by H.C.Heffren

A Study of Predestination, "Eternal Security," Law, Love and Salvation...

The operation of the law of God is attested on every hand. God does not operate this universe according to our theology, nor according to any doctrine or theory we may propose. He operates according to His sovereign law. We have some encouragement to explore the mind of God in Heb. 11:6, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."

Everywhere we turn in the Bible we discover marvelous revelations of God's design and purpose. The Old Testament begins with the creation. The New Testament begins by introducing us to the Creator. The Old Testament first tells of man's fall into sin, and the last word in Malachi is the word" curse." The first name in the New Testament is the One Who lifts the curse. The first and last name in the New Testament is Jesus. The Bible gives seven different names for God, and they correspond to the seven deepest needs of man. It is generally agreed that the most beautiful Psalm is the twenty-third. The first verse is, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." It speaks to every longing of the soul and sweeps across its chords, to touch all of man's needs.

No nation in history ever began like Israel. She became a nation of several million people through a miraculous deliverance from Egypt through the Red Sea. She was miraculously sustained and nourished for forty years in the desert. It took more than forty trainloads of manna each day to feed them, but the manna was miraculously provided daily except on the Sabbath, for which a double supply came each Friday. Their water miraculously sprang from a rock in response to the importunity of Moses, and it flowed to meet their needs until they entered Canaan. Paul emphasizes the nature of their supply in 1 Cor. 10:3,4, "and did all eat the same 'spiritual meat' and did all drink the same 'spiritual drink;' for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ."

This unfailing supply of water was so impressive that it was incorporated into the Jewish worship and a memorial was held every year at their Feast of Tabernacles. On this occasion the priests in the temple went to the Pool of Siloam and filled their vessels with water, and then in solemn procession they carried them back in thanksgiving to God in grateful memory of the miracle in the desert. It was this procession that Jesus observed when we read, "On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If a man is thirsty let him come to Me and drink. Whosoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.' By this He meant the Spirit, Whom those who believed in Him were later to receive." (John 7:31-39 New International Version)

In Psalm 24-.7,8, we read, "Lift up your heads 0 ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle." This is repeated almost the same in verses 9 and 10. In the Bible a repetition is usually made for the sake of emphasis, or to stress its importance. The illustration is drawn from a conqueror going forth to battle. He approaches a city and demands its surrender. If it does not surrender, he lays siege to it. He surrounds it to cut off its supply of food and to deprive it of outside help. There is but one alternative, surrender or die.

In this case the Conqueror is Christ. The everlasting" doors are man's immortal soul. The "gates" are the will or the power to choose. Christ says, "Lift up your heads, 0 ye gates." If man refuses to open, Christ lays siege and surrounds the soul with His love. Man resorts to his own supplies of pleasure and satisfies himself with the things the world offers, of riches, sex, and fame. But he finds that these things do not satisfy the hunger of the soul, and in due time they are exhausted. Surrender to the King of glory means to let the King come in with all the bounties of heaven to satisfy the hunger of the soul. What a glorious exchange. Instead of warfare there is peace. But the ultimatum is the same to every soul--surrender or die.

The 119th Psalm is the longest chapter in the Bible. It is composed of one hundred and seventy-six verses grouped under twenty-two headings of eight verses each. These headings comprise the Hebrew alphabet, from aleph to tau, and each group starts each verse with the letter it represents; thus all the verses in the first group begin with "aleph". There were only twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Every verse save one, the one hundred and twenty second, contains some reference to the law. God's law is central in the Bible.

The law is repeated under ten different names; all meaning the same thing. These are: law, testimonies, judgments, Word, statutes, commandments, precepts, ordinances, way and righteousness. Sometimes these are referred to as a harp of ten strings. The remarkable thing about them is that the verses include a reference to almost every vital part of the body. Thus, "Open, Thou, mine eyes," the heart, the mind, the feet, the hands, the lips and tongue. In its various references it brings the entire body under the influence and admonition of God's law.

