God's Sovereignty and Man's Free Agency
First Prep Sheet
Most people can never comprehend deep subjects until they first master the simple truths for a foundation. People have great difficulty reading a map when they do not recognize the markers. The Bible has some clearly defined markers of truth listed below. We know that any theories that violate any of these markers are in error.
God is sovereign over all Is 6:5
Satan has dominion of this world 2 Cor 4:4, Col 1:13, Eph 6:12
God is almighty Luke 1:37, Jer 32:27, Is 1:9
God is all-knowing; He knows all the future Psalm 139 John 21:17
God is loving (not all-loving) 1 John 4:16, Ex 20:6
God is fair Heb 6:10 Deut 32:4
People have the will to resist the Holy Spirit. Acts 7:51
Everyone will be judged after they die Rev 20:11-15
The questions below probe the meaning of four of these markers of truth. Think about them and we will answer any you cannot at the fellowship.
God is Almighty: Luke 1:37, Jer 32:27, Is 1:9
God can do anything He decides to do; likewise God can refrain from doing anything He decides not to do. God can choose to control a thing, refrain from controlling a thing, indirectly control a thing, and not control a thing that stays within limits that He controls. God has no external limits to His power; the only limit on God's will is God's will itself.
1. Do you think God would still be all-powerful if He had any self-imposed restrictions? Does God have any self-imposed restrictions? Answer first, and then read Heb 6:18 and 1 Sam 15:29. Also read James 1:13.
2. Could an almighty God choose to create some things to obey His laws of probability, chance, and chaos instead of being under His direct control? If He can supersede those laws at will, would God still be all-powerful?
3. If God decided to give up total control of us and let us have some control of ourselves or free will, would He still be all-powerful?
God is All-Knowing; He knows all the future: Ps 139, John 21:17
God knows everything that has happens, past, present, and future. Heaven needs no forecasters or weathermen.
1. If God did not know everything that would have happened if people had made different choices, would He still be All-knowing?
2. If God chose not to remember our sins, though He could recall any knowledge anytime He wanted, would He still be omniscient?
3. Could an all-powerful God ever know what it is like to be weak and vulnerable? How could an infinite God know what it is like to be a puny human and bear the heavy load of sin?
God is Loving: 1 John 4:16, Ex 20:6
The Bible never says that God is "all-loving", only that He loves us and that God is love. There is no limit to the love, patience, tenderness, and compassion God has for His own. However, people often ignore where God's word says that He is full of wrath, not love, towards those who are not His own, but choose to reject Him. Read Romans 11:22.
1. Could a loving God ever destroy people? By analogy, could a father, full of love, ever kill an animal that was threatening his baby?
2. Could a loving God let bad things happen to us? By analogy, could a loving father ever allow a painful experience to happen to his kid?
3. Could a loving God send people to hell? By analogy, if someone who lived in the house was going to harm his kids, could a loving father, kick that person out and turn him over to the police?
God has two kinds of love. He loves His own children limitlessly, eternally, and joyfully. He loves the world like parents might love an abandoned, but criminal child: patiently, longingly, and with pity. They might like to adopt the child into their home, yet if the child does not want to forsake crime and get off the streets, they will not allow the child to come into their home and corrupt their other children.
Finding a possible path of truth (a theory) that satisfies all this markers is a tight fit. That is fortunate, because the tighter the fit, the less likely we are to go off in a wrong direction.
God is Fair: Heb 6:10, Deut 32:4
The world can be a very unfair place; many people die without receiving justice. God is fair though, and everything will be made fair on the judgment day.
1. What about people who died before ever hearing the gospel, like Romans 2:14-16 talks about?
2. If God already knew what people were going to do, why are some people punished for what He already knew would happen?
3. Why couldn't God just forgive our sins without Jesus dying on the cross for us?
God's Sovereignty and Man's Free Agency
Second Prep Sheet
To be completely prepared for this study, simply answer these three easy (ha ha!) questions. All these questions do have answers though, and in the study we will spend most of the time learning the answers.
1. Since God is Almighty, how can anybody, even Satan, do anything against God's will? (Is 46:10-11, 55:11)
a) The Bible indicates that many have disobeyed God's will and many more will.
b) The Bible also says that God's will cannot be thwarted.
