A CRITICAL LOOK AT ROMANS NINE
whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:.... beloved of God, called
to be saints: (Rom 9:)
Churches rise and fall according to the doctrine they adhere to. Someone makes a statement hundreds of years ago, and regardless of the evidence piled up against that statement, it stands as law. And law, as we know, can mot be violated. It seems to me Jesus had something to say about this attitude. Let me see now. Oh yes, I remember, He said:
1Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, 2Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. 3But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?........ 7Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Mat 15:)
The people Jesus was talking to didn't seem to get the message. So later, when talking to these same people, He added a bit of ummph to His statement. See if you can capture Jesus' attitude though his sweet and delicate comments:
13But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. 14Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. 15Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. 16Woe unto you, ye blind guides,........
I'll leave off here. I think you get my drift. But did you catch the meaning of Jesus Words? He has such a way of being subtle at times, and you have to listen very carefully for what He's actually saying. Unfortunately, it appears, not many people have the ability to listen that closely, because they follow in the footsteps of these men being spoken to by Jesus. If you'd like to hear more of this sweet-talk, you can read all about it in the 23rd chapter of Matthew. For myself, my ears are burning already.
Back to our story:
1Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,.... 6Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 7To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. (Rom 8:)
As any theologian worth his salt will tell you, to understand a passage of Scripture you first have to consider who the passage (letter in this case) is written to. Is Paul talking to unbelievers? Is he talking to the Jews? No, we read:
6Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 7To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:
Paul it talking to everyone in Rome. But he defines his statement so that it's directed to certain people in Rome, excluding the unbelievers, and even further he says: the called of Jesus Christ. And it's here we begin dealing with the sticky part. Who are the called?
That your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. The called in this case are not the thousands who lived in Rome at the time, but those whose faith, which we know is required to be among the saved, is so strong that it's known everywhere. Elsewhere, in other sources, we read that their faith led them to the lions den for the pleasure of those not a part of the Church of Rome.
28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE. 29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Rom 8:)
Many people read this passage to say that some people are called to salvation, and others not. But to take this position, we also have to cancel out a great many other verses that clearly deny this concept. The Bible does not conflict with itself. When there's conflict, that conflict is in our reasoning, not in the Word of God.
Notice the use of the phrase "who are called for His purposes." We like to pick and choose what we want to apply to us, and reject those elements that go against our grain. Who are those chosen for God's purposes? The Apostles to be sure, and certainly Moses, David, and the prophets of old. But how about you and me? If we've been chosen for God's purpose we will have no doubt about it because God will place His heavy hand on us and make sure we do nothing but His will. If this isn't happening in your life, then the chances are you're not one being spoken of here.
Again, in each of these segments, these steps toward becoming in the likeness of Christ, there's a stipulation. "Whom" He chose, etc. Am I one of the whom he's referring to? Maybe, then again, maybe not.
1Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
Paul places himself in the very same category as those he's talking to: He's been called, and separated for the Lord's purposes. Not for his own purposes, but for the Lord's.
So again, who are the called?
13But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Mat 9:)
Jesus came to call who? He didn't come for the righteous, but for sinners. In my book, He came for me. But if I was to stand on this verse alone, I'd be standing on mighty thin ice. The Bible tells us a truth is known according the testimony of two or three witnesses. We have one feeble witness. Let's see if we can "call" up any more:
1And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, 2The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, 3And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. (Mat 22:)
Jesus was sent to all the Jews to the event the which they had God had been preparing for over a thousand year, people specially selected to be the ones to receive the Son of God: their Redeemer. But these people denied and rejected the One sent for them. Keep this in mind, it will be important when we get to Romans.
Is there any evidence to be had that might indicate that it's the Jews who were the "called," the "elect of God" originally?
23But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 24But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Mat 15:)
5These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Mat 10:)
44And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. 45But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. 46Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:)
To the Jews were given the promise. But the Jews, those who were the most religious, the most knowledgeable in the ways of the Lord, and the ones most likely to be the ones to recognize their Messiah - rejected Him and missed Him because of their dedication to their doctrines and traditions. Sound familiar to you at all?
In the passage above we read where Jesus called the Samaritan woman a "dog." Dogs were anyone who was not a Jew. Now we read that Paul turned away from his own people, and delivered the message intended for them to the "dogs." These dogs would be those along the highways and the byways that the Master sent His servants to with an invitation to the Lord's supper.
