A Tangled Dance: the Will and the Holy Spirit

The freedom of the will has been the subject of heated debate for centuries. Naturally, man wants to maintain control over his destiny and salvation; therefore, many cling to the notion of “free will.” John 3:16 is often used as the proof text for this view. However, in focusing on John 3:16 to the exclusion of the remainder of the Bible, Christians tend to overlook the role of the Holy Spirit in conversion and faith.

Without delving into the intricate details of the doctrine of predestination or quoting gobs of Reformed theologians, I want to take just a few moments to bring attention to particular scriptures that explain the mechanics of faith.

CONCEPT 1: THE CALL

Those who defend “free will” typically point to the following scriptures as proof texts that all men have the freedom and innate ability to choose Christ and therefore salvation:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9.

Because these scriptures say that God wants all men to repent and believe in Christ, the conclusion drawn is that man obviously has the ability to do so of their own power and will. But such interpretation ignores the whole of scripture, particularly those scriptures addressing how a believer comes to the moment of faith.

What the above-quoted scriptures represent is the general call to all men to turn from sin and darkness. In order for men not to have an excuse, the invitation must be made to all so that there can be forgiveness and condemnation. How can any man be condemned for rejecting an invitation that wasn’t addressed to him?

Additionally, these scriptures clearly express the truth that God does, in fact, desire that all men repent of their sin and turn to Him. Everything that God creates is good. He creates no man with the intention that such man be evil. We know this because scripture is clear that God is not the author of evil. Consequently, He wants the best for His creation. A painter doesn’t paint with the intent or desire that his painting be terrible and burned in the fire. No, he wants the painting to be good and displayed. God wants nothing less for His creation than the painter.

In order not to create robots, God creates man with a will and the ability to reason. The will and reason give man freedom to make choices, so that when a man turns to evil, that is not of God, but of the man’s own desire.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

James 1:13-15.

So here the “free willist” will exclaim, “Gotcha!” I just admitted that man has the freedom to make choices, right? Yes, but that’s only half the story. That gets you only as far as Adam and Eve, who were born without sinful natures. One must turn to the next chapter of man to understand why the will is no longer “free” as many Christians believe.

CONCEPT 2: BLINDNESS

Many Christians gloss over the true consequence of the Fall of Man; that is the consequence of sin and death entering the world in response to the first sin committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Romans 5:12-14. Because of Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience, sin and death “reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses.”

To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

Romans 5:13-14.

So, man started out with free will, but, at the Fall, man’s character became corrupted by the taint of sinful desires. At that point, man still had a will, but it became inclined to evil. And when the Law was given to Moses, that is when man truly hit rock-bottom.

We are told that the Law of Moses was fertile soil for sin:

I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.

Romans 7:7-11.

As we can see here, once the Law was given to Moses, sin capitalized on the moment and wreaked havoc on man’s will. Satan took this opportunity afforded by the Law and blinded man so that he could no longer seek God.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Corinthians 4:4.

Man was then described as wholly corrupt such that no one sought God:

For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.  As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Romans 3:9-12.

“Bondage” and “blindness” are used repeatedly to describe the fallen condition of man. These terms are simply incompatible with the common understanding of “free will.” How can someone who is blind, cannot understand spiritual matters, and is enslaved to sin be free? They cannot. Some try to skirt this truth by saying the Fall only changed man such that he was inclined to sin but that he retained the ability to choose good. While that might feel good, it contradicts scripture after scripture.

Romans 3, quoted above, says that no one seeks God, “not even one.” You might ask, “How can this be so, because all sorts of people follow God today?” That is absolutely true, but what we learn by studying the whole of scripture is that those who follow God are those whose sight is restored by God by His sending the Holy Spirit into their hearts. Without the Holy Spirit, sinful man remains blind to God and unable to turn to Christ.

Consider the following:

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

Romans 8:7.

Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:3.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

John 6:44.

He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

John 6:65.

“Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

Isaiah 35:4-5.

What do we learn from scriptures such as these? That man in his fallen state is spiritually blind, is in bondage to sin, cannot submit to God, must be enabled by God to choose Christ, and cannot put his faith in Christ except by the power of the Holy Spirit. How much clearer could scripture be that man requires the Holy Spirit to believe when it says, “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit?” 1 Corinthians 12:3. How “free” does this sound?

CONCEPT 3: THE HOLY SPIRIT

When reading the whole of scripture, one must face the reality that man has faith in Christ only by the power of the Holy Spirit. This work of the Holy Spirit in man has many names, such as rebirth, renewal, washing, and regeneration.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:3-7.

Jesus said plainly that no one can even see God unless they are born again by the Spirit:

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. . . .  Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

John 3:3-8.

Many believe that rebirth is something that happens after one has placed his faith in Jesus. Still others believe that rebirth happens only after physical baptism, when, so goes the interpretation, the believer receives the Holy Spirit. Contrary to these interpretations, Jesus clearly taught that one cannot even see the Kingdom of God unless they have first been reborn BY THE SPIRIT. This is consistent with what Jesus said in John 6 that “no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” God enables man to believe in Jesus by opening his eyes and ears and releasing him from his bondage to sin by the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. Then, by the Spirit, man places his faith in Jesus.

The “free willist” usually takes the position that the Holy Spirit is received in response to faith as opposed to faith being in response to the Holy Spirit. That position completely contradicts the whole of scripture. How much more plainly could it be stated that “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit”? 1 Corinthians 12:3. Or, stated another way: “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” Galatians 4:6. Did you catch that? It is the Spirit within man that calls out to God.

Without the Spirit living inside a man, he cannot say “Jesus is Lord” and he cannot submit to God. But if the Spirit is living in a man, he is adopted and saved:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. . . .  Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. . . . For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Romans 8:5-17.

This is not a “chicken and the egg” riddle. Scripture puts any perceived riddle to rest–Spirit precedes faith, not vice versa, hence scripture that says Jesus is the “author and perfecter of our faith.”  Hebrews 12:2. In fact, without the Spirit, man cannot even understand spiritual things, such as Christ:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1 Corinthians 2:14.

Without the Spirit, scripture tells us that the gospel is veiled to man:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6.

This “light” God shines into the darkness of the heart of sinful man is the Holy Spirit.

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.

Ezekiel 11:19-20.

When one comes to the realization that faith requires the Holy Spirit, he is forced to acknowledge that the freedom he once took such great pride in is a fallacy. How can man’s will be truly free, when he is blinded and cannot submit to God or say “Jesus is Lord” without the internal working of the Holy Spirit? And not only that, as shown above, if the Holy Spirit is in a man, then that man is saved. There is no in-between, where a man’s eyes are opened by the Spirit and then he freely rejects the Spirit.

Many “free willists” who ponder these scriptures conclude that the Holy Spirit must work on all men so that all men have the free ability to choose God. The problem is, such position has no basis in scripture and upends a great amount of contradictory scripture.

CONCEPT 4: ISRAEL

One of the common objections to predestination is that God would be unjust for choosing some to regenerate by the Spirit and not others if all men are under the same curse and spiritual blindness. In such case, how could God blame those whom He did not regenerate? One of the least preached passages of scripture squarely addresses this objection:

It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.” Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

Romans 9:6-24.

Did you hear the theoretical objector? “Then why does God still blame us?” And what was God’s response? “Who are you to talk back to God?” The very obvious question is why would the theoretical objector object if man was capable of determining his own destiny of his own free will? He wouldn’t. There would be no objection.

Romans 9 does not say that God rejects anyone who calls out for Him. To the contrary, Romans 9 analogizes God to a potter shaping clay. And we learn elsewhere in scripture that God shapes His people by the Holy Spirit. A man’s spiritual rebirth is part of this shaping by the Spirit.

Romans 9 highlights Israel and dispenses with any objection one might have to God for choosing one man over another if not based upon free will. God chose Israel over all of mankind to save. How was that fair to the remainder of mankind? It’s not like Israel was better or more righteous than the rest of mankind. To the contrary, God tells us that the Israelites were a “stiff-necked” people and did not even conform to the standards of the Nations around them. God also emphasized that He did not choose Israel because of her righteousness.

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. Yet in her wickedness she has rebelled against my laws and decrees more than the nations and countries around her. She has rejected my laws and has not followed my decrees. Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “You have been more unruly than the nations around you and have not followed my decrees or kept my laws. You have not even conformed to the standards of the nations around you.”

