points of Armenianism, (Jacobus Arminius) that have have come to more-or-less define the two systems of theology.

    I am one who falls into this category. It is not because of a lack of study on the subject – I have read some very well thought out, strong dissertations from both camps. After years of study in God’s word and accompanying examination of these two doctrines, I am no closer to placing myself squarely in either camp than when I started. This in itself is a bit unusual, for I am, if nothing else, strongly predisposed to take a side and stay out of the middle.

    I do firmly believe that this is an area where we as the body of Christ can debate, even vigorously, without having to divide. In other words, it is not an essential of the Christian faith to believe one way or the other (though you may think otherwise listening to some spokepeople from both sides). That being said, I agree wholeheartedly with certain points you made, and just as wholeheartedly disagree with others.

    The debate really isn’t about God’s sovereignty, predestination, free will, election or any number of other phrases. Bible believing Christians from both camps would recognize these as scripturally valid. Rather, it is about the meaning we pour into these words, and the accompanying set of beliefs that are formed. Here are two examples: I do not see predestination and free will as being mutually exclusive – others do. I do not believe the sovereignty of God is threatened by his giving people the privilege of choosing to respond to the gospel through the prompting of the Holy Spirit – others would strongly object.

    Harsh division on this subject can be greatly diminished by taking a humble stance and not trying to force a view on another brother or sister in Christ. That only hardens the resolve of whatever position they’ve taken. Setting up straw man arguments and knocking them down serves no good purpose. It is ironic how easily otherwise reasonable Christians revert to name calling (heretic, irrational, lunatic!) while trying to prove how orthodox their belief in God’s sovereignty is.

    I’ll close with one caution to each side: If you’re a Calvinist (including high or low, 5 point, 4 point, or even 4 1/2 point!), don’t assume that those who are not are prideful because they explain their salvation by saying they made a decision to follow Christ. Pride is not determined by a doctrinal belief or systematic theology, it is a human condition that all of us must die to. If you’re an Armenian (some Calvinists believe that includes anyone who is not a Calvinist!), please don’t accuse or misrepresent Calvinists of believing that God is a puppet master and that He coerces a person to believe.

    Let’s strive to unite around the essentials!

  8. Matthew says:

    Amen David. Thank you so much for weighing in on this. Your words could not have been better presented, or more timely.

  9. David Alan Hjelle says:

    I realize that theology has a lot of tendency to divide. And, admittedly, there are a lot of times that is a good thing. Dividing a church over a heresy like “I can save myself by my good deeds.” is a very good thing!

    But I’m not sure that a deep division over election and free will is right. I understand at least some of the reason for the division, and it certainly has caused division in the past. But both sides agree on so very much that is much more important!

    – We agree that salvation is through Christ alone.
    – We agree that He died on the cross for our sins.
    – We agree that God did indeed love us so very much that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
    – We agree that we are lost without Him.
    – We agree that Jesus is the Son of God, yet became a human so that we would have a high priest who could identify with our weaknesses.
    – We agree that we deserve eternal punishment in Hell, except for the amazing grace that has been offered us through Christ.

    And that’s just a start! One could go on far longer.

    While I think it is deeply important to wrestle with theology (whether we like it or not) in order to know God more fully, I also think that it is important to remember Who our theology is about. Jesus is the one we worship, not theology: and, if we keep our eyes on Him, I think He will build unity in us even when our opinions about how exactly He saves us don’t match.

    I pray that the discussion here is edifying, challenging, fruitful, and that it brings us closer to Christ together—and not just further from each other!

  10. Jon says:

    Revealed will – secret will. General call – effectual call. God’s absolute providence – except for sinful acts. Seems like a lot of dichotomies used to work out the discrepancies in a man-made doctrine. When considering God’s sovereignty I’m not sure why it’s necessary to limit His will to Him predetermining every action. God’s sovereign will is an immeasurable attribute that the Calvinist has attempted to define, and in the end, has placed in a box. God can, and does will that all men have a choice to make – choose life, or not. Why does God plead with us throughout the entire Bible to seek him and His will. If every action is predetermined and our course is set, this makes God’s pleading dishonest as He is asking us to do something that we have no ability to do. If it is His will that “no one should perish and that all would come to him,” and then not allow a way for all, is also a lie. So leads to creating a revealed / secret will, and a general / effectual call. Both are man-made ideas, with no scriptural basis – only the need to rationalize the doctrine.