3And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. 4For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. (Isaiah 45:)
Take note that God called Israel, the Jews, His "Elect." And we've just been reading where those He called His elect were cast out, and He, God, turned to those He had rebuffed in the past, that meaning us, you and me.
Is there another example of someone especially chosen to be one of the elect was cast to the wayside? I think so, but first some groundwork has to be laid. Are the Apostles, the inner circle of disciples that followed Jesus for three years part of God's "elect"? If so, then we have:
1These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: 2As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as MANY AS THOU HAST GIVEN HIM. 3And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:)
Jesus says eternal life is for all those who the Father has given Him. Is that the way you read the above passage? Now we have this:
11And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name THOSE WHOM THOU HAST GIVEN ME, that they may be one, as we are. 12While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, BUT the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. (John 17:)
The twelve were given to the Father (it wasn't their choice to follow Jesus). And none were "snatched out of the Father's hand" but one. And this "one" had been a close follower of our Lord, even to doing what He did such as casting out demons and raising the dead. We have this to top off the scenario:
21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22MANY will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Mat 7:)
Does this scenario fit Judas by any chance? If so, then what does this say for being one of the "elect," the "chosen??
4Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. 5But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: 6And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. 7But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. 9Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. 10So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. (Mat 22:)
Again, this is the call, which went out to everyone, the bad and the good. Who was cast out? It was the "called," the "elect of God" that was cast out. Who was it Jesus spent all His time with, and through the Beatitudes and other sermons said they will inherit the promise? Was it the Jews? No, it was the rabble outside the city, considered not good enough to even wipe one's feet on Jesus "called." It was the "whosoever will" that were chosen, not those religious Jews who had been given "the call."
23And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. 25For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? (Luke 9:)
We again return to the whosoever will. And Here Jesus is telling the people that whosoever will may come to Him. But He makes a stipulation, one that is lost in the sermons of today. Those who desire to follow Jesus must be willing to lay down their life for Him, and that means daily folks, not only if the need happens to present itself fifty years down the road. Being part of the whosoever will carries with it a cost. And that cost is everything.
49And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. (Mat 12:)
Again Jesus is defining His concept of whosoever will. And we find that those who do the will of the Father (not those who merely take a bath and say "I do"), are a part of the family of God.
16I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. 17And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Rev 22:)
20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 21To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 22He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Rev 3:)
How are your ears? Are you getting the message? Have you figured out who the called are? How about the elect?
Just to be on the safe side, let's try one more passage of Scripture:
35And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 36But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. 37All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out 38For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing,....
If we stop at this point, which many of the churches do, then it appears as if the only ones who are to be saved are those given to Jesus, as were the twelve. Now, let's see what the preacher is holding behind his back, out of our sight, shall we?
....but should raise it up again at the last day. 40And this is the will of him that sent me, that EVERY ONE WHICH SEETH THE SON, AND BELIEVETH ON HIM, MAY HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE: AND I WILL RAISE HIM UP AT THE LAST DAY (John 6:)
Now we're included. If the Jews had accepted their Messiah, we would be lost without hope, even if we were far more loving of, and loyal to God than the Jews could ever be. But their rejection of Him gave us an open door to their promise.
We, from a small child, are taught to hear and see only what is put in front of us, and to ignore our own reasoning. It's this kind of rationale that causes societies of like-minded people to exist and flourish, and to shift with the tide of fashion. It's our job to separate ourself from this mind set and open our mind to the Holy Spirit.
1I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 4Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; 5Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
We're now covering the 9th chapter of Romans, the center piece of this article. Here we find Paul reiterating what was said in the beginning, when the groundwork for this study was being laid. Paul is concerned about his own people, the ones Jesus came for in the first place, but had to reject because they rejected Him (as well as rejecting Paul and the Gospel of the Kingdom).
6Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. 9For this is the word of promise,
The Church is Israel, through the Son, that is, by being sons of God. Jesus is the Son of God by birth, having the Holy Spirit within Him from the womb. You and I receive the Spirit of God at our second birth, that is, when we're born again. It's at this time we become a part of the family of God. And it's at this time we're to be doing the work of God and abandoning our own work, our own purposes. A person who has been in the military in combat situations understands this concept (as I have no doubt would a policeman or a firefighter). They have their purpose in mind, and are willing (and expected to) put their own safety aside and dedicate themselves to their job, their purpose.