Ezekiel 5:5-7.

Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

Deuteronomy 9:6.

So, what about that objection to God choosing one over another and not based on the free will of man? In the Old Testament, we find God choosing one Nation over all the others, when that Nation rebelled against God more than the other Nations. Does that sound fair? Some dismiss this because they don’t think the Old Testament applies to New Testament believers. I will need a whole other post to demonstrate how that is false logic. When one accepts this concept of God restoring His people by the internal work of the Holy Spirit, the entirety of the Bible flows together congruously.

CONCEPT 5: THE GOSPEL IS PERSONAL

One of the most beautiful parts of the Gospel is that it is personal. By that I mean that God opens the eyes of His people, reveals Christ to them, adopts them as sons, and guarantees their salvation. This is done at a personal level, not something that is done across all of mankind uniformly. If you believe in Christ, it is because God claimed you personally and put His Spirit in you, opening your eyes and guaranteeing your salvation. Wow! How powerful a message is that?

This personal nature of the Gospel is what is meant by having a relationship with God. Many Christians mistake this relationship as being something like human companionship, but that is not what is meant by a relationship. The relationship is the personal connection between the believer and God, where God claims the person as an adopted son and directly dwells and works within the person. And one knows this is occurring by his faith, because without the personal relationship, he would not have faith.

This truth is demonstrated beautifully in the following:

I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Matthew 11:25-27.

See how the believer’s faith and salvation is in response to the personal outreach by God? Christ chooses whom to reveal God. Isn’t that an odd statement if, as many believe, Christ reveals Himself and the Father to all men? This personal relationship is demonstrated further in the following:

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

. . . .

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

John 6:25-70.

A related passage is as follows:

The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

John 10:24-25.

These last two passages are so powerful because they demonstrate that no one can come to Christ unless God the Father draws him to Christ. And this drawing is not just a wooing, similar to an owner whistling for his dog. No, this drawing requires God to enable the person to believe. This enabling is what is described above as the spiritual rebirth by the Spirit. But notice what Christ said above . . . He said that if God draws a person, that person will come to Christ because he recognizes Christ’s voice and will follow Him. And when God draws someone, Christ says He will raise him up on the last day. These passages do not say, as many believe, that God draws all men. To the contrary, these passages clearly state that all whom God draws Christ saves. God’s drawing is effectual.

CONCEPT 6: A TANGLED DANCE

After all of that, one might conclude that God forces some into Heaven and leaves others who are helpless in their sins, which sounds like an unjust God. But that is not what is happening. Man is neither forced to sin nor forced to believe. Both in sin and in faith, man does so of his own will. What I am trying to point out is that such will is not “free” as commonly understood.

As shown above, scripture is clear that when an unregenerate man sins, he does so of his own sinful desires–when he sins, he truly wants to sin. It’s not like he is conflicted between righteousness and evil, because without the Spirit he cannot even understand what righteousness is. He is spiritually blinded. It is important to understand that God does not make that person sin. But the blindness is a result of the sinful condition into which he is born as a result of the Fall.

What everything discussed above demonstrates is God redeeming His people, just as He did with Israel, by drawing and recreating them by the Holy Spirit. God removes the blindness from His people so that they are then free to willingly follow Him. This is why Jesus says He knows those who are His because they hear His voice and follow Him. This is because God shines the light of the Spirit into their previously darkened hearts. God removes their hearts of stone and replaces them with hearts of flesh.

Predestination does not mean that God forces people to believe. What God does is restores the light of righteousness in the darkened hearts of fallen man. By that light, sinful man is then freed from blindness and bondage to sin and can now see and hear Christ. Their eyes have been opened and their ears have been unstopped. They are no more robots than Adam and Eve were prior to the Fall.

Once the Spirit dwells within the man, he then has two natures at work within him–the sinful nature and the spiritual nature. Paul describes these natures as warring against each other:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Romans 7:15-25.

This is a unique condition as compared to the unbeliever, because the unbeliever does not have the Spirit in him (see Roman 8). But if the Spirit dwells within man, he overcomes his sinful nature. God promises this conquest:

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22.

So, in conclusion, the believer is not dragged into Heaven kicking and screaming. He follows Christ willingly, but his faith is in a tangled dance with the Holy Spirit. Following Christ is possible only because God opened his eyes by the Spirit, and perseverance requires the guiding hand of the Spirit. But reborn man consciously chooses between the influence of the Spirit and the flesh, as Paul describes.

What is missing in all of this is why God chooses one over another to regenerate, just as He chose Israel over all the other Nations on the Earth. We do not know the answer to that because it is not revealed in scripture. We do know that all men start in the same sinful condition, so His choice among men is not based upon inherent goodness. We are told repeatedly that nothing good is in man in his sinful nature. Consequently, we also know that He does not base His choice on His foreknowledge of how we will respond to the Gospel before He regenerates us, because, as demonstrated above, no one seeks God in the sinful nature. Sinful man while in bondage to sin is unable to submit to God or discern anything of the Spirit. So, we are left with an unknown. But as Moses said:

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

Deuteronomy 29:29.

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59 thoughts on “A Tangled Dance: the Will and the Holy Spirit

  1. I have come to believe the concept of free will is highly over rated. I don’t see it as a discrete choice we make in the vast of occasions where we even have a choice. We all tend to make choices that are predictable given our past history and personality. I only count a choice as a clear example of free will it doesn’t fit into our predictable pattern. Otherwise a predictable choice cannot be distinguished from habit, or an urge or a cultural norm, etc.

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    1. “Succinct.” Ha! Not many have accused me of that. I’ve been trying to trim my posts, but I’m used to analyzing the heck out of things and writing a convincing case as a lawyer. But I need to learn to truly be more succinct.

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  2. It seems to me that you are arguing that there is free will, and that it derives from the Holy Spirit. I would frame the question “Why does God choose one over another to regenerate?” as “Why do some remain trapped in their desires, while others become fully conscious?” At any rate, I found your post thought provoking, and it triggered a post of my own.

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  3. The objector is Roman’s 9 is an arrogant Jew who thinks salvation is his birthright. To read Roman’s as God picking some for salvation and some for damnation is a very shallow reading that comes from a total misunderstanding of what Paul is saying. It’s not about God choosing some individuals for salvation. It’s about God’s salvation plan expanding to encompass everyone.

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    1. Reading Romans 9 for anything other than God’s sovereignty in salvation and choice among man, even to the point of choosing one twin over another to bless a nation over the other and to the point of choosing Israel over the rest of mankind, appears to be the more shallow reading.

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      1. Roman’s 9 won’t make sense until you stop reading it as if it’s an isolated chapter apart from the rest of Romans. Yes, God choose one twin over the other, for a certain task, that had nothing to do with either twin’s salvation.
        The point of Roman’s 9 is not God choosing some for salvation. It’s: 30 “What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal.”

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        1. No, I’m reading the whole of scripture. And yes, Romans 9 is also talking about predestination. Do you deny that God chose Israel over the rest of mankind to save? I doubt you will cause it’s too obvious that He did. The objection people have, which is exemplified by the theoretical objector, is why does God blame if He chooses one over another, using Israel as an example. And yes it also touches on God turning from the Jews and to the Gentiles, which upset the Jews. Paul also uses the example of pharaoh being raised up for the purposes of God showing His power. Choosing one twin over another set the course for a favored nation over a rejected nation, God choosing one people to preserve for the line of Jesus. These led the theoretical objector to object because he felt like salvation was outside his will. Back up to Romans 8 and it drives this point home. Then back further out and see all the scripture demonstrating the requisite Holy Spirit intervention for faith. Look at John 6 and 10 and Jesus describes why people are unable to choose Christ because they must be enabled and drawn by God’s effectual call. Paul expounds on this by discussing the role of the Holy Spirit. It all flows together, from Genesis to Revelations. When people object to God choosing one over another to regenerate, Romans 9 is exemplary of God’s sovereignty and we are shown God’s reaction to any objection. He chose Israel to the exclusion of others, and then He chose the Gentiles over the Jews, and He said stop questioning the potter. This is not a shallow reading. This is bringing the whole of scripture to fruition.

