Language and Original Intent

In reference to this post I knew I would receive the following type of comment:

How do you explain these scriptures?

Isaiah 42:1; 45:4; 65:9, 22; Matt 24:22, 24, 31; Romans 9:11; 11:5, 7, 28; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thess 1:4; 1 Tim 5:21; 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1-2; 2:6; 5:13; 2 Peter 1:10; 2 John 1:1, 13.

In this depressing era of feel-good Christianity, eg Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, amateur bible students and scholars alike have their hands full in countering misleading and false theology as well as mislead Christians.

The biggest stumbling block within Reformed Theology is its dogmatic adherence to the concept of Election. I’m not sure why as those who are attracted to such theology are quite astute in their knowledge of Scripture, and, by way of relation, are generally well-read, having a good knowledge of history.

Duffield & Cleave [Foundations of Pentecostal Theology, p. 206] comment on Election, saying

It has sometimes been presented in such a[n]…manner as to make it sound as though those who are elected will certainly be saved, regardless of their response to the Gospel, and their manner of living. Contrarily, those who are chosen to be lost are said to perish eternally, regardless of any endeavor to come to God through faith in Christ.

This…position is based on the so-called doctines of “unconditional election” – the elect are chosen completely apart from any repentance and faith on their part; and “limited atonement” – that Christ did not die for all Mankind, but only for those whom He chose. It is also based on the teaching that God’s general call to all men to come to Christ is not a “sincere call” – that He only “efficiently calls” (intending to bring to pass) those whom he has previously elected for salvation. It has been shown from the Scripture…that Christ did die for all Mankind and that He bids all who labor and are heavy laden to come unto Him.

Of course, anyone who takes a fleeting look at Scripture in the English language might agree with Reformed Theology, that, as Reformers so often like to quote, Christ “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…having predestined us to adoption…” [Eph. 1:4-5] And, as “Randy” pointed out in his comment, Election seems to have congruency between both Testaments.

But taking Duffield & Cleave, along with the Hebrew and Greek meanings behind the word “election”, the house of cards built by Reformed Theology comes crashing down. Strongs Concordance, shows that the Hebrew [the Greek has the same meanings] “elect” comes from #972 – bâchîyr, and #977 – bâchar. Bâchîyr is obvious, meaning: “choose, chosen one, elect”. However, it is in studying bâchar, meaning: “to try – acceptable, appoint, choose (choice), excellent, join, be rather, require”, that the meaning of “election” becomes clear. It is not at all that God foreknew and predestined the believers’ election before the foundation of the world. Rather, it is that God chose the believer to election, knowing the believer would full well accept election, but that the finality of the believer’s election hinged upon him choosing election.

Metaphorically, a presidential candidate might have a short list of nominees he would like to appoint to the Supreme Court should an opening arise during his term in office. And should that scenario become reality, the nominee ultimately has two choices, to accept or turn down the nomination. Such is the same with “election”, it is ultimately the believer’s decision.

In the notes on Eph 1:5 stated in Nelson’s Spirit-Filled Life Bible

Predestined does not suggest a fatalism that excludes some while including others, but assures an appointed plan and guaranteed destiny for all the redeemed.

Duffield & Cleave [p. 208-9] write

The Bible does not teach selection, but election. Nowhere does the Bible teach that some are predestined to be damned. This would be unnecessary inasmuch as all are sinners and on their way to eternal condemnation – Eph 2:1-3,12.

It is not a man’s non-election that leads to eternal ruin; it is his sin and failure to accept Jesus Christ. Every man is free to accept Christ as his personal Savior; if he will. Not only is he invited, he is urged to do so. Christ has made every provision for him – Heb. 2:9; Acts 17:30.

So, to answer the questioned posed by “Randy”, I wouldn’t read anything into those verses that God is his foreknowledge did not put there, nor intend. I would also read them unbiased; not tainted through one lens of brand-name theology or another.

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5 thoughts on “Language and Original Intent

  1. Election is the act of God whereby in eternity past He chose those who will be saved. Election is unconditional, because it does not depend on anything outside of God, such as good works or foreseen faith (Romans 9:16). This doctrine is repeatedly taught in the Bible, and is also demanded by our knowledge of God. To begin with, let’s look at the biblical evidence.