    You have to decide whether you want to base your faith on the twenty verses in the Bible that seem to back up Calvinism, and look at the rest of the Bible through Calvin glasses, or to look at the Bible as a whole, where God continually pleads for us to seek Him and believe in Him, and look at those verses through those lenses. Think on Ephesians 1. Verses 11 and 12 are always quoted and used to back up TULIP, but you need to read on to vs. 13. “and you were also included in Christ when you HEARD the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having BELIEVED, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised holy spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (which is listed in vs. 3-12) until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of His glory. All of the so-called “proof texts” to back Calvinism have an alternate viewpoint.

    Im not sure how anyone can take comfort/security in this doctrine. If this is the truth, just think of those who have read the Bible for what it says, and believe the gospel, and on the last day, find out that they weren’t “chosen” and get sent to eternal damnation: people like you and me, who hear the word and make a choice. You could never know if you just thought you believed, or if you were chosen and believed. There is no security at all in that. How about this – the Bible says that those who hear the gospel can believe and be saved. PERIOD. How much more plain could it be. How could you be more secure in faith than that!

    I am never one to speak up and people are entitled to their beliefs. The problem, though, is that I have personally seen this issue have horrible effects on people and have seen a church divided and split over it. It is an issue that goes to the core of belief. An issue of salvation – and that is all that matters. Every church has issues but an issue like this is huge!! I’m sure the argument is going to be made that my mind is just to simple and that I am not “mature in my faith” enough to understand. If it is that complicated, and only the enlightened can really grasp it, then why preach it. It just creates confusion.

    I am having a hard time reconciling the sermons in the last several months like the one on Hell where Pastor Matthew asked us what we were going to do about our non-saved neighbors and then hear last week about how only the elect (predetermined before time began) can be saved anyway. Then this week to hear about how we should be missionaries and evangelize to the ones who aren’t saved around us. Does that make any sense???? I don’t think the Bible is supposed to be that complicated and convoluted.

  11. Harold says:

    Here is the example:
    When you try to apply Ephesians 1:4 to yourself, you are in error. The key to properly understand the first chapter of Ephesians is to look at the pronouns. Notice the “us” and “we” in nearly every verse starting with vs. 3 and ending with vs. 12. Then notice how Paul transitions to “you” and “your” in vs. 13-18. The question is, “who is Paul speaking of in each of these uses?” Is it about you? No!
    Verse 12 tells us that the “us” are those who were the first to hope in Christ (or the Messiah). Who was that? The Jews. The nation of Israel. Therefore, the “you” is referring to believing Gentiles who have now been allowed to become partakers of some of Israel’s promises along with becoming members of God’s holy people. Ephesians 2:11 confirms this. Remember, Paul was a Jew writing to the new Gentile believers. If you read Ephesians with this is mind, it will become totally clear.
    Now back to Eph. 1:4. When Paul writes, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world”, he is referring to God’s plan for a chosen people, the nation of Israel. He is not referring to individual election. The same can be said regarding vs. 5.
    Baker’s Theological Dictionary agrees with this assessment. You can find this online and search “Ephesians”. There are answers like these for nearly every other verse that “seems” to prove the doctrine of predestination as well. I’m not saying there’s not election, there is. But not the way the Calvinists understand it.

  12. Harold says:

    You know people, even though you can’t tell it by the blog here, there are many more people at Bethel who are sickened by Calvinism than just Ann and Jon. I’ve heard and spoken to them. The reason why the doctrine of election and predestination has divided God’s people for centuries is because the verses that deal with this issue are misinterpreted by both the Calvinists and the Arminians. Explanations from each side seem inadequate to change anyone’s mind. This of course makes sense when both sides are operating from faulty premises.
    Ann mentioned context. Context of a passage is important to properly understand meaning. I’m sure you would agree. Therefore, for all of you who love God’s word and desire to understand it with the intention in which it was written, I would ask that you consider the upcoming example:

  13. Veronica Wyland says:

    Just to add a quick side note. 3 years ago when I first heard about the doctrins of Grace (election) I fell into the cadigory of Threatened. Most of us have not grown up with these teachings so when heard for the first time uneasiness stired in my heart. I am very thank for for the poeple around me for loving me right were I was at. They showed much grace and let the spirit do his work in me. Needlesss to say my studying of scripture has never been the same after being introduced to these things. I could not avoid it. no matter what I read the evidences of Gods sovereign choosing were everywhere. My relationship with Christ will never be the same. I want to encourage those who feel threatened. The road may not be easy and it may not even lead to agreement on Election but it should lead you to the word. It did for me. I am forever thankful that he was willing to stretch me even those it would cause dicomfort for a short time. He has left me with great Joy.

