In Mark Twain’ classic work Huckleberry Finn, Twain has Huckleberry Finn refer to a perplexing Calvinist sermon he once heard on "preforeordestination." Twain meant to spoof the Calvinists and Bible’s doctrine of predestination. Nevertheless, he does point out well the confusion that surrounds the doctrine.
Unlike Huck Finn though, the confusion surrounding the doctrine is not because it is involves obscure jargon or because it is beyond the comprehension of the average person. The confusion is mainly due to the failure to understand the Bible’s teaching on the matter.
The concept of predestination is rather simple. When the Bible speaks of predestination, it has to do with God’s sovereignty over the events of the world, and his determining in advance what will take place.
Isaiah 14:24 points this out. It says that God has a plan, and all the events of history unfold according to that plan. History then is nothing more than the unraveling of that which God decreed long before the world began. For instance, we may say that God predestined creation because before he created it, he had to decide to do it.
In like fashion we can talk of every other event that has ever occurred. We admit that there is a mystery when it comes to the existence and manifestation of evil. To be sure, God cannot make anyone sin. To do so would go against his nature. Nevertheless, evil is encapsulated in his ordination of all things. Even though he does not effect sin, he does somehow render it certain. As a result, Peter in his Pentecost sermon could say, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23) It is a mystery indeed, but one that leads to stand in awe of His infinite greatness.
While the doctrine of predestination does involve the foreordination of general events in creation, the Bible’s focus is much more narrowly defined. Predestination, Biblically speaking, deals with God’s work of redemption. Specifically stated, predestination deals with God determining beforehand those he will save (Election) and those he will damn (Reprobation).
While all Christians affirm the fact that election (or predestination) is taught in Scripture, a question arises as to the basis of election. Some, who are called Arminians, argue that God elects on the basis of foreseen faith. They would say that at the beginning of time God looked down the halls of history and chose all who, despite being sinners, would exercise faith in Christ.
Others, called Calvinists, argue that God elects not on the basis of anything in man, but on the basis of His own good pleasure. These say that man, being dead in his trespasses and sins, is not in himself able to exercise faith in Christ. Therefore, God must not only determine who will be saved, but also give the power to believe to those individuals.
When one examines the Scriptural data one may see clearly that the latter of these views is confirmed. Scripture speaks of man as “dead in his trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) and unable to come to Christ unless the Father draw him (Jn. 6:44). Due to his rebellious spirit he is unable in and of himself to exercise faith (Jer. 17:9). Therefore God must graciously give him a new heart so that he may desire Christ (Ezk. 36:26). The Scripture also speaks of Christ laying down his life for those he particularly owns (Jn. 10:15). (See also Deut. 7:6-8; Matt. 22:14; Rom.8:28; 11:5)
Perhaps the classic text on election is Romans 9:15-16. Paul begins by quoting God’s words from the Old Testament, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” He then concludes, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy."
The Arminian position must be rejected on the basis of this Scripture because it espouses human will and exertion. If God elects on the basis of man’s ability to exercise faith, then God no longer has a choice in salvation. He is obligated to show this mercy to this person because they have been the active agent in believing. On the other hand, the Calvinist says that God is by no means obligated so show mercy to anyone. His choice to save comes purely from His good will and desire to show compassion.
If then some are chosen to salvation, it is evident that some are not. To determine to save some, necessarily implies he determined not to save others. As Jude 4 says, some are “destined for condemnation.” This teaching, which is also called reprobation, may be found in many other Scriptures (Matt 11:25-26; Rom. 9:13-23; 11:7; I Pet. 2:8, to name a few).
Though the brevity of this piece prohibits the possibility of considering any objections to the doctrine of predestination and the comfort that it affords, one can at least see that is a simple doctrine. Most of all, one can see that it is a doctrine rooted in Holy Scripture, and therefore, deserves our reverent exploration and acceptance.
What exactly happens when you have the Lord's Supper?
