27 Comments

Just what DOES 1st Timothy 2:4 mean, anyway?

As a sequel to this post. And again, should we differ on our views, may we always remember charity.

1st Timothy 2:4 is another verse some use to say that God’s will is that all men be saved. But is that what it really says? Let us allow God’s written word be the final arbiter. And as in our last study, we must go back a few verses before the passage in question.

1st Timothy 2:1-4 (NKJV)1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Again, the questions:

  1. Who was this written to?
  2. Why was it written?
  3. What was the idea being expressed?

We can answer these questions quite a bit more easily than before. It was written to Timothy, whom Paul had begotten in the gospel, and had appointed to be the pastor of the church at Ephesus. It was written to instruct those who would be appointed as elders in the church. The idea being expressed was that the elders are to be more careful in the words and actions, and to be more devout in their service to God and their love toward others.

That said, let us examine the passage in question. And as we do, we will see a slight (but very important) distinction between the word translated here as “desires” and the word translated other places as referring to God’s “will.” In biblical Greek, there are words and other grammatical tools we do not have in English. There are ever-so-slight variations in the meanings of certain words (e.g., saw, looked, glanced, spotted…). That is why the process of translation is one which is very long, very tedious, and should NEVER be undertaken with any intentions other than to glorify God, and never entered into lightly.

First, there is the word “desires” as in God the Father, who desires all men to be saved…” This is the Greek word “thelo.” This is a bit of a sticky wicket (as they would say across the pond), for it has various meanings. It can mean “to intend, to purpose” or even “will” (not the noun “will” but the verb, the future tense of “to be“). However, if we use that meaning, then God is a liar, for then it would read, God the Father, who intends all men to be saved… I dare say none of us believe in universal salvation, which would be implied by that statement.

However, there is another, more common meaning: “to desire, to wish; to love; to take delight in, have pleasure.” This meaning fits better, because God would indeed “desire” all men knowing the truth. Thus, “desire” is the better fit here, because it is in the present tense. God the Father, who desires (wishes) all men be saved… It is the word used by Christ in Matthew 23:37, when He weeps over Jerusalem–“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted (thelo) to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing (thelo)!” In other words, “O Jerusalem, how I wanted (thelo) to gather your children together…but you did not want it (thelo)!”

Alas, this is where the hair must be split. For even though God desires or wants something, is it necessarily His “will” (the noun form of the word “will“) to act upon that desire? No. It is not God’s will to save every man. Because if you notice, in the phrase God the Father…desires all men to be saved, the word “saved” is in the passive voice. In other words, Paul is not saying that God desires to save all men–only that He desires they be saved. If He wanted to save all men, they would be saved.

Consider this: If it is God’s will to save all men–ALL men–then would He not defeat His own purpose by creating men whose sole purpose was to become the object of His wrath, that He may show His wrath by pouring it out upon them? Would He not also confuse His purpose by blinding people’s eyes so they would not know the truth? What about if He destroyed entire nations who did not know the truth–would He not be contradicting Himself if it was His to save them? And if it is His will that all men come to repentance, would He not subordinate that will if He made it impossible for people to return to the truth once they found it? I believe we would all answer in the affirmative to these questions. So then from the Scriptures let us examine these and see if it is indeed His will that “all men be saved.”

1) Would He not defeat His own purpose by creating men whose sole purpose was to become the object of His wrath, that He may show His wrath by pouring it out upon them?

Romans 9:17-18, 22For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth. Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens…What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? If God’s will is that all men be saved, then He has turned against Himself by creating Pharaoh for the sole purpose of destroying him. And Paul is then claiming that God actually hardens people’s hearts so they will not know the truth.

2) Would He not also confuse His purpose by blinding people’s eyes so they would not know the truth?

Romans 1:24-28Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness…Therefore God also gave them up to vile passions…Therefore God also gave them over to a debased mind.
Matthew 13:10-13And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given…Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”
If God’s will is that all men know the truth, shouldn’t Jesus have opened up and explained the truth to these men? If that is indeed His will, then He has confused it by keeping the truth from them. What about nations that never knew YHVH? Would He destroy them, or lead them into truth?

3) What about if He destroyed entire nations who did not know the truth–would He not be contradicting Himself if it was His to save them?

Numbers 21:3And the LORD listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. Of course we have Moses being commanded to annihilate the Amalekites, David and Samson told to wipe out the Philistines; Joshua to utterly destroy the inhabitants of Jericho–all these being ordered to not leave anything living. If God’s will is that all men be saved, then why these orders?

4) And if it is His will that all men come to repentance, would He not subordinate that will if He made it impossible for people to return to the truth once they found it?

Hebrews 6:4-6For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened…if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance. Why? After all, isn’t it God’s will that all men come to repentance? Why would He then make it impossible for that person to be renewed to repentance?

We know that God’s word does not contradict itself. So we must reconcile the idea that God wants all men to be saved, but will not save all men. How do we bring these two together? We let Scripture interpret Scripture. See, here’s the thing: There is a difference between thelo (want, desire, take delight in) and the word translated “will” (as in “Thy will be done“), which is thelhema–“what one wishes or has determined shall be done.” It implies a desire that causes one to take action. There is an excellent illustration of the difference in Matthew 21:28-31“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ (ou thelo) but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will (thelema) of his father?” What we see here is the first son said “ou thelo” (“I do not want to”), but went. He did the “thelema” (desire of the father that something shall be done).

