Wednesday, December 1, 2010

God Dethroned?

“Who is regulating affairs on this earth today - God or the Devil? What impression is made upon the minds of those men of the world who, occasionally, attend a Gospel Service? What are the conceptions formed by those who hear even those preachers who are counted as “orthodox”? Is it not that a disappointed God is the one whom Christians believe in? From what is heard from the average evangelist today, is not any serious hearer obliged to conclude that he professes to represent a God who is filled with benevolent intentions, yet unable to carry them out; that He is earnestly desirous of blessing men, but that they will not let Him. Then must not the average hearer draw the inference that the devil has gained the upper hand and that God is to be pitied rather than worshipped.” -A.W.Pink 
It discourages me to know that from the pulpits of our churches people are preaching that God has little or no influence on the world today. Sure they do not say it in such a direct manner, but the subtle assertions that Satan is slowly gaining the upper hand inevitably makes the God who created the universe by the word of His mouth fade into the background. This increasingly popular, yet pseudo-Christian, worldview infects our theology and ultimately seeks to dethrone the King of kings. How could we begin to imagine that God is not in complete control of His creation? How can a person who abides in the truth of the Bible be convinced that God is not entirely sovereign over every aspect of His universe? 
Our removing God from our lives has its root in our view of our relationship to sin. Many subliminally think that we allowed God to save us just enough that we can avoid Hell and now we are on our own to fight off the temptations that so easily entangle us. One could not be more wrong! Some are under the impression that we can overcome sin and temptation of our own will and desires. What do the Scriptures say?
Isaiah 64:5-9
5 ...You are indeed angry, for we have sinned—
       In these ways we continue;
       And we need to be saved.
       6 But we are all like an unclean thing,
      And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
       We all fade as a leaf,
       And our iniquities, like the wind,
       Have taken us away.
       7 And there is no one who calls on Your name,
       Who stirs himself up to take hold of You;
       For You have hidden Your face from us,
       And have consumed us because of our iniquities.
       8 But now, O LORD,
       You are our Father;
       We are the clay, and You our potter;
       And all we are the work of Your hand.
       9 Do not be furious, O LORD,
       Nor remember iniquity forever;
       Indeed, please look…
We CANNOT overcome a single sin by our own effort nor do we desire to apart from the compulsion and conviction of the Holy Spirit. Our efforts toward doing good are as “filthy rags” in the eyes of a holy God. We are, by nature, inclined to do nothing but sin. Therefore we are reliant on God for ALL of our good. The only way we can please God and escape the bondage of sin is for God to transform us into a new creature by His true salvation that is found only in faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. 
Who would want to have to rely on themselves for any degree of righteousness? This method of thinking serves only to fuel human pride. We preach so heavily about “gaining that victory,” but whose “victory” is it? Is God glorified more by our own efforts toward overcoming sin or by our total dependence on Him for all our good. We take God out of the equation and when we do, a most disturbing world results, a world where we must rely on our own will power to maintain righteousness. We are taught that if we can muster up enough faith and pray really sincerely, then we can talk God into giving us what we want. We do not have nearly that sort of power in and of ourselves. 
Back to the original point. How much influence does God have in the world today? Complete control. He does not leave either salvation or sanctification up to us. He governs, guides, and regulates all things - large and small, animate and inanimate, good and bad - primarily for His Glory and secondarily for good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8), which still serves His glory. On what basis does He conduct things? According to His own pleasure and according to the council of His own will (Ephesians 1). Why wouldn’t the self-sufficient God who spoke the world into existence have the right to uphold and direct every outcome? Does He rule, or is He ruled? Do His eternal plans come to pass, or are they thwarted by His creation? There is no in-between. 


  1. To say that humans possessing the ability to choose between good and evil violates the sovereignty of God assumes that God does not intend to give them that choice, does it not? Yet, if God purposefully allowed humans to choose, is free choice not consistent with divine sovereignty?

    God's purpose is as you have stated - to show His glory, and to work for His people. God is glorified through human disobedience (like with Pharoah) and He is glorified when we obey Him. If whatever we do, God is glorified, God does not need to reserve some people within His eternal to be sinners, so that He is glorified. If He truly is "not willing that any should perish , but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9), how can it be that some people are never given the chance to come to repentance? (In other words, if no one can come to Him unless called by irresistible grace, and God is "not willing that any should perish," why is irresistible grace not extended to all? God would still be glorified by everyone's obedience, so it's not for the purposes of His glory.)

