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The Extent of God’s Love

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Have you ever spoken to an unbeliever who knew some of his Bible—just enough to be angry and confused? If so, you probably heard questions (accusations) like these: “What kind of God orders the slaughter of entire cities—women, children, and animals included—without mercy? Why does God allow so much pain, suffering, and evil in the world? How do you reconcile the love of God with the eternal flames of hell?”

So often, the attribute of God that confuses unbelievers most is His love. They can’t fathom the depth of God’s love in the Incarnation and Crucifixion of Christ. But beyond that, they refuse to see other expressions of God’s love, expressions that sometimes escape our notice too. Here’s John MacArthur to explain. Click play…

Listen to this 10-minute clip:

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#1  Posted by Micah Marchewitz  |  Tuesday, July 12, 2011at 4:41 PM

Great blog series, Thanks GTY!

#2  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Tuesday, July 12, 2011at 6:59 PM

I agree with the blog and God bless.

#3  Posted by Rebecca Schwem  |  Tuesday, July 12, 2011at 7:35 PM

I am wonderfully overwhelmed by this series and all the information each has contributed. It has caused me to think about God and His love for me and others that I think I had not considered before.

Thank you all. I love reading this series and then checking out the lessons some of you have mentioned as cross references. I can't believe that I have been chosen by our Lord to be in His family. Even though I don't understand why....why me?...I am thrilled to know I have been chosen by Him and for Him.

I love learning how it all works. He loves me. He pours His love on me and it fills me so that I must return such love.And to know I am one of the elect to exchange such a sweet love, I hardly know how to express it. Not the norm for me. This is why I have not been commenting. I've been drinking it all in.

Thank you GTY! It all just clicked. It all fell into place. Common grace for us all, believers and un believers. But....a deep, unchanging love for all of us that believe and.....LOVE God with all our hearts, souls and minds. Matthew 22:37 I see it, I get it and I believe it and for once in my life, I don't have to analyze it. Thank you Sweet Holy Spirit. I feel like dancing!

#4  Posted by Donavan Dear  |  Tuesday, July 12, 2011at 11:54 PM

That was a nice post Rebecca, I have the other side of the problem. It is very hard for me to understand Gods emotions at all, I understand that Jesus condescended to humanity and gave us an example of love in his life and on the cross. But I don't understand how God could have an enemy, he is all powerful. It seems to me that all emotions are in some way based on a need and God has no needs. I also understand that we don't have the language or understanding to define Gods emotions so we just put them in our little boxes of understanding. When talking about Gods love and other emotions that we describe God as having I can't help but feel that we are learning about how God wants us to act in reference to his "emotions" but not actually learning anything about God which feels untruthful somehow.

Donavan

#5  Posted by Scott Davidson  |  Wednesday, July 13, 2011at 4:48 AM

God's common grace demonstrates His love for His creation. I never understood this until I learned about common grace. I look at non-believers differently now and see how blessed they truly are by God without even knowing they are blessed. All the more reason for believers to share the Gospel with them and then let God open their eyes. God is good.

#6  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Wednesday, July 13, 2011at 8:22 AM

Donavan #4,

I think you'll be helped when you realize when we are talking about God's love, we are not talking about an emotion. Love, real love, is not an emotion. Our culture confuses affection (emotion) with love (verb). The Bible does not speak of God "having" love as if it is a substance or emotion. Rather, it speaks of God "loving" meaning a kind if action.

There are times when the Bible assigns emotions to God, but that is a different discussion that when talking about love.

We are commanded love God and neighbor. That is not a command to have emotions for them. That is a command to acts toward them in a particular way.

#7  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Wednesday, July 13, 2011at 9:24 AM

I agree with every word that Pastor John said in the sound clip. Praise God that He gave John the ability to break down complex theological concepts into structured points that are easy to understand.

#9  Posted by Steve Nuhn  |  Wednesday, July 13, 2011at 8:12 PM

Gabriel,

I may have heard the answer to my question in the audio; Does God accept us for who we are? That's the question. I'm asking because I heard that comment made in a bible study at my church and I tried to explain that we are unacceptable without God transforming our very nature then making us acceptable. It did not go over very well. I'm in one of the those half traditional half contemporary, well actually 20/80, churches that mainly focus on God's love, as you so aptly stated "For God sooooo loved the world..."

Do you think all this contemporary stuff is just a new name for the charismatic movement?

Thanks again for all the effort you guys put into these blogs and rightly dividing God's word.

#10  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 9:03 AM

Steve,

You bring up a good question. It comes down by what we mean by "acceptable." No sinner is acceptable in God's eyes. Ever. In order to be acceptable one must be perfect--which only Jesus was/is. At no point does God make a sinner acceptable on his own. A person's acceptability is always the direct result of him being "in Christ," being made righteous because of Christ. A good exercise is to read Ephesians and take note how often Paul says things like "in Christ" or "in Him". Apart from Christ we cannot be acceptable to God.

That said, God takes us as we are. Not because we are acceptable, but because He is rich in mercy and because of the great love with which He loved us (Eph 2:4-5). I tell you, brother, you read Ephesians 1-3 carefully noting who we were, what God has done, and why He did it, and you can't come to any other conclusion that it's all about Him, and not about us.

I wouldn't necessarily tie "this contempoary stuff" with the charismatic movement, though perhaps there is some connection (John MacArthur has stated that we'll never know the true impact of that movement).

#11  Posted by Donavan Dear  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 11:16 AM

Gabriel

Thank you for your answer, about the verb of Gods love that is very helpful.