  14. Veronica Wyland says:

    Ann and others I would like to share part of a message given by John Piper That I Think is very helpful. It was part of his message call “The free will of the wind.”you can check it out on Desiring God .com
    The last paragraph is the best part GOD IS SO GOOD stand in awe of Him today.

    Today there are two basic responses to what Jesus says in John 3:8. One is threatened by it. And the other is thrilled by it.
    One group says, “Don’t take away from me the power of my will to make the wind blow. Don’t tell me that I am utterly dependent on God’s free and sovereign grace to see Christ as my supreme treasure and receive him for all that he is.” The person who feels he must have the decisive power of will, the final say, to move the Spirit—to make the wind blow—that person will be threatened by John 3:8. For that person, it is bad news. What they would prefer to hear is a message confirming their own ultimate self-determination. That would be the good news they want.

    But there is another group of people. These are the desperate ones who know that they are utterly helpless. They know they are dead in trespasses and sins. They are hard and rebellious and resistant. They know that if God leaves them to themselves and their own willpower, or if God only nudges them instead of giving them new life, they will not see Christ or believe on him. It does no good to nudge a corpse. You might get it to church, but that doesn’t make it live.

    For this group, John 3:8 is very good news: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” This group hears John 3:8 and says: “There’s hope for me. It’s not threatening to me that I have no power in myself to constrain the Spirit to bring about the new birth. I knew that already. I have lived in this helplessness for many years. But it is thrilling to me to be told that God is free and sovereign in his grace. Because it means that all my helplessness, and all my deadness, and all my rebellion, and all my spiritual hardness, and all my moral inability, and all the years of my sin are no hindrance to God’s omnipotent Spirit when he wills to give me life through his crucified and risen Son. He blows where he wills, not where we deserve his blowing, and not where we constrain his blowing. His grace is free and sovereign. He does not depend on me in this work.”
    Look to the Crucified Christ
    When, in your helplessness and deadness, you say, “What shall I do?” Jesus says, “Look away from yourself to the Son of Man, lifted up on a cross to die for your sins.” The work of the Spirit in the new birth is to make us alive so that we see the glory of Christ crucified and risen. So look to him. Look to the Son of Man.

    And when you hear Jesus say, “The Spirit blows where it wills,” don’t hear him taking from you the will that you treasure, but hear him giving to you eyes to see Christ as your treasure.

  15. Brad says:

    Unfortunately, theology is not “warm and fuzzy”. Even the illustration I shared is not “warm and fuzzy”. I struggle with this every time it comes up. But where does faith come in? After we understand it? If we wait until then, is it truly faith?

    There are Christians that use the term faith to mean that they do not have to think. I am pretty sure that this discussion is showing that the people on either side of this issue do not fall into that category. But after we read the scriptures and after we wrestle with the apparent disagreements, there comes a time when we need to rest in the One that has the infinite mind rather than on our feable brains. Where is that dividing point? That is a good question.

  16. Jon says:

    What do you suppose it says on the the gates of Hell?According to Calvin – “Condemned from all eternity.” Doesn’t sound so warm and fuzzy from that side.

  17. Jake says:

    Ann, to be honest no. I don’t see how you can lump reformed theology in with Satan? It truly baffles me. In fact, it is statements like that that cause more division in the body of Christ than a Theological position.
    Would you say that I am an agent of Satan because I am more reformed theologically? That is absurd! And, I would contend, that a CORRECT understanding of Calvinist/reformed theology doesn’t lead to pride or being spiritually haughty but rather leads to humility because before God, without Christ, we are lost and dead in sin… and ONLY by Christ’s saving work are we able to stand forgiven and full of Christ’s righteousness. That is not prideful. If you could give me some examples of the destruction you’ve seen because of reformed theology please tell me. Yes, there are fringes of good theology that are less-than-helpful (hyper-calvinists who don’t feel the need to evangelize would fall into that category of error is an example that comes to mind) but to blame reformed theology for so much evil is, at best, a gross overstatement.

