Predestination, Hyper-Calvinism, and "Free Will" in the Judgment Hour
The natural man is dead in trespass and sin. He is totally incapable of coming to God except as God draws Him by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is only by virtue of the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ as the mediator and intercessor between God and Man, that the Spirit, through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel, can come to Man with the offer of forgiveness of sin and eternal life through faith in Christ's sinless life and atoning death upon the cross of Calvary. As the call of the Gospel goes into all the world the attending Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin and righteousness and judgment to the lost sons and daughters of Adam and invites all to believe in Christ and repent of their sins.
Man cannot of himself repent or come to Christ without the pleading and drawing of the Spirit of Christ. "Many" are called but "few" are "chosen" however, and as those who reject and rebuff the pleadings of the Spirit upon their hearts, eventually they are unable to hear and respond to the call through their continual hardening of their hearts through unbelief. To those who harden their hearts, the Spirit is eventually withdrawn and their hearts are "hardened" in unbelief as God withdraws His tender pleading Spirit. Thus those who themselves "harden" their hearts in unbelief commit the unpardonable sin of rejection of the Holy Spirit, and God then "hardens" their hearts by withdrawing the Spirit. The lost are then left without the pleading of the Spirit upon their hearts and are left without hope and without God in the world awaiting the Day of the Lord and are reserved unto judgment and destruction. There comes a time in the lives of all who reject the call of the Lord when they are hardened beyond the reach of salvation.
This is what Paul is referring to in Romans 9 regarding Pharaoh and God's longsuffering patience with him. Finally after resisting God's Spirit, Pharaoh was "hardened" in unbelief and became among those who are "predestined" unto eternal destruction for God has hardened his heart. It is not the will of God that any should be lost. He pleads with all to repent and believe, but His Spirit will not always strive with men who harden their hearts and finally they are given up to the Evil One to share his fate. God does not foreordain any to be destroyed but He will "harden" the wicked in their own "hardness" of their hearts. It is a fearful thing to resist the call of God's grace in the Gospel for it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. As we are admonished in Hebrews 3:12
"Take heed, brethren, lest haply there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God, but exhort one another day by day, so long as it is called Today, lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we are become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end. While it is said, Today if ye shall hear His voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation."
Every sin that ever has been, or ever could be committed has been atoned for and propitiation provided for in the death of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross. God judged the entire human family in Christ and He laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. There is no sin either past, present, or future which is unable to be forgiven through faith in Christ. On the cross, He "became" the vilest of sinners for us so that the vilest of us sinners who believe in Christ and repent of our sins can be presented faultless before the Law of God in Him. God legally imputed the sins of the world unto Jesus that the righteousness of Jesus may be imputed unto the repentant sinner who believes in Him. Those who repent and believe have the legal right to be forgiven and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to regenerate the believer to begin to bear the fruits of the Spirit, as the Law of God begins to be written upon the heart of the adopted child of God.
Regarding the meaning of "sins that are past" in the text:
Romans 3:21 "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of (in) Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and (continually) come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."
I believe that Paul is referring to the forgiveness of the sins that were committed by the people of God prior to the revelation of the Gospel of Christ. God in His forbearance prior to the cross did not judge sin until the coming of Christ when He judged sin and revealed His righteousness in the doing and dying of Christ that He might be just and the justifier of him who believes in Jesus. Paul speaks of the "then" (prior to the coming of Christ) and the "but now" (since Calvary when the sins of mankind were atoned for in Christ).
The important thing for us to grasp in these verses is that ALL sin has been dealt with in Christ, but we are called to personal faith and repentance moment by moment and each day of our lives. The Lord's Prayer is to be our daily prayer and even as we daily live in the attitude of prayer. Just as we ask for our daily bead, so we are to ask daily that He might "forgive us of our debts as we forgive our debtors" and that He might "deliver us from evil" and "lead us" away from temptation that we might daily grow in wisdom and grace and become a partaker of the divine nature. How often shall we need to repent and be forgiven? Always and ever, this side of eternity, as we grow in sanctification, we shall need forgiveness "seventy times seven" times. Our dependence upon the unmerited grace of God will never cease until we meet the Lord in the air. This prayer is our prayer until we see our Lord come in the clouds of heaven. This is the "sweet hour of prayer" to which one day "in our immortal flesh we'll rise" "to seize the everlasting prize" and "shout while passing through the air" "farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer."
Only on the last day shall we bid farewell to our need of forgiveness and justification by grace alone through faith alone in the imputed righteousness of Christ. Any teacher who teaches that there will come a time, this side of the coming of our Lord, when we do not need to ask for the forgiveness of our sins for Jesus' sake is a false teacher and a false witness to the word of God. There will never be a time, this side of the coming of the Lord, when we will not need the imputed righteousness of Christ and the covering of His blood.