Another example is John 1:12-13But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will (thelema) of the flesh, nor of the will (thelema) of man, but [the will] of God.

Then there is a third Greek word, boulomai. It means, “to will deliberately, have a purpose, be minded.” Basically, “I want it to happen, and I am going to do whatever it takes to make it happen.” And oh, irony of ironies. Guess where we find this word? 2nd Peter 3:9, and to render this properly, we have to change the order of a couple words–The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, willing not that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. God has determined, He has purposed, and He will do whatever is necessary so that not one of His chosen ones should perish until they come to know the Lord Jesus Christ before He returns.

It is also used by James in his epistle. James 4:4Whoever therefore wants (Boulomai) to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Whoever wants so badly to be friends with the world that they will do whatever it takes to enjoy those fleshly pleasures–they have made themselves God’s enemy.

In this letter to his young protege, Paul is telling Timothy that God wants all men to be saved and to know Him. But he is not saying that God will save all men and show Himself to all men. God will not open the eyes of every single human so they will know the truth. For God has created, based on His own Boulomai, some vessels prepared for destruction–that is, designed with the specific purpose of being the object of His wrath (see again Romans 9).

Let me finish up with this illustration: suppose a judge is sitting on the bench. Before him is a man who robbed a bank to buy his son some new shoes. The man has a wife, a couple kids. And in his compassion he desires to let the man go free. But he is bound by an immutable law that says crimes must be punished. So he must sentence the man to prison. Because even though his heart wants to pardon the man, he is bound by his even deeper desire to uphold justice, and to show himself just, and to show those who don’t break the law the consequences of breaking the law. This may be a human illustration, but I think it comes pretty close in terms of describing this matter. God, in His compassionate heart, wants all men to know Him.

But in order to show Himself just, and to show forth His wrath, and to show the vessels of mercy the consequences of being God’s enemy, He allows many to go into perdition and destruction. He wishes He could save them all. But then how would any know of His Divine justice and His divine wrath? Therefore, He must let many go to destruction, and even cause some to go to destruction. It’s a hard truth, but truth none the less.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

27 comments on “Just what DOES 1st Timothy 2:4 mean, anyway?

  1. Brother, it’s the same Greek word for “will” in Rom 9:18 “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”

    Whilst certainly not accusing you all of heresy, a lesson from the past, is that great heresies like denying the deity or humanity of Christ, or denying the trinity, have come from an effort to try and systematise 2 sets of verses that seem to contradict each other in our tiny finite minds.

  2. I must agree with Kevin on his point on Romans 9:18, and its application to 1 Timothy 2:4.

    A literal rendering of Romans 9:18 would essentially read “whom He wishes, He mercies; but whom He wishes, He hardens”. As believers we must always bear in mind that the Triune One True and Living God of the Holy Bible is completely sovereign, and He is justified in dispensing grace to those whom He will, and in dispensing justice to those whom He will. He is the potter and we are the clay.

    Yet there’s not even an apparent contradiction in the Word of God with respect to His decrees of election and His decrees of reprobation and the relationship of these decrees to God’s revealed desires (not decrees) for his creatures as they relate to reconciliation. God’s infinite wisdom as it is revealed in His stated decrees and desires is often counterintuitive to finite men, but it is never contradictory. The Word is crystal clear that the Triune One True and Living God sits in the heavens and does all that He pleases. In point of fact He is the only Being with a truly free will, being the unmoved mover, totally unaffected by any influence or counsel outside of Himself as He eternally exists and reigns as the omnipotent and infinite Creator and Judge of the universe.

    Being that He is absolutely and infinitely pure and holy, holy, holy God by His very nature desires the highest possible good, and according to the scriptures the highest possible good is His own glorification. God is magnificently glorified in His unmerited kindness and mercy as it is extended to the elect, and He is also glorified in his righteous wrath and inflexible justice as it is poured out upon the reprobate (Romans 9:22-23).

    The inspired Apostle Paul exults in these unspeakably and unfathomably glorious truths in Romans 11:33-36:

    “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”

    But turning back to the subject at hand, 1 Tim. 2:4, it must be noted that taken in context the Apostle Paul is here dealing with the purpose and nature of prayer, particularly evangelistic prayer as we see from verse 1: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men…”.

    ALL MEN.

    It doesn’t get much clearer than that, amen?

    Now the next step for the student of scripture is to discern the answer to the question, “why all men?” Of course the inspired Apostle anticipates such questions and proceeds with a detailed explanation as to WHY he has exhorted the church to make “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men…”. And the answer is nothing less than the enormity of the need for the proclamation of the Eternal Gospel of Grace to the masses of lost humanity. Paul also cites various practical benefits such as living peaceably, etc.

    But in the final analysis the reason all men are in view is because God alone knows the elect and reprobate (2 Timothy 2:19), while His commissioned servants don’t. Therefore believers are called to preach the Gospel in season, and out of season to every creature under heaven and to evangelistically pray for ALL MEN. Christians are to be indiscriminate and promiscuous with the faithful proclamation of the Gospel as we evangelistically pray for ALL MEN. This is primarily because the elect don’t carry a “Holy Spirit ID card”, nor do they have some other distinguishing feature which identifies who to share the gospel with, and who to ignore. We don’t need to, nor should we even try, to somehow ascertain if a person is elect before we pray for their conversion or share the gospel with them. Believers can and should pray and offer the gospel indiscriminately knowing this service is good and acceptable to God, and in doing so we can rest assured that we are in fact abiding in God’s will (Psalm 145:8-9). Jesus Christ came into the world not to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). This is the day of salvation, but a day of severe reckoning is coming just as in the days of Noah and of Lot.

