Friday, October 24, 2008

Original Guilt: God's Sovereign Plan

Predetermined before the foundation of the earth

Regarding the eternal destinies of mankind, and specifically salvation/universal infant salvation and condemnation/original guilt, I would like to start with a source of scripture that is absolutely clear with regards to this subject. Then we can use this source of scripture as our guide to understand and interpret the scriptures that aren't so clear. Likewise we can then address the various arguments, implications, inferences and logical deductions. I believe one of the most powerful, exhaustive and in-depth books of the bible on this subject is Romans, and specifically chapter 9. Although the book of Genesis gives us the details that lead to the original fall of mankind, I believe the book of Romans gives us a more detailed description of the resulting consequences and ramifications of mankind’s first actions, viz. universal condemnation/guilt. Moreover, Romans gives us an account of God’s first actions and predetermined plans. This leaves us with the need to address many age old questions regarding sin, condemnation, freewill, and sovereignty.

I would like to elaborate on how sin has entered into the world, and who is ultimately held responsible for it. As I see it, God alone is ultimately responsible for the existence of sin in the world, as he has sovereignly determined all things, past, present and future, and therefore is the original source and cause of all that is, was and will be including the existence of sin. However, it must never be stated, inferred or implied that God Himself is the acting (responsible) party for, or on behalf of individuals themselves, whereby God can be charged or deemed guilty of actually committing acts of sin. God has determined all that will come to pass, as well as, any and all necessary means to bring about His plan to its completed end. God can never sin, but He can and has created imperfect beings (mankind and the angels) that were created, and fully capable of sinning. While God is indeed the originator (cause) of all things, He is not necessarily the doer of all things. For example in the book of Acts the Apostle Luke tells us:

22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Acts 2:22-23 KJV


27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. Acts 4:27-28 KJV

Clearly in these two historical biblical accounts stated above, one can see the sovereign plan of God includes the most heinous crime ever to be committed; none other than the unlawful execution and death of God the Son. Included also in God’s predetermined plan was not only the “what” but the “who, how, where and when” the very wicked/evil acts themselves that led to sin/guilt would transpire. Note in the account of Genesis, it was God who created the world and all of its counterparts, including mankind, the garden and the serpent.

8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Gen 2:8-9 KJV.


16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Gen 2:16-17

3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. Gen 3:1-7 KJV

As the historical stage of Genesis was set, all of its necessary components for God’s plan were created and in place, precisely how the almighty had predetermined all to be. Now, last but not least the one missing element was none other than time itself. Time would ultimately be the trigger that would bring about the demise and ruin of mankind. Everything played out just as planned, no rehearsals, trial runs or second guesses; just pure poetry in motion, viz. God at work. Just as a gun trigger could not be pulled to release it’s bullet to strike it’s target, save a gun and one to pull it; So mankind could not so have committed the very first acts of sin, save God working through a serpent (Satan) and a tree.

From the foundations of the world, to the dawn of man, Calvary, and God’s eternal reign in infinite glory, God has been working all things together to fulfill His plan. Note this would not be the last time these players would walk the stage of life together. With the script written and the stage set, as in act one of this life’s dramas, time is all that is missing for all to be complete. God, Satan, man and a tree will be stars once again, fulfilling their final roles in this epic life drama. Act two was Calvary, and now we patiently await the final scene, act three where there will be one last draw of the curtain, one last role to fulfill that will be remembered by all forever. Once again God, Satan, man and a tree will have a part in this perfectly orchestrated masterpiece. Christ, the King, Almighty, alpha and omega, ruler of all, God, will be at center stage being worshiped, praised and honored for all eternity, world without end. All of the original cast will remain but Satan, as irony will have its last laugh at him who has from the beginning, sought the forbidden fruit of the center stage, desiring to be filled with all of its honor and glory. Ironically, Satan will succumb to the very snare that he set for man, only to reap the eternal bitter fruits of his own, demise and ruin.

Purpose - This brings us to the need to define and closely examine God’s sovereign purposes.

Purpose: 1. The object toward which one strives or for which something exists; an aim or a goal: "And ever those, who would enjoyment gain/Must find it in the purpose they pursue" Sarah Josepha Hale.
2. A result or effect that is intended or desired; an intention. See Synonyms at intention.
3. Determination; resolution: He was a man of purpose.

For example Paul gives us a snapshot of history with God’s dealings with Pharaoh in which he unequivocally answers the question of sovereignty, guilt and responsibility.

17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? 20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? KJV Rom 9:17-21

To What End - the praise, honor and glory of God’s sovereign power and grace!