The unique theme of the Pauline epistle to the Hebrews is its emphasis on the mediation of our Lord as our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary. It is as our mediator that Christ can offer the benefits of His spotless life and atoning death upon the Cross to "all" the world. Thus the Lutheran stream of the Protestant Reformation does not teach a "limited" atonement as Calvinists teach. The position of the Calvinist is that Christ died only for those whom God in His sovereign will has predetermined will be saved. This is known as the "limited atonement" and "irresistible grace".
We teach that the benefits of Christ's atonement are available to "all" sinners who will believe in Christ and repent of their sins. Thus we believe that the Holy Spirit calls "all" to believe and repent of their sins in order to be personally forgiven, justified, and filled with the Holy Spirit to continue to believe unto the end. The justified believer, because he receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, then begins to have the Law of God written in the heart that we may begin to bear fruit unto sanctification and holiness of life.
The Bible clearly teaches an "unlimited atonement". That is, Christ died for the sins of "all" the world in a forensic or legal sense at the cross of Calvary. Personal salvation and forgiveness occurs when the individual sinner, through the drawing of the Holy Spirit, believes in Christ as his personal Savior and repents of his sins.
We must be careful when we say that our sins were forgiven at the cross. There is a difference between our Lord dying for the sins of the whole world on the cross and our personal forgiveness which God extends to us when we repent and believe. There is a difference. The apostle Paul declares that personal justification takes place in the life of the sinner when he repents and believes. Thus the prevenient gift of the Holy Spirit is faith and repentance and this gift is the instrumental means of our personal acceptance with God:
Acts 20:20-21 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
The word of God clearly teaches us that this work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of the sinner is resistible. The sinner can resist the call to faith and repentance. Christ's invitation to forgiveness and eternal life is for all the world, " And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Revelation 22:17
The hyper-Calvinists believe that those who are saved were personally "foreknown" saved at the cross. In this erroneous teaching, His grace and forgiveness are "irresistible" for the "elect". This false teaching is called "double predestination". That is, because God knows the end from the beginning and because of His sovereign will, He predetermines who will be saved and lost. Thus, according to this false belief, because you were personally saved at Calvary, and since you are among the "elect", you will believe without any possibility of being lost, because you cannot resist God's will to save you. The lost, by the same reasoning, were not forgiven at the cross, because God has not elected to save and forgive them. This is known as "limited atonement" and "double predestination".
We must not in our words give the impression that salvation and the justification of a sinner are merely a matter of heavenly legal bookkeeping. The cross IS a legal ratifying of the Everlasting Covenant for the "whole world". However, we are only individually forgiven and included in the covenant of salvation when we heed the invitation of the Holy Spirit and we personally believe and repent. God personally forgives us when we personally ask for forgiveness just as one person forgives another person and they are personally reconciled and their fellowship is reunited. The "legal basis" of our acceptance with God was provided at the cross. Without this "legal basis", God could never have saved any of us, because He could never overlook the just requirements of His Law. His Law must be propitiated, then He could personally forgive and adopt repentant sinners into His family, the Church.
Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
1 John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
1 John 4:9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. 15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
This legal propitiation took place at the cross. The Law of God requires death for all who sin and live selfishly. The Law of God requires that all shall live a sinless life. Christ, as the Second Adam, has become the legal substitute for the entire human family. He can offer to the Law of God the perfect sinlessness of His holy life and also His atoning death upon the cross. All who believe in Christ and repent of their sins are incorporated into the Everlasting Covenant and by the grace of God, granted forgiveness and eternal life through the promise of the resurrection of the redeemed.
This author is neither a hyper-Calvinist nor a hyper-Arminian. That is, he does not believe in "double-predestination" nor does he believe in "free will". The sinner is totally dead in trespasses and can only believe and repent of his sins when he is drawn by the Holy Spirit to believe in Christ and repent of his sins. Without this drawing of the Holy Spirit, no man or woman could ever be saved!!! The Holy Spirit, through the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ, draws "all" to believe, but the individual is "free" to not believe and not repent. However, if he does not resist the drawing of the Holy Spirit, he will be drawn to the foot of the cross of Calvary in faith and repentance.
If I misrepresent any of the teachings of Calvinism, I hope that any Calvinists reading this discussion will correct the following summary.
I guess we should start with the acronym that represents the five basic teachings or points of Calvinism— "T.U.L.I.P.".