    The Apostle’s instructions in 1 Timothy 2 are reflective of God’s intrinsic moral goodness and His sincere desire that all men be saved, and whether one interprets “all men” to mean “all kinds of men” (e.g. every kingdom, tribe, tongue, and nation) or if one interprets “all men” to mean every particular individual (including Pharaoh, Esau, Judas Iscariot), the scriptures are nevertheless absolutely crystal clear that not all men will be saved individually, yet the scriptures are equally clear that the good-faith offer of the Gospel is to be sincerely proffered unto all men indiscriminately.

    In closing whatever definition one ascribes to the word “will” in 1 Timothy 2:4 it does no violence whatsoever to God’s eternal decrees of election and reprobation because God’s Word never contradicts itself. Ours is simply to submit in humble obedience to His inscrutable wisdom, and praise Him who chooses the elect out of the world (John 17:6), and passes over the rest, leaving them to righteous condemnation (Romans 11:18-32) for their own sins for which they are personally responsible and accountable to God.

    There is nothing inconsistent about God’s desire for all men to be saved (Isaiah 45:22; Isaiah 55:1, Ezekiel 18:23, 32; Ezekiel 33:11; 1 Timothy 2:4, and yes, arguably even 2 Peter 3:9) and His decrees of election and reprobation, and therefore believers are charged to earnestly and evangelistically pray for and share the good news of the Gospel with ALL MEN.

    P.S. – Kevin,

    What is your view on Amyraldism?

    In Christ,
    CD

  3. Kevin,

    You are correct in saying that Paul uses the Greek thelo (wishes) in Romans 9:18, however, this does not negate the doctrine of election, for by having mercy on whom He will have mercy, and by hardening whom He will harden, He is acting according to His wishes. And it actually makes an even stronger argument for election, seeing as how Paul, using this statement to explain Exodus 9:16, he is telling us that God wanted to harden Pharaoh’s heart. Especially when you consider that just a couple verses later Paul writes, “Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” (Romans 9:21).

    CD,

    Absolutely spot-on with your statement that But in the final analysis the reason all men are in view is because God alone knows the elect and reprobate (2 Timothy 2:19), while His commissioned servants don’t. Therefore believers are called to preach the Gospel in season, and out of season to every creature under heaven and to evangelistically pray for ALL MEN &c.

    I suppose that is the one thing I failed to include in the post, that although God will not save all men, we on the other hand are to pray for all men. As Spurgeon once said,

    “You are only to preach to God’s dear people, if you go into that pulpit,” said a deacon once to a minister. Said the minister, “Have you marked them all on the back, that I may know them?” What is the good of this large chapel if I am only to preach to God’s dear people? They are few enough. God’s dear people might be held in the vestry. We have many more here besides God’s dear people, and how am I to be sure, if I am told to preach only to God’s dear people, that somebody else wont take it to himself?”

    That is why Jesus told His disciples to “Go make disciples of all the nations…” He did not say, “Go out and tell the gospel to my elect.” It is why Paul did not say, “Pray for the elect.” God knows who are His, we don’t. Thereforfe, while God will not save all men, we are to still pray for all men.

  4. I sense that I am a bit out of place here, and I did read the warnings. I assure you, my purpose in asking this question is sincere. The question is, simply: when God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, how do we know that it was forever? Could He have been intending to show His sovereign power in that time and place, and, at the same time, not just desire, but actually will that Pharaoh be saved?

  5. David,

    Can you cite any example in scripture where God hardens the heart of one of His chosen? Please understand that I’m not asking this question with a mocking motive, on the contrary I’m asking you to dig into the Word. I’m not aware of a single example where this phenomenon occurs in scripture.

    But I’m curious – why would you ask such a question in this particular thread? What are you suggesting?

    In Christ,
    CD

  6. The question is, simply: when God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, how do we know that it was forever? Could He have been intending to show His sovereign power in that time and place, and, at the same time, not just desire, but actually will that Pharaoh be saved?

    David,

    You bring up an interesting question, but the answer is rather simple. Consider how and where Pharaoh died, and you will have your answer.

  7. also; http://www.letthemfight.blogspot.com

    This is one of those great and troubling Scriptures by virtue of the fact it seems to defy logic and 1 Corinthians 14:33. If we are to continue to seek the Greek as non Greek speaking men to determine the accuracy of the English translations, we will be forever in doubt as to the accuracy of Scriptural text given us in English.

    If the word all is given, and the word desire is given, logically, one should assume that it is what God has detemined for us to understand. What makes this discussion seemingly complicated or even contradictory is viewing them through the prism of what some believe to be the doctrine of Election. If the doctrine of election , means that God, before time predestined by means beyond our understanding, that a few men he would save, intentionally and the majority he would create not to save, he then intentionally made some to send to hell. If this is the case, 1 Timothy 2:4 is disingenuous – at best for you cannot desire for something to be without the possibility of willing for it to be. Remember we are not speaking of the finite will or capability of men, we are speaking of the omnipotence of the eternal God.