The idea of the simplicity of God is generally that God has no parts and that he is identical to his attributes like love, hate and such. So with that in mind God is love and God is hate also (of course hate in a righteous sense).

Common grace is also common non grace because yes the blessings fall on everyone in the nice restaurant like John MacArthur says but the bill comes also and it's really expensive. I agree with everything JM says in his sermon but common grace (Gods general love) seems meaningless because Gods general anti-grace is on everyone also. I'm not trying to argue about the idea of Gods love I'm looking for an answer to give the atheists who often ask me questions at work. How does common grace make a difference?

Thanks

#12  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 11:29 AM

Donavan #11,

There is probably more to it, but my immediate response to how does common grace make a difference? is this:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20)

Whatever else can be said, common grace denies the unbeliever the ability to say, but you never gave me a chance! That applies to the New Yorker who rejects the gospel as well as the infamous pigmy in Africa.

Also, unless you know of a passage I'm not aware of, I don't think it's appropriate to say "God is hate." God's hatred is the direct result of "God is righteous" and "God is just".

#13  Posted by Jane Wilson  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 11:30 AM

This very topic has been weighing heavily on my heart for several weeks. So I am thankful that it is a topic just now. Being influenced by reformed teaching has had it's ups and downs for me. The "up" is the confirmation that God has chosen to love me because He just DID. I did not/do not deserve it, and never will. I KNOW that I am loved in Christ. It is a doctrinal "knowing", as well as at times even tangible... for God is a Person, and made in His image... we both have emotions and show them as we relate. (His are perfect.) The "down" is that I have begun to wonder if God does not love the lost after all... based on the teachings, and the verses that are continually highlighted about being elect. And I have been honest enough to tell God how disappointed I am to be serving a God who really may not love everyone. I had HOPED that He was a God that truly did love the world in His own perfect way.

When I come before God and search His Word, I find that "God so loved the WORLD." And I am baffled why this is not taught and received as truth. Or at least read as many times as the verses that indicate God picks and chooses only. The verses John MacArthur read in the excerpt of this blog are other examples. I want to believe these verses like I have always believed them as a babe in Christ... and yet feel challenged that we must somehow explain them away so that our reformed doctrine "if, then"s line up. Leaving me somewhat confused and frustrated. If God so loved the whole world, that He gave His only begotten Son... then we should never apologize to the world for admitting as much. If he invited the dirtbags to come to the banquet when the chosen would not come... wouldn't that include ALL of us? So the offer of salvation... goes to all. With God's sincere love to back it up. (For is love, Love, if it is not sincere?)

So then, a question: Is the Bible mistranslated, when it comes to God loving the "world"? I am hearing all kinds of explanations of why it does not mean "world"... but when we are to stand on God's truth alone, and not be persuaded by every wind of doctrine... I am not feeling too keen to mishandle His Word, and try to explain away so many verses. ("I stand at the door and knock...") So the word "world" did not really mean world? Then why was it not translated more clearly? If the English translators failed to capture the word/meaning of "slave" (as per John's new book)... could there have been some mis-steps to this concept of "world", or even "election"? (Was the English translation done primarily by reformed believers and their slant?)

If Jesus treated Judas with such amazing kindness as a true friend til the very end... That is proof that He loved/loves sinners intimately. Would not common sense call that an utter waste of God's time... He knowing all things? For Judas was to betray, and weep, and commit suicide- and be lost forever. At least we could agree that the directive to love ALL, as Christ did... is Biblical.

#14  Posted by Keith Stokes  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 12:29 PM

Amen Gabriel, God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged. Romans 3:4 KJV,But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) Romans 3:5 NASB God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? Romans 3:6 KJV

#15  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 12:32 PM

I just read Q&A #193 Does God Love Whom He Does Not Save?

The question was "Does God Love Whom He Does Not Save?"

I disagreed with a portion of the answer, and it raised a thought/question/possible inconsistency with Pastor John's position. First let me quote the last line that Pastor John wrote, regarding the Rich Young Ruler:

"And so he turned away from the only true Source of the life he thought he was seeking.

That is the last we ever see of this man in the New Testament. As far as the biblical record is concerned, he remained in unbelief. But notice this significant phrase, tucked away in Mark 10:21: “Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him.” Here we are explicitly told that Jesus loved an overt, open, non-repentant, non-submissive Christ-rejector. He loved him."

Ok, there's the quote. Here's my comment/question: Jesus loved this man, and the passage has NOTHING to do with common grace. It doesn't say anything about bestowing upon the man earthly blessings. Then what kind of love is this? Why does Jesus love Him? Is it a compassionate desire for the man to be saved?

The passage DOES demonstrate that the Gospel offer was made to this man. And according to the audio clip, this is a loving thing to do... But how can this offer be loving, if the man has no ability to accept the offer - and can only accept it AFTER God regenerates him?

For example, it wouldn't be loving of me to offer a paraplegic man in a wheelchair 1 million dollars if he runs a marathon. That would be cruel! Similarly, it isn't loving to offer a man salvation, but withhold the only means by which he could attain it (God-infused faith and regeneration).

#16  Posted by Donavan Dear  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 12:50 PM

Gabriel #12

In terms of the simplicity of God, one of the descriptions of god is hating, 1Kings 22:8, 2Chr. 18:7, Amos 5:21, Rom. 9:13 God hated Esau, and because God said he hated, that means that he is hate in his his nature just as he is love in his nature, because of the principle of Gods simplicity. Please don't think that in any way this hate is unrighteous it is righteous hate because it comes from the nature of God. Thank you for you wisdom.