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          1. “Do you deny that God chose Israel over the rest of mankind to save?”
            God chose Israel to be the line through which salvation could be spread to the whole world. Do all individual Israelites obey God? Of course not, just the opposite. And what flows from Genesis to Revelations is the story of man’s rebellion and God’s response, which was to continue showing mercy to people who used their free will to spit in his face. It does more then “touch on God turning from the Jews and to the Gentiles, which upset the Jews.”-this is one question Paul is asking “Did God fail because His people rejected Christ?” That is one of the questions he is answering in Roman’s. Paul turns repeatedly to the Torah to show how God’s plan to bring about salvation for the world was taking place through Israel and how He ends up using even their rebellion to spread the gospel. He did not “chose the gentiles over the jews.”..that too is a simplistic reading of the text. He did not cancel His covenant with the Jews, He fulfilled it, did away with the law, and gave both Jews and Gentiles more mercy then they deserved. Paul lays out this complex and beautiful plan that God worked out to expand his covenant people to be everyone who believes on Jesus, and people read it now and somehow see limited election? They somehow miss the glorious joke, that God used the worst sin possible, His own murder, to bring about the best thing possible, salvation for all who will. And the Reformed twist it around and say God is arbitrarily choosing some for salvation and some for damnation. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

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            1. Romans 11 hits this squarely, that all of Israel will be saved, including those who stumbled over the stumbling stone. This includes the Jews and Gentiles–at the cross, God expanded Israel to include the elect (scripture’s term) Gentiles. But Paul tells us plainly in Romans 11 that God did turn from the Jews to the Gentiles. Even to the point of “God [giving] them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.” Why would He do so? “[B]ecause of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” Paul explains that “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved.” This shows God turning from the Jews to the Gentiles (which is what I was referring to). Does that mean the Jews were not saved because of their unbelief? No, God says they are nonetheless saved because of the promise God made to the patriarchs; in this way all of Israel will be saved, and He does so by grace, not by works (so that man cannot boast).

              Once again, the point is that God chose Israel to SAVE over all mankind. He chose a people to the exclusion of all others even though the nations around them conformed to God’s standards more that Israel did and even though Israel turned from Him and God has hardened their hearts for a time. God chose Israel over the rest of mankind for the purpose of establishing the line for Jesus and will save Israel despite unbelief because of His promise to the patriarchs. This is election. This is what Paul is talking about in Romans 9. And this is about salvation. The whole of scripture.

              Yes, you are correct that Jesus opened salvation to all who would believe. But that is not the end of it. You then have to go beyond John 3:16 and address all the scriptures that explain how a man comes to faith, and it’s not just freely doing so. It requires the Holy Spirit. So you have to resolve all the scriptures discussing how faith and the Holy Spirt intertwine. The whole of scripture.

              This is why I smile when you say I am reading Romans 9 as a stand alone because it is in fact quite the opposite. All of Paul’s writings develop this truth-God choosing and regenerating His people. And Paul belabors the point of man’s inability to choose Christ without the work of the Holy Spirit. But this regeneration is not in response to man’s choice but God’s. This is stated over and over very plainly, but people refuse to discuss these problematic scriptures. And these people are responded to in Romans 9. It’s beautiful.

              You have come into this conversation quite confrontational and condescending, but there is a mountain of scripture in support of Reformed Theology. This discussion is exemplary of most discussions I have with Arminians. They refuse to address that mountain and latch on to one piece of proof text scripture. But even in this case, the proof text scripture proves just the opposite.

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  4. First, if you think I’m coming into this conversation in a condescending way, I will take my leave. I don’t intend to be condescending, but to show that God glory is in His love, not in damning people for no reason.

    God never hardens anyone who has not already hardened themselves. How can God say that He has held His hands out all day to unrepentant people if God is the one making them unrepentant? He didn’t harden them beyond recovery. In chapter 11, Paul is trying to provoke them to be jealous of the Gentiles, so they too can be saved.

    Again, the objector in Roman’s nine, is a hardened Jew asking why God is still blaming him, if his rebellion brings about the gospel spreading to the Gentiles. It’s not a person who believes in free will asking why God is damning him because of his unbelief. Actually this wouldn’t even make sense in Reformed theology. That person would be so depraved, he could not possibly care about being saved. How could a person that God never enlightened even ask such a question?

    Why were the branches broken off? Because of unbelief, according to Romans 11:20. And in 22, it tells us that if the Jews believe, they will be grafted back in. This is not God saying, I pick this person and reject that one, it’s about being saved because of belief and not by works of the law and not because you happen to be a Jew.

    I’m not going to get into all Israel being saved, other then to ask you: Do you believe salvation comes only through Jesus or don’t you? Jews that are saved come to it the same way that Gentiles do, through grace, by faith. And faith requires a response from the individual. It isn’t forced on us by God.

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    1. I will ask again. What of mankind outside of Israel when God chose the Jews to the exclusion of all others? You keep focusing on whether a Jew could believe or not, but what about those outside of Israel? What of them? Was their relationship with God not different? The obvious answer is they were condemned, even to the point of God handing them over to Israel to be destroyed. You call this choice between twins as a purpose and not salvation, but you don’t see this as a matter of salvation to those outside Israel? I suggest they would beg to differ.

      In Romans 9, as in Romans 11, Pauls says God will harden whom He will harden and show mercy to whom He will show mercy. What does this mean? You say He hardens only those who hardened first. How does that make sense? Why would He even bother hardening something that was already hardened? The answer is this hardening mentioned from God is not making someone blind but leaving them in their blindness. As contrasted with His opening the eyes of His chosen people by the light of the Holy Spirit. “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” “No one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” “Man controlled by the flesh does not submit to God’s law, nor can he do so.” “Man without the Spirit cannot understand spiritual matters, because they are Spirtually discerned.” “The God of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel.” Powerful stuff.

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      1. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
        Of course there were believers from other nations. Abraham was saved through faith, not because of his linage.
        4 What then shall we say that “Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about – but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

        Believing require a choice. God does not just club some over the head and make them believe. Again, look at the prodigal son. He was dead in his sin, yet he could choose to turn back to God and God met him on the road.

        “You say He hardens only those who hardened first. How does that make sense?”

        It makes perfect sense. The hardening spoken off is a strengthening of a will that is already turned against God, in order for God to use the rebellion to bring about good. In this way, God can work all things for the good of those who love him. (not for those who don’t) In the case of Pharaoh, to bring about the release of his people, in the case of the jews, to bring about the crucifixion. This doesn’t mean the people involved are irrevocably lost. They can still choose to turn to repent.
        Of course, we need to hear from the Spirit in order to respond. But the Spirit does not act in an irresistible way. I’ve ignored him, and I bet you have too at some point in your life.

        Isaiah 63:10But they rebelled And grieved His Holy Spirit; Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them.

        “Pauls says God will harden whom He will harden and show mercy to whom He will show mercy. What does this mean?”

        This is a reference to Exodus 33:19, where Moses is bargaining with God. Far from speaking of some deterministic choosing, it shows how God uses both man’s obedience and his rebellion to work out a plan for redemption of all who will accept Him.

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        1. You are misunderstanding the concept of regeneration. It is not a clubbing over the head, it is a restoration of the light of righteousness snuffed out at the Fall. This light of righteousness enables God’s people to freely follow Him by overcoming the blindness caused by sin. This is not mere semantics. A regenerated believer is no more compelled to believe in God than Adam and Eve were prior to the Fall. But when sin entered, so did blindness, which requires the light of the Holy Spirit to overcome. A blind person can’t just will himself to see; his eyes must be miraculously opened. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6. Hence all of the scripture emphasizing the Spirit’s work in faith, which as of yet continues to go ignored in this thread. “Free willists” hate to discuss scripture that addresses plainly the role of the Spirit in faith because it contradicts their insistence on freedom.

          Why use Abraham as your proof character? He was one of the three patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) through whom God established His covenant and chose Abraham’s descendants (i.e., the Jews) to save and to establish as the lineage for Jesus, while leaving the rest of mankind in darkness. That doesn’t show someone outside of Israel being saved. You would be better pointing to someone like Rahab, but this is an extreme exception and demonstrates God using those outside Israel to fulfill His plan, even a prostitute (more in the line of God using Pharaoh as described in Romans 9).

          Yes, Abraham was saved by faith. No doubt. And he is used as the example of why the Jews stumbled, because they chose to pursue righteousness by works instead of by the faith of Abraham. This does not remove all of scripture that says faith requires the light of God in the heart. Abraham’s faith doesn’t show faith in the absence of grace; rather it is a perfect representation of faith by God’s grace. God chose Abraham to establish His covenant with for all mankind (brought to full fruition at the Cross, when salvation came to the Gentiles, thereby completing Israel).

