RECONCILING ELECTION & FREE WILL

No one is able to come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I shall raise him up on the last day. (Jn6:44)

The doctrines of predestination/election and premillennialism are hinted at in this verse although there are far more substantial and explicit texts to support both which we will come across as we progress through the new Testament. Paul in particular refers on a number of occasions to the fact that Christians are predestined or called according to the purpose of God’s will and that their election was a matter of divine choice, not any foreseen or actual merit on their part. But for what purpose was their calling according to that same Apostle? – it was to establish a people who through self-discipline and applying the resources of celestial grace progressively become conformed to the image of Christ (Rom8:29). Such will become His joint-heirs (no less) provided they “suffer with Him in order to be glorified with Him” (Rom8:17 cf. Greek text). It is not, I suggest, as Augustine first proposed and I for many years believed as a Calvinist – that “the elect” were the proportionately small minority arbitrarily chosen by a deistic divinity to be delivered from eternal misery in Hell. For all things were created through Christ and for Christ and what a sovereign God wants He is bound to get, especially if it were the case that human free will is incapable of choosing or even desiring what is good as Augustine and the later Reformers asserted. Their cosmic horror story is anything but “Good News” and is thankfully contradicted by the Bible as a whole as I am in the business of demonstrating.

Free will?

Predestination may appear to be incompatible with any notion of effectual free will in spiritual matters. Not so if one understands that the bulk of humanity were neither predestined for the glories awaiting Christ’s faithful disciples nor in Paul’s words are mere “vessels of wrath fitted for destruction” (Rom9:22) aka the children of the devil considered in earlier posts. In other words the predestination/free will conundrum can only be resolved by acknowledging three rather than two soteriological categories, the biblical foundation for which is a central theme of my book*. For as our featured verse indicates human free will is indeed  incapable of apprehending the Gospel of Christ unless divinely enabled but it is by nature capable of responding positively to the light Christ has provided to every person (Jn1:9NKJV) being  the principles of  sound reason and humane living operating through the spiritual faculty of conscience – God’s law planted in the heart (Rom2:15) by which all people shall be judged (Mt25:41-46).

Such sentiments and interpretations will be alien to many but they would not have been so to 2nd/3rd century Christian theologians such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Origen. Such widely understood principles of natural law, in view of their ubiquity, must have underpinned the gospel message imparted by the apostles and their immediate appointees to the late first and second century churches . These early assemblies’ doctrinal unity was affirmed by Irenaeus (earlier post), and in turn documented by the Church’s first historian Eusebius (AD263-339) who explicitly affirmed a positive role for natural law. Thanks to the resources available in the digital age such vital historical truths can no longer be concealed. Study for yourself (perhaps starting with Eusebius) and you will quickly discern that what I am saying with respect to natural law, judged by so many to be heretical was the prevailing understanding of the churches prior to Augustine’s novel interpretations regarding the consequences of “original sin” based on his particular reading of Paul’s teaching.

So what is original sin?

Original sin is a biblical reality (cf. Rom5:14) but not as Augustine came to understand Paul’s references to “death” as being a damnable state of the soul from birth. Rather it pertains (in Paul’s language) to the “body of this death” referring to the temporary “vessel” or “tent” the soul inhabits as a result of Adam’s demise, the instincts of which war against the nobler instincts of the “inner man”, mind or spirit (Rom7:23). As Paul goes on to affirm the Christian alone is enabled by celestial grace to “possess his own vessel in sanctity and honour” (1Thes4:4). Such I have come to understand is what the Bible actually means by “being saved” or raised to “eternal Life”. As part of God’s redemptive plan for His earthly creation He chose to establish a people to serve and worship the living God in spirit and truth whilst still incarnate: so that His Son’s Church may become like Israel before her “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own special people, to proclaim the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1Pet2:9).

The millennial age

As for a further terrestrial age, that is explicitly referred to in Revelation but it is also indicated by Jesus’ statements in Jn6:44&54 that His faithful disciples shall be raised up on the last day. As the Bible makes perfectly clear everyone is to be raised up eventually so what is the Lord’s point? Surely that only Christ’s faithful disciples shall have a part in the first resurrection that will initiate that age (Rev20:6). Such an age is also a corollary to what I now understand Paul to be saying about the nature of the current epoch in which non-Jews from every nation are being added to the “Israel of God”. Many prophecies and divine promises set out in the Old Testament will remain unfilled until Christ returns in glory with His saints.

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