OK now to argue, maybe it will help someone who is clouded by tradition more than understanding the truth of the Bible:

The extent of God's love, traditionally God does continue to love people in Hell, so God is loving people that he is burning/torturing for hundreds, thousands, millions, billions... of years. Rob Bell silliness aside, there is no second chances, so when the man said "with friends like that who needs enemies", seems to sum it up. I'm not talking about my Biblical problems with eternal punishing I'm talking about the difference between God loving those in Hell and God hating those in Hell what's the difference? Common grace is as real as common curses, common grace is simply only speaking about one side of the equation, other than not having an excuse, whats the difference between God loving or hating us relating to common grace not our personal relationship with God?

Perhaps the idea of the simplicity of God is incorrect and my argument has no foundation, if so how much love, hate, justice etc. does God have according to his nature?

I love to discuss questions about traditions, please don't think I'm trying to be disrespectful or argue for no reason.

Donavan

#17  Posted by Susan Racklyeft  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 1:23 PM

I just went to the website on my iPad and downloaded the app. This is awesome! Thank you so much. Now I have access to GTY's wonderful resources at just a touch. Perfect for devotions, travel, Bible study, countless ways. God's continued blessings on your ministry.

#18  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 1:29 PM

Aurelio #15

Your question is essentially How can God hold sinners responsible for their condition when it can’t be altered except by Him.

I understand the question, but to ask it is to demand that God’s standard of love and justice fit our fallen human expectations. Jesus offering the gospel to a man unable to respond doesn’t seem fair to us. It doesn’t sound right.

But keep in mind, God doesn’t do a thing because it is fair. He determines what is fair. And if we’re talking about what’s just, fair, and right, then we all get hell. A better question would be why does Christ save anyone?

God choosing some for salvation and passing over others is not about being fair. It’s God demonstrating His grace and glory. Those who object would do well to read and heed Romans 9:19-20. You’re familiar with that passage. Paul anticipated your objection to the doctrines of grace, and answered it.

I’m glad you’re thinking this through, Aurelio.

By the way, in the audio clip, John explained the type of love Christ demonstrated in Mark 10. He showed compassion through warning and gospel proclamation.

#19  Posted by Sanford Doyle  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 1:32 PM

#15 Aurelio

From Sanford

Jesus loved the "rich young ruler" with the love of compassion.

Knowing that the man would not give up all and sell everything he had and follow Him, Jesus loved him with the love of pity.

That's what is meant by the statement "He loved him".

I hope that helps.

#20  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 2:27 PM

Regarding Mark 10:21, Mark does not tell us how or what it meant for Jesus to love that man. Instead, Mark shows us.

Jesus loved him by revealed to the man his sin--the love of money. Jesus loved him by telling him the truth because either the man was dishonest about his righteousness, or self-deceived. Most likely the latter.

#21  Posted by Keith Stokes  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 2:30 PM

Jesus had no trouble letting people know he had compassion on them i.e., Mat.9:36,Mat.14:14,Mat.15:32,Mat.20:34,Mk.5:19, Lk.7:13(not exhaustive of course) I think when our Lord said "love" He meant what He said. What Jane said earlier #13 for some reason reminded me of Ex.20:25, while I know what context the Exodus is meant, somehow it came to mind here.~"If thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it."—Exodus 20:25.KJV When God says He "loves" we better take heed how we try to dismantle love, if that is what He truly meant and not try to make it fit a particular man made doctrine. Calvinism, Arminian or whoever. They were simply fallible men.

#22  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 2:35 PM

Tommy,

thanks for the clarity of your position (which happens to be Grace Community's position, too). I appreciate that you make your views simple to understand...

You made it clear: You believe that God offers salvation to people who are unable to respond. You believe this is loving. You did not object to my illustration about the paraplegic since you apparently believe it is an accurate analogy. I, on the other hand, believe that OUGHT implies CAN. When the Bible says you OUGHT to do something, it implies you CAN do it (of course, we need God's help, strength, illumination, etc to make any movement toward God). I have this belief, not based on emotional desires of what I would like to be the case, but, rather based on my exegesis of Scripture. So this is a clear difference in our theology of God's love (and that's cool, since Paul wrote that their must be differences amongst us in order to manifest the truth - 1Cor. 11).

Without getting into a Calvinism debate, in Romans 9:19-20, Paul quotes A HYPOTHETICAL OBJECTOR ("who resists his will?"). It is not a quote from Paul and I do not believe that Paul even agrees with it. (cross reference Romasn 3:8 and 11:19-20. when Paul agrees with the objector, he says "well said" - yet he doesnt say that in Romans 9).

Sanford, thanks for the point - it helps.

#23  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 2:54 PM

Donovan #16,

I think you need to explain what you mean by the "simplicity of God" because if God is anything, He is not "simple".

Also, can you remind me where it says God is loving people in hell? I'm not sure I would agree with that. I don't think it is valid to say God both hates and loves people in hell. I can't think of any biblical reason to affirm that.

I'm a little suspect of your foundation of God's so-called simplicity. And I also don't think asking "how much" type questions is valid to begin with. I don't think the Bible uses love/hate/justice as if they were measurable substances.

And please, let's not get side-tracked into a discussion on hell.

#24  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 2:55 PM

Aurelio #22,

When the Bible says, "You must be perfect..." does that mean we can?

#25  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 3:02 PM

Aurelio:

My last words on this subject to you:

I didn’t comment on your paraplegic illustration because it fails to present an accurate picture of how God judges unbelievers. The sinner’s inability to come to Christ is not a natural inability, but a moral inability (Jonathan Edwards has a helpful explanation of that in his book The Freedom of the will). God judges the sinner on that basis—his unwillingness to come to Christ—not his inability. I think Gabe’s question to you is valid. God demands that you and I keep the 10 commandments (for the sake of illustration, I’ll lay aside the argument of whether or not the Mosaic Law is still in effect). Are you able? Then surely God will understand and withhold judgment. Right…? Wrong. How many other illustrations could we employ to challenge your view?