          Your hardening interpretation still makes no sense if you are rejecting any form of determinism. You object to God “clubbing” and then you say God hardens one’s heart into rebellion. You have to see how that is inconsistent with your point. If “free will” was the reality, God wouldn’t harden anyone’s heart. You may say, no, He didn’t harden their heart to reject Him; he just hardened them to rebel in a way that God could bring forth His glory. I can only shake my head at that. One cannot proclaim free will from the rooftops and then suffer man to God’s hardening. Plus, this hardening is described in scripture as blindness and deafness, to the point of the Gospel being veiled. Not conducive to “free will” at all. This is why Jesus says in John 6 that one must be “enabled” to follow Him, which Jesus then explains as the reason the Jews accusing Jesus did not believe–because the Father had not enabled and drawn them to Christ. If you were right, Jesus would simply say that they did not believe because they were evil; there would be no point in discussing enabling.

          If God’s hardening is understood in its proper context, such difficulties do not arise. The hardening mentioned is caused by the withholding (note: different from taking it away) of the light of the Spirit. He doesn’t harden man so that man can’t choose Him; rather, the man willfully rejects God. “For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.’” Romans 3:9-12. This is because “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel.” This is why Paul says in Romans 8 that no one can submit to God but for the internal work of the Spirit.

          “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” James 1:13-18.

          “Give us birth through the word of truth.” This is the spiritual rebirth required, but it comes from God. This is the rebirth represented by baptism. This is fulfillment of prophecy that the eyes of His people would be opened and the ears of His people would be unstopped. How? BY THE SPIRIT. This is not an external influence on all men; no, God sends the Spirit into the hearts of His chosen people–the light in the darkness. And, as Paul says in Romans 8, if the Spirit is in you, then you are saved. Period. Because He chose us and put His seal of ownership on us (i.e., the Spirit) GUARANTEEING our inheritance. God’s mercy.

          THIS is the beauty of the Gospel.

          As far as your reference to general revelation in nature, the purpose there is to say that man is without excuse for denying God because God is evident by Creation. This does not disprove or cancel out the remainder of scripture explaining Spirit and faith. Rather, it is the general call to all man, so that they are without excuse, similar to John 3:16. The same reason we are called to spread the Gospel–who could believe who has not heard? Romans 10:14-15.

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          1. “The same reason we are called to spread the Gospel–who could believe who has not heard?”

            I can go through this point by point when there is more time, but for now-in the Calvinists world, if he were to be consistent, the gospel would be totally unnecessary. Who can believe if he has not heard? According to Reformed theology, God just chooses some to believe and some to disbelieve. If the Holy Spirit overcomes man’s will and forces him to believe, of what use is the gospel? The beauty of the gospel is precisely that it is not coercive, it is an invitation to humble ourselves. To draw near to God and He will draw near to us James 4:8. And if and only if we do that God will do his work and save us from ourselves. Again, in your world, this is totally unnecessary.
            And no, a blind person can’t just will himself to see, he must choose to rely on God to open his eyes. Why do believers continue to sin if the Spirit can’t be rejected? In a deterministic world, you would have to conclude that yes, it is God tempting them, because in this world, God controls all sin. Look at what guys like Calvin and John Piper have said about this-they see the devil as working for God. Which is nothing short of blasphemy. It is an odd scenario that can only be arrived at by reading scripture through a lense of man made philosophy.

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            1. We can keep at this forever, but ironically, you keep ignoring the scriptures I cite and defer to what is reasonable–the very thing you accuse me of in your last sentence. It is also classic criticism of Calvin to jump to hyper-Calvinism. Anyone who actually reads Calvin would not draw the conclusion that he says God creates bad people and condemns them for being bad or that He forces people to believe or that God’s choice is arbitrary. I’ve explained it multiple times that this is not what is going on. Man willfully rebels against God, even Adam and Eve before they had sinful natures chose to reject God’s authority in their disobedience. Satan and a 3rd of the angels rebelled and were thrown out of Heaven. Once the sinful nature attaches, however, man’s character changes–not at the hands of God, but at the hands of man and sin. But sin doesn’t hide God’s people from Him; he knows the heart as the Creator. While were are not told why He chooses one over another to regenerate, we are told many times that it is not of man’s will but of God’s mercy. If free will were the be all and end all, God’s mercy would not be required. Grace is required because of man’s blindness. Grace is also required to fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law, which was beyond the ability of man to achieve even after regeneration. At any rate, again, regeneration does not force anyone to believe. Instead, it breaks the bondage of sin and removes spiritual blindness. I’ve quoted scripture upon scripture on this point that continues to go ignored. So that after regeneration, man then has a sinful nature and a spiritual nature at war within, which sets up the spiritual walk for the believer–overcoming sin by Spirit. Romans 7:24. This is why those who are regenerated continue to sin and resist the Holy Spirit–but not to the point of losing salvation. Paul tells us of this Spiritual walk in Romans. A regenerated person is no more compelled to believe than Adam and Eve were. But they had the light of righteousness before sin snatched it away. That light must be restored to overcome blindness.

              You say we have to will not to be blind in order for God to remove our blindness–that doesn’t even satisfy human logic. If spiritually blind, spirituality would be nonsense–hence 1 Corinthians 2:14: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” Once again, at the risk of kicking that dead horse, Paul belabors this point in his Epistles, most strongly in Romans, that no one seeks God absent the Spirit. Not even one.

              Also, Calvin did not reject the need to spread the Gospel. Why? Because scripture tells us to spread the Gospel and that hearing the Word is how God chooses to work in a person’s heart. Even Jesus indicated in John 6 that He didn’t know who were His (those whom God had “given to Him” were His words) except that they followed His voice because God had enabled and drawn them. I don’t know who is saved or not, but I am told that God will work in the heart of His people when they hear the good news. Plus, the spreading of the Gospel also serves as condemnation for those who hear it and reject it. Making this minion manufacturing is a straw man argument.

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          2. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6. Hence all of the scripture emphasizing the Spirit’s work in faith, which as of yet continues to go ignored in this thread. “Free willists” hate to discuss scripture that addresses plainly the role of the Spirit in faith because it contradicts their insistence on freedom.”

            You have a misunderstanding of what you call “free willists”. I have no problem with any of these verses you have quoted, because, as I’ve already acknowledged, of course the Holy Spirit convicts and regenerates. But where does it say that His work can’t be resisted? I can go through and quote literally hundreds of verses about people resisting God, but what’s the point? You just continue to ignore the obvious.

            “As far as your reference to general revelation in nature, the purpose there is to say that man is without excuse for denying God because God is evident by Creation. This does not disprove or cancel out the remainder of scripture explaining Spirit and faith. Rather, it is the general call to all man, so that they are without excuse, similar to John 3:16.”

            This is what I find amazing about talking to Calvinists, they consistently defy logic with a straight face. If man is without excuse, then he obviously has enough light to confess and repent, otherwise, he would have the perfect excuse, that God never enabled him to see truth. To put what you have said more bluntly, you’re trying to give God an excuse for damning people arbitrarily and yes, since according to Reformed theology it is not based on foreknowledge or any other reason, it is arbitrary. How is man without excuse if God never reveals Himself? And this scripture doesn’t stand alone. There are plenty of statements about God have mercy on all.

            32For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

            “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

            Well, golly, I kinda think all people means all people really do get the chance, but I’m sure you have a convoluted reason why “all” doesn’t mean all.

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            1. Because of the mood of this, I am inclined to step away in deference to peace among believers, as I see more hostility than truth seeking. But a couple of needed points:

              Irresistible? Yes, that is the term used in TULIP, but many a theologian has admitted that term is misleading. Yes, believers resist the Spirit at times. Regeneration doesn’t remove the sinful nature. That is why I quoted Paul’s internal war of spirit and flesh. Regeneration is not irresistible in the sense that it is forcing anyone to do anything. God regenerates based upon His foreknowledge of His people. Those He regenerates do not follow Him because they have to, but because once the blindness is removed they will follow willingly. The opposite should also be true that if He regenerated one who was not His, that person would still not follow Him, just as the demons have full knowledge of God and still oppose Him. Yet the latter is not stated plainly in scripture–that is just a human assumption.