    The only way this is not paradoxical is if each and every created man and woman has been given an equal opportunity to hear, and respond positively to the Gospel message. By commonly accepted understanding of the doctrine of predestination/election, men are not all afforded that opportunity. In fact, the calvinist view says that the response men give is preordained, pre-programmed, predetermined in the souls of some while specifically withheld from others. If that is in fact true, then 1 Timothy 2:4 is illogical, disingenuous, contradictory.

    God either genuinely desires, before time, that all men would be (could be) saved, or he does not. In this case we are not speaking of men with limited power over their very lives but the omnipotent God who can will anything – even that men would choose by their acceptance or denial of the Gospel, their very eternal destiny and in that, God can be seen to have pre-destined man’s eternal future.

    The requirement, by some, to continually go back to the Greek, Latin, Aramaic and Hebrew to determine the true intent of the ‘God Inspired Writers’ of the Gospel suggests a basic lack of trust in the Scriptural text given us. We can’t have it both ways, folks. Either the Omnipotent God we all claim to worship is all powerful and capable of providing us all with his word, or he isn’t. If he is, it is time we began to read the Scripture given us in the language of our given tongue and not seek to ruminate the languages of the dead for truth in meaing. I have yet to meet a single Biblical Scholar whose first language is Greek or even Latin. All of these Scholars have picked up books written by yet other men who then translate what they believe to be the true meaning of specific words and phrases while simultaneously saying not all words are directly translatable in English!? I remember an old adage; he lies and I swear to it.

    The Bible tells us, through Paul, that not all things are clear for us (1 Corinthians 13:12), but it also tells us that God is not the author of confusion. Going back to other men whose understanding of dead languages is scant at best to seek understanding of an apparent paradox, is in itself paradoxical. If the omnipotent God desires for something to be, he certainly is not held to any standard that would necessarilly make his will inconsistent with it. If we, as finite and weak men choose to eliminate an apparent paradox by doing the illogical, we risk missing the greater point. In this case; if God created men with a free will to choose and has determined not to interfere with that free will and then sent his Son as a sacrifice that needs to be accepted by individual men for personal efficacy, it defy’s logic and his own will to then interfere by denying men the ability to make the decision. That is what the calvinist view says. God either did not give men free will or he interferes with men’s ability to choose.

  8. Hi John Bernard,

    Before engaging in a war of dueling Scripture, I would ask you to envision a man setting up a book signing booth in a cemetery. He has just released his latest work about raising yourself from the dead. He soon starts to become disappointed in the response.

    Not only is he not asked to autograph any copies, but his books don’t seem to be selling at all. In fact, despite DEEP discounting, he is unable to sell a single copy. No one in the entire cemetery seems to respond to his numerous, generous offers.

    That is the arminian view.

    a five point calvinist in Christ,
    – Jeff H

  9. I’m not entirely sure where that story is intended to take me; I am a little tired right now. I have another story for you, however:

    There was a King who had three liars and thieves brought before him. He announced his judgement for their transgressions; death. He would however give them clemency if they would take a knee and declare him the rightful King and would pledge their allegiance to him.

    The First thief said he would never give his allegiance to any man or King.
    The Second thief took a knee, humbly asked the King’s forgiveness and swore eternal allegiance to him.
    The Third thief took a knee, humbly asked the King’s forgiveness and swore eternal allegiance to him.

    The King then took a pistol and shot the First thief on the spot, killing him. The King then took his pistol and shot the Second thief on the spot, killing him as well.

    Calvinism and it’s view of sovereignty, pre-destination and election casts God in this light and creates a ‘Second’ thief scenario. Discounting the people who claim to be Christian who never darken the door of a church, never study the word or seek God’s face or decrees but who have fooled themselves, there are the rest of all of us who have made the committment who are ill effected by this theory of doctrine.

    This teaching that says God essentially creates men with the intention of sending most to hell places all of us at risk of being the ‘second’ thief without our being able to know we are. This flys in the face of 1 John and in many other Scriptures that say ‘we may know’. If the God of the universe is prepared to deny someone who has responded to the Gospel in the affirmative, trusting that the word of God assures him of his salvation, then it is safe to say none of us can trust what we believe to be our secure position in Christ. All that is left is a very subjective sense of our own security rather than a security based on an understanding of Scripture and faith that God does what he promises.
    It also forces us to take a subjective assessment of our worthiness based on our assessment of our battle with sin and whether we, then, believe our battle/victory/ongoing battles are ‘good enough’ to convince us we are in good stead.

    Our personal life and works can never be seen as a reason to feel secure for each of us possesses a different level of confidence in what we may or may not be. Believing that the God of the Universe, through the shed blood of his only Son, has provided a way that we can trust without question and without our own merit is the only true rest we can have. Calvinism/fatalism does nothing more than give us what Muslims have in Allah; only a hope that we may have been chosen before time and not have been unlucky enough to have been the ‘second’ thief.

    Again; this is not an attempt to ‘prove’ something as false. It is my earnest desire to insure that where we have placed our faith is rock solid. Calvinism gives the narcissist a place to confirm his belief in himself but leaves the lowly in spirit in a kind of temporal purgatory. This is not consistent with the promises in Scripture. We either can have confidence or we cannot. If we have to look at ourselves each and every time to feel confident, something is wrong with our theology.

    Thanks for taking the time to discuss this by the way.