Most think that the celebration of Communion is just a memorial. That is to say, it is a time where you simply remember what Christ did on the Cross. However, such a view empties the word communion of any meaning. The truth is we do much more than remember and have a cognitive experience at the Table. We really do commune with Christ. Consider the following:
2. By faith we feed upon Christ
In John 6 Jesus expresses that he is the bread of life and that we must “eat his flesh and drink his blood.” While this passage was given before the institution of the Lord’s Supper, it is certainly informative of what happens in the Supper. Jesus expresses how eating and drinking go together with faith, something that is very much part and parcel of the Table communion. Note the following:
a) In verse 56 Jesus says, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” This abiding is talking about our union and communion with Christ. When we partake of the elements in the Lord’s Supper we are granted communion with Christ by the Holy Spirit. Just as the physical elements enter our system and become one with us through the digestion process, Christ enters our system. He indwells us in order to supply us with the energy to live for him in this world (Letham).
b) In verse 57 Jesus introduces a Trinitarian nuance. "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me." Christ lives because of the Father. In parallel to this Jesus says we live because we feed upon him. In the Supper the Spirit brings Christ to us that our faith may savor him.
3. Communion is a participation in the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16-17).
The word Paul uses in this passage means to commune or fellowship with. The language is full of that robust union with Christ imagery. He thus expresses that there is a real fellowship that one experiences while at the table of the Lord. Christ is brought to us and we fellowship with him by means of the Spirit's working in our hearts.
In a similar fashion, Paul puts his discussion of the Lord’s Table in contrast to the pagan feasts. He says that one has fellowship with demons in the Gentile sacrificial feasts (1 Cor. 10:20-21). The reality that there is communion with demons when one participates in these pagan feasts is parallel to the communion one has with Christ in the Supper. Both are spiritual realities that actually occur.
4. The implication of unworthy partaking
Paul says that some of the Corinthians were partaking of the meal in an unworthy manner (1 Cor. 11:29-30). Those who were unworthy partakers had a curse applied to them. The Holy Spirit actually caused some of them to experience physical ailments, even death! It is as if the elements had become a poison!
If this is true for those who partake in an unworthy manner, then there must also be a parallel blessing that should accompany it for those who partake in a worthy manner. This spiritual advantage is assumed in the passage.
This communion with Christ that the Scripture emphasizes gives us great reason to come to the table with wide expectation and with deep reverence. We might not "feel" anything different or notice the presence of Christ, but the truth is very much real. Christ draws near spiritually to feed, nurture, and commune with us.
Robert Letham, The Lord's Supper: Eternal Word in Broken Bread.
[The following was written by Craig Redmond, a fellow brother at Providence church, for the Confession of Faith. Providence will be looking at the attributes of God during this part of the service.]
According to A. W. Pink, "Unfaithfulness is one of the most outstanding sins of these evil days. In the business world, a man's word is, with exceedingly rare exceptions, no longer his bond. In the social world, marital infidelity abounds on every hand, the sacred bonds of wedlock being broken with as little regard as the discarding of an old garment... we cannot claim complete immunity from this fearful sin. In how many ways have we been unfaithful to Christ, and to the light and privileges which God has entrusted to us! How refreshing, then, how unspeakably blessed, to lift our eyes above this scene of ruin, and behold one who IS faithful - faithful in all things, faithful at all times."
Paul Washer, whose teaching and preaching I strongly urge you to look into if you aren't familiar with him, describes God's faithfulness this way: "When the word faithful is used with regard to God, it means that He is worthy of absolute trust, and that His people can depend upon Him without doubt or reservation. It is important to understand that God is faithful, not because He does everything that His people desire, but because He does everything that He has promised. Not one word of all the words that the Lord has spoken has failed. God is faithful to fulfill every promise and to carry out every decree."
Fortunately, we do indeed have a God who is faithful in all things, but let's not just take man's word on that matter, though. Let's look at what just a small sample of verses say about God's faithfulness.
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
O LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
In recent years the practice of cohabitation has become increasingly common. Studies have suggested that 70% of couples today live together before they get married. This statistic does not even include the vast numbers who move in with each other but never marry.
This is radically different from the way it was just a few decades ago. It used to be that cohabitation was a great scandal in most people's eyes. Today though, it has lost much of its stigma and is virtually normalized.
Even the word "cohabitation" demonstrates the normalcy of the practice. In years past it was known as "living in sin." Then it came to be known as "shacking up." This was still a derisive term, but it was a movement away from the more basic notion of it being an offense against the law of God. Today cohabitation is the preferred term for couples who live together. It is a word that undoubtedly has a much more acceptable tone to it as it is sanitized of any real negativity.
