Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dare to Offend

In Luke 14:1-14 we find Jesus attending a supper at the home of one of the chief Pharisees. It was attended by many guests from the upper stature of society. We've all been invited to such social gatherings. There is a general protocol which demands politeness. We want everyone to think well of us so we are usually on our best behavior. This also tends to be our general demeanor in life; we are careful not to be offensive. Unfortunately, this often keeps us silent with regards to speaking the Gospel or a point of Biblical truth. We remain silent lest we offend.

As we examine the life of Christ we find something much different. We was never offensive in terms of being mean spirited or rude. He was the model of sinless perfection. He was filled with love, mercy and kindness. Most people, however, see these characteristics of Christ but fail to see the other side. He never ever withheld truth out of fear of offending someone. At this dinner party, in a brief period of time, Jesus offended everyone present. He accused the leaders of having a higher regard for mere animals on the Sabbath than for people. He then criticized the guests for being so arrogant as to seek the seats of the highest honor, and then He offended the host, accusing him of inviting only wealthy guests who would then return the favor by inviting him to their feasts. Obviously, Jesus was not particularly concerned about what others thought of Him or whether or not He'd be invited back. His only concern was pleasing His Father and speaking His truth.

How does this apply to us? How many times have we withheld speaking the Gospel to a person or group because we feared what they might think of us? How often have we remained silent out of fear of offending? The truth is the Gospel is offensive. It deals with the hearts of men which are hopelessly corrupt. It presents us as wicked and condemned before a holy God. The natural man does not want to hear such things. He will often be offended by such words. The preaching of the cross will always be offensive to those who believe not. The Word of God is a two-edged sword that cuts to the very depth of our soul. When we speak the truth we will often offend. This doesn't mean that we should be offensive. We must not be pugnatious or ill mannered. We must speak with gentleness and meekness -- but we must speak! We must not remain silent. Jesus spoke these words: "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38). May we go forth with zeal speaking boldly the Gospel of Christ. May we never be silent out of fear of offending.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Divine Foreknowledge

Preaching through the Book of Romans, I've recently been working through Romans 8:29. I've been stirred once again at how glorious the doctrine of Divine foreknowledge is. However, I'm not blind to the controversy this doctrine has raised. It is difficult for human beings to think of God as determining all things, particularly as it applies to election and predestination. Most evangelical Arminians believe that God has foreknowledge of future events, but in terms of election and predestination they insist that God foreknew who would believe the Gospel and then elected them to salvation based upon this foreknown faith.

This position will not hold up under scrutiny. First, the Bible makes it clear that no man left to himself would ever believe. Human beings are spiritually dead in need of a new heart. This demands a supernatural work of God. Left to themselves all men will continue in their sinful rebellion. No man left to himself will ever seek God (Romans 3:11) Second, Paul isn't speaking about future actions, he's taking about people. This is consistent with the context of this section of Chapter 8. Verse 28 is describing particular people; those called according to God's purpose. Verse 30 describes particular people; those God calls, justifies, and glorifies. Third, foreknowledge demands events that are fixed in time. If foreknowledge implies certainty then it carries the force of foreordination. This is consistent with God's testimony of Himself - Isaiah 46:10 - "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, my counsel will stand, and I will do all my pleasure."

There is another issue of common sense the Arminian has to address. If election is based upon God's foreknowledge of who will believe does it not also hold that God also foreknew who would reject the Gospel? Since foreknowledge implies fixed events doesn't this mean that God created these people knowing they would go to hell? If God created a man knowing he would go to hell why would He send Christ to die for him or send His Holy Spirit to draw him. Isn't it nonsensical to hold that God is trying to save a person He knows will be lost? Ultimately, a position which insists that God is trying to save all men must deny God's foreknowledge of events which will lead to heretical positions such as Open Theism.

The only position consistent with with Romans 8:28-30 is that God has a purpose to save His elect people. God in eternity looked upon the fallen race of humanity and chose (predestined) many unto salvation. Obviously God had to have foreknowledge of them; He could not chose whom He did not know. Those He foreknew and predestined, He also called and justified and will ultimately glorify.

God's foreordination is a glorious doctrine. He knew us from eternity. He looked upon us while we were defiled in our sin and He chose us unto salvation. He adoped us as His own. Even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). This doctrine of salvation gives God all the glory.