2. Since God knows everything we are going to do before we were even born, how can we have free will?
a) Isaiah 46:10 says that God makes known the end from the beginning, so God knows what is going to happen for certain, and not just "probably" what is going to happen.
b) Since it is certain we will do the things God sees in the future, how can we still be free?
c) If God used Pharaoh's and Judas' sin, somehow they still must have had free will; they were still punished for their sin.
3. Where did our free will come from? This question bothered the early church father Jerome, and he wrote a letter to Augustine asking this. The agnostic (though God-believing) former editor of Scientific American, Martin Gardner, also pondered this question in an essay and saying the answer was beyond him.
a) If God gave us our free will, and all our desires and decision, then it is not really free.
b) If it is the net sum of God's spirit working in us, our heredity, our environment, and the influences of angels, demons, parents, friends, and others, then it is likewise not free. It is still deterministic.
c) If chance and chaos are added to b), it is no longer deterministic but it is still beyond our control. People should not be judged and punished for something beyond their control.
d) If free will existed from eternity past (as people in the cult of Mormonism think), then the Creator did not create the most important part of us. Isaiah 43:7 indicates that is not true. Also, people should not be judged and punished for something that cannot be changed.
Take four examples and put them together: Adam and Eve's sin, Joseph's brothers selling him into slavery, Pharaoh’s hardened heart, and people's decisions to sin today. Notice that Joseph told his brothers, "you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good."
We can say six things about these situations.
1. God knew it beforehand.
2. He allowed it.
3. He did not desire it.
4. God did not force these people.
5. The people were responsible for their choices and actions.
6. It was a part of God's plan.
If 1. was not true, God would not be all-knowing.
If 2. was not true, it would not have happened or else God would not be all-powerful and sovereign.
If 3. was not true, God would not be good and Ezekiel would be wrong. God would not be good.
If 4. was not true, God would force people to do evil.
If 5. was not true, no one would deserve to go to hell for things they could not help.
If 6. was not true, Eph 1, , , would not be true.
Since the above six things are true, we can make the three following simple conclusions.
2+3+4. God allowed it, but God did not desire it, and God did not force them to do something He did not desire.
In other words, it was in God's allowable will, but not in His desired will and decreed will. Therefore God allows some things He does not desire. This is done for the greater good, and ultimately, this too is God's will.
4+5+6. God did not force them, and they were responsible, but it was a part of God's plan.
In other words, they had free choice to the extent that they were responsible. Yet even their choices were a part of God's plan. Therefore, even non-Christians have to freedom to do things that a fair God can send them to hell for. Also, not only is our freedom a part of God's plan, but the choices we make are also a part of God's plan.
1+4. God knew it beforehand, but God did not force them.
In other words, the fact that God knew does not mean God forced them. Therefore, God knowing something beforehand does not necessarily limit our freedom or excuse us from our responsibility.
Any explanation that contradicts or does not include the 5 points cannot be true because it contradicts scripture. Any explanation that contradicts or does not include the 3 conclusions is probably not true, unless an error or deficiency can be shown in
the assumptions or logic.
In time or out of time or both?
Thus Proverbs 22:6 and teaching children in general have a new urgency about them. Similarly, both evangelism, discipleship have a new importance.
2 Cor 6:1 do not receive God's grace in vain
Acts 7:51 "You always resist the Holy Spirit"
CALVINISM, ARMINIANISM, AND THE TULIP
Calvinism is named after John Calvin a Swiss believer, but it traces its roots back to the Bible, and through Augustine. Calvinistic churches are the Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Reformed Churches. Famous Calvinistic believers were John Calvin, John Knox, Martin Luther, and Blaise Pascal (technically a Jensenist), and Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield. Calvinism stresses God's sovereignty. There are varying degrees of Calvinism. "High" Calvinism says that our faith is only because of God's choosing. It was a mystery to Calvin why God judges people for things they had no control over.