              Basing a choice on foreknowledge is not arbitrary simply because you are not plainly given the reason. God has no obligation to reveal anything to us. As Moses knew well, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” We know He chooses based on foreknowledge, but we are not plainly told what that foreknowledge is. He does tell us that it is not based upon our “will or effort,” thereby quashing free will as the basis.

              And Reformed theologians do not say that God does not base His choice on His foreknowledge. To the contrary, His foreknowledge is stated plainly in scripture. What they do say is God’s choice is not based upon His foreknowledge of how people will respond to the Gospel while left in their sinful, blind condition, because in that state, all men reject God. I’m not going to bother quoting support scriptures again on this point.

              Examples abound as far as what you call irresistible, but what I think you mean is perseverance (the “P” in TULIP). Irresistible Grace means the effectual regeneration of man from blindness to sight. It’s irresistible because it is not based on man’s choice, because he will always reject Jesus while blind. So, the Spirit regenerates unilaterally and restores the light of righteousness. After regeneration, the believer perseveres until salvation. This is because God restores only His chosen people. Once restored, the Spirit seals and guarantees. This is why Paul says if the Spirit is in you, you are saved, and if the Spirit is not in you, you cannot submit to God. This is also why Jesus says that He will raise all of those who are enabled and drawn to Him by the Father. But I won’t give the string cite again.

              In response to your “well, golly,” nothing I have stated has been convoluted but plainly stated and soundly grounded in scripture. Yes, “all” means “all” in that God doesn’t desire that any man perish. Again, He didn’t create anyone evil and then punish them for being evil. He is not laughing hysterically or even maniacally in Heaven as He condemns those who reject Him. Because He pulls His people out of blindness does not change that He desires His whole creation to worship Him. When He chose Israel to the exclusion of the rest of mankind, He didn’t rejoice in the destruction of those outside Israel.

              “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The all in this scripture is widely accepted as meaning all the peoples of the earth, meaning no longer just the Jews. Jews and Gentiles alike would then be invited once Jesus fulfilled the Law and rose into Heaven. This does not by any means obviate the mountain of scripture regarding Spirit and faith and regeneration and foreknowledge and etc., etc. Jesus is very clear in John, particularly John 6 and 10 when discussing His sheep, that only those who are enabled and drawn by God to Jesus are saved–a clear indication that God acts uniquely in the hearts of His chosen people, those He gives to Jesus to shepherd into the pen.

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  5. I’ve been through John 6 and 10 plenty and I know they are common Calvinist proof texts, but what I see is Jesus encouraging people to become his sheep, to believe the He is the only gate. I truly believe if you give any new believer a Bible, you will never find one who concludes that God simply chooses some for salvation and some for hell. People have to be taught this through added assumptions to the word.
    And I’m not trying to be hostile, it’s partly my writing style and partly frustration over what I see as so obvious. I’m not a new Christian and I’ve been at this a long time and have read the Bible multiple times cover to cover.

    Anyway, if you think God chooses based on foreknowledge, you are on the edge of Arminiunism…. most Calvinists will not go there. They appeal to God’s secret will.

    “So, the Spirit regenerates unilaterally and restores the light of righteousness. After regeneration, the believer perseveres until salvation.”

    This is exactly backwards. First comes repentance, then regeneration, not the other way around.
    2 Corinthians 3:16
    “… whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
    and there are many sciptures that lay out that order. See: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/25667399/posts/1001640409

    I could go on, but will resist. Thanks for putting up with me and being pretty gracious about it. 🙂

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    1. A new believer needs milk not solid food. This is solid food. In John 6, Jesus critiques the Jews accusing him saying the reason they do not believe is that the Father had not enabled them. What do you make of that?

      Nope, regeneration precedes faith. What happens after repentance is the process of sanctification. 2 Corinthians 3:16, I admit, is a complicated section about the veil, because it is talking about two things–hardening from reading the Old Covenant and a veil being removed as distinguished from Moses, who wore a veil to hide his glowing from the Lord’s presence. This appears to me to be more about our freedom in Christ to have that veil lifted, similar to the veil or the curtain of the temple being torn in two at the crucifixion. But I don’t read this as bearing on free will. And, also remember that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” without the Spirit, so what is that change that allows this proclamation and precedes repentance? I suggest to you it is the regenerative work of the Spirit.

      I disagree about foreknowledge. I have read the entire Institutes of the Christian Religion and countless books on reformed theology, and all of them I see foreknowledge acknowledged. Again, what is denied is predestination based on God’s foreknowledge of what man will do when presented with the Gospel in his fallen unregenerate state of blindness, which is the universal condition of man prior to regeneration. Also, they rightly deny knowing what that foreknowledge is because the Bible doesn’t say. I have my conclusions what that foreknowledge is but they are only that–my reasoning unsupported by scripture, so it’s not something I teach.

      There is great misunderstanding of Calvinism out there. Many have never even read Calvin and yet critique his alleged doctrines. Hyper-Calvinism did emerge from some of his followers as well, which confuses the history. A great book on this is Erasmus’ Arminian treatment and Martin Luther’s response titled Bondage of the Will.

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      1. what is that change that allows this proclamation and precedes repentance?
        Conviction. Don’t tell me you’ve never seen a person under conviction who didn’t submit to God’s leading. I did it dozens of times. I would actually thank the Spirit for His leading, but say: “Not now.” In fact, I knew very early in life what truth was, I knew what I should do, my eyes were open, but I certainly was not regenerated.

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        1. That could have simply been the start of your journey, God working on you. It’s not a light switch for all; He works on/draws each person uniquely as He determines. But even if you reject that concept, scripture says even demons recognize Christ and shudder. Not that you were a demon, I simply refer to that as an example of knowing what is right but still running the other way. That doesn’t mean regeneration is resistible.

          Conviction is the moment where our wills bend to the truth. Like I said, God doesn’t make us do anything. His Spirit frees us from blindness so we recognize sin for what it is and repent of it. This can be a slow or abrupt process, according to God’s purposes. This is the drawing described in scripture. Scripture even discusses the level of faith that He gives us, meaning that our faith can ebb and flow according to the measure of Spirit He gives us-the level of Spirit determines the offset against the sinful nature. Scripture even says that God is the author and perfecter of our faith. Theses are all strange concepts if faith is of ourselves.

          2 Timothy 2:25-26 “Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

          God will grant them repentance? Leading them to knowledge and out of captivity? Why would God grant repentance and lead as opposed to the simmer repenting of his own and willingly following God out of captivity? Because God has to loose the chains. He grants repentance by choosing a person and leading them by the Spirit to a knowledge of Christ, which leads to conviction and repentance.

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          1. A gift by it’s nature has be something that can be received or rejected, or it’s not a gift. And the verse lays out the order, God leads them, they repent and become “saved.” In Reformed theology, basically you have to be saved twice. God regenerates you to regenerate you?
            In that case, the verse should say God forcibly frees them from the devil’s trap, so that they can repent, and then be regenerated. But that’s not what it says.

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            1. “He went on to say, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me

                unless the Father has enabled them

              .'” John 6:65.

              “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law,

                nor can it do so

              .” Romans 8:7.

              “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us,

                not because of righteous things we had done

              , but because of his mercy.

                He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit

              , whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:5-7.

              “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us,

                God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved

              . And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

                For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast

              .” Ephesians 2:1-9.

              “children born not of natural descent,

                nor of human decision

              or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:13.

              “For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one;

                there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one

              .’” Romans 3:9-12.

              This is why Jesus tells Nicodemus that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3. Two parts: 1) they cannot “see” God because they are blind in need of regeneration; and 2) cannot stand before God without Jesus’ righteousness credited to them,

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              1. If you’ve ever read any arminian material, you know we have no problem with any of those verses.
                Yes, we must be awakened by the Spirit. No, we can’t accept grace if we are not awakened. No, he doesn’t save us because we have worked hard and deserve it. None of these verses claim that grace is irresistible or that God only offers salvation to a few chosen ones. You misunderstand if you think any Arminian believes that he saves himself. Faith is not a work, it is the opposite of a work, it is ceasing to strive against God. “Why do you kick against the goads?” as he asked Paul. God requires one thing from us, a humbling of our heart to accept his grace.

