Wednesday, January 11, 2012

LESSON ONE: “1 Peter: Finding Encouragement in Troubling Times – A Sue Edwards Inductive Bible Study”

Lesson 1 of “1 Peter: Finding Encouragement in Troubling Times – A Sue Edwards Inductive Bible Study” was quite a challenge. I was particularly intrigued by the “Summit” question about God’s sovereignty versus our responsibility on page 12. Here is the rough essay I wrote containing my thoughts on the subject:

The references to “God’s elect” in 1 Peter 1:1 and “chosen” in verse 2 to describe the recipients of Peter’s epistle brings up intriguing questions on the topic of God’s sovereignty versus human responsibility. Why has God chosen some people and not others? Did those who were chosen have a part in their salvation by choosing God? Since I am resolved to work out my faith with fear and trembling, here are my thoughts on the subject. I do realize that full and complete knowledge on this subject is beyond my understanding and that any insight I glean on this topic comes directly from the Holy Spirit. My views on this subject are unimportant. Only the truth truly matters.

One truth that I have personally come to embrace is God’s sovereignty. In light of this question, I want to take a moment and find proof of this in scripture. Such proof is peppered throughout the Bible. According to a recent blueletterbible.com search on the term “Sovereign Lord”, this phrase occurs in scripture 288 times from Genesis to Jude. As a Christian and a believer in the truth of scripture, these 288 declarations tell me that God is sovereign. One of the several definitions of the adjective “sovereign” as displayed on the Dictionary.com website is “having supreme rank, power, or authority.” According to this definition, God’s “elect” or “chosen” would be selected with His absolute authority.

It’s difficult to attach relevance to my responsibility in accepting the free gift of salvation without demeaning God’s sovereignty, but the Bible says that this is part of the process. Trying to describe this idea reminded me of a scripture verse that says something like “draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” I think that verse captures the spirit of involvement. He is always near. If we reach out to Him, He grabs hold of us. This reminds me of the scene in “Titanic” where the crewmen are rowing through the bodies to rescue the survivors when Rose blows the whistle to get their attention. In a nutshell, dead men don’t reach out to be saved.

There is another passage in scripture that talks about being blotted out of the Book of Life. If God is omniscient, and I do believe He is, no one would ever need to be blotted out of the Book of Life because He already knows whose names will be there. Since our days are numbered from the dawn of time, and we are born into specific generations so that we will seek Him, this appears to be a strategic process so that we will gain the greatest opportunity to enjoy Him in this life. When I first contemplated this aspect of God’s sovereignty versus my choice, the question that popped into my mind was whether there is an age of accountability where everyone’s name appears in the Book of Life at birth and is blotted out when they decide to reject Christ – even though God knows they’re going to do it. This may be the reason anyone is blotted out of the Book of Life – to help humans understand that we all do have a choice, but God already knows what our choice is going to be. He works it out this way to solicit our participation in His plan so that He can bless us in this life by our involvement with Him and His creation (chosen and not).

Here are some of the facts as I see them: God, in His sovereignty, chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, aka Israel. The nation of Israel disobeyed, which logically opened the door of salvation to the Gentiles. Jesus died once for all, giving the free gift of salvation that every man must accept. God already knows every person who will accept this gift and everyone who will reject it. So, technically, He could have written only the names of the acceptors into the Book of Life. But, if that is the case, why would scripture mention being blotted out of the Book of Life? Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was always “plan A”. We do have free will and a choice. It’s just that God, in His omniscience, already knows what that choice is going to be. When scripture says that God hardened someone’s heart, He didn’t take away their choice. He used their choice for His purposes to advance His kingdom. He is the orchestrator of all things. His plan is perfection. His Word gives us understanding of His plan at different levels.

One can argue that, as the Creator and King of the Universe and everything in it, God has every right to determine who spends eternity with Him in heaven and who spends eternity in hell. Until we meet Him Face-to-face, we will not completely understand the concepts of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility or why God has chosen some people and not others or what the role of being chosen has in choosing God to receive salvation. I am willing to trust the Lord and the truth of His Word. I will gain understanding as He gives it to me. And this seems to be the case as I contemplate and record my thoughts. But for the purpose of this exercise, I believe we must close here if I’m to move on with the lesson.

1 comment:

Kregel Publications said...

Great thoughts! Thanks for your post; I'm looking forward to week 2!