Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Monday, June 25, 2007

“PREDESTINATION”. God’s design for our lives. By Gaius Columbus

Going along with line of thought which I expressed in my previous post , it seems to me that we may have the wrong focal point in our preaching of the gospel. We often emphasize escaping Hell whereas that is merely a first effect and a side benefit of our ultimate purpose—which is to conform to the image of Jesus. Salvation is like learning arithmetic, and matrices etc—all the rudimentary courses—that enable a mathematician to do the more heavy duty math. Salvation is necessary ultimately because it makes possible and available to us all the provisions God has made available for His ultimate goal—that we be like His son. If we focus too narrowly on escaping Hell, we miss the bigger picture.

An analogy is the medical student who fails to see that society desires and supports his training so that ultimately so he can be of service to others. The fat check at the end of the month is a side benefit. If this medical student loses this perspective, he runs the risk of becoming a doctor who focuses on how best to make money rather than how to serve the sick. With his goals misplaced, he may indeed start to do things to fatten his wallet that actually work counter to the ultimate goal society first had for him. He prescribes a drug, not because it benefits the patient but because a drug company is paying him to push the drug, or he acquiesces to patient’s demands for a drug even though he knows it is of no benefit, because he knows it keeps his patient’s loyalty.

Similarly, unless we know our “predestination”, we can become side tracked. We stop striving to become like Him and are content merely to have escaped death and hell. The emphasis Jesus put on the gospel was for men to follow Him. Our altar calls should ask some of the following questions: “Do you know about Jesus? Do you ultimately want to be like Him? Well, if you do, I have good news: God has made provision to enable you achieve this very goal. A fringe benefit, of course, is that you escape hell but this first stop you must understand is merely a necessary step of many steps for getting you into God’s family where the Holy Spirit can start His work of beginning to mould you into the likeness of His son—God’s ultimate goal”....I guess what I am saying is that this ultimate goal should permeate everything we say about the gospel, lest we run the risk of hearing the response, when we protest “Lord, Lord” on the last day, ”Depart from me, you evildoer”. Unfortunately, I fear, there are times when I am not focused on this ultimate goal—in my relationship with my kids, wife, colleagues etc., as well as in my thoughts, wishes, plans, attitudes. Fortunately, God in His mercy gives a fresh chance everyday for me to get back on track.

Finally, realize this interesting fact/observation: we are implored to be conformed to the IMAGE of His dear son. The same God who is opposed to the making of graven images and every false representations of himself—a bird, stones etc—is pleased and desires that we be conformed into living images of His son. It appears that our God is opposed to false representations/images of Himself and not to the true living image that is to be found in His son. After all, we were originally made in His image. It is apparent therefore, that representations of His son are the only images which are to be allowed into heaven. All other images—variants of every thing that is not of Him—are to be banished from His presence forever.

In contrast every variant image of the father of this world, the devil, will be given no admittance. Only those images of God’s precious dear Son will be allowed to adorn heaven’s galleries and hallways, no different than a doting father (or mother) proudly displays images of his or her kids on the walls of his or her home, his or her office, his or her cabin, his or her car and his or her wallet. So we too will be images, photographs of His dear son, in all ways like Him. If we know this is God’s ultimate goal, then we, if we love Him, will start even now, bringing this goal to pass—for this is our ultimate worship and hymn of praise.

How much do I want to be like Jesus? Do I merely pay Him lip service, or do I, knowing how important this is for the Father, live my life every day like I believe it. Like James says faith without works is dead. If I love the Father, I will do what He wants and He has declared that what He desires most from me is that I be like His son. The gospel call, salvation, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, scripture, all of these areas merely tools to be used toward securing this ultimate end. Whatever side benefits we derive as we reach for this ultimate goal—salvation from hell, peace of mind, joy, etc—are to be enjoyed, but should not to be confused with the real goal.

Seen this way, foreknowledge/predestination is not to be seen as a fait accompli but as a target to be reached by men and women who fully understand God’s will for their lives and hope to achieve it out of their love for Him and His pleasure. - G. Columbus

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Friday, June 15, 2007

PREDESTINATION, Human Choice and Free Will. G. Columbus look into the Bible

I have been giving a lot of thought to this whole discussion about “predestination vs. free will”. Below are my views on this important matter, as I glean from Scripture, and I may post an additional and more comprehensive response later.

(1) God desires for all to be saved. I Tim 2: 1-4; John 3:16.

(2) Because He desires this for all men, He draws all men to himself. Incidentally, for me this means that the scripture that says, “No one can come to me unless, the Father draws Him”, simply means God is the one who takes the first step (i.e., Not that He only draws some but that He is the initiator of the idea of salvation). We could not vote unless the law allowed us to. But when we vote we exercise our free will. So we could not exercise our free will unless we had been given the opportunity to do so by the statutes of the land. Similarly, none of us would ever choose Him unless He had first chosen us. I John 4: 19; John 12:32.

