The Will of God

free will

(Another unorganized post…)

What is God’s will for you? It is for you to decide! God gave us a free will so that we would not be robots and it would be possible for us to love. He does not desire for us to use our free will to ask him about every decision we make and then do what God says (because he doesn’t always tell us what to do). That is called choosing to be a robot. It is choosing to be what God did not design you to be. We have a relationship with God. Of course we should communicate with God about all things in life. He loves to give us input because he is very wise and happens to know all things. We create a problem for ourselves when we assume that God has a will for every little thing we do in life. Having someone make all your choices for you is called immaturity. This is why we renew our mind and gain an accurate understanding of God’s heart, because we are then able to make decisions that are aligned with his heart.

God’s will is that you will.

Matt Spinks explains that following God’s will is like floating down a river on a raft. You have to try to get out of his will. It’s effortless.

“Forget about trying to find His plan for your life – your life is His plan! Neither your location nor your timing matters – He has dawned His eternal day. You are His moment; you are His location! “…worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there … It’s who you are…” (John 4:21:23 MSG).”

God doesn’t always have a will for us (2 Samuel 7, Acts 5, Romans 14). He didn’t give us freedom so that we would use it to ask him what to do for everything. That defeats the purpose

“The “will of God” is not like a funnel, desiring to control your every move with precision. It is like Revealing to you that there were more options than you could imagine and empowering you to freely choose.”

“God willing we will…” Well, we could do it or make it happen outside of God’s will too. You can’t say this and then when it comes about conclude it was God’s will.
James 4:15 – James was giving an arrogant people who thought they were self-sufficient a humbler way of speech, not giving a way to talk for all people.

“Not my will but yours…” Luke 22:42 – This is really an interaction of two natures, not Jesus not knowing what his Father’s will was (which is the way it is used today lol)

Asking God what to do in every situation is called control (and he doesn’t want it). Never talking about decisions with God is called independence (and it’s an illusion). Conversing with God about things that matter to his heart is called relationship (and it’s lots of fun).

“If it’s your will, then…” – This basically shows that the person saying this doesn’t know Jesus. Rather, the person only knows about him. To such people Jesus said, “depart from me; I never knew you.”

What would this sound like in human relationships?
Say a man feels like eating Mexican food on a certain night, so he decides to bring the matter before his wife: “Honey, if it’s your will, then let us eat Mexican tonight.” And then he walks away. He’s thinking, “I did my part. Whatever happens will happen, and the will of my wife will be revealed through what she does.” – This is a monologue. It is weird. What would a normal person do in this situation? He would ask her a question! “Would you like to eat Mexican tonight?” “What would you like to eat tonight?” Just because he doesn’t know what his wife is thinking at this moment doesn’t mean that he despairs of finding out her thoughts until she takes some action while he passively does nothing. He interacts and relates with her.

Yes! It’s okay to ask God questions. And he loves it when you do. He desires to answer you. He’ll answer in his own way that we may not be used to (just look at how Jesus answered people’s questions all throughout Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), but he will. “How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.”

Not saying we completely know God’s every thought at all times, but we share in it; we have the mind of Christ

Paul prayed in Colossians 1:9 that they would be filled with the knowledge of the will of God, so obviously it’s possible and not only that but also desirable.

Ephesians 1:9, 5:18
Matt 26:39; James 4:13-16; Rom 12:2; I no longer call you servants but friends, because you know my business. Praying in Jesus’ name is according to his will
God’s ways were higher than ours until Jesus raised us up to heavenly places (Kris Vallotton)

“Love God and do whatever” – St. Augustine

Casting lots in Acts was the last time from then on that that method was used to determine God’s will; everything was revealed by Holy Spirit from then on.

“The will of God” isn’t something that is but something you do.

God still works in the same “mysterious ways” that he always has. But they are not so mysterious anymore; we have the mind of Christ.
Isaiah 55:8-9, 2 Corinthians 2? (and the OT Scripture it quotes)

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Also see:

http://frankviola.org/rethinkingthewill.pdf

Who Are the Elect?

In A Simple Solution to the Predestination vs. Free Will Debate/”Paradox” I wrote about how every bible verse that speaks of predestination does not mean God is individually choosing who is going to heaven or hell but rather that God corporately chose the church.

In this post I want write about a related concept, that of election. The question is, who are God’s elect (chosen ones)?

One answer given is that God elects some individuals to heaven and damns the rest to hell. This is the same concept that I refuted in the post that I linked to above. Here I want to dismantle this false picture of an unfair God who arbitrarily favors certain people over others.

To answer the question, let’s first look at the concept of election in the Old Testament.

electMany individuals were chosen in the OT as types and shadows of the true elect. The most pertinent example is Abraham, who was chosen from among all the people in the earth. What is important to notice is why God chooses an individual out of everyone else in the first place? The scriptures say that Abraham was chosen so that “all nations would be blessed through [him]” (Galatians 3:16). Thus, as the OT conceives it, election is God selecting an individual (or a group; Israel in the OT) for the benefit of all others.

The reason that the non-elect can have hope for the future is precisely because of God’s election of Israel…Divine election is, strange as it may seem, a message of hope for the whole world. – Robin Parry

We can see this theme continued in the New Testament. In the gospel narratives, Jesus chooses disciples who will later take the Good News around the world; Jesus said to his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (John 15:16, emphasis mine). In Acts, God says that Paul “is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (9:15, emphasis mine).