    SF

    jb

  10. I’ve studied both sides of this subject somewhat and have witnessed countless arguments on the net concerning it throughout the years. I was looking into it a little more in depth recently and can’t comment yet as I remain unconvinced either way as to who is right or wrong or if perhaps both sides may have some truth but not all.

    As it stands to this day, I swear allegiance neither to Calvin or Arminius.

    You could call me “Jesus only” at this point I guess. Not in the sense of the heretical teaching that denies that God exists in three persons but in the sense that I believe His teachings above any man. I need neither Calvin or Arminius to explain to me what the Word of God means. The Word is able to do that for itself just fine.

    Pauls writings below are as relevant today as they were in the days of the Corinthians.

    1 Corinthians 1:12.13 13 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

    1 Corinthians 3:1-4 1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?

  11. Hi John Bernard,

    I do very much appreciate your analogy, indeed. However, I would tweak it significantly to make the calvinist point:

    There was a King who had three liars and thieves brought before him. He announced his judgement for their transgressions; death.

    The three liars had already earned death through their sin, and were separated from God, thus they were spiritually dead and unable to respond spiritually to God’s grace.

    “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.'” John 3:3-6)

    The first birth is physical, but the second birth is spiritual.

    The liars had also sealed their eternity, knowing “…all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)

    They were already dead men and unable to respond to the King’s offer… The King was perfectly just in doing so… and through His perfect justice He glorified Himself.

    So that, when you say…

    The King then took a pistol and shot the First thief on the spot, killing him. The King then took his pistol and shot the Second thief on the spot, killing him as well.

    There was no need — they were already dead.

    There are other references to the effect of sin on our spirit:

    “How shall we, that are dead to sin live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:2)

    “Likewise consider yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:11)

    “The body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Romans 8:10)

    “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body… Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterwards that which is spiritual.”
    1 Corinthians 15:44,46

    “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh…” (Galatians 5:24)

    “And you He has made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

    “He loved us even when we were dead in sins…” (Ephesians 2:5)

    “And you, being dead in your sins…He has made alive together with Him.” (Colossians 2:13)

    “…that we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness…” (1 Peter 2:24)

    Calvinism/fatalism does nothing more than give us what Muslims have in Allah; only a hope that we may have been chosen before time and not have been unlucky enough to have been the ‘second’ thief.

    I think the opposite is true. While Allah is merely a capricious ‘god’ who makes his subjects work and may or may not grant them heaven

    If God cannot control EVERYTHING, He cannot control ANYTHING… because the outcome will always depend on the actions of others.

    Calvinism gives the narcissist a place to confirm his belief in himself but leaves the lowly in spirit in a kind of temporal purgatory.

    Actually, I think it has just the opposite effect. To think that God KNOWS me, and saved me ANYWAY, humbles me — because I know who (what) I am… but that God has chosen this vessel for honor astounds me.

    I think Charles Finney paved the path to where we are now with decisional regeneration, and also the false perception that there is something just-so-wonderful-about-us-that-God-can’t-take-His-eyes-off-of-us.

    No, there’s nothing about me worth bragging about, other than the loving-kindness of my God Who saved me through Jesus Christ.

    I have a knowledge that I am saved. I have fruit to demonstrate my salvation, so that I can:

    “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

    You may say, ‘Well, that’s not fair to the other liars…” in your example.

    The Bible says … none … of us deserves to be saved. gulp.

    The question is: who gets the credit for my salvation?

    Simple…

    Is it God?
    Me and God?
    Me?

    If I get ANY credit/glory for saving me… I am in blasphemous territory.

    Blessings JB!

    In Christ,
    – Jeff H

  12. Unprofitable Servant;

    I, like you, am committed to Jesus Christ, first, last and without deference to the studies or judgements of men. As to 1 Timothy 2:4, I believe it is clear that the intent is not to suggest all men have been saved by the shed blood of Jesus Christ but that the atonement is available to all men. There are many Scriptures that tell us we still bear responsibility to ‘answer the call’. The question I struggle with is reconciling the Calvinist view that men are all pre-destined, before time, by God, for Heaven or Hell. In effect that leaves the vast majority of all men ever born without the ability to respond positively to the preaching of the Gospel.

    The standard response to that statement is that men, in their depravity, are already consigned to hell and that God, in his mercy has chosen some for salvation and furthermore that he never consigns men to hell. But if those who respond positively can hardly respond any other way and if the ones ‘he will not lose’ are only those he has pre-destined for heaven, does it not logically suggest that he has withheld ‘something’ from those who are destined for hell by virtue of the fact the ‘saved’ have been insured to say yes?

    We can’t have it both ways; either men have the same opportunity to respond or they don’t. If they don’t and credit is given to God for the salvation of the few, is he not also responsible for holding back the ‘something’ that causes the lost not to respond positively? Again, let us remember we are speaking of the omnipotent, omniscient God, not an ailing failing human with restraints. There is no parallel condition put upon men that could adequately illuminate this apparent paradox other than to say those who perpetuate it labor to make it work.

    I for one do not need to be convinced I have been irresistably drawn to be assured that Jesus’s sacrifice and offer is unconditional except for my willingness to accept him as my Savior and seek his face, his word, his desire for my life.

    And thank you for getting involved in this discussion.

    SF

    jb

  13. If they don’t and credit is given to God for the salvation of the few, is he not also responsible for holding back the ‘something’ that causes the lost not to respond positively?