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                1. Sure, Arminians believe in prevenient grace. It basically says man is incapable of choosing God without the Holy Spirit’s work, which quickens a man to the point where he can choose God without that quickening being effectual. I’ve seen no evidence of that concept in scripture. It’s always been strange to me that they recognize Total depravity but don’t want to give credit to God but instead hold onto that credit by lessening God’s grace to some nebulous enlightenment short of the opening of the eyes and unstopping of the ears prophesied about in the OT.

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                  1. I’m sure I could find you plenty of verses about the necessity of repentance. If God is doing it all, why repent? I’m sure i can find plenty of verses about obedience to God and his Spirit. If God does not expect something from us, what are those verses there for? Why does God complain about people rebelling if he causes them to rebel? You know what I find really strange? Calvinists claim the Spirit’s work is irresistible in bringing salvation, but insist that everyone sins constantly after being saved. In fact, some see believers as still totally depraved.

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                    1. It doesn’t do the discussion any good to continue stating that the Spirit is irresistible as as your proof point when I have explained over and over how that is not what Reformed theology teaches. The difference is instead of some tepid prevenient grace Reformed theology teaches that regeneration actually restores the light to man which is exactly what scripture says–when the Spirit is in you, regeneration is complete. You haven’t yet responded to my questions: Were Adam and Eve robots before the Fall? Obviously not. Reformed theology teaches that the light taken from Adam and Eve at the Fall is restored by the Spirit. That doesn’t make the Spirit irresistible in the sense you keep insisting. Adam and Eve were not compelled to believe either before or after the Fall; they light was simply restored to overcome the effects of the Fall.

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                    2. “Were Adam and Eve robots before the Fall?” Adam and Eve were never robots before or after the fall. Because we don’t live in a deterministic world where God is pre-deciding the choices we will make. We really do have libertarian free will. Yes, there are limits on it. I can’t decide to flap my arms and fly away. Well, I can, but it won’t work. There are parameters, but within those we are free to make choices that effect our destiny.
                      If ya’ll don’t believe grace is irresistible, you need a new acronym.
                      But you do, it’s just that the capatablists want to soft pedal their determinism, so they put more dominoes in the chain, saying God makes us desire him, but not in a coercive way. It boils down to the same thing. Peel back the layers and you’ll find the only honest Calvinist is the hyper Calvinist who will just flat out state that God causes all sin. If God restores the light in a way that is always effectual, then how is that not irresistible. It’s just semantics to confuse the issue, perhaps to make new believers think they are being taught they really do have some free will. I’ve sat under a lot of preaching by a Calvinist, and he was a good guy, and the working in of these concepts was very subtle, so that a person starts to accept them, like a frog being boiled slowly. But one day you wake up and say “Wait, this is not the Jesus I know, who died for the sins of all. This is an aloof, distant version of God who doesn’t look much like Jesus at all when you get right down to it.” I would much rather they removed the smoke and mirrors and gave it to you straight, so you could know what was really being taught.

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  6. John 6:40New International Version

    40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.’

    There were Jews at this time that were not enabled to see, we covered that. Their blindness was temporary. God used their rebellion to bring about redemption for all. There were also Jews who did believe at this time. Jesus states plainly that He who seeks, finds, and that to him who knocks, the door is opened. The problem was they did not want to see, because it would ruin their pre-conceived ideas about what the Messiah would be, and God used this self imposed blindness to bring about the Crucification.
    At any rate, none of this leads us to unconditional election of individuals. Every one of them was enabled to believe at some point. Whether they chose to or not.

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    1. You concede temporary blindness. Then you back up and say this blindness was self-imposed. You won’t like the following:

      Romans 11:7-8 “What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written:’God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.’” This does not describe self-imposed. But I have addressed this in prior responses. And I’m not going to even open the can of worms that is “the elect.”

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  7. Paul does not say how they were hardened or by whom: there is the same indefiniteness here as in κατηρτισμένα εἰς ἀπώλειαν in Romans 9:22. It may be quite possible to give a true sense to the assertion that they were hardened by God (cf. the following verse), although the hardening in this case is always regarded as a punishment for sin, that is, as a confirming in an obduracy which originally was not of God, but their own; as if the idea were, first they would not, and then, in God’s just reaction against their sin, they could not; but it is a mistake to import into the text a definiteness which does not belong to it. It is rather essential to Paul’s argument that he should not be bound down to one-sided interpretations of what he has intentionally left vague.(Expositor’s Greek Testament)

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    1. This will likely be my last entry, in light of your last comment. I’ve been where you are–thinking Calvinists were madmen. I distinctly remember that first person who presented Reformed Theology to me, and I thought he was a wacko. I spent years following that reading everything I could get my hands on analyzing both sides and read the Bible cover to cover multiple times and God lifted the fog from me. Once I grasped this truth, the whole Bible made sense like it never did before, from Adam and Eve, the Fall, God’s choice of Israel, hardening of hearts, through the regenerative and restorative work of God through the blood of Jesus and the resurrection of the Holy Spirit, to the theoretical objector in Romans 9. It’s beautiful once revealed, but it’s not something that one can convince another of–it requires the Spirit of truth teaching the believer.

      The point about Adam and Eve is that they had free will prior to the Fall. They were not compelled to follow God yet they did because they had the light of righteousness within their hearts. Not a compulsion, but a compass. Yes, this compass could be resisted, hence the Fall. At the Fall, even Arminians admit that man suffered corruption to the point of total depravity, meaning the light of righteousness was snuffed out–not that they were as evil as they could be but that they no longer had a compass guiding them and they were blinded by sin “so that they could not see the glory of the gospel, that is Christ.” Reformed theology teaches the truth of scripture that the Holy Spirit restores this light of righteousness at regeneration and by doing so removes the blindness and slavery to sinful nature. This is absolutely and clearly Biblical. This restoration does not compel man to follow God anymore than the light of righteousness compelled Adam and Eve to follow God. It is a compass, not compulsion. That is the point of Adam and Eve and it would suit you well to truly reflect on that very truth.

      Paul does in fact say that regeneration is effectual–he makes it abundantly clear that those without the Spirit cannot choose or understand God (scripture quoted above). But he doesn’t end there or teach prevenient grace; Paul says very clearly that those without Spirit cannot chose God, but those who have the Spirit in them are not simply enabled to accept or reject but are saved. But this is not because the Spirit is irresistible. The “I” in TULIP is not about compelling anyone. The “I” in TULIP is about the unilateral restoration of the light of righteousness mentioned above–unilateral because without the Spirit all men turn away from God (again, scripture quoted above). The “I” in TULIP is about restoring the compass–the writing of God and His law on the hearts of man prophesied about in the OT “so that they no longer will ask who is God rather they will know me and follow me.”

      What you are objecting to is the “P” in TULIP–the “Preservation of the Saints,” meaning those who are regenerated receive the “seal” of the Spirit “guaranteeing their inheritance.” (scripture quoted above). But this perseverance is also misunderstood by those who have not truly studied Reformed Theology just as Irresistible Grace is misunderstood. God’s chosen people persevere, not out of compulsion, but because of the foreknowledge of God. Not the foreknowledge of God of what blind and enslaved man will choose when presented with the Gospel (because all men in that state turn from God), but the unrevealed foreknowledge of God of His people.

      “4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. . . . 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” Ephesians 1.

      “28 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. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8.

      See–foreknowledge and predestination are the basis for His choice, and scripture even says not based upon our wills. None of this makes sense except under Reformed Theology. If you were correct, this controversy would not even exist because scripture would simply say salvation is wholly in the hands of man to accept and all of this discussion in scripture about blindness, and hardness, and deafness, and inability to choose, and exclusion of the will from God’s choice, and the requirement of the Spirit, and the sealing of the Spirit, and the theoretical objector in Romans 9, etc., etc., would not exist.

      The “P” in TULIP does not teach that God compels anyone. It is a reflection of what God’s chosen people will do once regenerated and freed from the bondage of sin. Once the light of righteousness is restored in them, they willingly follow God. I know you want to make this compulsion and see it as semantics, but it is not. That is why I keep harping on Adam and Eve. When Adam and Eve had the light of righteousness before the Fall, they were not compelled to follow God, but they did so because they knew God and followed him willingly and submitted to their internal compass pointing them north. That compass was disrupted by the Fall and it no longer pointed north. The Spirit returns that compass.

      I can say no more to convince you, but this is the beauty of the Gospel. And this is the only way we have the confidence in our salvation scripture plainly teaches. We are not “adopted” only to be lost again. Once God “adopts” us, we are His forevermore. He predestined this before the creation of the world. That is His foreknowledge, and it is not compulsion.