(3) Unfortunately we also know that the fact that all men are drawn, does not mean that all respond (Many are called, but few are chosen). Mathew 22:14

(4) God, because He is all-knowing, knew ahead of time everyone who would respond to His first act of love. Rom 8:28-30

(5) Still, for the sake of His own righteousness and so His justice is in plain view to all (accused and exonerated) on judgment day, He still chose to make this offer of love to all. In other words, there will be a legal basis for the judgment on the last day. No one will be able to refute God’s righteous judgment. If men had no chance to choose or respond to His offer of love, would the condemned truly call His judgment righteous? John 1:10-13; John 5:45, John 16: 8-11.

(6) Having made the offer, God has also made provision for His offer to materialize in the lives of all who would respond to His offer. Without these provisions, our response would have meant nothing in practical terms. To avoid this, He made provision for Jesus to die for our justification. He made provision for the Holy Spirit for our transformation. He made provision for an ultimate Home where all shall be in order, where we could be with others who also loved Him. It is in this light then that I understand the verse “He predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His son”: To all who responded to His first offer of love with love (obedience) He made provision for them to have everything they needed. And what was the ultimate goal of all this? God’s ultimate purpose is to create a family in which Jesus is the firstborn of many brothers and sisters all of whom are like Him. Rom 8:28-30. John 1:10-13

(7) Finally, if He did not spare us His Son, it is comforting to imagine what other provision He has made for getting us to our final destination. I John 8: 31-32 (the second half of the verse that mentions predestination). His provision does not absolve us of the obligation to work out what He has worked into us. That is, knowing the high stakes involved, we are to work in partnership with Him, with all seriousness, pulling in the same direction as He (rather than at cross purposes) to bring about His plan. Philippians 2: 12b. This pattern of God providing the means coupled with us taking advantage of these provisions permeates the entire gospel story. It is what motivates salvation (justification) and sanctification.

I have already mentioned a few of the scriptures that illuminate these issues. All of these are reproduced in their entirety below with a few others that may throw some more light on these issues. Please add any others come to mind or which refute my views.

In summary, I believe foreknowledge is the purview of God. He knows the end of a thing from the beginning. Yet His omniscience is not at cross-purposes with, nor does it invalidate His love—He does wish for all to be saved—or His justice—His justice demands that all men be given an opportunity to repent. Not all respond, however. To those that do, however, His will is that they conform to the image of His son.

This predestination (what has been defined as our final destination or goal), He has made every provision for; namely, justification through the death of His son and sanctification through the work of the Holy spirit in partnership with us—we who have shown our love for the Father, through our love for His only son—we who choose to share in His shame on earth, to live in a way that pleases Him, so that one day He will welcome us into to His family and hear Him call us His own forever. God had a plan and He has made the provisions available to fulfill it. Look forward to seeing and hearing other views. - GAIUS COLUMBUS

References follow.

Romans 8: 28-30. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

John 1:10-13. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right (power) to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

2 Tim. 1:8-. Saved not according to our works but according to His Own purpose and grace"So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

1 Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

1 John 4:19. We love him, because he first loved us.

John 6:44-45. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. The first step belonged to God. He initiated the contact (very unusual that the doctor should seek out the patient rather than vice-versa). The response, however, is also a response of love (our response to the gospel), completed by God providing what we need to become like His son.

2 Corinthians 5:13-15. If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

I Peter 3:17-18. It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. 2 Peter 3:8-9But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

1 John 2:1-2. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

John 3:16. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Deuteronomy 30:19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants

Joshua 24:15. And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

John 12:32. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.

Romans 6:10. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.

1 Corinthians 15:22. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.

2 Corinthians 5:15. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who

1 Timothy 4:10. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

Titus 2:11. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.

Hebrews 7:26-27. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

Hebrews 9:11-12. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Hebrews 10:10. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

1 Peter 3:18. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit

1 Tim 2:1-4. I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.

I Corinthians 15: 20-28. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he "has put everything under his feet."Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

Mathew 22:14. For many are invited, but few are chosen.John 5:45But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses [by which did he mean the law?], on whom your hopes are set.

Psalm 94:15. Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it.

John 16: 8-11. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

2 Corinthians 5: 9-10. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

I John 8: 31-32. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

Philippians 2:12. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Romans 2: 3-5. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Predestination and Foreknowledge. Calorius takes a personal stand

Following on from Monday's post and the comments, I have also been impressed by how much discussion in the blog kingdom is devoted to the questions of Calvinism versus Arminianism. And it's not even between Presbyterians and Methodists, but across all the denominations and including people who feel no denominational attachment. In my opinion, it is all a complete waste of time, except when a subset of Calvinists go the extra step of saying those who will be saved will be saved, and those who won't, won't and use that to argue the futility and non-necessity of evangelism.

The way I understand predestination is from the Roman 8:29 verse that says "For those whom He foreknew, He did also predestinate to conform to the image of His dear Son..."