6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. 9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son. 10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. Rom 9:6-14 KJV

In the opening paragraph of Romans 9 Paul states, "...I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart." Rom 9:2 RSV This personal testimony of grief was due to the reality that not all of his Kinsmen by race (Israel) would be saved. Paul goes on to reveal that this was not due to God forsaking his promises, but on the contrary, fulfilling them. At the heart of the apostles revelation, lies the age old struggle, of mankind not being pleased with the plans of the God "...who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:" Eph 1:11 KJV, and not our own. And isn't it quite humane (humanistic) for any of us, that we should desire salvation for our own kinsman, if not that of the whole of humanity? The apostle goes on to unveil the truth and reality of God's will, which contains two classes of children (children of the flesh/children of the promise), and their final destinies.

Paul deals with three major points, “the word”, “calling” and “promise” of God. All of these elements are integrally linked and woven together in the inseparable fabric of God’s sovereign, eternal plan of salvation and glory of His grace. At the core of this unfolding argument is the reality that God is indeed God! Paul reveals that man’s destiny is absolutely governed and determined by his creator. And that this determination, electing/choosing is solely and unconditionally based upon God’s good pleasure. Paul stresses that God’s decisions are not based on any seen, foreseen, or unforeseen conditions of the creature itself (works or lack thereof).
The author himself is clouded with the bondage of the effects of humanity, namely grief, sorrow and dissatisfaction with the plans of the Almighty. Paul is not glorying in the demise of his kinsmen (Israel), he is not thanking God for his perfect plan of only choosing a select few. But on the contrary he is undergoing "...great sorrow and unceasing anguish” of heart, even as he is unveiling and revealing the Master’s perfect plan. Once again we see the depths of God’s grace beaming through the dark and clouded reasoning of mankind, shinning forth what is truth, regardless of man’s ability or lack thereof to grasp hold of it. Paul continues to be used by God as promised beforehand;

“…for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 17 I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” Acts 26:16-18 NKJV

And now through the perfect flawless and unbiased lens of the Holy Spirit (God), Paul removes another veil shrouding the truth and reality of God’s eternal plan of salvation and damnation. God is under no obligation to reveal anything to anyone, let alone His finite creation. But these revelations are clearly manifestations of God’s grace and love for His elect, and for His glory!

6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, "In Isaac your seed shall be called." 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. 9 For this is the word of promise: "At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son." Rom 9:6-10 NKJV

In vs. 6-9 the apostle draws from known and experienced realities of the Israelites of old, as if to bring forth witnesses to stand before the judgment of all. He begins to declare how God has already demonstrated his sovereignty in unconditional election through Abraham and Isaac. Paul addresses “the word”, meaning prophetic covenant declarations of old made to the forefathers. Paul defends God’s faithfulness, stating that God has not lied or failed. But on the contrary, Paul qualifies God’s choosing and calling by stating that “…those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.”. This is one of a series of explanatory statements to forever silence the finite minds of men, who are either curious, doubting, without hope, misguided and uninformed; or who deem the God of the universe to be unfaithful, incompetent, slack and or, powerless to fulfill His promises.

This passage reveals that God made His choice irrespective of either child, in order that the God, who made the sovereign electing choice, might forever remain at center stage, and glorified for all eternity! The children of men and their actions/conditions (actively sinning/morally culpable or not), is not the focal point of Paul’s revelation here. The emphasis and entire point of this particular revelation is the revelation itself, viz. “(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) …So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”

This outline of the Apostle clearly emphasizes that God has from the beginning predetermined the eternal destinies of mankind. While Israel is the initial point of discussion and model used, Paul goes on to describe God’s overarching, sovereign and all inclusive eternal master plan. Which brings us to the inevitable question that begs to be answered, can God do as He pleases and still remain just? To which Paul anticipates the potentially hypothetical, humanistic, illogical reasoning of mankind and states:

4 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. 17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? 20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? Rom 9:14-24 KJV

Who is God - From the dawn of mankind, we have made much to do about man, and little to do about the God who created him! In spite of the whole of the divine God breathed word (scriptures), man continually sets his focus on himself (mankind) instead of his creator. Undoubtedly, this has led to the many abominable false doctrines that permeate the church to date. When one begins with mankind, with regards to understanding himself, God or truth in general, there is always the ever lurking inherent danger of ending up with mankind as the answer to any and all possible solutions. Take for instance the subject matter at hand regarding the eternal destiny of mankind and the two opposing arguments.