T = Total depravity
U = Unconditional election
L = Limited atonement
I = Irresistible grace
P = Perseverance of the saints
Total depravity means that all are born in a condition of being totally lost and dead in trespasses and sin and totally unable to please God and even come to God. This does not mean that all are totally insane and ravingly cruel and horrible people, but only that mankind is totally lost and without hope in and of himself.
Unconditional election means that there is nothing in man to merit salvation and that all who are saved or ever will be saved are saved only because God has unconditionally elected that individual to be saved. God therefore regenerates the elect (and only the elect) so that they will believe the gospel of Christ and repent of their sins. God has elected to save only His predetermined elect. Those whom God has not elected to save will be lost and will suffer the full wrath of God in eternal torment in hell. Also within this election of God is included the belief that all of history and the events that transpire in history are the predetermined will of God. Everything is predetermined and everything that happens is God's will and it is impossible to alter even the smallest detail of the stream of history.
Limited atonement means that, since God has elected to save only His predetermined elect, the atonement of Christ upon the cross was only for the sins of the elect and not for the sins of the non-elect. Thus God only calls the elect to repentance and faith in Christ.
Irresistible grace means that, because God is absolutely sovereign and all that happens is His sovereign will, God in His mercy calls His elect to salvation and the elect who are dead in trespasses and sin are regenerated and thus they are drawn to Christ through the irresistible call of the Holy Spirit unto faith in Christ and eternal life. For the elect, the call of God is unable to be refused, because all that happens is God's will and it is His will that they be saved. Therefore His election unto grace is irresistible.
Perseverance of the saints means that all of the truly elect will persevere in faith in Christ and by the power of the regenerating Holy Spirit will bring forth the fruits of salvation in their lives. The truly elect will continue to believe in Christ unto the end of their lives because God has regenerated them. If a person does not persevere in faith and good works and a changed life, then he or she is not of the elect and not a true Christian since God has not regenerated the person.
Entire libraries of books have been written on each one of these aspects, so please forgive the rather sketchy outline of the meaning of TULIP. The five points of Calvinism, although held as truth by many sincere Christians today, tend to distort the Biblical plan of salvation and misrepresent how God truly saves sinners from their sins by leading them to the cross of Christ to be justified by faith in His sinless life and atoning death. You may not want to wade through a long exegesis of Roman 9 but I will address this since you are wrestling with the subject of the "foreknowledge", "predestinated", "election", and "elect" of God.
When one approaches Paul's epistle to the Roman's, one must always keep in mind the fact that Paul's central theme in all of his epistles is the GOOD NEWS of God's MERCY and GRACE to "ALL" the world through FAITH in Jesus Christ. Grace to Paul is the UNMERITED grace and mercy of God to lost sinners. This means that God freely, without good works, forgives and accepts any repentant sinner who puts his faith in Christ Jesus. Thus Paul begins his discourse on the Grace of God in chapter one of Romans stating emphatically that God saves "ALL who believe, first the Jew and also the Gentile"(1:16). God's saving action in Christ "begins in faith and ends in faith"(1:17) for "ALL". If we miss the word "all" in the beginning of the epistle, we will stumble when we come to the more difficult to understand portions of the epistle in chapter 9.
In order to make the point that God will save ANYONE who puts their faith in Christ, Paul under girds his entire theme of GRACE FOR ALL by declaring that ALL, both Jews and Gentiles, are "under sin" and that ALL are subject to the just punishment of God and under the His "JUDGMENT" (3:19) Then Paul skillfully wields the sword of God's word by declaring, "...for there is NO difference, for ALL have sinned, and (all) (continually) come short of the glory of God." Rom 3:22. Thus in one fell swoop, Paul lays our pride and our boasting in the dust! Every mouth is stopped. All the world is brought into condemnation and judgment before the holiness and righteousness of God! But God does not leave us without hope and in total despair. Rather, God brings ALL the world into condemnation that He may have mercy on ALL who put their faith in the doing and dying of Jesus Christ, the Jew first and also the Gentile. This phrase "the Jew first and also the Gentile" is an all inclusive, all embracing term. NO ONE is left out.
It is absolutely imperative that we emphasize the word "ALL" in the first chapters of Romans or we will stumble when we come to Paul's discourse on election and predestination in Romans 9. Now, let us with courage and taking a deep breath, take a look at one of the most misunderstood passages in all of the Bible!
With the Pauline concept that "ALL" are by nature under condemnation and hopelessly lost in trespass and sin firmly in mind, Paul declares in Romans 9 that God in His unmerited mercy chose the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be the lineage through which He would reveal His mercy. This choice of Isaac was not because of anything that Isaac had done in the way of "works", but purely on the basis of God's unmerited "grace". As Paul states of God, "I will have mercy on anyone I wish and I will have pity on anyone I wish." So that "everything depends not on what man wants or does, but on God's mercy" Rom 9:16-17.