    There are three things I think I would like to address in your last post besides what I just mentioned.
    1- the “no good reason” for this doctrine
    2- the “context” issue dealing with the distinctions between Israel and the Church today.
    3- God’s sovereignty and sin.

    1- “no good reason” – I think that the Idea that man is sinful and, in fact, dead in sin and cannot wake himself from death but, instead, needs a stronger one to breathe into him and call him to new life SO THAT he will be able to stand (John 11) is a KEY Gospel concept. The question begs to be asked… can you save yourself? I believe you would answer “No.” It’s only by Christ’s death on the Cross and we would agree. However, Romans (Paul speaking to non-Jews) says that apart from Christ none of us chooses good. Left to ourselves we will not choose Christ, and in fact, we cannot. The weight and power of sin is too much! So, like Lazarus we need someone to initiate calling us from death. God’s call is necessary for us to come to trust Christ. (Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13)

    2- “context”. I’m not sure where this argument comes from. I’ve only been looking at NT passages of scripture here, in their context of teaching other Christians (both Jewish Christians and gentile Christians) of Christ’s power to call out of darkness and into light. Ephesians 5:8 says, “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord…” I’m not sure how that has anything to do with God’s promise to Jews or a “context” problem. If you want to look at context lets look at John 3:16 which you quoted in your first response to this article. If we read further we see that in verse 19 it says, “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works are evil…” then in verse 21 it says, “but whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” Yes we “come” to the light and “believe” in Jesus for salvation but not to show our great wisdom for making such a choice but rather to point to God’s work in us. Those who come to the light do, “so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

    3- James 1:13-15 says, “let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
    I agree. God is not to blame for our sin. We are. We suffer under sin from our birth because of Adam. That’s the whole point. We are in sin, we are sin, we are dead. So we are all accountable for our own sinful choices. Simple as that. Does that chain God’s hands? Not at all. Are you making the claim that God is not sovereign? That there are things that he can’t know or control? If so, then your position makes a little more sense although I would say that a God who loves but is powerless to act is far more dangerous than a God who is in control and acts according to what He sees as best from his seat as ruler over all things. To borrow from Tom Fellows (another commenter on this post) “Either God is totally sovereign or He is not sovereign at all. We can’t have our cake and eat it too, so to speak.”

    There is a great resource that helps explain the seeming contradiction that Pastor Matthew is referencing between God’s unconditional love for all people and his choosing of some here:

    So… either we are not as bad as I am saying and we can work ourselves out of sin enough to se God and THEN cling to Christ… or we are, like our physical birth, subject to our parents (having no say how or when we are born), are also subject to our loving heavenly father being born-again in Christ Jesus.

    Matthew – please forgive the long posts on this matter. I don’t intent to clog up your blog with this discussion but I felt that the case was over-stated in opposition the position of reformed theology and God’s sovereignty.

    Ann – if Matthew’s ok with it, we can keep a dialogue on this post, otherwise I’d be happy to continue the discussion if you would so choose. (I believe you can click on my name and link to my personal blog… or I can give you my email address.)

    Soli Deo Gloria,

  18. Shannon Olson says:

    It is only when we are able to acknowledge our total depravity that we may fully grasp God’s grace and mercy. It is not Calvin, he himself is but a man, but I believe a man, like many others that fully understood his need for a savior and his inability to save himself by choosing one. When Calvin was dead, the synod of Dort formulated the now famous TULIP. Probably the currant most rejected theology, yet I believe the most accurate. Romans 3 is very clear on the condition of man, and man still rebelling insists he is able to chose God. I, a filthy rag, cannot chose God, I did not seek him, I ran from him. He chose me for his glory, he opened my eyes that I may see him. I did not deserve it, I never will. Born under the curse of sin, blinded completely by the devil, how could I have ever sought him.