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      1. But the Bible is not all written by Paul and there are thousands of Christians who see the verses above as God choosing a group of people who were to be know as His, and that entering into that group requires something from us, namely faith. And for every verse that seems to say we are unilaterally chosen (if read from a certain perspective) we can find verses that say we can and do fall away by our own choice.
        I can see no confidence in a salvation that can not be known to be real. For as Calvin said, God enlightens some to think they are saved for a time. And if someone falls away under Reformed theology, you have to conclude he was never saved. But, even Paul says to stand firm in the faith because if he didn’t spare the rebellious jews, (his chosen ones) he won’t spare you. This is where systematic theology often fails in real life. And if Adam and Eve could fall from perfect communion with God, how much more can we fall?
        How many people do you know who think their kids are saved because they prayed a prayer once, although the kids are far from God now? There is a serious weakness to so called eternal security when it meets the reality of people who can and do rebel again against the light they have been given.

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        1. I address this in Holy Week Reflection: Freedom in Christ. Scripture plainly says that faith is evidence of adoption, sealing, freedom and salvation. As I said above, we are not adopted only to be lost again. No, scripture says we are adopted sons of God and sealed for eternity. I’m not going to quote all those scriptures here but will defer to the ones I quote in the named article. That is our confidence in salvation–by faith, we are adopted.

          As far as falling away, Jesus addressed this in Matthew 13. One of the parables He teaches in that chapter is the following:

          24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

          This seems strange, doesn’t it? It seemed that way to His disciples too. Jesus later explained the parable to His disciples as follows:

          36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

          Again this only makes sense under Reformed Theology. The parable of the weeds illustrates God’s foreknowledge of His people who He chooses to restore–the wheat. This parable doesn’t simply place destiny in the hands of the free will of man; no. Jesus distinguishes between His people and Satan’s people–those who love God and those who love evil.

          Jesus later teaches the following in John 6:

          37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. . . . . 43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. . . . 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

          Notice Jesus does not say that the Father gives to Him all that willingly follow Him. To the contrary, Jesus says all the Father gives to Him WILL follow Him and that no one can follow Him unless the Father enables them. This sequence is not placing the emphasis on man but on God. And Jesus says He will lose none of the one’s God gives to Him–therein lies confidence in salvation. Anyone who has faith and follows Christ are assured salvation. “Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life” And those the Father gives to Christ–the wheat or sheep–do in fact persevere as Jesus describes. Anyone who does not persevere was not given to Christ; instead, they are weeds or wolves in sheep clothing. And perseverance is the sign that God planted that seed–this is why God keeps distinguishing “His chosen people.”

          As far as the thousands of Christians who …. Here’s the thing, the scriptures that you suggest say all men have the ability to choose Christ are reconcilable with those that say all men do not have this ability. The former are the general call scriptures and the latter are the theology behind faith. The former is milk; the latter is solid food. 1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12. In contrast, if your interpretation of the general call scriptures is correct that all men have the ability to choose, then those scriptures negate the mountain of scripture explaining otherwise. You have to interpret scripture in a manner that gives all scripture meaning and not in a manner that cancels out other scripture. This is the “whole of scripture” approach. It’s why I found your criticism of my interpretation of Romans 9 humorous–because I was doing the opposite and you were doing what you were accusing me of. Romans 9 addresses all that we have been discussing to the point of addressing your very argument, “Then why does God still blame us?”

          Adam and Eve had the freedom to resist the Spirit, but they would not have resisted to the point of falling away because they were God’s people. They loved Him and followed Him. They had a compass. God was written on their hearts. They knew God’s voice. They were wheat, not weeds. No wheat is perfect with the taint of sin, but the wheat perseveres nevertheless under the guidance of the Spirit. God shepherds His people into the fold. A shepherd doesn’t just sit at the gate waiting for sheep to enter. He goes out and shepherds them in. And even then, they have to find the narrow gate, but they will find it by the Shepherd’s guidance. The Spirit is that guidance.

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          1. I noticed you skipped some verses:
            48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’

            52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’

            53 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live for ever.’ 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

            Verses that indicate that salvation requires something of us. As in the verses about remaining in the vine, we must partake of Christ. It doesn’t just happen without us being willing. In Luke, Jesus talks about counting the cost.

            37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.

            Everyone who believes, not a chosen few…and Jesus will not drive them away. But to believe that all persevere only makes sense if you believe that God’s will is irresistible. We don’t live in a world where God’s will is always done.

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            1. You are ignoring the message–you can only come to me if God has enabled you, and I will lift all those up whom God gives to me. Jesus stood before the Jews accusing Him and performed miracles and they still did not believe, and Jesus responded? “Oh, if only you bend your will to me I will accept you.” Nope. “The reason you do not believe is that you are not my sheep.” and “You do not believe because God has not enabled you.” Wow, really smacks of free will doesn’t it?

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              1. I noticed you ignored a whole slew of verses. You can take passages and pick out individual verses and make them say anything you please. You need to ask some questions such as why was Jesus chiding them for not believing if they could not believe? The whole passage makes no sense if Jesus is speaking to people who can not possibly come to him. Of course, he knows which ones WILL believe. He knows which ones the Father will bring because he knows their hearts and can see who is really listening.
                “The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.”
                What’s he telling them? “I have given you everything you need, now you do your part and believe the words. And elsewhere- “if you don’t believe the words, believe the miracles.” And notice the Spirit is in the words. There is no special regeneration they need prior to having faith, only the gospel message.

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                1. “And notice the Spirit is in the words. There is no special regeneration they need prior to having faith, only the gospel message.”

                  And by that statement, you missed the whole target. What does Jesus actually say? “65 He went on to say, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.’” John 6. It’s not just in the message–God has to “ENABLE.” And He said this explaining their unbelief that God had not “ENABLED” them. Heed the warning lamp.

                  I did not gloss over any scripture. If I quoted the whole Bible, it would still not be enough for you. I am not picking and choosing; I am interpreting the whole of scripture. The additional scriptures you cite bring nothing to the table about the mechanics of faith. Those additional scriptures simply explain the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice and faith in Him. They don’t address ability. I’ve never disputed that faith is required of us. Faith is obvious. That is milk. The mechanics of faith are the solid food.

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                  1. No, you just claim faith must be forced on us. Actually, it seems to me that in that passage, Jesus starts with the milk,
                    by saying they can’t just will themselves to God, the Spirit has to convict them, (that’s the easy part) then he gets to the meat, that this requires something of them. There may have many Jews there who were in a hardened state and no longer able to be convicted. Or some that God did not convict until after the resurrection, we don’t know those details. One aspect of context here would be who he is talking to.

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        2. And in anticipation of your argument that Matthew 13 demonstrates people having faith and then falling away (seeds planted on rocky soil or among the thorns), these are still examples of weeds. By a measure of common grace extended to all men–common grace meaning the sustaining presence of the Spirit throughout Creation–some might initially be drawn to the message but it never takes root. James touches on this saying that even demons believe and shudder. This weak belief does not translate to salvific faith or adoption any more than demons are saved by their belief in Jesus. Again, God foreknew and predestined His people before the Creation of the Earth. He is not surprised by seeds sown upon rocky soil. But His people were sowed on good soil as the parable demonstrates. Some take this parable to show man’s free will, but is actually the opposite when the Bible is read as a whole.

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          1. So, how do you know you are among the chosen? If you are consistent in your theology, you can’t know. Perhaps you are only one who God is temporarily enlightening. See how nonsensical it gets when you impose man made doctrine on God’s word? If I believe in my heart and confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord, that’s it. Nothing added. No person who kinda believed but God didn’t save them because they weren’t chosen. If they fall away, it’s on them. God did His part, but he will not force them to “remain in the vine.”

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            1. Theology is consistent. Faith is evidence of salvation. Matthew 13 and James 2 define what salvific faith is. Imposing man made doctrine is interesting considering the enormous extent what I have been saying is grounded in scripture. If I am adding to scripture something that is not there, that is another matter. But that is why I pump this discussion full of scripture, much of which has even yet to be responded to in this thread or adequately explained. It just keeps circling back to “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” And I will keep responding to you with God’s own words:

              “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? 22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?” Romans 9:20-24.