The elect in the NT refers to the believing community. God chose the church as the means by which to bless the whole world. It’s not about who’s in and who’s out. Whenever election is mentioned in the scriptures it is completely unrelated to all of our modern notions of the afterlife. God did not make choices for each individual but rather he made a single corporate choice for the benefit of all.

Ultimately, however, we must think Christocentrically. The true elect one, who preceded the birth of the church, is Christ. Just as Israel was elected so that all nations would be blessed, so Christ was elected so that in him all humanity would be blessed.

Jesus represents Israel in himself, hence he embodied Israel’s election in himself (e.g. read Matthew, which portrays the life of Christ as parallel to the history of Israel). In a similar fashion, the church is representative of Jesus (read how closely Jesus identifies himself with the church in Who is the Light of the World?). This is why the church is called the body of Christ.

Jesus is God’s elect, and since all are included in the work of Christ, all are included in the benefits of his election (just as all nations were to be blessed by the election of Abraham).

Israel (Jacob) himself was chosen (over Esau; Gen. 25:23) but individual Israelites are not chosen to be in the nation of Israel. Rather, as descendants of Israel they share in God’s election of him. They are elect in Israel, not elect to be in Israel…our election is actually a participation in Christ’s election. Notice how Paul puts it in Eph. 1:4: “evan as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Not “chose to be in him” but “chose us in him.” Similarly in Rom 16:13: “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord…” Chosen “in the Lord” not “chosen to be in the Lord.” Christ is the Elect One and those who are united to Christ share in his election. – Robin Parry

So how has humanity benefited by Christ’s election on its behalf? By Jesus becoming its substitute. This will be the topic of my next post.

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Also see:

A Simple Solution to the Predestination vs. Free Will Debate/”Paradox”

calvin-and-hobbes-on-predestination

Here’s a hot topic for ya.

Has God determined everything that has and will come to pass (predestination) or do people have the ability to make genuinely free choices that are not determined by God (free will)?

You might consider this to be irrelevant, but it is at least a big deal for many atheists, because they find it impossible to call a God who makes everything happen, including things like the holocaust, truly good. For many, that’s the only “Christian God” they’ve ever heard of, so they reject the idea. And If that’s all I knew I would do the same. So if people are hindered from having a relationship with Jesus because of a false doctrine, methinks that’s kind of a big deal.

The reason for disagreement between people is that there seem to be bible passages that imply both ideas. For example, “Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined…” (Romans 8:29) is used to support predestination, and “…Choose today whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15) is used to support free will (emphasis in both verses mine).

It’s a good idea to look at the history of ideas claimed to be grounded in the bible in order to examine their legitimacy. If we see early church fathers writing positively about some idea, that should increase its credibility since many of them spoke the language the bible was originally written in, knew the authors personally and the circumstances of the recipients of letters, understood cultural factors naturally without having to study them like we do, etc. On the other hand, if there is no mention of an idea until hundreds of years after Jesus, that doesn’t automatically disqualify the idea, but it is a good reason to be suspicious.

Such is the case with predestination.

The idea only first emerged around 400 A.D. with Augustine and only became popular in the 17th century with the theologian John Calvin (the common notion of predestination is fairly synonymous with what is popularly called “Calvinism,” and I use the terms interchangably). On the contrary, all the early church fathers consistently upheld the freedom of human choice. That was their interpretation of the bible as a whole, including all the passages that people use to support predestination.

So we at least have grounds to suspect that Calvinism is merely a man-made doctrine.

Looking at the Greek of bible passages that are cited to support a doctrine is also a good idea. Thanks to the internet, to some degree everybody can do this themselves for free at websites like blueletterbible.org and biblestudytools.com.

The solution to this particular issue of seemingly contradictory bible passages turns out to be simple. It has to do with the English word “you.” This word can be used to refer to both individuals and more than one person. I can tell a friend “I love you” and I can also address all the readers of this post by saying “you are awesome!” In Greek, on the other hand, there is always a distinction between the “singular you” and the “plural you.” Potentially, we could do this in English too – just say “you” for individuals and “you all” for more than one person. Unfortunately, most popular translations of the bible consistently use “you” for both tenses of the Greek.

Every verse in the bible speaking of predestination doesn’t refer to individuals but to the Church. The idea of individuals being predestined does not exist in the bible. God has not determined every move you will make. Such ideas only became popular when Christianity began to become individualistic.

Incidentally, Augustine didn’t know Greek and even said he hated it. He only read the Latin translations of the bible, which had plenty of their own errors. He also came to believe in Jesus later in life, and his theology was heavily influenced by the pagan philosophy he was priorly steeped in for many years. It’s not surprising that he would veer from the consensus of the early church fathers and create his own new doctrine.

When I first heard this in college I thought, “well what if it’s not you all, collectively as a group, but each one of you all, individually. I asked one of my professors about this and he responded that the expressesion of such a concept in Greek using that word was nonexistent. In other words, when it says “you all” in the Greek, it always means “you all, collectively as a group.” There are other Greek words that would allow one to say things like “each one of you,” but the biblical authors never used them in reference to predestination.

Interestingly, you won’t find the doctrines of Calvinism in other parts of the world. The fact that it is predominantly a phenomenon of English speaking countries (especially North America) is telling. Its ideas are rooted neither in the bible nor in the history of the early Church but rather in speculations based on mistranslations.

So be at peace. Whom the son sets free is free indeed. You are free.

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Note: I avoided using scholarly terminology in this post for better readability (or rather used scholarly terminology but incorrectly, i.e. the way most people use the terms in conversation). Wikipedia has a pretty nice article giving an overview of all the different nuances in the term “predestination,” its history, etc. You can check it out here.

fatalism