My comfort lies in the fact that the view we’re advocating is thoroughly biblical. As Arthur Pink used to say, “No man could have ever invented this doctrine. It goes against the grain of natural man and bristles his pride.”

The same Christ who said “No man can come to me unless the Father Who sent Me draws Him,” (John 6:44) said “You are unwilling to come to me so that you may have life.” (John 6:40) See the tension? It’s a tension taught in the Bible, not a system of theology. Therefore, I choose to live with it, glory in it, and teach it.

I’ll let John have the last words on this tension with his answer to a gentleman at Grace Community Church on Q&A night. Enjoy.

Now this question is always asked—How to harmonize those two truths—and I answer it typically in as simple a way as I can to help people understand this. Look, we're talking about the eternal God of the universe, okay? And I know we desperately want to reduce Him to a manageable size. We want to figure Him out but we're really unable to do that. Okay? This is the inscrutable mind of God, unattainable, imperceptible beyond our comprehension. How is it that God can condemn sinners to hell because they do not believe the gospel when they have within them no capability to do anything other than reject it? And how at the same time He can hold them responsible for their rejection when He alone is the one who saves them? I don't know how God resolves that, I just know that's exactly what Scripture teaches.

Scripture teaches that the only people who are saved are the ones that God has chosen, that He regenerates, that He awakens, that He gives sight to, that He grants faith and repentance to at the hearing of the gospel. God has to do it all. And yet the sinner is responsible. And so the Bible pleads with the sinner. It proclaims the gospel to the ends of the earth to the sinner and holds the sinner accountable.

Blessings.

#26  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 3:03 PM

Aurelio #22,

I have this belief, not based on emotional desires of what I would like to be the case, but, rather based on my exegesis of Scripture.

So can you provide your exegetical basis for saying that ought implies can?

#28  Posted by Keith Farmer  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 5:58 PM

John 6:63-65

New International Version (NIV)

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.”

A pure reading of this text...in any translation...cannot render anything other than this understanding (unless one twists the passage to fit a presuppositional bent that cannot allow for God's sovereignty in salvation): That Jesus knew fully who would believe and who would not believe as well as who would betray Him. He preached life to ALL of them regardless of His knowledge and demonstrated to his disciples that only the elect...those given by the Father...would respond favorably.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:6 these words: "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 the glory of God in the face of Christ."

This is a powerful passage that speaks about the creative power of God in creating light out of darkness and likening that event to the event which brings light and life to a darkened and dead soul...what the bible calls quickening or regeneration.

A.W. Pink writes in regards to this topic: "“For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will” (John 5:21). “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63). All the Divine operations in the economy of salvation proceed from the Father, are through the Son, and are executed by the Spirit. Quickening is His initial work in the elect. It is that supernatural act by which He brings them out of the grave of spiritual death on to resurrection ground. By it He imparts a principle of grace and habit of holiness; it is the communication of the life of God to the soul. It is an act of creation (2 Cor. 5:17). It is a Divine “workmanship” (Eph. 2:10). All of these terms denote an act of Omnipotency. The origination of life is utterly impossible to the creature. He can receive life; he can nourish life; he can use and exert it; but he cannot create life."

#29  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 6:10 PM

Great questions/comments...i do believe I have an exegetical basis for believing this:

First let me say that I don't want to spend a lot of time on these issues, but I was asked to respond. I really am trying to stick to the issue of the extent of God's love.

Yes I believe that OUGHT implies CAN... moral obligation implies moral freedom. The common objection to this is "But Jesus said to be perfect! And that's impossible - thus ought doesn't imply can!"

Let me quote Geisler's reponse to this:

"First of all, when we say "ought implies can" we do not mean that whatever we ought to do we can do by our own strength.... We can't do anything but, as Paul said, '[We] can do all things through Christ who strengthens [us]' (Phil 4:13). Sure, we are told to 'work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling' (Phil 2:12), but only because 'it is God who works in [us] to will and to act according to His good purpose' (Phil 2:13). Hence, 'OUGHT implies CAN' only in the sense that we can by the grace of God. Without His grace we cannot overcome sin.

Second, further evidence that we can do what we ought to do byGod's grace is found in a familiar passage: 'No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he willalso provide a wayout so that you can stand under it' (1Cor.10:13). It couldn't be clearer: God never prescribes anything without providing the way to accomplish it. If we are morally bound, then we must be morally free."

He adds later in the book:

"Furthemore, it is a mistake to view depravity as NECESSITATING sin. Even Augustine...said, 'We are born with the propensity to sin and the necessity to die.' Notice that he did not say we are born with the necessity to sin, but only with the propensity or inclination to sin. Sin in general is inevitable, but each sin in particular is avoidable - by the grace of God. One can aways become a believer, and for a believer there is always a way of escape from sin (1Cor 10:13).

Regarding Arthur Pink's quote... I own his books I like him... but if the standard for judging one's theology to be correct is that it rubs people wrong and "bristles his pride"... well, thats not a good way to judge worldviews, so thus I cast his comment out.

Regarding John 6:44 - i have issues with the way the word "draw" is interpreted, and cross referencing it with John 12:32 makes it clear that it cannot mean irresistable grace on the chosen... but let's not go there, since it is off topic a bit. I read the passage differently that you guys (and James White's "Drawn by the Father" work is wrong in my analysis).