Nevertheless, there continues to be the nagging echo of olden times that living together outside the bonds of marriage is not right. Though most would no doubt agree that it was taboo in the past, they probably not be able to say why this was so.
The simple answer is this: God said so. We could site numerous sociological reasons why living with someone outside the bonds of marriage is a bad idea. Studies show that it is a disastrous thing, including child molestation, economic upheaval, emotional strain, as well as divorce (if marriage is pursued). However, all these are but symptoms of the greater reality: God has declared that it should not be so.
In Hebrews 13:4 it says, "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous." This verse gives the two main reasons why cohabitation is unlawful. For one, cohabitation is for the purpose of indulging in sexual immorality. Some might posit other motives for sharing a living space. Finances is perhaps the one that most people will site. However, if the couple is honest they will admit that a shared bed and ease of fornication is the main reason for their arrangement.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, cohabitation is a dishonor to God's institution of marriage. People who live together do not give the rite of marriage its proper esteem mainly because they do not give proper esteem to each other. If they did, they would be married!
Think about it this way: When a couple lives together they are basically saying, "I don't care about you enough to commit to a life long loving relationship with you. I just want to have sex with you as long as I can. If things get rough or if someone better comes along, we can have an easy exit plan."
With such self interest at the base of a relationship, one wonders why you would want to even attempt it.
To honor marriage is to honor the one you marry. It is to love them enough to commit yourself to them through all circumstances (good or bad) till death do you part. This was God's original design, and it is the practice that couples are called to embrace.
Cohabitation may be countenanced by the broader culture, but that does not make it right. God determines what is right and what is wrong, and our living arrangements need to be based on His standard.
This is why couples who intend on living together need to take heed to this and do what is right in the eyes of God. They need to remain apart (and remain sexually pure altogether), until they have been properly wedded.
Those who have been living together need to remedy their ways as well. They need to confess to God that they have been living in sin and then seek to correct it. It may mean calling a pastor and asking if he would be willing to marry you at the earliest possible date. Or it may mean ceasing the relationship altogether and parting ways (after all, we don't want to add divorce to the string of sins that have already been committed if there isn't a possibility of a lasting relationship).
"It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife." Proverbs 21:9
It is admitted that true men are basically extinct. We are left with the man-boys who know nothing of responsibility, honor, or integrity. Due to this occurrence, women need to understand their role in dealing with these remnants of maleness.
Ladies, you are placed in a position where you are called upon to do more. Where he abdicates, you must fill the gap. At the same time, you must demonstrate a greater dose of virtue. The man-boy needs you if he will amount to anything.
You will be tempted to snarl. Nagging and haranguing will be a vice that becomes almost second nature because there is so much he fails to do. But make every effort not to be the quarrelsome wife mentioned in the proverb. Provoking him in such a way will only drive him further away.
The rooftop was basically the man-cave of the ancient times. It was a place to go to get away from the constant harassment he would take from his spouse.
In sum, if you continuously browbeat him for playing his video games rather than doing the dishes, he will retreat further into his video games as a form of escapism. If you gripe at him for his "do-nothing-ness" (no matter how much he deserves it), he will do more nothing-ness because he wishes to escape from you. Ultimately, such an attitude will force a divorce, the ultimate escapism.
While your inclination will be to do otherwise, make every effort to encourage him on a regular basis. Even though he deserves a ripe slap in the face (or a hefty kick in the backside), seek to find some vestige of manliness in him to praise. It may be that your humility and tenderness will evoke what the sharper tones could not. Perhaps, by God's grace, the small ember of manhood can be kindled by the virtues of your femininity.
If he will be won to Christ and his duty before Him, it will be because you have been gentle and patient. It will be because you have sought to be gentle and kind.
“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”
On this the 13th anniversary of our marriage I wish to thank-you for your constant faith and abiding love. You have been my unwavering help and true friend, bringing me great joy and happiness through all our days.
I am blessed for having such a crown and am grateful that this treasure from the Lord was bestowed upon me so early in life.