    The Bible says prior to salvation, all people are dead in sin — spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). In this state of death, the sinner is utterly unable to respond to any spiritual stimulus and therefore unable to love God, obey Him, or please Him in any way. Scripture says the mind of every unbeliever “is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8, emphasis added). That describes a state of total hopelessness: spiritual death.

    The effect of all this is that no sinner can ever make the first move in the salvation process. This is what Jesus meant in John 6:44, when He said, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

    This is also why the Bible repeatedly stresses that salvation is wholly God’s work. In Acts 13:48 we read, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

    Acts 16 tells us that Lydia was saved when, “the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”

    Romans 8:29-30 states, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

    Ephesians 1:4-5,11 reads, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will . . . also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”

    Ephesians 2:8 suggests that even our faith is a gift from God.

    In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, the apostle Paul tells his readers, “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation.”

    Second Timothy 1:9 informs us that God “has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

    Occasionally someone will suggest that God’s election is based on His foreknowledge of certain events. This argument suggests that God simply looks into the future to see who will believe, and He chooses those whom He sees choosing Him. Notice that 1 Peter 1:2 says the elect are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” and Romans 8:29 says, “whom He foreknew, He also predestined.” And if divine foreknowledge simply means God’s knowledge of what will happen in advance, then these arguments may appear to have some weight behind them.

    But that is not the biblical meaning of “foreknowledge.” When the Bible speaks of God’s foreknowledge, it refers to God’s establishment of a love relationship with that person. The word “know,” in both the Old and New Testament, refers to much more than mere cognitive knowledge of a person. Such passages as Hosea 13:4-5; Amos 3:2 (KJV); and Romans 11:2 clearly indicate this. For example, 1 Peter 1:20 says Christ was “foreknown before the foundation of the world.” Surely this means more than that God the Father looked into the future to behold Christ! It means He had an eternal, loving relationship with Him. The same is true of the elect, whom we are told God “foreknew” (Romans 8:29). That means He knew them — He loved them — before the foundation of the world.

    If God’s choice of the elect is unconditional, does this rule out human responsibility? Paul asks and answers that very question in Romans 9:19-20. He says God’s choice of the elect is an act of mercy. Left to themselves, even the elect would persist in sin and be lost, because they are taken from the same fallen lump of clay as the rest of humanity. God alone is responsible for their salvation, but that does not eradicate the responsibility of those who persist in sin and are lost — because they do it willfully, and not under compulsion. They are responsible for their sin, not God.

    The Bible affirms human responsibility right alongside the doctrine of divine sovereignty. Moreover, the offer of mercy in the gospel is extended to all alike. Isaiah 55:1 and Revelation 22:17 call “whosoever will” to be saved. Isaiah 45:22 and Acts 17:30 command all men to turn to God, repent and be saved. First Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 tell us that God is not willing that any should perish, but desires that all should be saved. Finally, the Lord Jesus said that, “the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).

    In summary, we can say that God has had a special love relationship with the elect from all eternity, and on the basis of that love relationship chosen them for salvation. The ultimate question of why God chose some for salvation and left others in their sinful state is one that we, with our finite knowledge, cannot answer. We do know that God’s attributes always are in perfect harmony with each other, so that God’s sovereignty will always operate in perfect harmony with His goodness, love, wisdom, and justice.

    The idea that God does what He wants, and that what He does is true and right because He does it, is foundational to the understanding of everything in Scripture, including the doctrine of election.

    In the broad sense, election refers to the fact that God chooses (or elects) to do everything that He does in whatever way He best sees fit. When He acts, He does so only because He willfully and independently chooses to act. According to His own nature, predetermined plan, and good pleasure, He decides to do whatever He desires, without pressure or constraint from any outside influence.