Bringing this back to the topic: The extent of God's love is seen differently depending on what our Biblical interpetations are. I think this is very helpful for many readers out there-do your homework, buy some good books on these issues we are chatting about, listen to debates on this topic.

#31  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 7:08 PM

Count it all joy in the midst of strive.

#32  Posted by Keith Stokes  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 7:28 PM

I was hoping someone could help me with some issues concerning a friend. Well,he has been in and out of Church for 25+ yrs. that I'm aware of. So, when it says nobody can come to the Father... John 6:44 KJV How does one explain that he had any intrest at all in God if he has not truly been regenerated? Is the drawling from the Father just the general call to salvation to anyone who has an ear to hear? It's not the effectual call that brings in the elect? Who will respond without fail? My sheep hear My voice...John 10:27 KJV I know that the soil parable and that the persevering of the saints may or may not be be marks of regeneration. He will then go weeks or months without Church or picking up the Bible, that mixed with alcohol abuse and other obvious ungodly signs of a unredeemed person. Then,he will go to Church for months at a time attend Bible studies etc,. I guess what I'm trying to get at is this: Does this somewhat resemble the Rich young Ruler? Christ presented the Way,Truth& Life and he rejected Him and chose to remain lost? So has the Holy Spirit been compelling him for 25+ yrs. to come and he truly has never choosed the True life, that he is deluded, his conscience seared to the point of being unable to live for Christ in a saving way? Does the fact he still shows intrest in Christ mean he still has hope? Or is this a manifestation of guilt for a wicked,unrepentive life? Thanks to anyone who may help me with this. Also sorry for the long paragraph,I have not yet learned how to type properly on the computer. God bless all.

#33  Posted by Donavan Dear  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 10:09 PM

This is a definition of the Simplicity of God:

In theology, the doctrine of divine simplicity says that God is without parts. The general idea of divine simplicity can be stated in this way: the being of God is identical to the "attributes" of God. In other words, such characteristics as omnipresence, goodness, truth, eternity, etc. are identical to his being.

Also:

Gods properties are identical with himself so, for example, God does not have goodness, but simply is goodness.

This is how we say that God is love. And so my problem with saying God has emotions.

Because of this principle no one can say that his love is more central than his sovereignty for instance, God is those things in his essence or nature. Thats also why God doesn't have any amount of love, justice, or any other property attributed to God by the Bible God is those thing so he doesn't have an amount of them. The interesting property is hate, the Bible certainly attributes it to God, I honestly don't know the answer to this.

Donavan

#34  Posted by Donavan Dear  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 10:35 PM

#29 Aurello

A few questions for you:

1- Does God have the right to determine salvation completely on his own?

(I say yes)

2- How dead are people in trespasses and sins like in Eph 2:1?

(I say totally dead)

3- When God said he loved Jacob and hated his twin Esaw before they were born do you feel that God violated your ought / can argument?

(ought / can ideas are only a convention, I say it doesn't matter)

Donavan

#35  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 11:49 PM

#32 Keith

What characterize a Christian is growth, gaining, maturity to the image of Christ, I think.

#36  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 3:46 AM

Keith:

Go to pbministries.org and pull up A.W. Pink. Read all his commentaries on Hebrews. I would give you a specific commentary to read, but I simply can't remember which one in particular talked about the two-fold operations of the Spirit (I am leaning towards Heb 6, though). Calvin heavily influenced Pink, as did John Owen on this subject.

What I find particularly amazing about Pink on this subject of the two-fold operations of the Spirit, or as I call it, the common operations of the Spirit, his understanding of this operation is in total harmony with Jonathan Edwards' thoughts in his book Religious Affections. Just to give a quick summation: Edwards proved from Scripture that for every true act of grace in the heart, Satan has a counterfeit. So this should make us extremely diligent to make our calling and election sure.

On a side note: as much as I have studied in this particular area, I don't believe I have ever heard any theologian say that Satan can counterfeit the love we have for the brethren. This is just a small nuance I picked up on. I have yet to read Sam Storms' book Signs of Life, as I believe it is thematically the same.

"Many" people fall under the common operations of the Spirit, and do taste and partake of the good things in Christ, but sadly fall just shy of a true repentance. But please listen to these men here at GTY. They have much wisdom to add.

God bless,

Mary

#37  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 4:35 AM

i wonder too abut Esau, for he rejected and hated his birthright. He married outside of his family even God commanded his family and him not to. God's hate is different than ours. Just thinking..

His mercy and forgiveness is always there it one turns from his ways, right.

#38  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 7:09 AM

Aurelio writes in #22,

Paul quotes A HYPOTHETICAL OBJECTOR ("who resists his will?"). It is not a quote from Paul and I do not believe that Paul even agrees with it. (cross reference Romasn 3:8 and 11:19-20. when Paul agrees with the objector, he says "well said" - yet he doesnt say that in Romans 9).

I don't take Paul's words to his "objector" in Romans 9:19, 20 as him agreeing with him either. I take his words to be a rebuke. Read the remainder of verse 20, into verse 21. BTW, explain what you mean when you state, "It's not a quote from Paul."

I am curious, CAN men do good works to please God and earn salvation?

I don't believe we ever could, hence the reason why we need a divine substitute.

However, in Revelation 20:12, 13, the standard by which God judges the dead are their works. The sentence that is handed down to them is eternal punishment, implying that none ever produced the works necessary to earn their own righteousness.

My question: Will this be fair of God to do? Why or why not? How could the standard of God's judgment be based upon righteous works when these people CANNOT earn perfect righteousness to begin with? Is God requiring from them something they could never do?