    The question is not whether God has "the right to uphold and direct every outcome." Of course He does. The question is, does He choose to direct every outcome? Does "the self-sufficient God who spoke the world into existence" have the right to decide to give the true power of free choice to His creation? I believe He does, and did so, and is glorified by it.

    Hope your classes are winding down now and that your finals go well. =] . . . . Leah

  2. Leah, since you brought it up:

    "To say that humans possessing the ability to choose between good and evil violates the sovereignty of God assumes that God does not intend to give them that choice, does it not?"

    God intended to give us a choice and He the Garden, Adam CHOSE to sin and as Romans 5:12 says,"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned..." So from Adam's choice and our inheritance of the curse of his sinful nature, we choose to sin (by our own free will - a free will that is bound and enslaved to sin, see Romans 6:16) and we are fully responsible for sinning.

    "Yet, if God purposefully allowed humans to choose, is free choice not consistent with divine sovereignty?"

    It would be contrary to God's nature to allow His creature to thwart His will. It is against His character to allow His creatures even the capacity to usurp His authority.

    "If whatever we do, God is glorified, God does not need to reserve some people within His eternal to be sinners, so that He is glorified."

    I agree. He does not need us at all. God does not make anyone sin, we do that by ourselves, that is a product of our rebellion in the Garden. But He has chosen some to receive saving GRACE.

    In regard to 2 Peter 3:9, i suggest that you take a look at the context (the second coming of Christ) and especially the audience (the believers/elect see 1:1)

    The question is not, "Why isn't God's grace extended to all?" but rather, "Why is God's grace extended to anyone?"

    If God has left anything (especially salvation) up to any man, then He is immediately dethroned (as was the message of this blog) and is at the mercy of our will.

    I know we disagree...but yeah classes are going well...except Chemistry.

  3. I guess it's a huge question of God's will. I would argue that God has two wills. His desired will and his decreed will.

    God desires not only that all would be saved, but that none would sin. We see both clearly in scripture, though the latter is implied. And yet, he obviously has not taken the steps for either to occur, as we know some are damned. i.e. the gate is narrow.

    And yet, he has a decreed will- that which will happen, such as the language barrier at the Tower of Babel, and I would argue- Salvation, for example Revelation 13 says "All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Hmmm.... so he decreed salvation before the foundation of the world. Interesting.

    Reconciling human responsibility with the sovereignty of God isn't easy. Then, neither is understanding the Trinity- which I struggle with and you do too if you're human. I guess a good summation would be that b/c of human responsibility "all men could be saved" but b/c of God's sovereign plan "all will not be saved" aka "The cross could save all even to a universalist extent, but it doesn't. It's not that all can't be saved, it's that they won't be". Hope that helps. Hope I got it right.

  4. If Adam having free choice didn't necessarily violate God's sovereignty, then us having free choices wouldn't necessarily violate God's sovereignty, if He gave us that choice. So, you can't argue that we can't have free will on the basis that "the creation cannot thwart His plans." Because if His plan is to give one person or all people free will,then either option is compatible with His will/sovereignty.

    In Romans 6:16, it talks about making the choice to serve sin, but I don't see how it implies that the choice was the result of a depraved nature, or that it was impossible to make a different choice. In fact, I believe in v. 17 it talks about them choosing to forsake sin and become servants of righteousness.

    One thing this passage put me in mind of . . . you've said before that when Ephesians 2:1 describes a sinner as "dead in trespasses and sins" that means that the sinner would be unable to choose to respond to the gospel. Yet, in Romans 6:2, it says that Christians are dead to sin. Does that mean that it would be impossible for Christians to sin? You've said you don't believe that, but do you see how your reasoning from Eph. 2:1, if applied here, would imply that?

    Romans 5:12 . . . Sin entered into the world through Adam - he was the first to sin . . . but death passed upon all men because all men have sinned. It says nothing about a depraved nature passing upon all men whether they sin or not.

    Notice in v. 18-19: "There as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." Just as many receive condemnation by the offense of Adam, many receive salvation by the obedience of Jesus. Condemnation and salvation are transferred in the same way. If because of Adam, all men receive depraved natures regardless of before they have ever sinned or not sinned, then all men must receive salvation from Jesus regardless of whether they believe on Him or obey Him or anything else. I don't believe that and I know that you don't, either. However, what I do believe is perfectly compatible with these verses. All men that choose to sin receive Adam's condemnation. And all men that choose to obey Jesus receive His salvation.