I take great pleasure in your exemplary devotion, tender affection, and willing submission. Your service, support, and cheer have brought me unbroken delight.
With my whole heart I pledge again my vow of love and loyalty. I renew my oath to love and cherish you, honor and serve you, protect and care for you, even as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
I affirm to you my unremitting affections and utmost devotion, and am without hesitation in doing so. For I am so knit to you that I cannot do otherwise.
With great affection,
Your loving and grateful husband
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Our group on the State House steps.
A hand full of Providence church members went down to Columbus for the recent Heartbeat Bill rally. Some estimate that there were 300-500 in attendance. It was a great time to support the last push for life before the senate breaks for the summer. It was even better to enjoy the fellowship of my Providence brethren during the trip.
The speakers did a fine job in their presentations too. Those who organized the event did an excellent job of picking the speakers and moving the event along.
"Come out from among her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues."
I find these to be some of the most stunning, yet neglected words of Scripture.
John pleads with souls to separate themselves from the whoring, apostate church that they might have salvation. Their continuation in that communion puts them in a double danger: They will be entangled in the gross sins associated with the false church and they will experience the temporal, and perhaps eternal, judgments that God inflicts upon her.
The point is easy to recognize: If you side with those who set themselves against Christ, gravity will have its way. You will be pulled in the direction of darkness. Then, when the damns of God's anger break, you will find yourself being given over to the miseries that it brings.
As the mainline denominations of today continue to tank and churches openly affirm their disregard for the principles of Christ, there is need for this call to be heeded. Christian people must leave churches that do not recognized the headship of Christ.
If a church condones homosexuality or abortion, waffles on the exclusivity of Christ for salvation, or continually neglects to preach the pure gospel, then that church no longer is Christian. It has capitulated to the world and committed fornication with it. It is incumbent upon you to leave it and have no more fellowship with that institution.
This is true for individual churches which are a part of wayward denominations. The fight you put up is admirable. Your love for those people and the heritage associated with it is honorable. However, you must cut those ties for the sake of purity and peace. To fail to sever the relationship is to make a god out of your denomination and put yourself and the righteous souls with you in great peril.
I know you think that it is pious to continue and try to win souls, but this is a false premise. True piety is following Christ's behest. Disobedience to these words is not heroism. It is rebellion.
Remember, bad company corrupts good morals. You are not immune to their ways. Can a man remain free from the stench of dung if he lives in a barn? No matter what he does. No matter how hard he tries to steer clear of the stalls, he will eventually wreak of the mess.
Dear friend, you would never join yourself to a fellowship which affirms the legitimacy of rape. You would be aghast at the thing. But you now ascribe to a fellowship that approves of a man's lust for another man! By your affiliation you give approval to the act!
Your complacency in removing yourself shows how you have already been sucked in to the ways of darkness. Evil has already begun to charm you. If you do not flee, you will find that the coals of brimestone will be heaped upon your head.
Some will say, "I am safe. For I am in an independent church. We have no denominational ties!" But oh, how easily you can fool yourself. Do you think that a church without any Christian accountability is free from Satan's grip?
There are many an independent church that like this freedom. They are all the more free to tickle men's ears. It behooves you to listen well. Listen to what is not said in the pulpit. Do you hear the silence? There is no gospel there. No one is told to repent. Instead there is fun. Silliness and frivolity abound.
Where is the thunder of the law? Where is the consolation of Christ in the gospel? It is absent! For Christ is not there!
Run then from this whore! Come out from her and be separate. Do not be mesmerized by her enchantments. The Song of the Siren will lead only to your destruction.
Christ says plainly, "My sheep hear my voice and follow me." If you are one of his sheep, then may your ears be open. Turn away from the brothel of unbelief and enter a true fold of Christ.
The Calvinist says that he is wicked and utterly depraved. If his salvation were up to him he would never attain it, let alone persevere in it.
The Arminian says he is desperately sick, but not altogether dead in sin. He has "a goodness" deep down--a power to the contrary, so to speak, whereby he can reach up and grab hold of Christ in faith. Yet by his sin he can can let go of God and fall from his state of salvation.
Interesting how the Calvinist has the stronger view of sin, yet is the one who believes that sin cannot separate him from the love of God in Christ.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.