#39  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 9:45 AM

Donavan #33,

I don't know if you have access to Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology, but he has a good discussion on the Simplicity (he prefers the term "Unity") of God on pages 177-180.

It sounds like you're confusing the attributes of God with the actions of God or the expressions of those attributes.

For example, the Bible nowhere defines "hate" as an attribute of God. Hate is an expression of God's righteousness and justice against sin. Similarly, the Bible does not say "God is a killer," because when God kills, it is an expression of His justice.

Furthermore, it sounds like you may be assuming that every attribute is present and expressed at the same time as every other attribute. In other words, God's expressions of love are at the same time expressions of hate, justice, holiness, wisdom, etc. That is an incorrect way of thinking. God can and does express His attributes singularly. So when God sustains your next breath, you could legitimately say that is an expression of His grace (and perhaps love, but certainly not wrath).

The supreme example of co-mingled expressions is on the cross where God expressed His love for mankind and His hatred of sin. He expressed both grace and wrath in the same act. But not every action of God is an expression of every attribute.

So to sum it up, God's hatred is an extension of His holiness and justice. It in no way contradicts His love or grace.

Back to an earlier question you had about how common grace makes a difference: "Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed" (Romans 2:4-5).

What Paul is saying here is that God's kindness (common grace) is meant to lead unbelievers to repentance. Unbelievers should ask the question, "How could a holy and righteous God know what I did last night and not kill me in the night?" Unbelievers should be in awe that they wake up in the morning. But, because of their hard heart, God's kindness serves to actually increase God's wrath toward them in the day of judgment.

An atheist won't like that answer, but then again, if an atheist is asking that question, you're probably wasting your time with them. You should instead ask them, "What evidence would you accept?" That will tell you how interested they really are in the Truth.

#40  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 9:51 AM

Keith #32

You asked: Is the drawing from the Father [John 6:44] just the general call to salvation to anyone who has an ear to hear? Is it the effectual call that brings in the elect?

The drawing Jesus mentioned in John 6:44 is effectual. We know that because in the second half of the verse, Jesus promises to “raise up,” or resurrect those whom the Father draws. His reference to “raising up” in verse 44 parallels other verses in that section of John that clearly indicate He’s talking about believers (see vv. 39, 40, & 54).

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44

In other words, the Son resurrects the one His Father draws. I would liken it to the certainty of God’s continuing work in Romans 8:30. Whom God predestines, He calls. Whom He calls, He justifies. Whom He justifies, He glorifies. God is the author and finisher of our faith.

Regarding your friend, the best you or anyone else can do is speculate to what degree the Holy Spirit has been involved in his somewhat sporadic interests in Christ over the past several decades. He needs to be confronted by the certainly of God's Word.

I think 1 John is one of the most powerful and helpful resources to put into the hands of someone exhibiting the qualities of your friend. In First John, the apostle lists three tests for those claiming to be born from above. At the risk of oversimplification, here they are:

The Test of Fellowship: Do you love God and the brethren?

The Test of Orthodoxy: Do you believe in Christ the God-man?

The Test of Obedience: Do you obey the commands of Christ?

Maybe you could offer to study that epistle with your friend, or encourage him to begin reading it on his own as you pray for him. 1 John was the book God used to expose my unbelief as a lost church member.

#41  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 10:00 AM

To add to what Tommy said in #40, the word "draw" in John 6:44 answers the question itself.

It is not a synonym of "woo" (as in, yoohoo! I'm over here!), it is a synonym of "drag" (as in, "they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them in the marketplace," Acts 16:19, same word). It's also used in John 18:10 when Peter "drew" out his sword. It's also used in John 21:6 and verse 11 to speak of "hauling" the nets full of fish.

Perhaps "draw" is not the best translation because it does not have an overt effectual nuance. But the Greek word is inherently effectual even with a little forcefulness (though we should never think of God forcing people against their will. He would never do that. Instead, He changes their will and gives them the gift of faith).

#42  Posted by Greg Gallant  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 10:14 AM

The verb "is" does not set a priority of God's attributes.

Nor can you divorce love from justice...therefore you cannot divorce hate from love...because love hates injustice.

#43  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 10:27 AM

#34 Donovan - in answer to your questions:

1) I agree with you - and God determined that He would save those who respond to the Gospel with the out-stretched hand of faith (which is non-meritorious, cf Romans 4:4). There was NO condition upon God to offer salvation, since none of us deserve it, but there is ONE condition for man to receive it - faith. Humans do not initiate salvation and cannot earn it.

2) People are dead in the sins - of course. Totally dead, yes, in that they cannot earn salvation and do not seek God without His intervention. We are wretched sinners who desire to fulfill our cravings continually. When we are saved, we are transformed. The analogy of us being dead like Lazarus is ridiculous, or that "we were dead at the bottom of the ocean eaten by sharks" which I hear RC Sproul use all the time... True, dead, shark-eaten people cannot accept Christ, but they cannot reject Him, either... so that analogy has got to go!

3) Jacob and Esau in Romans... there are two interpretations of that passage that are better than yours, i think. I tend to think it is a reference to TWO NATIONS, since the passage in Genesis 25:23 that is being referenced clearly states that.... thus, not individual election, but corporate election. Furthermore, the passage from Romans 9:13 is from Malachi, about 1600 years after they lived! This means that God must be saying He "hates" Esau AS A COUNTRY (the Edomites). And furthermore, "hated" really means "loved less" in this passage. Check Genesis 29:30-31 and Luke 14:26 for cross reference.