Then Paul asks the hypothetical question, "How can God find fault with (condemn) anyone?" Paul's answer is that even though God's "lump of clay", the human family, is lost in trespasses and deserving of "God's anger" (Rom 9:22), God has by His grace chosen some of this clay and made a "bowl for special occasions" which differs from the "bowl made for common use". Those who believe, from either the Jews or the Gentiles (Rom 9:24), are of the "bowl made for special occasions" and prepared to receive His glory. (Rom 9:23). Thus Paul is declaring that "all" who believe are predestined to receive "glory" because they are put right with God through faith. (Rom 9:30).
Paul then anticipates the question in the minds of his readers, "Why then are not all those children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob saved?" His answer is that because the majority were seeking to be put right with God through the keeping of the Law, they were not true children of Abraham since Abraham himself was not justified before God by keeping of the Law but rather by faith in God's mercy.(Rom 9:30-33). They therefore "stumbled" on the "stumbling stone", Jesus Christ.
Now with all this background carefully laid, we can understand those "predestination" texts which refer to the "elect" of God.
Romans 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified."
Who are those who are "predestinated" and whom God "foreknew"? They are "all" those who answer the "call" of God. These are the "called" of God, the "elect ones" who are of faith, of the Jew first and also of the Gentiles. Those who answer the "call" of God are among those who are "predestinated" to be saved because God "foreknew" that He would save "all" the "elect" who are of faith. Those who are saved by "faith" are those who are "elected" to eternal life. The church is the elected and predestinated body of Christ.
Those who seek to be saved by their obedience to the "Law" are like the unbelieving Jews who were ignorant of the righteousness of God and His holy Law and set about to justify themselves by their obedience to the Law. Those who seek to be accepted by God by being obedient to God's Law are "predestined" to be among the lost, because they fail to see their own unrighteousness. God has declared "all" to be "prisoners of disobedience" so that He might show "mercy to them all ".
Romans 11:32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
In summary, "All" repentant sinners who put their faith in the doing and dying of Jesus are "predestined" to be saved. While "all" who are trusting in their obedience and their own goodness are "predestined" to be lost.
"Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus 25 whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. 26 To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what Law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law. 29 Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: 30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. 31 Do we then make void the Law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the Law." Romans 3:24-31
The doctrine of election is a joyous teaching!! The problem with Calvinism is that it does not go far enough in its election teaching!! Calvinism teaches that God has "elected" to save only certain chosen ones whom God chose from eternity to save while He has also elected to destroy some whom He has not "elected" to save. The truth is that God has consigned "all" to condemnation so that He might have mercy on "all" who believe. Christ is the light which lights EVERY man who comes into the world.
John 1:6 " John... came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that ALL MEN through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light, which lighteth EVERY MAN that cometh into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not."
The invitation and call of God is in all the world through the preaching of the Gospel, offering the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit calls and woos and urges all who hear to repent and believe. Those who hear are also enabled to believe even if they have only received the smallest rays of the light of the gospel of Christ. The pleading of the Holy Spirit is not "irresistible" though and for some strange mysterious reason that will never be understood, some choose darkness rather than light.
There is no reason for unbelief, because to give a reason would be to offer an excuse for sin. There is no excuse for sin and unbelief, because it is the "mystery of iniquity". This is a mystery that will never be explained. Thus the reason why some will choose sin and unbelief will never be understood. The Calvinists seek to unravel this mystery by saying that God simply did not "give them faith" to believe. The clear word of God rejects this Satanic reasoning however by clearly stating that the Gospel is so clear that they are all without excuse for not believing. The loss of a soul is the responsibility of the individual, and is not due to the lack of God's calling and the gift of faith. The Holy Spirit's moving upon the hearts of all who hear the Gospel gives all the power in the world to the most sinful and degraded of men and women to believe, but the decision rests with the sinner whether to believe or not to believe.
The prompting of the Holy Spirit gives the sinner freedom to believe. So long as our Lord intercedes in the heavenly sanctuary above, God's Holy Spirit will plead with those here below to repent and believe the gospel and be saved by the grace of God through faith in the sinless life and atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross of Calvary.
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? 35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? 36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36
"Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance. 13 The LORD looketh from heaven; He beholdeth all the sons of men. 14 From the place of His habitation He looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth. 15 He fashioneth their hearts alike; He considereth all their works. 16 There is no king saved by the multitude of a host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. 17 A horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. 18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy; 19 To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waiteth for the LORD: He is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His Holy name. 22 Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee." Psalm 33:12-22