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Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Not My will, but thine"

Someone recently pointed out that I was mentioned in someone else's blog. Hard to believe. (I didn't think I was noticeable.) Well, actually, he took Neil Simpson of Eternity Matters to task, but Neil was referencing something I said ... in a positive light. Somehow (I'm still not sure how) he went from "I'm pretty sure you can lose your salvation" to "God doesn't choose who will be saved." I have to admit I couldn't really follow the line of reasoning, but that's where I came in. You see, it is God's will that every human being gets saved, so the notion that God would choose some and not others is inconsistent with that fact. Or, to put it in the author's words, "So is it His will to pick and choose while willing that none should perish?" (answered, of course, with Paul's suggested "May it never be!").

So ... how does someone get saved? Well, he says that the Father draws, but doesn't choose. No, if God is to be consistent with His own will, He draws everyone. And He will cause "enough light [to] pass through a dirty window to light a room." Good work, God. Nice try. Too bad it isn't truly effective. Well, for a few, I guess, but not enough to accomplish Your will.

You see, this is where I get stuck. It is a popular view, but I can't seem to make it fit with the character of God. Apparently God's will is to save everyone but, well, He fails. He intends for everyone to come to repentance but is thwarted, apparently by His own creation. And I can only conclude that if it is God's divine will that everyone gets saved and it doesn't happen, then it cannot be truly said that God works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11) or that He does whatever He pleases (Psa 115:3; 135:6). Perhaps Jeremiah was speaking in hyperbole when he said that nothing was too difficult for God (Jer 32:17). Of course, that's problematic since God Himself said it about Himself ... twice (Gen 18:14; Jer 32:27).

So which is it? Is it God's will to save everyone and He is just stymied by His creation? Or is there another possibility here? You tell me. Do I suffer from a view of God that is too big, too grandiose? Is God too Sovereign in my view and, as it turns out, the real God is quite a bit less? Or what? Does God actually say "Not My will, but thine" to His creation? I'm trying to figure this out.


Jeremy D. Troxler said...

Stan, i've not had time to spend in blogging in several months but I have a little time, come to your site and get hit with this gem? Oh well, i'll take a crack at it. Briefly, by considering the whole council of God, i.e. all scripture available, it seems that God created mankind in His image for the same reason He does everything else: so He will be glorified to the fullest. There are many references to the topic of God acting in accordance to His will for His glory so for the sake of brevity and in reference particulary to salvation i'll provide one quote from Romans and then a follow-up from 1 Peter since my recent devotions were from that letter:

"For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified. What are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare His own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God's elect? God is the One who justifies. (Romans 8:29-33)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ: To the temporary residents dispersed in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and set apart by the Spirit for obedience and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ...But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 1:1-2; 2:9-10)

I would say God knows best how God is most glorified and with the magnitude of language referring to the foreknowledge of God and his electing a group to be called out, if we take a full reading of scripture it would be an imposition of ours to state that "God's will is for everyone to be saved," but would be consistent for us to say that God's will is for Himself to be glorified which He brings about in His ways whether we understand them or agree with them or not, that everyone who is saved is the result of Christ's atoning work on the cross. I don't believe the scriptures are in conflict here, if we begin with the understanding that God acts in accordance with His own will for His own glory. How did I miss the mark?

Stan said...

You're welcome, Jeremy. Any time I can rattle your brain after a lengthy break from the blogosphere, let me know. :)

I think it is manifestly clear that God's primary goal is to glorify Himself. Given. Now, there are those who would disagree with you that it is an imposition of ours to say "it would be an imposition of ours to state that 'God's will is for everyone to be saved'" because of 2 Peter 3:9.

Bryan said...

The verses that popped into my head in reading your post (and the other one) were Romans 9:21-24 -
Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-- even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
I mean, even the verse prior to the ones I mentioned talk of Pharaoh and that he (and his hardened heart) were raised up to show God's glory...and I am pretty sure Pharaoh wasn't saved. I guess this would be an example of election – some vessels are made for honorable use, some for dishonorable use. Kind of like the parable of the wheat and the tares from Matthew 13…some are going to be tares while some are wheat. I don't really know where to go with this other than God is our maker and our God, and all He does is for His own glory (which is why we were made). We know from scripture that some will be saved and some cast into the fire.

Jeremy D. Troxler said...


I understand such disagreements, as I have wrestled with this general concept in depth for the last year. This is precisely why I made a point in my previous comment to make note that we must consider the whole council of God.

It would perhaps be useful to note and consider the difference between "not wanting" and "God's will is". I am thinking here of a treatment similar to that of the Old Testament where God, in accordance with His nature, pronounes judgement of destruction on His people and then later, in accordance with His nature, has mercy and stays that judgement. Many who have problems with such accounts do so because of a misunderstanding of God's nature. It is not as if God willed to destroy and then was frustrated. In the same way, here I don't see a problem recognizing God's love for His creation and not wanting any to perish, in accordance with His nature, and yet still calling and electing some as He predestined to do out of an act of Sovereign Will for His glorification.

Moreover, it seems to me that if one holds that 2 Peter 3:9 means that God's will is that every human ever existing on earth since inception will be saved then there are huge problems with major doctrinal issues such as judgement, justice, eternity, missions and evangelism just to name a few. Also it seems obvious, as you have already eluded, that one would have to acknoweldge that the Bible is contradictory as Peter would have to reverse the words in his own letter as he states the following in chapter 1 and verses 8-12:

"For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins. Therefore, brothers, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly supplied to you. Therefore I will always remind you about these things, even though you know them and are established in the truth you have."

Among those who are truly dedicated to pursuing the Lord Jesus and are being sanctified are at different places in the process and this is no easy issue to deal with for any genuinely committed believer. I offer my answer to your question as it seems best to me to honor what God has in fact revealed of Himself in the Word and provides a consistent and noncontradictory explanation, albeit not exhausive and perhaps not agreeable, for a perceived problem that becomes untenable both logically and doctrinally if we try to hold that scripture teaches that God's will is for every human who ever has or ever will exist to be saved. And so I submit my humble response with much fear and trembling for your consideration.

Stan said...

Bryan, if it clearly says that some vessels are made for honorable use and others are not, then it would seem to clearly say that it is not God's will that all none should perish. (That is, I'm agreeing with you but asking the next question.)

Stan said...

Yes, Jeremy, either we need to understand God's Sovereignty as less than absolute, or we need to see 2 Peter 3:9 in a different sense.

I would like to point out (as a hint) that the text does not say that God "is not willing that any person should perish." What it does say is that God is not willing that "any" should perish. And I ask, "Any what?" You can't just stuff "person" in there willy-nilly. I could just as easily stuff "cats" or "trees" with that kind of logic and "prove" that God is not willing that any cats die. You have to use the context of the passage to determine to whom the "any" is referring, and it's not "any person". (Hint: It is about "us-ward" -- "us".)

Thus, it would appear that God desires that all should be saved (1 Tim 2:4), but doesn't will it in the determinative sense. God also desires that all men be holy, but doesn't will it. There is a difference.

Jeremy D. Troxler said...


Like I have never been away. I wrote out an additional paragraph for my previous response dealing precisely with "to what the 'any' and 'all' pertain" but deleted it due to space restrictions. For additional reference, one could review 2 Peter 1:3-10 for Peter himself to describe the "us" and "you" he is talking to/about.

Thanks for the opportunity to renew afresh these issues in our minds today. It has been a blessing. Until next time...

Stan said...

Always a pleasure, Jeremy, and glad to know we're on the same page.