At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. 10And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
10The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Rev 4:)
We somehow have come to the belief that God created us for our purpose. The fact that we feel the world revolves around us, and that the churches that are supposed to teach us the ways of God, are confirming our distorted view of reality doesn't help us to understand the truth. We are God's invention. We are at His mercy in the same way a chicken is at the mercy of the farmer that owns it. The chicken is not in a position to argue with the farmer. That can only lead to an early chicken dinner for the farmer.
14What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. 17For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 19Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
"Why is God doing this to me?" "Why is the world in such a mess?" "Is there a God up there or not? If God was real, He would do something about the evils of this world and make things good for me, like I deserve."
We try to reason with God, to have Him explain His every move to us. The fact is, God has explained everything to us, in His Word. We just refuse to read what He has given us, and when we do skim the words, we do so with the intent of finding the piece of a verse here and there that will make the Bible say what we want it to say, which is how wonderful we are. God made it clear from the very first part of the very first book of the Bible, that we are dirt. We only have value if we produce, such as the chicken as afore mentioned. If the chicken stops producing eggs for breakfast, it becomes the main dish for supper. Jesus used the image of a grape vine to explain this. If the branch refuses to produce, or it ceases to produce, it become firewood. How much clearer does God have to be before we get the picture?
20Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Do we have free will? Ask any pastor if we have free will, what will you likely receive as a reply?
10And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. 11And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? 12Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say. 13And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. 14And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses. (Ex 4:)
4Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. 6Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. 7But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak (Jer 1:)
3And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven,.....14So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me. (Ezek 8&3)
3And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. (Job 2:)
1Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. 3But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, (Jonah 1:)
After you've heard what your pastor has to say about free will, then ask these men what they think of the concept. Then enter any hospital where a person is dying of a dreaded disease, and hear what they have to say about free will. Predestination for all is a myth, as is free will, beyond the "whosoever will." And I'm here to tell you, I'm very thankful that I don't have free will. My life has been one of running headlong blindfolded toward open sewer man holes, and just when I reach my appointed destiny, someone either knocks me off course, or covers up the hole before I arrive. We say God all powerful, that He knows the number of hairs on our head, and that He's aware of every sparrow that falls to the ground. Then we turn around and say He isn't in control of this world, and that we create our own destiny (free will).
Is there predestination? Yes, for some. Is there free will? Yes, for many. But that distinction can't be comprehended or determined by our finite minds.
(The verses here were deleted since they're not pertinent to the subject at hand.)
30What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 31But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 32Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; 33As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
God would lay a stumblingstone in front of people, especially His own people? Is that the God you've been taught to serve? Is it God who's in the wrong? Or is it our expectations of God that are askew?
33O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? (Rom 11:)
There's an old expression that I grew up under. When I'm told to jump, the only question I'm allowed, is "how high?" Mine is not to question, but to do. This is especially true of those who've been baptized into the family of God. We think our bath causes us to be immune to sin, or above the consequences of sin. This is far from true, and in fact is the converse of truth. We are now under the law, the Spiritual law of grace and liberty; where in our unconverted state we were under a carnal nature, and as such expected to sin because we were sinners. And as sinners, we were doomed to suffer Adam's fate, which was returning to the dust we were created of. If we've taken on the Spirit of God, we fall into another realm, the realm of the Spiritual, and our fate is that of the Spirit, not dust (a subject much to involved for this study on predestination).
20Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. (Ezek 3:)
Not only do we have God placing a stumblingstone in the way of people, and that intentionally, but we have the one God chooses as a watchman suffering consequences if he doesn't warn a person of their destiny. I know I've been chosen to be a watchman on the wall (as we all are). No one listens to me yell out the warning, but I continue to yell nonetheless.
21Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will lay stumblingblocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them; the neighbour and his friend shall perish. (Jer 6:)
6Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. (1Peter 2:)
Take note that not only was Jesus intended to be a stumblingstone, but it's the disobedient who will stumble. Over and over we read that if we want to hear the Word, and understand the Word, that we have to do what the Word says we're to do. We're not to be hearers of the Word only, but doers of the Word.
9But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. (1Cor 8:)
God places stumblingstones, we're to avoid being a stone of stumbling ourselves. In fact as we read in Ezekiel, we're to be a watchman, and warn others of the stumblingstone, that is, the sin or problem that will cause them to fall.