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                1. Romans 9 is not limited to an arrogant Jew like you insist. Paul is addressing multiple elements in Romans 9, including, but not limited to: 1) God turning from Israel to the Gentiles; (2) grafting of the Gentiles into the broader Israel; (3) God’s sovereignty; and (4) God’s sovereign choice among men. Objects of wrath is spoken of in the context of the Jews, His use of men such as Pharaoh, God’s choosing His people from the Gentiles–those who did not seek Him (Romans 10:20) and “who did not pursue righteousness” (Romans 9:30)–as well as the “remnant” of the Jews “chosen by grace” (Romans 11:5-6). “So the purpose of God’s election might stand.” Romans 9-11. Before the twins had done anything good or bad, God made a sovereign choice among them, thereby rendering one nation into condemnation and another nation into reconciliation. And this according to God’s will, not theirs.

                  Objects of wrath are people that are not God’s–the weeds in the Matthew 13 parable. He bears great patience with them, in that he doesn’t wipe them off the face of the earth, but they get their just desserts in the end. They are “prepared for destruction” because they follow the evil one. In contrast, the ones who are “prepared IN ADVANCE for glory” are the remnant of the Jews and the elect (God’s word) Gentiles. God describes himself as a potter at the wheel. He sets aside the objects of wrath and reshapes the objects of His mercy. And yes from Paul’s perspective he hopes his fellow Jews repent (remember, He doesn’t know who God has claimed), and He acknowledges God’s special relationship with the Jewish Nation–recognizing that He will show mercy to them out of love and in response to His promise to the patriarchs.

                  One has to force free will into these passages.

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                  1. I’m not a fast typist, so let’s take one thing at a time. The potter and the clay is a reference to: Jeremiah :18
                    Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. 9 And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.
                    Far from being about God working in a fashion where not one defies him, we see God using his freedom to work out a plan despite man’s free will. And the reason he is having patience, is to give the objects of wrath a chance to repent and turn to him. This all fits nicely into corporate election, where people are “chosen” when they have faith.

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                  2. Ok as to, “Who are you, Oh, man?”
                    The objector is not a first century “free willer” objecting to the idea that God chooses to condemn some people to hell before they ever do anything good or bad.

                    A lot of chapter three is a parallel to Chapter 9. The same question is asked: “What is the benefit of being a Jew? and basically the same answer is given: “2 Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.”

                    They both ask the question: “Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness?”
                    Romans 3:4 Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar.
                    Romans9:6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children.

                    Then the objector.. If you go back to Romans 3, you see the same objector, or one who says basically the same thing.
                    “5 But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6 Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7 Someone might argue, ‘If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?’ 8 Why not say – as some slanderously claim that we say – ‘Let us do evil that good may result’? Their condemnation is just!”
                    As you can see, there is not indication here, that the objector didn’t have a choice.

                    19 One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?’ 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? ‘Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?”’

                    The objector is obviously a hardened Jew who is asking why God still blames him for his sin. The Jews for the most part, at Paul’s time were a hardened lump of clay.
                    If the clay is understood to represent Israel, then it is clear that the hardening is a result of their own rebellious choices, not the molding of the Potter.

                    Another parallel from Paul to farther clarify:
                    “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Tim. 2:20–21).
                    Again, the vessel can choose.

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                    1. In regards to Jacob and Esau we need to cross reference Gen 25:23 and Mal. 1:2. In both we see that God is choosing (or at least foreseeing) that the twins will be the start of two different nations. It’s not saying that God literally hated Esau. (No one claims Jesus said to literally hate our parents) No “free willer” is denying that God chooses people for certain tasks or gives people different callings, so I’m not sure how this somehow leads to God picking one person over another for salvation. There is nothing to indicate one way or another whether Esau died as a righteous man or not.

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                    2. One more point and I’m done. Paul’s whole outline here in Romans is to show the faithfulness of God to bring about what he promised, no matter how badly his people strayed, and in fact, to show how He used their rebellion to bring salvation to all who would believe on Christ. This isn’t God picking people for salvation like picking sides for a baseball game. That’s actually reading Romans in a backwards, shallow way. It’s just the opposite. God opening the floodgates and making salvation easily assessable to all who will, as Paul says at the end of chapter 11, He used the disobedience of his people to have mercy on all. So we can say with sincere hearts: “To Him be the glory forever! Amen!”

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                    3. Thank you for your thoughtful conclusions. Obviously my interpretations will vary from these, in some but not all respects, but, at the very least, one should walk away understanding that this is not so simple as many believe. What is truly important for all is the call of the Gospel–that those who place their faith in Jesus shall be saved. This compels us to spread the gospel. The theology behind salvation and the mechanics of faith are beautiful to behold, whichever view you take. And instead of acting as enemies of the faith, believers should rejoice in unity and in the search for truth. Too often discussions of theology become hostile and divisive. But Christ does not dwell there. While predestination, and any theology, is important and reveals God’s character, demonstrates His grace and mercy, and gives the believer a better understanding of God, predestination is not something that is important for the average believer. Paul was passionate about it and wrote about it often, because he wanted believers to get beyond milk. But milk is all we need for salvation. And predestination does not affect the mandate to spread the Good News. But it is something to be mindful of and to keep coming back to from time to time, as God may reveal new things to those who study. My views have changed much over the last couple of decades through faithful study and reflection. So thank you for reading and your stamina in keeping up with my discourse. Every time I go through this exercise and am pushed to defend my beliefs, I grow and see things I have missed before. So I am always thankful for these interactions, especially when they are had respectfully.

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              1. “Faith is evidence of salvation.”
                So, you’re saying you know you are saved because you have faith? That’s circular reasoning. I’m sure the people who are said to have fallen away thought they had faith too.
                If you cease to have faith, will you still be saved?

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  8. I’m happy for this post as it gave me understanding of my confusion immediately following my baptism, when I wasn’t “struck” with the Holy Spirit..
    My pastor’s wife told me for months before, that she could see the Holy Spirit working in me, when I was asking him the hardest questions and times when we all just discussed normal daily events and happenings in our lives..
    But I pretty much politely shrugged it off with statements like, I’m not even saved and I’m not sure God is real and if He is, I’m still a sinner, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t want to be in me..

    These two people never tried to convert me.. I admired how they lived their lives and enjoyed life no matter what the world threw at them and they were always helping people in many ways.. And they always did this without pounding theology at anyone.. They let their faith be known through how they walked daily in life..

    From this post, I understand what they and the scriptures were trying to make clear..
    The Holy Spirit was working within me, showing me the path, writing the Law on my heart, all before I had any understanding or faith.. I know it now as being called by God and I went through private agonizing conversations with God, not knowing if my main request was even able to be heard.. But He didn’t give up on me and had been calling me, at my best chance to accept..

    The Law given to the Jews was for the flesh to obey.. Would it be correct to say the Holy Spirit is given for the heart to understand the Law, so the willingness to obey isn’t out of fear of punishment ? And that the will to obey isn’t just outward lip service ?

    I’m glad you stopped by on my blog, because I’ve now found yours and its one that is helpful and insightful for me 😊

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    1. “The Law given to the Jews was for the flesh to obey.. Would it be correct to say the Holy Spirit is given for the heart to understand the Law, so the willingness to obey isn’t out of fear of punishment ? And that the will to obey isn’t just outward lip service?”

      Bear in mind that I am no theologian, but here is my understanding. The Law wasn’t just for the “flesh to obey.” From Abraham and Isaac, even Jews were called to live in faith (see Romans 4). Scripture describes the Jews as “stumbling over the stumbling stone”, meaning that they tried to obtain righteousness by works (i.e., following the Law) as opposed to by the faith of Abraham. In other words, they missed the Messiah. The Law was never intended as a works-based righteousness. But because the Jews stumbled, God promised that He would write His Law on the hearts of His people so that they would no longer be blind to God.

      Jeremiah 31:33 “’This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” See also Hebrews 8. This promise was fulfilled by God revealing Himself to His people by opening their eyes and unstopping their ears by the work of the Holy Spirit.

      But the promised Holy Spirit was not to enable us to follow the Law of Moses. After Jesus’ Crucifixion, we are no longer bound by the Law of Moses. See Epistle to the Galatians. Instead, we are saved by faith alone, not obedience to the Law of Moses. Paul described the Jewish mindset of adding obedience to the Law of Moses as a requirement for salvation as becoming enslaved again by the yoke of the Law.

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