“Our Saviour God”
Most believers consider “free will” and “eternal punishment” to be foundational truth. However, a few consider these same concepts to be foundational error. Of course many among those on both sides of these questions have simply taken a position; most are not aware of the basic issues to be decided. Consequently, confusion is perpetuated, prejudice and ignorance prevail, and these important matters are never resolved. We propose to examine many of the basic issues involved in these questions, such as faith, choice, foreknowledge, voluntary action, judgment and trials. The fulcrum point of our considerations will be God’s achievements through the death and resurrection of Christ. What is the scope of these achievements in our salvation and with respect to His ultimate purpose to become All in all?
“Believing The Evangel”
That our present salvation in Christ and resultant eonian life and glory should be entirely a gracious gift, and therefore a blessing which is only given to those of God’s own choosing, is an altogether unacceptable concept to the great majority of those who are naming the name of the Lord. It is not what they expected the gospel to be, and, in their conceit, many consider it very significant insofar as truth is concerned. Nonetheless, the evangel of our salvation is that Christ died for our sins, was entombed and roused the third day according to the scriptures (1 Cor.15:3,4); that, in God’s reckoning, we were crucified together with Christ, and died together with Him (Rom.6:3,8). The evangel reveals to us that before the disruption of the world, in accord with His will, for the laud of the glory of His grace, God had already chosen us in Christ, to be holy and flawless in His sight, and designated us beforehand for the place of a Son for Him through Christ Jesus (Eph.1:3-6).
“Faith Accords With Grace”
In this era of great withdrawal from the faith, it is nearly always claimed that salvation in Christ is conditional. Those who express interest in meeting God’s supposed requirements are considered “candidates” for salvation. Of course in such an environment words like “free” and “grace” will almost surely be present as well. Many will acknowledge that men cannot come to Christ apart from God’s call and that salvation is of the Lord. But in the presence of a basic representation of salvation as a thing of reward, all claims about “free grace” necessarily become nominal, mere “empty words” through which many are seduced (Eph. 5:6). It is dishonest to attempt to deny this, or to cloud the issues. Yet it is the work of the Adversary to do this very thing, and he does it well (cf 2 Cor.11:3,4; 11:13-15).
“Foreknown And Chosen Of God”
The members of Christ’s body were “foreknown” by God (cp Rom.8:29). God’s holy nation, the people of Israel, are also among those “whom He foreknew” (Rom.11:2). Thus “the purpose of God may be remaining as a choice, not out of acts, but of Him Who is calling” (cf Rom.9:11). We are “called according to the purpose that, whom He foreknew, He designates beforehand, also, to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom.8:29). The thought here is not that He knew something about us, but that He “knew” us. This speaks not of His ignorance of others, but of His special “knowledge” of us.
“Human Love And Freedom”
There is nothing unseemly in the fact that God makes this present world (SYSTEM) and all that is in it (Acts 17:24). And it is certainly not unsuitable that it should be in His counsels to make all that is good, especially our love for Him. This love is still ours to possess and enjoy, though His by achievement: “For His achievement are we, being created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God makes ready beforehand, that we should be walking in them” (Eph.2:10). Though God certainly has not forced us to love Him, or rather merely to pretend to do so, nonetheless, He has introduced a myriad of influences into our lives which He has wisely designed in such a way that they are certain to affect us so that we genuinely and voluntarily love our Subjector. For “the grace of our Lord overwhelms, with faith and love in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim.1:14).
“Judgment And Indignation”
God’s judgments are not in opposition to or a denial of Paul’s evangel, the good news of life’s justifying for all mankind, being constituted just one day through the obedience of Christ (Rom.5:18,19). For God is the Saviour of all mankind, and all will be made alive (1 Tim.4:10; 1 Cor.15:22). The glorious fact is, our Saviour, Christ Jesus, “indeed, abolishes death” (2 Tim.1:10), and God “is vivifying all” (1 Tim.6: 13)! In the midst of speaking of God’s severity in the day of judging, Paul rejoices to interject that even this is “according to” his evangel (Rom.2:16; that is, “in accord with,” or founded upon his evangel; kata, DOWN). The indignation and death which precede the glorious consummation are only temporary and will soon pass; love and life are permanent and will never lapse.