33O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? (Rom 11:)
I certainly don't know the mind of our Lord. But the more I learn, the more I realize that I knew nothing about the ways of God when I thought I knew it all, because I knew a lot those behind the pulpit were telling me.
22What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.
16So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. 17For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 19Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
The blind leading the blind. And who is blinder than a blind man who thinks he's the only one with good vision?
Does God place a stumblingstone in front of people? According theologians, He doesn't. Nor does God harden hearts. Yet we have this:
21And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go. (Ex 4:)
12For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods. 13And he hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. (Ex 7:)
How many times have you read this passage, or heard it preached, and never heard or seen a whisker of God hardening Pharaoh's heart? Yet in that same episode, the Bible tells us of 19 times Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and 15 of those times it was God who hardened his heart. Here's another blind alley those in the pews have been led to follow:
8For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from HIS OLD SINS. 10Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: (2Peter 1:)
23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for THE REMISSION OF SINS THAT ARE PAST, through the forbearance of God; (Rom 3:)
What of our future, and our present sins, those since our initial baptism? Are they covered as well? According to just about every sermon I've heard, they are. But what if I've been told wrong? What happens to my salvation? Isn't it a subject worth looking into? Yet I see less effort expended on seeking the truth of salvation than is spent on deciding which TV program to watch. Is there something wrong with this picture?
14I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:)
There's a lot of people waiting to be picked up by a fluffy, white cloud to rescue then from the evil (trouble) that is going to come on this earth. What these people don't realize, and desire to remain blind to, is that it's the Church that's the target of the Tribulation, just as it's been since the creation of the Church beginning with Moses. And it's God who is doing the damage to the earth, not waiting to pick His unfaithful bride up and carry her away to Never-Never Land.
While the people pray to be taken out of this world, Jesus is very clear in His prayer that He desire they not be taken out of this world. I wonder who's prayer carries the most weight with the Father?
The rapture of the church is a wholly misunderstood concept from its foundation upward. But the prevailing view of a pre-trib rapture that's so popular in our culture seems to be the predominant one. This can be expected since we tend to want to feather our own nest at any expense, and we want God to do the feathering. This concept of the pre-trib rapture is understandable under these circumstances, but why would any person a degree of common sense believe such a wild and poorly-founded view? Here's what I've heard two people who are strongly associated with their church say when commenting on the rapture: "I believe in the rapture because I want to believe in it. I don't want to be here when the trouble starts." Has anyone ever heard of "itchy ears"?
5And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: 6Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. (Ezek 9:)
17For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1Peter 4:)
The Church is the bull's eye of the target God is aiming His Tribulation at. And as we see, Peter knows this all too well. And he makes no bones about telling us so point-blank. Add his statement to the one in Ezekiel, and we see how serious God is about His bride's unfaithfulness and nonchalant attitude about her marriage.
I find I've drifted past the subject of this study, that being the concept that some are destined to be saved, and others doomed to hell, and this from no fault or effort on the part of the party concerned. Once I laid what I consider to be the groundwork for the study, I found no substance with which to deal with.
A large part of the problem I'm finding is how the churches and the theologians have misconstrued and twisted so many passages, causing the Bible to appear all the world like a ball of yarn a kitten has been playing with. To try an unwind the yarn, and put it back as it should be, is near impossible. Yet I feel it's my calling to do just that. But in doing so, my efforts take me hither and yon, so it seems as if I have no path to follow. And in a sense, this is true. I'm following many years of off-kilter road maps, trying to assemble them in such a way that others can see what I'm saying. How much easier it would be for me if I could just snatch a verse or two and spout off 15 to 30 minutes of rhetoric, taking my listeners to places they have no place being, and that has nothing to do with God or His purposes for us.
In conclusion I'd like to interject a question that has puzzled me for many years. Those in who rest their eternal confidence on this chapter of Romans, believing that there are those called, who are destined for Glory because of the teaching of their church, as described above: How can you be certain that you are one chosen for Heaven, and not on the list to be doomed to that other place, in spite of all your wonderful works: Is it because you belong to a certain church? Does that sound right to you? Isn't such thinking rather "cultish"? And what are we told will be the destiny of those of the cults? And what if those in the cults are on the list for Glory? According to this thinking it matters not what they do, what they believe, or what church they attend, their destiny is sealed from time eternal, just as yours is.
In my opinion this entire concept of predestination has to be placed back on the mechanic's lift and given a thorough inspection and overhaul.
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