Imagine, for example, a Saturday morning at the Calorius residence. My little daughter, Amma, loves strawberries. If I leave ripe juicy strawberries on the counter, I can be certain (foreknowledge) that she will eat them when she sees them. But that in no way means that I made the choice for her. It was still her choice. Now, suppose i had placed a multivitamin tablet inside one of the strawberries, then I could make the statement that because I foreknew that Amma would eat the strawberry, I predestined her to ingest a multivitamin.

Now this is not perfect, because my knowledge of Amma's choice is not perfect. She could have gone and eaten something else and put me to shame.

With God, however, His knowledge of the future is 100% accurate. So He knows, ahead of time, those who will accept His Son. But that in no way means that He determined that choice, any more than I made Amma chose to eat the strawberry. I wasn't even there when she did it. God's perfect knowledge of the future allows Him to predict without predetermining for anyone. But He then decides that those who will make that choice will become like Jesus. It was still their choice, just as it was Adam's choice to sin, our choice to sin and our choice to accept Him. God knew ahead of time, but did not make that choice for us.

It is unfortunate that the KJV used the term "predestine" in that verse, because it is then easy to align that to ideas we may have heard from Eastern religions and assume that's what it means. The other unfortunate translation is the word "chosen" which Paul uses frequently of himself and others. It implies selected by God, as if He alone made the choice. My understanding is, instead, that it is a joint choice in which we make a decision where God has already decided that those who make that decision will become something.

If you hop on a bus that's going to Katmandu, and you eventually end up in Katmandu, whose choice was it? Yours, or the bus driver's? Of course the bus driver's, because he took you there by a route that you had nothing to do with, but yours too, because it was you who hopped on that bus.

That's why in John 1 those verses are next to each other: .."But to those who received Him, who believed on His Name, He gave power to become children of God". That is, it was they who did the receiving and believing. But He hastens to explain these were born "not of the will of man, but of God". So the actual birth, the regeneration, the conforming to the image of His Son, the "heaven boundness" is the choice or the will of God, not man.

As far as evangelism, we who would share the gospel stand on the "ignorance" side of the equation, not knowing who will accept Christ. The ignorance side is also the side with the choice, whereas God has all the knowledge but not the choice. Therefore, we can honestly (and should) do everything we can to influence the right choice.

So, without knowing whether Calvin or Arminius was right, there is a call to evangelize which we must all obey. If someone accepts Christ, wonderful! They were pre-known by God and have been predestined to grow in Christ. If they don't, then they were not pre-known by God and will spend eternity separated from God. - CALORIUS

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Monday, June 11, 2007

1 John 3:5. Reflecting on what Christ accomplished

But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 1 John 3:5.

“In Him is no sin.” It took me a while to realize that as horrific as Christ’s death on the cross was, there was also another major play going on in the heavens. God took an incredible risk by sending His Son- who is also God Himself, a true divine mystery- to die for us. If Christ had made just even one minor slip involving sin, all creation including the angels in heaven would be forever trapped in an eternal conflict with Satan with no chance whatsoever of redemption. God would also have lost his Son forever and the Godhead would have been dealt a mortal blow for all eternity. Remember that John 1 says that without Christ nothing was made that was ever made. So obviously, God cannot function without Christ. This may sound controversial to some but Christ made it very clear that He is God. (John 10:30 and also see John 14).

Sure, God could have patched a salvage plan if there were one or two minor slips during Christ’s life on earth. But think about what Hebrews 4:15,16 says about Christ our High Priest. He was tempted in every way that we are yet is without sin, so he can sympathize with us in our weaknesses and help us in our need when sin is knocking on our door. Just think about what would have happened if Christ had done everything right but just once had maybe told a lie, stolen, used a profanity etc, etc. I think whatever salvage plan God would have devised would have covered everything but that sin. Christ would not be able to help us with that sin since He Himself would be guilty of it. So heaven would be full of saints who would do everything right but lie pathologically to one another or if it was a theft, I can imagine that God would have to chain down the gold on the streets of heaven. Even at this present time, I am quite concerned about my own covetous attitude and that of my brothers, and I can imagine that we may need burglar alarms in those mansions in heaven if we enter that sacred place as we are now.

For me, this is what Gods love means; the death of Christ was horrific and thank God it was once and for all, but we should realize how much of a risk both God and Christ took on our behalf just to save us and I am glad to be called the chief of sinners because it makes me appreciate even more how much Christ loves me and how much of a sacrifice He made just to allow me to live for eternity. I can hardly go an hour without some mischief tempting me, how much more 33 odd years of sinless perfection. Just like it has been said with terrorists, “They have to be right only once and they have won, we have to be right 100% of the time”. Satan had to get it right only once and he would have been in the driver’s seat in this eternal conflict of good and evil.

I therefore say to anyone who asks why God cannot save outside of Christ if God is that omnipotent. It is not that God cannot save you, but you have made yourself “unsavable” if you reject Christ, because there is no other deliverance from sin. - Alien Warrior

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