I'm sure I just opened up a can of worms with all these Calvinists! Hopefully, we can stick to THE EXTENT OF GOD'S LOVE and not get too much into unconditional election and total depravity.... although, the more i think about it, the more i think a proper understanding of these doctrines will impact our view of God's love.

#44  Posted by Keith Stokes  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 10:32 AM

Thanks so much Tommy and Elizabeth for the very helpful advice. Mary, I will read Pink's commentary on Hebrews and I will also, Tommy study 1 John myself then offer to do a verse by verse study with him. Thanks again for all the kindness and fellowship to be found at GTY. I find myself growing and being edified as I read the wisdom of it's participants.

#45  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 10:45 AM

Fred #38

The point I was making about Romans 9:19 is that Paul disagrees with the objector's comment "Who resists His will?" - thus Paul is saying that God's will CAN be resisted (cf. Acts 7:51), thus sinners CAN be blamed (answering the objector's question "Then why does God still blame us?").

In answer to your other question - No work can please God and earn salvation. Salvation comes "By grace through faith..." FAITH IS NOT A WORK according to Romans 4:4-5.

Yes, God is fair in His judgment described in Revelation. They are judged for their sins, and since they didn't receive the antidote that would have purged their sin (names not found in the Book of Life). It's like a man who is bitten by a venemous serpent... He is laying there dying, and a remedy is handed to him... all he has to do is drink it. He has plenty of time to drink and be cured, but he refuses and rationalizes himself to death, never drinking the antidote. What killed the man? Technically, the venom kills his body, since it poisons the man's blood stream and messes up his bodily systems. But on the other side of the coin we can say that the man ultimately died because of his refusal to drink the life-saving drink.

That's probably a cheesy attempt at describing the situation, but I think it accurately describes Biblical truths in a simple way. Bottom line is: God provides a way of escape for all people - so your questions about God's fairness in judgement are now answered. Oh yeah, and people cannot "earn perfect righteousness", but they can have Christ's imputed.

#46  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 10:56 AM

Aurelio #45,

thus Paul is saying that God's will CAN be resisted

The context invalidates this conclusion. You must follow Paul's logic and not merely his silence. The objector might say, "Why does he still find fault, for who resists his will?"

Paul's response is not that people can resist God's will. Paul's response is, who are YOU to question God's justice?

Contrary to your conclusion, Paul's silence and his words mean that Paul agrees that no one can resist God's will, but he vehemently disgrees with impugning God's character because of it.

Paul's next point in v. 20-23ff is God does whatever He wants with whomever He wants, and there is nothing anyone can do or say about it because He is the sovereign Creator. The clay cannot protest the potter.

Your conclusion completely destroys Paul's entire line of argumentation.

#47  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 11:01 AM

Aurelio writes,

The point I was making about Romans 9:19 is that Paul disagrees with the objector's comment "Who resists His will?" - thus Paul is saying that God's will CAN be resisted (cf. Acts 7:51), thus sinners CAN be blamed (answering the objector's question "Then why does God still blame us?").

How are you getting that conclusion from the text? Moreover, how does you conclusion take in the rest of Paul's comment to this "objector" in verses 20, 21? You seemed to have skipped over them.

Continuing,

so your questions about God's fairness in judgement are now answered. Oh yeah, and people cannot "earn perfect righteousness", but they can have Christ's imputed.

I think you are missing my point. You claimed that "OUGHT" means "CAN." If I am understanding you, you're saying God will never command anyone to do something the CANNOT do. Am I representing you accurately? Hence, if God commands men to be perfectly righteous, they CAN do such a thing, at least as I understand what you are saying. God judges all men according to their works. This implies, at least according to your view of things, that men CAN do good works to earn God's favor. Yet none of them, according to Scripture, CAN do this. I just see an inconsistency with your thinking here.

Moreover, according to your view, they CAN have Christ's righteousness imputed. Fair enough, but what of those men who die never hearing of Christ? There are millions who have lived and died never knowing Jesus even lived, let alone died for their sin, but according to Scripture, they will be judged according to their works. Is God fair being fair in holding them accountable?

#48  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 11:05 AM

Aurelio,

I'm confused, on the one hand you're arguing for ought implies can, but on the other hand you quoted Geisler saying that the ability is solely by God's grace.

So are you saying that God's grace must be operative in every unbeliever in order for them to repent? Are you arguing for some kind of universal absolute prevenient grace?

#49  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 11:06 AM

Fred,

Yes, God is fair in damning them since they COULD HAVE received Christ. If they would have responded to the little light that God provided, He would have revealed more light. But these people dont even respond to the light of revelation or the light of conscience. God placed people in the "boundaries of their habitation" and the era in which they would live on purpose - so that they would "grope for Him and find Him, for He is not far from us..." (Acts 17).

Ought still implies can, since we CAN do all things who strengthens us. If we accept Christ, we can flee sin.

#50  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 11:10 AM

#48 Gabriel,

Eveything good thing is by God's grace! God graces us with the help we need in times of temptation to overcome sin.

God's gracious intervention is absolutely needed for a sinner to repent. A sinner would never repent on his own, without God's help. Sinners reject, or RESIST, the Spirit's wooing. Check Acts 7:51

#51  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 11:12 AM

Fred,

Even John Piper admits that many scholars believe that Paul rejects the objector's comment in Romans 9:19. He doesnt agree of course, but he grants that it is a scholarly interpetation - see "The Justification of God", pgs. 189-190

#52  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 11:24 AM

I think this blog has made it clear: We cannot speak of the EXTENT of God's love without speaking of the EXTENT of the atoning work of Christ.