“God Makes Our Trials”
If a furniture maker were to say to us, “Together with the table, I will be making the chairs also”, we would understand just what he meant. He would mean that he would be making both items of furniture, making them together, one as well as the other. Thus it is with God’s making of our trials and their sequels, though He has no need to attempt the actual trying, or “probing” (peirazo, PROBIZE), and so has delegated that work to others who will ultimately benefit from the experience (e.g., Gen.50:20). Therefore, God brings us into trial (cp Matt.6:13; Luke 11:4), yet He Himself does not try us (James 1:13).
“On Thy Account”
We trust this study will make it evident that indeterminism or “free will” is unscriptural, but no more so than fatalism. Yet both these philosophies contain vital truth. Free will ideally recognizes the essential place of those things which are means to an end, and fatalism truly perceives that whatever God has appointed will surely come to pass, according to His own operations. Truth is not made the worse for the company in which we may find it. Neither are we contending for any cold, secular determinism which knows nothing of loving design, wise direction and glorious purpose. We seek only to point the believer in Christ Jesus to the divine disposings, the gracious counsels and operations of his God and Father, that he may know Him, trust Him and rely upon Him:
“Choosing What Is Choice”
When we choose, we choose what is presently choice to us. It is not possible for us to do otherwise, for our choices reflect the true condition of our heart, and manifest our character. Similarly, no one to whom Christ is not yet choice can choose Christ. And Christ cannot be choice to anyone to whom He has not yet been made choice. When He is made choice He becomes choice and so is choice; or to say the same thing, He is chosen. This first act of the believer in which Christ is consciously chosen, is merely a consequence of his new mental preference which has been graciously granted to him by God.
“To God Be All The Glory”
God can never become All in any who remain all in themselves. Yet to become All in all is His very purpose. Therefore, He sees to it that all moves toward this goal, the fulfillment of His purpose, to become, “All in all” (1 Cor.15:28). Whatever occurs has a place to fill toward this end. Thus significance, justification and purpose are given to all; there are no purposeless events in all the universe at any time. This is our theodicy; only thus can we harmonize and vindicate even the temporary existence of evil with the goodness and deity of God. In the Scriptures, human affairs are not left to chance, but are to be accounted for on causal grounds. And since divine causality is what the Scriptures reveal concerning all, we need not apologize for the Word of God, or for our faith in its testimony. Instead, it is in a recognition of these things that we glory in God and in His Son. May we ascribe all the glory to God for all our achievements, and with much thanksgiving, being aware that He is doing all things well, “the One Who is operating all in accord with the counsel of His will” (Eph.1:11).
“Boasting In God’s Will”
God is the Maker of good and the Creator of evil (Isa.45: 7). And, He is just in all His ways, and kindly in all His doings (Psa.145:17). To the illuminated believer, when he learns of God’s wisdom and perceives His purpose, this becomes evident even in those things which are so terrible in themselves. It is not at all sinful for God to create those evils which are men’s sins. Rather than this being wrong, in light of evil’s necessary yet salutary ministry for permanent and universal good, it would be wrong were He to fail to do so.
“Herald The Word”
There are times when the Word is held back rather than heralded. For example, some believers who hold to the teaching of the ultimate salvation of all feel that even though the teaching of the deity of God, His sole subjectorship, is true, its being made known will be more of a hindrance than a help to those to whom it is proclaimed. Although this teaching is considered important, they tend to set it aside. It should not be assumed that there is never a place for such an approach, especially when we consider the dangers attending human pride when antagonized. Morever, the power of tradition is great, and if we would contend against it, we must do so carefully and wisely. Indeed many of us, to our shame, have sometimes been imprudent and ungracious in sharing the Word of God with others. Yet though the importance of the manner in which we present truth must not be minimized, it should not be an excuse for not making the truth known.