    The Bible makes this point repeatedly. In the very act of creation, God created precisely what He wanted to create in the way He wanted to create it (cf. Gen. 1:31). And ever since the creation, He has sovereignly prescribed or permitted everything in human history, in order that He might accomplish the redemptive plan which He had previously designed (cf. Is. 25:1; 46:10; 55:11; Rom. 9:17; Eph. 3:8–11).

    In the Old Testament, He chose a nation for Himself. Out of all the nations in the world, He selected Israel (Deut 7:6; 14:2; Psalm 105:43; 135:4). He chose them, not because they were better or more desirable than any other people, but simply because He decided to choose them. In the words of Richard Wolf, “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” It may not have rhymed as well, but the same would have been true of any other people God might have selected. God chooses whomever He chooses, for reasons that are wholly His.

    The nation of Israel was not the only recipient in Scripture of God’s electing choice. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is called Christ, “My Chosen One” (Luke 9:35). The holy angels also are “chosen angels” (1 Tim. 5:21). And New Testament believers are those who were “chosen of God” (Col. 3:12; cf. 1 Cor. 1:27; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:1; 2:9; 5:13; Rev. 17:14), meaning that the church is a community of those who were chosen, or “elect” (Eph. 1:4).

    When Jesus told His disciples, “You did not choose Me but I chose you” (John 15:16), He was underscoring this very truth. And the New Testament reiterates it in passage after passage. Acts 13:48 describes salvation in these words, “As many as have been appointed to eternal life believed.” Ephesians 1:4–6 notes that, God “chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” In his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul reminds his readers that he knew God’s choice of them (1 Thess. 1:4), and that he was thankful for them “because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation” (2 Thess. 2:13). The Word of God is clear: believers are those whom God chose for salvation from before the beginning.

    Even the foreknowledge to which Peter refers should not be confused with simple foresight as some would teach—contending that God, in eternity past, looked down the halls of history to see who would respond to His call and then elected the redeemed on the basis of their response. Such an explanation makes God’s decision subject to man’s decision, and gives man a level of sovereignty that belongs only to God. It makes God the One who is passively chosen, rather than the One who actively chooses. And it also misunderstands the way in which Peter uses the term “foreknowledge.” In 1 Peter 1:20 the apostle uses the verb form of that very word, prognosis in the Greek, to refer to Christ. In that case, the concept of “foreknowledge” certainly includes the idea of a deliberate choice. It is reasonable, then, to conclude that the same is true when Peter applies prognosis to believers in other places (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2).

    The ninth chapter of Romans also reiterates the elective purposes of God. There, in reference to His saving love for Jacob (and Jacob’s descendants) as opposed to Esau (and Esau’s lineage), God’s electing prerogative is clearly displayed. God chose Jacob over Esau, not on the basis of anything Jacob or Esau had done, but according to His own free and uninfluenced sovereign purpose. To those who might protest, “That is unfair!” Paul simply responds by asking, “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” (v. 20).

    Many more Scriptures could be added to this survey. Yet as straightforward as the Word of God is, people continually have difficulty accepting the doctrine of election. The reason, again, is that they allow their preconceived notions of how God should act (based on a human definition of fairness) to override the truth of His sovereignty as laid out in the Scriptures.

    Frankly, the only reason to believe in election is because it is found explicitly in God’s Word. No man and no committee of men originated this doctrine. It is like the doctrine of eternal punishment, in that it conflicts with the dictates of the carnal mind. It is repugnant to the sentiments of the unregenerate heart. And like the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the miraculous birth of our Savior, the truth of election, because it has been revealed by God, must be embraced with simple and unquestioning faith. If you have a Bible and you believe it, you have no other option but to accept what it teaches.

    The Word of God presents God as the controller and disposer of all creatures (Dan. 4:35; Is. 45:7; Lam. 3:38), the Most High (Psalm 47:2; 83:18), the ruler of heaven and earth (Gen. 14:19; Is. 37:16), the One against whom none can stand (2 Chron. 20:6; Job 41:10; Is. 43:13). He is the Almighty who works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11; cf. Is. 14:27; Rev. 19:6), and the heavenly Potter who shapes men according to His own good pleasure (Rom. 9:18–22). In short, He is the decider and determiner of every man’s destiny, and the controller of every detail in each individual’s life (Prov. 16:9; 19:21; 21:1; cf. Ex. 3:21–22; 14:8; Ezra 1:1; Dan. 1:9; Jas. 4:15)—which is really just another way of saying, “He is God.”