    Looking at II Peter 3:9 I see no reason to limit "all men" to believers. The book as a whole is written to believers, yes . . . but you can talk about all men to a group of people and still mean all men. It can't be talking about just Christians because those Paul refers to have not yet come to repentance.

    And yet, names can be taken out of the Book of Life - Rev. 22:19, KJV. NASV says "tree of life" but it's the same principle. One can possess salvation/be in a right relationship with God and then lose it . . . see also Gal. 5:4.

  5. 1. It isn't that Adam had free will to do whatever he wanted, he had not yet been tainted by sin, so prior to the fall, Adam could choose not to sin. God yielding to anyone else the power to do any "good (Godly)" thing apart from what He commands/causes, dethrones God.

    2. Romans 6:17 implies that everyone, at one point, has chosen to serve sin. If all of humanity ALWAYS behaves in a certain way getting the same consequence (i.e. enslaved to sin), that is a product of its nature. The people in verse 17 choose to forsake sin because they were "obedient from the heart." That only results from God removing their heart of stone and giving them a heart of flesh (i.e. salvation)

    3. An unsaved person who is "dead in trespasses and sin" is entirely unresponsive, except a negative response I suppose, to any form of godliness. He is consumed by sin. In Romans 6:2, a Christian who is dead to sin is free from the enslavement and damnation that results from our sinful nature. He is consumed by grace.

    4. In regard to Romans 5: Death is the product of sin. All sin. All die. It is universally true and applies to every person that has ever been born and ever will be born. Always. If you don't want to attribute that to the nature of humanity, that's fine. But glory to God that the Gift is not like the trespass (v.15), Christ saved some!

    5, In verses 18 and 19 of Romans 5, it worries me that you believe that a person (even theoretically) could live a sinless life. Galatians 2 says that if righteousness could be brought about through the law, Christ died for nothing!!!!! Everyone sins. Everyone deserves condemnation. Some/Few receive the gift of salvation.

    6. 2 Peter 1:1 identifies the audience as those who have "obtained the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ." so he's definitely talking to believers. He is also talking about believers. It is talking about those to whom the Lord has promised something, in this case the second coming.

    7. If names are constantly being blotted out and rewritten then the book serves no purpose. The Book was written before the foundation of the world. God doesn't mess up. His pen doesn't have an eraser.

  6. We agree on the fact that God chose to give Adam free choice - meaning, he could have chosen to sin or not to sin - and that did not violate God's sovereignty. So why would it violate God's sovereignty to give all free will? And where in the Bible do we find evidence that one man's sin taints another man? "The soul that sinneth, it shall die . . . Ezk. 18.

    I agree that all mature people eventually sin. But I believe that is because they freely choose to do so, and it is not an inescapable result of a depraved nature. I unabashedly proclaim it is possible for a human to live a sinless life, because Jesus did. Jesus is our example. He was both fully God and fully man, and was "tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin." Heb 4:15. Jesus didn't have some special advantage to fending off sin that we don't. He was tempted just like we are. yet He did not sin. How does that work? With every temptation, there is a way of escape provided (I Cor 10:13). Jesus always took that way of escape. That same way of escape is always available to us whenever we are tempted, too. We fail to take it sometimes, and that means we sin. And all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Not because we had no choice, because of a depraved nature, but because we choose, too. But Jesus didn't, and His example shows that a human can live a sinless life, because He was tempted just like we are. He shared our human nature.

    Still, if a person being "dead in sins" meant they were totally unresponsive to righteousness, wouldn't a Christian being "dead to sin" mean they were totally unresponsive to righteousness, meaning, they couldn't sin?

    Show me a Biblical reason that names in the book can't be "blotted out and rewritten" . . . In Rev 22:19, it says, "God shall take away his part out of the book of life" . . . also, Rev 3:5 implies the possibility of being blotted out of the book of life. What is that talking about? There are other passages that talk about people losing salvation - Gal 5:4, for instance.

    No flesh is justified by the works of the law because we all have sinned. Once one commits one sin, there is no longer hope of being justified by the law, in the manner of Rom 4:4. Every accountable person, save Jesus, has sinned. Therefore, no one is justified by the keeping of the law. Everyone is in need of grace. That's what Gal 2 is talking about.

    I feel your chemistry pain, by the way. Good luck! Looking forward to our next study, but it will probably have to be after the break, because of finals. =]