  19. Ann says:

    Jake, be honest now. You must have some idea where I am coming from in my comment. Satan is the great deceiver. He will infiltrate seminaries and Bible believing churches and cause false teachings to emerge and division to occur. There appears to be no good reason to push this doctrine that I can see. What good is there of pushing this hideous doctrine? That sick feeling Pastor Matthew said he gets in his stomach when when he talks about this is proof that the Spirit is grieving. I too feel this in my heart and I know that this doctrine in not from the Lord. Context is the key and it seems that Calvinists are taking verses meant for the Jewish people and are applying them to the Church. Calvinists always talk about the sovereignty of God and make it appear like God ordains all, even sin. God does not ordain sinful acts, he will not and can not, so how do you answer that? Again, nothing comes from this teaching but pride and division. Keep going down this path from the pulpit and you will see that this will be so.

  20. Jake says:

    Without sounding harsh… I really have NO idea where Ann is coming from with her comment. I am not intending to be decisive but to call Calvin a tool of Satan is equal folly to saying that someone who believes differently than you on the gifts of the Spirit in our day is not Saved although they have the same faith alone in Christ alone is damned! It seems to come out of left field!
    Matthew, your point was well-stated. There is a tension that you and I have to hold while we take breath on his spinning rock… Thankfully God is one who is above!
    The key for me understanding the need for Gods call to come FIRST… before I can respond & believe… Came from two scriptures: 1- “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” (Romans 3) If I could choose God on my own then my righteousness would be based on my seeking… My hard work and striving and Christ’s death and life again from the dead would be worthless. And 2- the account of Lazarus in John 11. He was dead. And like Lazarus we are dead in our sin and lack the power to call ourselves from the grave. Christ needs first to call, “MATTHEW…. JACOB… COME FORTH!” before either of us will be able to “choose” to throw off the grave clothes and follow Jesus.
    Thank you for not skipping over a hard text while preaching through the scriptures. And thank you for letting the scriptures shape your mind and heart rather than imposing your preferred outcome on the text. Blessings my friend.

  21. Matthew says:

    Tom . . .

    Thanks for your encouraging words. Without patronizing you, can I just tell you that the way you stated the issue in your comment is brilliant. I love the sentence, “. . . a tension purposely put there by God, one we will likely never fully understand this side of Heaven, and it strips every last bit of pride and self-accomplishment from a man when it finally sinks in that our salvation is all of God’s choosing and not of ours.”

    By the way Tom . . . I value knowing you, and am eager to nurture that as God allows.

  22. Tom Fellows says:

    Very balanced treatment of the subject at hand, brother. I often preach what I for lack of a better term call the “bookends” — God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility. It is exactly what you speak of, a tension purposely put there by God, one we will likely never fully understand this side of Heaven, and it strips every last bit of pride and self-accomplishment from a man when it finally sinks in that our salvation is all of God’s choosing and not of ours. We are simply to obey that effectual call that draws us to Him. Either God is totally sovereign or He is not sovereign at all. We can’t have our cake and eat it too, so to speak.

  23. Matthew says:

    Hi Brad . . . I think that is an excellent portrait of God’s marvelous grace. Thanks for sharing that.

  24. Brad says:

    While this is not intellectually satisfying, I was told an illustration for this and I submit it for comments.

    At the gates of heaven, there is a gate. Across the top of the gate, it states “Believe and you will be saved”. Once you walk through into heaven, you turn back and see the writing on the top of the gate on heaven’s side states “Chosen from all eternity”.

    While it does not resolve the tension but it does show that there are two perspectives. Is that a good (accurate?) illustration to use to describe this theological issue?

  25. Matthew says:

    I appreciate your comments. For whatever it is worth the general persuasion of Evangelical Free Churches is Calvinistic and Reformed, though, admittedly, there are exceptions to that. Clearly John 3:16, as you say, affirms that importance of a person believing in Christ. We’re clearly called to do that. Our salvation, however, comes based upon the work of Jesus at Calvary. Our belief is the means by which we access what He has accomplished for us through His death and resurrection.

  26. Ann says:

    Matthew, is it your desire to “convert” Bethel to a reformed theology church? There are many who believe that salvation in Christ is a choice and they also base that on scripture. Throughout scripture salvation is based on belief. John 3:16 says that whosoever believes… John Calvin got his ideas from a Catholic St. Augustine. Calvin was not a model to follow based on things he did and said. I think that Calvinism and Reformed theology are Satan’s plan for the Church in the end times to divide us. We are more than puppets in a show. Please be careful in what you preach as we are all held accountable by the Lord and pastors to even a higher standard.

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