    The answer is that men will glorify God in Hell (God’s perfect justice), but God is willing to demonstrate His mercy as well to some (for His glory AS WELL) I think Romans chapter 9 (verses 10-29) was written to help you…

    “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

    What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

    For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

    You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory — even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

    As indeed he says in Hosea,

    “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
    and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.'”
    “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
    there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.'”

    And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” And as Isaiah predicted,

    “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
    we would have been like Sodom
    and become like Gomorrah.”

    Blessings,
    – Jeff H

  14. Jeff;

    I don’t believe there is any substantial difference in the way a Calvinist or non-Calvinist approaches God or sees himself. We all agree that salvation is the unmerited gift of a merciful and sovereign God. I also believe that God is Sovereign but that his sovereignty is not subject to the Calvinist view point or any other. For instance; I believe as sure as I am standing here that when the Bible says God created the world in 6 days, it is a literal 6 days and the world was complete as we now know it (sin and the flood aside). but I do not believe it would suggest God to not be sovereign if he had in fact chosen for his creation to come into being over many millions of years. It would also define his sovereignty because that is the way he would have willed it to be.

    Similarly, by man taking his responsibility, in the free will that God gave us all, to chooses to respond to God’s call positively or negatively, this does nothing to lessen God’s sovereignty if this is the way he willed it to be. In fact, it also manifests God’s mercy in that he does not interfere with the gift of free will and in fact causes man to further the case for the damnation we are all worthy of except for the blood of Jesus Christ.

    The point being; it is no less humbling to consider that God affords man his free will choice to accept or deny Christ than it does, in your case, to think that God selected certain men for salvation while denying others. This is not a question of our individual perceptions of God or his sovereignty and it is not a question of whether the ‘second’ thief is worthy of death or dead already. The point of that illustration might be better explained by saying that you and I made the same decision and voluntarily opened our mouths and accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. We have since been active in our respective fellowships and served, grown, studied, shared the Gospel and resisted sin (not necessarily in that order) but according to the Calvinist model, it is possible for one of us to not be saved…unless you are saying those not chosen are only those who have rejected the Gospel, Jesus Christ and God; hands down.

    Thanks again;

    SF

    jb

  15. Hi JB,

    I don’t believe there is any substantial difference in the way a Calvinist or non-Calvinist approaches God or sees himself.

    I believe (and we are using the labels ‘calvinist’ and ‘arminianist’ to lay out theological viewpoints for convenience) that the differences are vast. When we put man into the salvation equation of: Christ + man’s will (or Christ + anything, such as works, etc.), we are elevating man and lowering God.

    We all agree that salvation is the unmerited gift of a merciful and sovereign God. I also believe that God is Sovereign but that his sovereignty is not subject to the Calvinist view point or any other.

    True.

    For instance; I believe as sure as I am standing here that when the Bible says God created the world in 6 days, it is a literal 6 days and the world was complete as we now know it (sin and the flood aside).

    Ditto.

    but I do not believe it would suggest God to not be sovereign if he had in fact chosen for his creation to come into being over many millions of years. It would also define his sovereignty because that is the way he would have willed it to be.

    Are you implying an old earth theology, or are you laying out a line of reasoning?

    also manifests God’s mercy in that he does not interfere with the gift of free will and in fact causes man to further the case for the damnation we are all worthy of except for the blood of Jesus Christ.

    Then we need a pair of scissors and we need to remove Romans 9, as I stated… plus the OT and other references to God having mercy on whom He will.

    The point being; it is no less humbling to consider that God affords man his free will choice to accept or deny Christ

    Important point: we don’t accept Christ, He accepts us. The biblical term Paul uses is we “receive” Christ.

    than it does, in your case, to think that God selected certain men for salvation while denying others. This is not a question of our individual perceptions of God or his sovereignty and it is not a question of whether the ‘second’ thief is worthy of death or dead already. The point of that illustration might be better explained by saying that you and I made the same decision and voluntarily opened our mouths and accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. We have since been active in our respective fellowships and served, grown, studied, shared the Gospel and resisted sin (not necessarily in that order) but according to the Calvinist model, it is possible for one of us to not be saved…unless you are saying those not chosen are only those who have rejected the Gospel, Jesus Christ and God; hands down.

    Well, Romans 9 — again — and another hypothetical:

    Picture NO man responding with his ‘free will’ to God’s call and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb is empty.

    shudder

    Thanks again;

    A pleasure!

    :o)

    – Jeff H

  16. I believe (and we are using the labels ‘calvinist’ and ‘arminianist’ to lay out theological viewpoints for convenience) that the differences are vast. When we put man into the salvation equation of: Christ + man’s will (or Christ + anything, such as works, etc.), we are elevating man and lowering God.
    Again let me emphasize; I don’t believe man has anything to do with his own salvation. It is Christ alone. There isn’t any difference with our mutual understanding of whose work it is or whose will it is. Man’s part is as clearly defined for me as in the following Scripture:
    Rom 10:13-17

