As many of you know, I fall along the lines of Reformed Theology in my interpretation of the bible. Now, I’m no expert on all this stuff, so I may need correction from time to time on how I present this. Here’s the nutshell version, in my opinion: We humans, all of us, have resigned ourselves voluntarily to sin and have become so enmeshed that we do not desire nor will we acknowledge the one, true, and living God. In fact, our situation is so hopeless that it takes divine intervention to pluck us out of this state. This is what is called “irresistible grace.” God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. And, yes, repentance and belief are required but these are in response to God’s specific, individual mercy. Furthermore, he has mercy on only those he chooses, not all.
Very few people agree with that. We see a continuum of thought, anywhere from man is supreme to man must make a specific choice and believe and act in a specific way to enjoy union with the divine. But very few say that mankind has rejected and is rejected by God yet God, to demonstrate mercy, chooses a few to enjoy unimaginable, eternal reward. Such thinking is rejected outright by almost everyone.
Why, you might ask. It seems that we humans have a difficult time with the idea that some things are simply beyond our control. We desire to “earn” heaven, even if that means making up our own rules to do so. Jesus addressed this in John 10:1 when he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.”
Since I was a little kid, my understanding was that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins but that it was up to me to tow the line. My sin was continually derailing me and cancelling my ticket to heaven. I kept on sinning and needed to be forgiven again and again. Over and over. If I would have died between the time I sinned and the time I was forgiven, I was toast. Other people grew up believing that God puts all our good deeds on one side of a balance and all our bad deeds on another. Whichever way the scale tipped was the way we went. Then we have the school of thought that I must repent of my sin, believe in my heart that Jesus is risen from the dead, and boldly proclaim as such.
It behooves us, then, to understand, in the best we are able, that which is true about matters of salvation. The place to do this is through the bible. God has given us specific, timeless, and proven communication through the bible that gives us the ability to understand these things to the extent he desires us to know. Some things he simply does not answer. Other things he does.
Who is right? After I was saved, I dove into the bible. It suddenly started making sense, a lot of sense. In it, I could see that there was no such thing as a balance to weight our deeds. In fact, it was abundantly clear that it didn’t matter what your past was; we were commanded to follow Jesus with everything we have in order to join him in heaven. The discussion in my mind then began about whether or not I could forfeit this gift.
Then I would read passages that seemed so very strange, almost as if they were printed incorrectly, because they contradicted everything I had believed. These passages said things like I was chosen before the foundation of the world and that I didn’t choose Jesus but rather he chose me and that apart from Jesus I can do nothing.
Just yesterday, I ran across another of those passages.
Ezekiel 36:22, 26-27, 31-32
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, This says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.
That’s exactly what happened to me. No, I am not a Jew, but I am an offspring of Abraham by faith. So this applies directly to me, and it indeed is how things unfolded. What’s key here is that God is not doing any of this in response to Israel’s positive deeds. On the contrary; God is doing them DESPITE their deeds. In fact, he is acting solely because of himself. And for what purpose was that? God made an unconditional promise to make a special people – a specific nation called Israel and another fold for those who are not blood Hebrew – that he is presenting to Jesus as his bride, pure, spotless, and undefiled. A few, not many. And through this, God required Jesus to die for his bride so that his bride may be presentable because she was of reputation unworthy of him. She was a tramp who would never, ever change on her own.
Why? That’s what Romans 9 covers.
Do you see what I mean by all this? If you do, then Matthew 22:1-14 will begin to make sense. In fact, a lot of things in the bible will start making sense.
Father, thank you so much for the bible. The pages are rich beyond comprehension yet, at the same time, understandable when we allow ourselves to be taught. Amen.
Copyright © 2018 Scott Powers