“The Word of Christ, Its Grace And Power”
The word of Christ needs to be making its home in us, not merely visiting upon occasion. And it needs to be present in abundance, or “richly,” not in short supply, or “poorly.” How we need to be thinking Christ’s thoughts and to be governed by His motives! “Therefore we also, from the day on which we hear” (Col.1:9a) concerning the realization of “the grace of God in truth” (Col.1:6)—whenever we learn that it has been given to any of our fellow believers—we “do not cease praying for you and requesting that you may be filled full with the realization of His will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col.1:9b). The word of the cross, and its associated revelations, constitute the word of Christ. It is the agency which God uses to effect our practical salvation. He causes us to be influenced by it in ways which result in salvation, in our preservation or deliverance each day according to His own counsels. “The evangel . . . is God’s power for salvation to everyone who is believing” (Rom.1:16). Consequently, we say, Let the word of Christ be making its home in you richly.
“We Rely On The Living God”
In this article we wish to test one of the principle arguments used in defending the doctrine of unending loss as opposed to the teaching that God is the Saviour of all. This is the claim that the words aion and aionios have different and even opposite meanings in different passages of Scripture. There is a likeness between the arguments for “free will” and those for giving aion (“eon,” CV) the idea of endlessness. In both cases, the actual issue, that which is most pertinent and important, is unrecognized. The entire case for everlasting punishment is built on faulty arguments. Definite, intrinsic meanings are denied to Scriptural terms. The ideas of certain good and wise men are made decisive when apparently contradictory passages such as Matthew 25:46 and Romans 5:18 are considered. But perhaps most dangerous of all, there is a clear tendency to deny to God the achievements through the work of Christ that He has claimed. He is the reliable, the living, the saving God, Who cannot fail to achieve His purpose.
“The Living God And The Eons”
In the providence of God, concerning all terms of consequence, the sacred writings provide their own internal evidence which establishes the significance of their vocabulary terms and grammatical forms. We have been asked to give a simple explanation concerning the word “eon.” Basically, an eon (or age) is simply a period of time; in most cases, it is used of a very long period of time. Being a period, it has a beginning and an end. “Eonian” simply means “of or pertaining to, the eons [or eon].” The meaning of “eon” and “eonian” never change, even though they are sometimes used in different senses and in reference to more than one subject. Aionios never means “age-lasting, “and so should not be translated thus, even though some of its occurrences are in accord with this thought (others are not, only making reference to a portion of an eon).
“Choice And Deity”
Free will is a hallmark of orthodoxy. It is believed not only that it is true, but that it is essential, upright and noble. Many even claim that it is the chief capacity distinguishing man from beast. Consequently, its proponents often become filled with “righteous indignation” at the least suggestion of its untenability. They earnestly desire the concept to be true; and, that the scriptures might be fulfilled, it has long been certain that they will defer to their own desires, instead of the word of God (2 Tim.3:1-8; 4:3,4). They seek to discover this idea in the Scriptures, and are confident that they have done so in many places. But their sedulous efforts are in vain, for, as with the Trinity, it is nowhere expressed, frequently disproved, and only falsely inferred.
“His Achievement Are We”
Our salvation is not out of ourselves. We do not possess it because we have done this or that in order to acquire it. Consequently, boasting is debarred (Rom.3:27). This is because we are God’s achievement. “For His achievement are we” (Eph.2: 10a). We are saved because we are God’s achievement. It is just that simple and this is fully the truth. The word “achievement,” is poiêma (DO-effect). We are the product of God’s doings. It is only unbelief that will seek to modify this or to explain it away. This unbelief is due to the deceptive influences of the worldly philosophy known as free will. We do not care for the fact that we ourselves, who effect much evil and some good, are the product of God’s own doings.
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