    For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”
    But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?
    And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”
    But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “LORD, who has believed our message?”
    So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.
    Are you implying an old earth theology, or are you laying out a line of reasoning?
    Believe me; God created the world in 6 days…period. I won’t even allow speculation to enter my mind on that point. I am merely suggesting that God’s sovereignty is not defined by the method but by his will.
    Then we need a pair of scissors and we need to remove Romans 9, as I stated… plus the OT and other references to God having mercy on whom He will.
    Romans 9 does not refute the free will view. It defines the hard-heartedness of men and the price for not repenting. It was inevitable outside of time, but only obvious in time after those people passed without a penitent heart. This does not reduce God’s sovereignty it just magnifies the depravity of the people discussed.
    Important point: we don’t accept Christ, He accepts us. The biblical term Paul uses is we “receive” Christ.
    I’m not sure we aren’t getting into a war of semantics here. Christ did accept us but how else would you define your having opened your mouth and uttering the sounds that said I do, or I accept, or I repent etc..
    Picture NO man responding with his ‘free will’ to God’s call and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb is empty.
    I agree. Are you then saying that there is a difference between men who have said yes and men who have said no? I appreciate your concern that this is some kind of slippery slope but we live in time not outside and the physical laws still apply. If a man opens his mouth and says yea and another nay, in one realm or the other or (I insist both), it is at least a marker for the man responding and if not; what is it that first defines for the individual man that he has been ‘chosen’?

    SF

    jb

  17. JB,

    Again let me emphasize; I don’t believe man has anything to do with his own salvation. It is Christ alone. There isn’t any difference with our mutual understanding of whose work it is or whose will it is.

    Wait. I thought you said man has free will, so it’s man’s will not God’s, right?

    Man’s part is as clearly defined for me as in the following Scripture:
    Rom 10:13-17

    For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”
    But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?
    And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

    Of course, God’s PERFECT will is that none perish but all come to repentance. The point is that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

    What you quoted is perfectly in line with God’s sovereignty. God has chosen a method to spread the Gospel. That says nothing of man’s response nor whose initiative comes into play.

    But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “LORD, who has believed our message?”
    So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.

    Sure! But, the question is: Where does our faith come from?

    “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

    Are you implying an old earth theology, or are you laying out a line of reasoning?
    Believe me; God created the world in 6 days…period. I won’t even allow speculation to enter my mind on that point. I am merely suggesting that God’s sovereignty is not defined by the method but by his will.

    OK, I guess. I still don’t understand where you’re going here, but…

    Then we need a pair of scissors and we need to remove Romans 9, as I stated… plus the OT and other references to God having mercy on whom He will.
    Romans 9 does not refute the free will view. It defines the hard-heartedness of men and the price for not repenting. It was inevitable outside of time, but only obvious in time after those people passed without a penitent heart. This does not reduce God’s sovereignty it just magnifies the depravity of the people discussed.

    What?!?

    Esau… Jacob… potter… clay… God hardening Pharaoh’s heart…

    God saying: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” ?!?

    Important point: we don’t accept Christ, He accepts us. The biblical term Paul uses is we “receive” Christ.
    I’m not sure we aren’t getting into a war of semantics here. Christ did accept us but how else would you define your having opened your mouth and uttering the sounds that said I do, or I accept, or I repent etc..

    I received Christ.

    I did not recite the ‘magic words’ of some silly ‘sinner’s prayer’ and presto… the magic worked.

    Jesus Christ, the Author and Perfecter of my faith saved me.

    Picture NO man responding with his ‘free will’ to God’s call and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb is empty.
    I agree. Are you then saying that there is a difference between men who have said yes and men who have said no?

    Again, I see no need to elevate man and bring down God here.

    God loved Jacob before he was born.
    God hated Esau before he was born.

    It can’t be clearer than the, my friend!

    I appreciate your concern that this is some kind of slippery slope but we live in time not outside and the physical laws still apply. If a man opens his mouth and says yea and another nay, in one realm or the other or (I insist both), it is at least a marker for the man responding and if not; what is it that first defines for the individual man that he has been ‘chosen’?

    Again with the man opening his mouth!

    Nope… It’s ALL God.

    God is GOOD!

  18. Sorry about the double post, but JB: head on over to my Youtube channel:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/S4v3dByGr4c3

    and there are two videos there by Mark Kielar that will clear things up for you:

    Believer, You’re Saved Because God Chose You First Not Because You Chose Him First

    and

    “How Do I Know If I’m One of God’s Elect?” (Mark Kielar)

  19. Jeff;

    This is not a fight or an attempt at one-upmanship. It is a legitimate attempt to understand the argument. But you will have to do better than dismissing my last question out of hand. My question; “If a man opens his mouth and says yea and another nay, in one realm or the other or (I insist both), it is at least a marker for the man responding and if not; what is it that first defines for the individual man that he has been ‘chosen’?” is not an atempt to undermine your argument but to understand how you define that simple act. So again: Did God ’cause’ us to open our mouths and say yes? or did we reason with God and say yes? Do you agree we said anything at all or was it a case of channeling or what? My point about being ‘in time’ is a way to define the difference between where we live (physically) and where God is in eternity – no more, no less. Again; if you think those of us who are not on board with the Calvinist view are also lessening God’s sovereignty in our hearts, or minds; you are wrong. No serious student of Scripture; no child of God; no one saved by Jesus Christ would believe that and it is a little disingenuous to define those who don’t agree with us as ‘making’ our God less simply because we don’t agree with a doctrine which is being offered in a certain way.

    Good conversation. By the way; I am a retired Marine with a pretty thick skin and I lost my only Son in Afghanistan 16 months ago. He was saved and a quiet but incredibly effective witness (and don’t read into ‘quiet’). His Brothers in arms were deeply affected by him and had given him the call sign ‘Holy Man’ in recognition of his walk with Christ. I only tell you these things because by virtue of my first earthly calling and the recent loss of my Son, I have a perspective on life and it’s proximity to eternity not shared by the average person.