1. Depending upon ones condition (morally culpable/actively sinning or not) upon death, God determines their eternal destiny.
2. God from all eternity has determined everyone’s eternal destiny, including what one’s condition will be (morally culpable/actively sinning or not).

This subject matter at hand is surely of most import, to both God and man. For, herein lie the eternal judgment, ramifications and glory that affect both God, and man alike. On the one hand God could be condemned as a liar, a failure, incompetent and one of many so called gods, which falsely claim to posses all power in heaven and on earth. Or God is deemed faithful, reliable and trustworthy to fulfill all that He has decreed to come to pass, therefore possessing all power that is in heaven and on earth. Who is God, is He one of mankind or is He its maker?

Though it be but a sliver of the whole doctrine of salvation, including guilt, judgment and damnation, which is thoroughly taught in Romans chapters 1-11, it is here in Romans 9 where clarity on these matters, I believe, is at its zenith. At the heart of the doctrine of salvation lies a universal biblical truth, which addresses the very nature and definition of God himself, as so described throughout scripture, viz. that he is God and does whatever he pleases.


I [am] the LORD, and [there is] none else, [there is] no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that [there is] none beside me. I [am] the LORD, and [there is] none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things]. Isaiah 45:5-7 KJV

Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! [Let] the potsherd [strive] with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? Woe unto him that saith unto [his] father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth? ¶Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, [even] my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts. Isaiah 45:9-13 KJV

¶Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring [it] again to mind, O ye transgressors. Remember the former things of old: for I [am] God, and [there is] none else; [I am] God, and [there is] none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times [the things] that are not [yet] done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken [it], I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed [it], I will also do it. Isaiah 46:8-11 KJV

But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.
Ps 115:3 KJV

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. Rom 11:36 KJV

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. Eph 1:3-12 KJV

And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. 9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, 10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Rev 4:8-11 KJV

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Testing of Jesus

This post is a splinter thread from my earlier post entitled "Original Guilt". In some ways this may appear to be a bit of a tangent, but I believe it is a link in a chain of several interdependent issues. The question at hand is in regard to the temptations Jesus experienced, and is derived largely from these three passages:

"Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." (Hebrews 2:17)

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)

"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." (James 1:13-15)

Since Jesus is God, and God can't be tempted by evil, how could Jesus have been tempted in every respect as we have been? How are we to interpret the phrase "he had to be made like his brothers in every respect" in light of our being born in sin?

One possible clue is that James seems to be making a distinction in that passage between desire and sin. He also specifically says "tempted by evil", which leaves room for the question of whether or not there are other forms of temptation. For example, in Matthew 4 it says that Jesus was hungry. As best I can understand that passage, Jesus desired food at the time when he knew his Father did not want him to eat any. He obeyed his father, but it looks like he would have still wanted the food. If he hadn't wanted it, then how else could he have ever "suffered when tempted"? (Hebrews 2:17) How else can someone suffer when tempted but by having a desire of which we are denying ourselves satisfaction?

As to Hebrews 2:17, one reasonable interpretation of that passage is that the writer of Hebrews is referring to Jesus being made like the ideal version of his brothers, the way humanity was originally intended to be without sin. I think there is some truth to that, but that idea by itself does not reconcile all the issues at hand. For one thing, Adam was a human without sin, and yet he still coveted what the devil offered him and gave in to that temptation. (Come to think about it, there are a lot of parallels between the temptation of Adam and Eve and the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. I'll look more into that.) Before the fall, Adam did not have a sinful nature, but he must've had some kind of nature, and I can only think that must have been a human nature. Thus, not only is it possible for a sinful nature to be to sin, but a human nature is well. If both can cause the effect of sin, what useful distinction is really being made by suggesting that Jesus was made in the likeness of his brothers by having not a sinful nature but a human nature?

Also, I would be hesitant to interpret the "in every respect" part of Hebrews 2:17 as simply meaning ideal humanity when the specific context of that passage is his propitiations for our sins and helping us in our temptations, (and in the larger context of sympathizing with us referred to in Hebrews 4:15), since I have not yet found any evidence in the rest of the book (though my studies have not been completely exhaustive) that such a distinction was in the author's mind. Not to say that such an interpretation is wrong, but that it is a delicate inference I would not put too much weight on without more evidence.

So those are some of my thoughts on these questions. I'm looking forward to all of your responses.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Third Question of Possibility

Does anyone have any arguments in support of the following proposition?

c) It is possible that God is saving all infants who die, but if He is, it would be wrong for us to know about it.