#53  Posted by Denise Smith  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 1:29 PM

Please forgive me in advance, if I am commenting on topic that's been discussed before...still am having much difficulty with comprehending: 1) Man CAN NOT come to God, unless He 1st draws him. 2) Whom He does not draw, will not/can not, come to Him. 3) Those who do not come to Him, are doomed. I know that just because I don't understand a thing, does not mean it doesn't make sense! I feel stuck. Does anyone have a better grasp on how to understand this? Thank you. p.s. if anyone responds, please break it down easily...I'm not of great intellect!

#54  Posted by Greg Gallant  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 3:21 PM

#51 Posted by Aurelio Cortez

"Even John Piper admits that many scholars believe that Paul rejects the objector's comment in Romans 9:19. He doesn't agree of course, but he grants that it is a scholarly interpretation - see "The Justification of God", pgs. 189-190.

Piper does not admit that "many scholars" believe...and I quote from page 189 of Piper's Book..

"But there are a few scholars who do not agree..."

Admitting that a "few scholars" do not agree in an interpretation hardly supports your claims.

Anymore than suggesting that the "scholars" of the Watch Tower Society interpretation of John 1:1 is legitimate because they call themselves "scholars" and believe/agree to it. Attaching the word "scholar" to a propsition does not validate it's claims.

Is it possible that you are illegitimately transfering your theological presuposition on to Roman's 9:19 in the same way you illegitimately transfer your presuposition onto Piper's words?

#55  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 3:55 PM

Denise,

Your three points sound correct to me, but I'm no scholar. You broke it down very well, i think.

I guess I would add to your second point one thing: John 12:32-33 says

"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will DRAW ALL people to myself. He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die."

So apparently God draws all people, but some (the reprobate) resist the call of God. Jesus also said in Matthew 20:16 and 22:14:

"For many are called, but few are chosen."

#56  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 4:07 PM

Greg,

I was not using the "scholars believe" argument to say that I MUST BE correct. That wouldnt even make sense since I used a scholar, John Piper, in my comments, and he doesnt even agree with me on any of this stuff.

Coming out of the Watchtower Society, I completely get your point about how they use the "Scholars Believe" argument. That's a great point.

#57  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 4:34 PM

I agree. that God chooses one to be a nation, Abram was a moon worshiper. God took him out of his father and family to be a nation and be his God.

Jesus commanded the demons to leave the two men from wandering the tombs and told them to proclaim what He done for them.

Jesus as dying on the cross forgave the robber on the cross.

Jesus shone a light on Saul the christian killer to be a witness of Christ and wrote books, Romans, and etc by the Holy Spirit...

Judas the betrayer, was born to have Jesus kill by the chief priests and the Gentiles..

God chooses to save a live or condemn..

#58  Posted by Keith Farmer  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 8:12 PM

I like this quote:

"Jesus did not come merely to make salvation possible, but actually to save His people. He did not come to make redemption possible; He died to redeem His people. He did not come to make propitiation possible; He turned aside God's wrath for each of His elect people forever. He did not come to make reconciliation possible; He actually reconciled to God those whom the Father had given Him. He did not come merely to make atonement for sin possible, but actually to atone for sinners...Christ's work on the cross was not a hypothetical salvation for hypothetical believers, but a real and definite salvation for God's own chosen people.

A redemption that does not redeem, a propitiation that does not propitiate, a reconciliation that does not reconcile, and an atonement that does not atone cannot help anybody. But a redemption that redeems, a propitiation that propitiates, a reconciliation that reconciles, and an atonement that atones reveal a most amazing grace on God's part and draw us to rest in Him and His completed work, rather than our own."

From The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel

By James Boice and Philip Ryken

#59  Posted by Donavan Dear  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 9:02 PM

Aurello

I think you have done a good job of arguing your position, but the synergist always faulters when it comes to that little bit that man must do or have, in this case its faith. So when I get to heaven I can say, I'm sure happy that at least I had a little faith to let God into my life.

Aurello said:

There was NO condition upon God to offer salvation, since none of us deserve it, but there is ONE condition for man to receive it - faith. Humans do not initiate salvation and cannot earn it.

To quote a great book on Calvinism THE HISTORY AND THEOLOGY OF CALVINISM.

How does God elect unto salvation? The answer revolves around two key doctrines of Calvinism: absolute sovereignty and free grace. In a nutshell, election is solely by sovereign grace.

He chose us Eph. 1:4. First, God did the choosing, not Man.

In election, God is active and Man is passive. All non-Reformed views reverse this order.

If I am correct I understand Aurello as saying there is ONE condition, faith. That is ONE condition that puts man in control and not God.

Donavan

#61  Posted by Donavan Dear  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 10:05 PM

Gabriel #39

I just bought Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology It's great, thank you. Because of this idea of Gods "Unity" I have been confused about even great preachers speaking about Gods emotions because technically that's an incorrect way to describe God, I know its quibbling but still true.

Also:

An attribute is a characteristic, God in many place in the Bible like 1Kings 22:8 when God says he hates in that text the Hebrew word "sane" means hate just as we would think of it. In that context the description of Gods "feeling" is hate. But I don't see a problem with God having an attribute like hate that some of us perceive as negative because it is righteous when God does it, but then again I think death and killing before the fall of Adam was righteous also (Hi Fred).

Thanks again Gabriel

#62  Posted by Donavan Dear  |  Friday, July 15, 2011at 10:13 PM

Back to the question at hand

I don't want to talk about Hell but I would like to know peoples thoughts on the question, Does God still love people in Hell. Most people I've read say he does. If he doesn't then when does he stop loving them? If he does then isn't that a conflict because of the separation factor? Understand I'm really just asking about the extent or not extent of Gods love.

Donavan