    Semper Fidelis;

    jb

  20. By the Way;

    I don’t believe in ‘formulae’ or ‘silly prayers’ either. We should be well beyond that in this conversation.

    jb

  21. Not trying to go off topic here, maybe Pilgrim would be kind enough to make another post because the following information just blows my mind!

    I was talking to a brother on the phone tonight and during the conversation, The New Jerusalem came up as a topic.

    I was reading about the description of the transparent gold in the city and somewhere along the line I recalled the Star Trek movie from years ago that talked about transparent aluminum.

    It turns out, man has actually made transparent aluminum already.

    Trouble is, it takes an entire city’s worth of power focused on a dot 1/20 the thickness of a human hair to make aluminum transparent and they can only keep it transparent for one quadrillionth of a second!

    Now The New Jerusalem is 1367.08 miles square and its gold stays transparent for all eternity!

    Talk about Gods sovereignty and power! Wow.

    It just shows how insignificant mans power is compared to God.

    References:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Jerusalem#Description

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transparent_aluminium

  22. JB,

    This is not a fight or an attempt at one-upmanship.

    It never was, my friend.

    :o)

    It is a legitimate attempt to understand the argument.

    That’s why we’re talking!

    But you will have to do better than dismissing my last question out of hand. My question; “If a man opens his mouth and says yea and another nay, in one realm or the other or (I insist both), it is at least a marker for the man responding and if not; what is it that first defines for the individual man that he has been ‘chosen’?” is not an atempt to undermine your argument but to understand how you define that simple act. So again: Did God ’cause’ us to open our mouths and say yes? or did we reason with God and say yes? Do you agree we said anything at all or was it a case of channeling or what? My point about being ‘in time’ is a way to define the difference between where we live (physically) and where God is in eternity – no more, no less.

    My answer, consistent with what I have been saying all along, is: How may men who are dead and buried in a graveyard respond to a call from God by opening their mouth? They can’t because they are DEAD. That is our state spiritually until God calls us. That is when we are born again, as I said above.

    Again; if you think those of us who are not on board with the Calvinist view are also lessening God’s sovereignty in our hearts, or minds; you are wrong. No serious student of Scripture; no child of God; no one saved by Jesus Christ would believe that

    And yet, in the arminian world, there God stands… wringing His hands — HOPING that someone will please respond to His call. You have taken sovereignty from The Sovereign.

    and it is a little disingenuous to define those who don’t agree with us as ‘making’ our God less simply because we don’t agree with a doctrine which is being offered in a certain way.

    Woah! Now you’re taking this personally. If you want to continue discussing this — great. If you are reading a snarky tone into my words, I assure you I have no such intent.

    Good conversation.

    Did you watch the videos I recommended? I pray they will help you to understand the doctrine of election, as described in Romans 9.

    By the way; I am a retired Marine with a pretty thick skin and I lost my only Son in Afghanistan 16 months ago.

    I am very sorry for your loss, sir.

    He was saved and a quiet but incredibly effective witness (and don’t read into ‘quiet’). His Brothers in arms were deeply affected by him and had given him the call sign ‘Holy Man’ in recognition of his walk with Christ.

    Thanks be to God!! I look forward to meeting him one day.

    My daughter is saved, but please pray for my son. He is not saved. I fear I will not see him… forever.

    That is bitter, but I know that God is good NO MATTER what.

    He has also seen my wife through debilitating disease since she was 8 years old. Despite her diabetes (type I), retinopathy, neuropathy, two heart attacks, etc. etc., God has shown us His mercy and His miracles over and over again.

    I only tell you these things because by virtue of my first earthly calling and the recent loss of my Son, I have a perspective on life and it’s proximity to eternity not shared by the average person.

    I believe you do, sir.

    Resting in Christ Jesus,
    – Jeff H

  23. Unprofitable Servant;

    Man’s power…what power? I have even bothered trying to understand some of the simple truths in the creation story beyond what I need to satisfy my understanding that the God we serve is indeed beyond our understanding in so many respects. I also remember that transparent aluminum bit in one of the first Star Trek movies with the original cast. A city???

    SF

    jb

  24. Just so you know, JB, I am an aerospace engineer employed as a civil servant with NASA (28 years), so I do understand your statements concerning things temporal.

    – Jeff H

  25. Jeff;

    I will keep you and your family in prayer. Death is a test – I have an appreciation for Job that I never did before; in many ways sickness is a test of endurance. God isn’t going to lose any that are supposed to be saved (preaching to the choir).

    SF

    jb

  26. Thank you, friend. You will be in my prayers as well.

    Blessings,
    – Jeff H

  27. Jeff;

    Aah; your perspective is indeed unique as well. I have always been drawn to the stars and have sometimes wondered if that would have been a ‘smart’ pursuit, but, I remind myself of the 2 pound sack; a 2 pound sack only holds two pounds. You can fill it to the point it is going to burst or attempt to fill it to overflowing. All you will do is lose much of what is likely the most precious and important. I am satisfied I have done that for which I was created (temporally) and hope not to miss doing what i was created to do for eternity.

    Jeff;

    Copy. I will have to sign off for now. Hopw to catch up with you later. Maybe we can figure out a way to pass on contact info.

    SF

    jb

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