By the grace of God they were freely willing

Pocketwatch inner workings I believe in the complete sovereignty of God over all human decisions and actions, but this doesn’t mean I believe we never make decisions or choices or that we lack our own will. This position is known as Compatibilism because it asserts that free will and determinism are compatible. I was reading 2 Corinthians 8 yesterday and two passages stuck out to me with respect to this issue.

2 Corinthians 8:1-5 (emphasis mine):

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

So, Paul says right at the outset that he’s going to tell us about something God is doing in the churches of Macedonia. The Macedonian’s generosity, despite their great poverty, was a grace that originated from God and not from man. But then he turns right around and says the Macedonians were doing this “of their own accord”. Other translations say the Macedonians were “freely willing” or that they did this “entirely on their own” or “of their own free will”. He then turns right around again and says that the Macedonians submitted themselves to the Lord and to their leaders “by the will of God”.

So was it the Macedonian’s will or God’s will that accomplished this? It was both! Or perhaps, more accurately, it was ultimately God’s will to put it into the minds and hearts of the Macedonians so that they would will, even delight, to give so generously.

The other passage makes this connection even more explicit. 2 Corinthians 8:16-17 (again, emphasis mine):

But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

Again, other translations have phrases like “by his own choice” or “of his own initiative”, but the meaning is the same. God, in his sovereignty, put the care into Titus’ heart so that Titus himself would freely will to visit the Corinthian saints.

I love the few passages in the New Testament that mention free will. They do not in any way deter me from glorying in the absolute sovereignty of God. 

His oath, his covenant, his blood

Yesterday morning in Bible study we discussed Luke 22:14-20 where Jesus institutes the Lord’s supper and asserts that the new covenant is sealed with his blood:

And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you.”

In our study we then connected that back to the new covenant promises found in Ezekiel 36:22-38:

Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

My forgiveness, my assurance of salvation, my living a new life, my having God’s spirit in me, is all grounded upon an oath, a covenant that God has made and which has been sealed with Christ’s blood shed for me.

With all that in mind, I was particularly struck by the third verse of the hymn, “The Solid Rock”, which we sang in worship service this morning:

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Are we leaning on other people in our lives—parents, spouses, friends? Are we leaning on ourselves and our own abilities? Or is our salvation built on Christ and Christ alone, his oath and covenant sealed with his blood, which is our only “hope and stay”? 

The “omnis” of God

I don’t know why, but the “omnis” of God have always held a sort of fascination for me. I think everybody has heard of three of them: omnipotence (all-powerful), omniscience (all-knowing), and omnipresence (everywhere-present). A couple years ago I stumbled upon omnibenevolence (all-good).

I’ve been reading the book of Job and got a little mind-boggled this morning and went looking for context and background to help me understand what I was reading. I started with Wikipedia, not because I think it’s a really good resource for understanding the scriptures, but just because it’s as good a place as any to start. Lo and behold, in the Wikipedia article on the Book of Job, I came across two “omnis” I had never heard before: omnisapience (all-wise), and omniliberty (all-sovereign, or all-free—able to do whatever he pleases), though I can’t seem to find omniliberty anywhere else on the Internet, and wonder if whoever added it to Wikipedia just made it up.

Are there other “omnis” I’ve never heard of? Can anybody recall any others I haven’t listed here? Is it possible that all God’s attributes can be expressed as “omnis”? 

God’s Passion for His Glory

gods-passion-for-his-glory I just finished reading God’s Passion for His Glory, which is not a new book, but a reprint of a book by 18th-century philosopher and theologian Jonathan Edwards called The End for Which God Created the World, with a new (nearly book-length) foreword by John Piper. I greatly enjoyed this book. It has challenged and even reshaped my perceptions about God, the world, and scripture. I recommend this book to every reader. If you’d prefer not to read Piper’s foreword, at least pick up some edition of Edwards’ book and give his claims the careful consideration they are due.
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Gospel

I have just finished listening to the second (and most recent) sermon in an excellent new series being preached by Pastor John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It’s an expository series that will take an entire year to go verse by verse through the whole Gospel of John. The first two sermons have been fantastic, and I would encourage—no, it needs to be a stronger word than that: exhort? urge. impel!—you, whoever you are, to watch, read, or listen to them yourself.

To that end, here is a link to the series: The Gospel of John. I’d love to chat with you about these sermons, so please please leave a comment if you do check them out. End mark

Christian basics

I just finished a couple of great books: Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem and Basic Christianity by John R.W. Stott.

Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know

If I had to choose one of these books over the other, I think it would be Christian Beliefs. It follows the same major topics as most full-blown theology texts, and, in fact, is a condensation of Grudem’s 528 page Bible Doctrine, which is itself a condensation of Grudem’s 1,296 page Systematic Theology. As such, there is a wealth of information packed into this svelte volume. I especially found the Westminster Catechism, the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy, and the ancient Christian creeds in the back of the book to be a nice touch. Grudem also provides a list of roughly 45 books for additional study from a variety of perspectives. I can’t think of a better, more easily digestible introduction to Christian theology than this book, and have already recommended it to several friends and others who have inquired about what I believe.

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