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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Daily Reading

From the pen of Bishop J. C. Ryle:

Read the Bible daily. Make it a part of every day’s business to read and meditate on some portion of God’s Word. Private means of grace are just as needful every day for our souls — as food and clothing are for our bodies. Yesterday’s food will not feed the laborer today; and today’s food will not feed the laborer tomorrow. Do as the Israelites did in the wilderness. Gather your manna fresh every morning. Choose your own seasons and hours. Do not scramble over and hurry your reading. Give your Bible the best, and not the worst part of your time! But whatever plan you pursue, let it be a rule of your life to visit the throne of grace and God’s Word every day.

John Calvin and Predestination

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37 ESV) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. (John 6:44 ESV) All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew 11:27 ESV) In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:5-6 ESV)

I have noticed over the years that many people do not like the attention I often give to John Calvin in my blog. Perhaps they have been prejudiced by the rewriting of church and secular history by authors who (according to their own personal biases) have often portrayed Calvin as grave, somber, and the vindictive purveyor of predestination. Indeed, Calvin’s God has been slandered as cruel, unjust, and – at the very least – unfair.

Born in France in 1509, Calvin studied theology and law, and was converted in 1533. He lived in exile from 1534. In Basel, Calvin wrote the first part of his Institutes of the Christian Religion. He then traveled to Geneva; Strasbourg; and finally back to Geneva where he lived out his life. John Knox testified that under the guidance of Calvin, Geneva was “the most perfect school of Christ that ever was in the earth since the days of the Apostles.”

The terms “predestination” and “election” are often viewed with suspicion as “something vile” Calvin invented. Calvin, however, would be stunned that he is accused of inventing predestination. Except for its unpopularity in the last 130 years due to Arminianism, radical dispensationalism, pride, and sin, it is quite evident in the teachings of the Scriptures. It is clearly taught by Paul, Augustine, and Martin Luther as well (among many others). Luther said of predestination, “That is what Reason can neither grasp nor endure, and what has offended all these men of outstanding talent who have been so received for so many centuries. Here they demand that God should act according to human justice, and do what seems right to them or else cease to be God.” (The Bondage of the Will)

Many people are simply very confused about the nature of election. Paul writes: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even 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 for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV) In election, as taught by the Bible, we find that God has blessed us with faith according to His purpose. God is the “author and finisher” of our faith. We cannot save ourselves – so it is God Who must save us. It is God who elects (chooses). We do not choose Him. There is nothing cold, impersonal, or fatalistic about election. It is God’s response to the grip of sin which has tossed mankind over into chaos. The acceptance of predestination falls heavily on the question of whether you are willing to give God full credit and glory for saving you. For anyone who believes Christ saves us with our help; it is but a short step to – we save ourselves with Christ’s help.

A right view of predestination exalts the love and majesty of God. If you deny election, you decrease the supremacy of God in your heart. God is supremely sovereign over the universe and everything in it. There is not one molecule in creation that is beyond His control. If God is not sovereign, He is not God. If He is not sovereign, you and I will never be saved from sin.

“Predestination should be taught… because it is one of the primary Gospel doctrines, and foundations of faith. It cannot be ignored without great injury to the Church and to believers, since it is the fount of our gratitude to God, the root of humility, the foundation and most firm anchor of confidence in all temptations, the fulcrum of the sweetest consolation, and the most powerful spur to piety and holiness.” (Institutio Theologiae Elencticae, Question 6) In the election and predestination of God we discover hopefulness and truth. Accepting that God predestined us, should give each of us confidence that God will carry out His purpose in us. I close with the following words from Octavius Winslow:

“What doctrine is more emptying, humbling, and therefore sanctifying, than predestination? It lays the axe at the root of all human boasting. In the light of this truth, the most holy believer sees that there is no difference between him and the vilest sinner that crawls the earth, but what the mere grace of God has made. . . One blessing accruing from the doctrine of predestination is the sweet and holy submission into which it brings the mind under all afflictive dispensations. Each step of his pilgrimage and each incident of his history, the believer sees appointed in the everlasting covenant of grace. . . The radiance which predestination reflects upon the entire history of the child of God, and the calm repose which it diffuses over the mind in all the perplexing, painful, and mysterious events of that history, can only be understood by those whose hearts have fully received this doctrine.”

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