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  2. in my humble experience, those most vehement about election are also control nazis who can’t wait to “fill in” for God on the day of judgement, ready to open the trap door to the lake of fire when I’ve not agreed with each of the finer points of Calvinism. They’ve not been very “nice” people and have mostly interacted with me/others in order to tally up their converts – skulls on the side of their spiritual war planes. No thanks.

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  3. Randy

    You might be able to write many and diverse words, but it doesn’t change the fact that you use scripture in whatever way possible to fit the Reformed interpretation of Election. And this is done when it is taken at face value, when a person simply glances over a passage which seems, by itself, to support what they are saying. However, scripture should always be read in the context in which it is contained. Such was the concept taught at Elim Bible Institute freshman year. And I suspect it is taught in many such schools. Even one of your own knows that.

    John 6:44

    God draws the sinner, yes, but the sinner has an active role. He has the choice to turn towards or away from the drawing. This is why in verses 47, 51, 53, 54, 56, 58 have active, not passive verbs – believes; eats; eat and drink; eats/drinks; eats/drinks; eats, respectively. God draws. The sinner responds. Don’t take scripture out of context.

    Acts 16:14

    The key phrase is the Lord opened her heart. The word opened has a parallel verse wherein the same Greek word was used and this is found in Luke 24:45 – And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

    Now, notice how Lydia in Acts 16:14 as being one who worshiped God. Her faith was obviously in place. But, as is common to the Jewish people, they are enslaved to the Law; reference the book of Romans. But, guided by the same word found in Luke 24:45, Lydia understanding of the Gospel was opened. She was fully able to comprehend the God she placed her faith in. This verse is not a proof text of Election, as you would define Election. Don’t take Scripture out of context.

    Romans 8:29-30

    You say When the Bible speaks of God’s foreknowledge, it refers to God’s establishment of a love relationship with that person. The word “know,” in both the Old and New Testament, refers to much more than mere cognitive knowledge of a person. Such passages as Hosea 13:4-5; Amos 3:2 (KJV); and Romans 11:2 clearly indicate this. For example, 1 Peter 1:20 says Christ was “foreknown before the foundation of the world.” Surely this means more than that God the Father looked into the future to behold Christ! It means He had an eternal, loving relationship with Him. The same is true of the elect, whom we are told God “foreknew” (Romans 8:29). That means He knew them — He loved them — before the foundation of the world.

    I would agree. Especially since I John 4:7-11 hammers home the point of God’s love towards the sinner. And this means that God, in his foreknowledge, provided the manner in which the sinner, viewed through the perfect sacrifice, God’s son Christ Jesus, could become the body of Christ. Romans 8:29-30 testifies this point. For you would have to admit, that should your view be correct, then God, from before the world, eternally damned some of those same sinners which scripture tells us he loved. This paradox begs to be solved – which is it, does God love all? And if not, how could he be a God of love? If not, how could God choose to view only some through Christ and at the same time view the rest as the condemned sinners they are? Don’t take Scripture out of context.

    Finally. Quite frankly I do not have the time to go through each supposed proof text you wrote down. I am awed how some think naming verse after verse ad infinitum amounts to a winning argument. I also do not appreciate the poorly veiled attack on my faith and character found in paragraphs 24-25. I have been nothing but cordial with you.

    God bless.

    A.Laura

    I concur. They’re pretty difficult to converse with. I try and limit conversation with them. It’s like purposely hitting your head against a brick wall!

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  4. interesting post!

    Randy — nice comprehensive defense.

    A.Laura — I’m sorry. the attitude you described is shameful in “Christians.”

    Thomas — keep searching for the truth. the more you have to defend your beliefs, the more you discover truth — not what you expect truth should look like, and not what other people tell you truth is, but Truth unadulterated. and keep blogging. 🙂

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