Saturday, August 05, 2017

My destiny: God's choice or mine?

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TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 9:1-18

TO CHEW ON: "As it is written, 'Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated'" - Romans 9:13

"Loved"? "Hated"? Paul is here quoting the strong words of the prophet Malachi (Malachi 1:2-3). They bring up a lot of questions.

"'Loved ... hated' are not to be understood in their normal sense. They are best understood 'chose...rejected' based on the fact that God knew Jacob would better further His will," Wayne Grudem, study notes to Romans in the  New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1564).

In today's reading we bump head-on into one of the mysteries of the Bible and Christianity: If God makes everything, knows everything, is righteous and loving, how is He fair when He rejects some (like Esau), or when He creates some for destruction (like Pharaoh - Romans 9:17)?

Paul himself acknowledges the logical difficulty:

"So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen.
Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what he makes them do?”
No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?”
When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? - NLT - Romans 9:18-21.

Apparently you and I don't have any choice in the matter—or do we?

When we think it through, we realize that God's appointment of our final destiny is only the ultimate in a myriad of decisions God has made about us from the decision to give us life in the first place, to which family we belong to, country we're born in, what sex we are, whether our eyes are blue or brown, our IQ low or high, and on and on. It's impossible for us as creatures to comprehend the whys and wherefores of an all-knowing, all-powerful, all righteous, and all-loving Creator. From God's viewpoint, my life is entirely planned and set, as if it had already happened (Psalm 139:15-16).

However, from my viewpoint as a creature, I have choices and the Bible also bears that out: John 7:17; Hebrews 3:7-8; Hebrews 4:7.

H. C. Thiessen, in his Lectures in Systematic Theology, describes a way of reconciling God's sovereignty and man's choice in this bit:
"Man's part and God's part seem to be brought together in John 1:12,13: "But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe in his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Man has the grace to accept Him or to reject Him. If he accepts Christ, God gives him the right to become a child of God by regenerating him; if he rejects Christ, he remains under the wrath of God. God's grace enables man to accept Christ, but it does not constrain him to do so.

"'As they went, they were cleansed' (Luke 17:14) is a principle that applies here also. As a man shows the least willingness to obey God, He gives him repentance and faith" - H. C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, p. 231.

I personally don't spend time worrying about whether I'm one of the chosen or rejected, from God's point of view. Rather I do what is in my seeming power and ability to do. I chose to accept His salvation when I was eight years old and daily try to make the choices that confirm Him as Lord of my life.

What about you?

PRAYER: Dear God, Your ways are beyond my comprehension. Help me to daily accept and live in the grace You extend, making choices that are in line with Your will as revealed in Your word. Amen.

MORE: Calvinism vs. Arminianism

Throughout church history Christians have tended to coalesce around two opposing viewpoints regarding the sovereignty of God and the free will of man in the matter of salvation. Calvinists emphasize God's sovereignty while Arminians focus on man's freedom of choice.

"Calvinism vs. Arminianism - which view is correct?" is a brief explanation of the position of each.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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