Arminianism is named after Arminius, a Dutch theologian and former Calvinist, but it traces its roots back to the Bible. Arminian leaning churches are the Wesleyan, Free Evangelical, Church of Christ, and Assemblies of God churches. Famous Arminian believers were John and Charles Wesley, Asbury, and Charles Finney. Arminianism stress God's gift of free will. "High" Arminianism says that God's chosing is conditioned on our faith. For many Arminians it is a mystery how God knows and is sovereign over our future choices.
Calvinism has five points, which can be remembered by the acronym TULIP. Arminianism also has five points which are just the opposite of Calvinism.
_ CALVINISM ARMINIANISM _
Rom 3:9-20 Rom 10:20 Total Depravity Rom 2:9-15 Ez 18:31
John 6:65 2 Tim 1:9 | Rom 10:21 Acts 2:40
Eph 2:3-5,8 Php 2:12-13
We are like corpses in a |We are like dying prisoners whom
cemetary who are resurrected. |God pardons, cleanses, and frees
There is NOTHING we can do as 2 |We must "save ourselves" as Acts
Tim 1:9 and Eph 2:3-5,8. |2:40 by accepting God's work.
_ | _
John 6:44-45,64-65 UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION Jer 18:1-12
John 17:12 Acts 18:10 Titus 3:5 |Eze 18:21-24,31-32 John 5:40
Rom 8:28-31 Rom 9:11-16 |John 6:17 Acts 26:29 Eph 1:13
Rom 11:5-7,29 Eph 1:4,5,11,12 |2Thes 2:10-11 Heb 4:11 2 Pet 1:9
Eph 2:8-9 1 John 2:19 2 Tim 1:9|We can reject God's salvation.
Nothing we can do affects God |We should pray for the salvation
choosing or not choosing us |of others as Acts 26:29 .
Rom 8:33-39 Unlimited Pardon Heb 6:4-10 Matt 12:32
Matt 19:25-26 ³ 1 John 5:16
2 Thess 2:10-11
No sin except blas- 2 Tim 2:12-13 God will not force against
phemy against the Holy ³ their will those who refuse to
Spirit is beyond forgiveness ³ obey God to go to heaven.
_ | _
Rom 9:19-23 Limited Atonement 1 Tim 4:10 2 Pet 3:9
John 15:18-20 John 6:65 | John 5:24 Titus 2:11
1 Tim 4:10 Rom 10:11-13
Since God knew who would accept,|Christ died to give salvation to
Christ only died for the elect, |all but "whosoever" can believe
or "His own" as John 17:9,20 |as John 3:16 and become His own.
_ | .
John 8:47 John 6:37-39 Irresistable Grace 2 Cor 6:1 Luke 7:30
Rom 11:29 John 10:16,27 | Heb 12:25 Matt 13:18-23
| Acts 7:51 John 5:39-40
God's purpose cannot be stopped |We can't stop God's decreed will
and all who are predestined will|but God allows His desired will
certainly come as Rom 8:29-30. |to be rejected as Luke 7:30.
_ | _
John 10:28-29 Perseverence of the Saints Heb 6:4-10
1 John 5:13 Eph 1:13-14 | 2 Pet 2:20-22 2 Pet 3:17
John 6:37-39 Eph 6:24 1 John 2:19 1 Cor 10:1-12 Heb 10:26-36
Rom 11:29 2 Tim 1:14 1 John 2:24 Jude 21
Nothing can make your Father |We are assured of salvation as
no longer your Father, but |long as we do not deny Christ.
there is such a thing as |No one can snatch us from Jesus,
counterfeit conversion. |but we can jump out ourselves.
_ | _
Any theory that does not take into account every verse is inadequate.
It is not proper nor useful for us to pray for things that cannot be changed. Is it proper and effective for us to pray that God choose someone?
If not, then is it proper and useful to pray that someone be saved? Should we be concerned about the salvation of others as Acts 2:40?
If so, then can God's choice be affected by our prayers? How can this be is we were chosen before the creation of the world as Eph 1:4?
If we have free will, do we have total free will? What about the drug addict? What about people who are in bondage to sin?
Where did free will come from? How can it be free if it is the result of wherever it came from?
On one hand, we were predestined beyond time 2 Tim 1:9, chosen by God beforehand
Eph 1:4,5,11. On the other hand, we are included when we heard (and accepted) the gospel.