God's law did not originate with the Ten Commandments. God's law is as eternal as God is. "Law" is a term we apply to many mysterious things in nature that react in a certain way, but we don't know why. We speak of the law of gravity to describe how things precipitate to the earth. The law is undeviating and indiscriminate. A man may be working on a high building and through some misadventure either in judgment or by accident he may fall. Gravity will do the rest. The man may be wealthy and of high renown or he may be a pauper; he may be a Christian or the worst sinner; he may have actually been seeking suicide or he may have been exercising every caution, but gravity operates the same to all alike. We know that heat expands things while cold contracts. But we don't know why water contracts until it reaches 4 degrees Celsius and then expands rapidly until freezing point. This enables ice to form on the top of lakes and rivers and thus provides a means of life for fishes and marine life. We call it a law, although it operates contrary to the principle established with every other element.

WHAT IS THE LAW OF GOD?

There is an old saying, "The law is not true because it is written; it is written because it is true." In other words, God's law was always true even before it was written. Thus in Rom. 2:12-16, "For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law;" (Notice law without the definite article as opposed to "the" law.) --Then a long parenthesis, "(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the 'Gentiles' which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their consciences bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another) in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel." In other words, God's law was in the world operating upon Gentile and Jew alike even before Moses gave the law, which according to Gal. 3:19 was added because of transgression. "That is, it was added to bring conviction for sin by pointing out what the transgressions were.

In this instance the law can be likened to a medicine cabinet in which many different bottles containing medicines and poisons are kept. None of the bottles have a label to identify its contents. A person requiring help is dependent on his memory, or by what he is convinced to be palliative. But many times he gets the wrong bottle, and the effects are sometimes fatal. Now if someone with knowledge and skill examined the bottles and made labels for each bottle with the name and instructions for its use, he would be performing an act of love and a great service. The Law of Moses was simply the labels on the bottles, so to speak. He did not make any act a sin; he just informed the people what was displeasing to God. The label did not make the contents of the bottle poison; it just indicated the nature of its contents and thus the user was informed about the effects of its ingredients. He was still free to use its contents, but at his own peril. The giving of the law was an act of love, for it enlightened one as to the results of offending God.

In Rom 3:1,2, we find, "What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there in circumcision? Much every way: chiefly because unto them were committed the oracles of God." Paul draws the comparison, that the Jews were benefited immensely by having the Law. It was God's oracle, giving correct answers to the questions of conduct and character. It contained the "labels" on the bottles, so to speak, thus removing the guesswork about serving God. Rom 3:3 says, "For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?" In other words, God's law is inviolate and remains the same regardless of whether we obey it or not. We cannot "break" God's law.

Perhaps we should observe the many references to love regarding the law. Here are a few. "O how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day." (Psa. 119:97) "I hate vain thoughts, but thy law do I love." (Psa. 119:113) "Therefore, I love Thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold." (Psa. 119:127) "Thy Word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it." (Psa. 119:140) "Consider how I love Thy precepts: quicken me, 0 Lord, according to Thy lovingkindness," (Psa. 119:159) "Great peace have they which love Thy law, and nothing shall offend them." (Psa. 119:165) The Psalmist portrays the eagerness of those who love the law, to perform it. "I will RUN the way of Thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart." (Psa. 119:32) "I opened my mouth and PANTED: for I longed for Thy commandments." (Psa. 119:131) "I rejoice at Thy Word, as one that FINDETH GREAT SPOIL. (Psa. 119:162) The 119th Psalm is studded with promises and expressions of adoration concerning God's law.

Yet we find an anomaly. The law became the ministration of death, not life to those who sought God through it. Paul observed, "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." (Rom. 7:12) Paul's dilemma was this, as stated in Rom. 7:9,10, "For I was alive without the law once: But when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death." In Rom. 7:14, he proceeds, "For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin." The trouble with the law was not that it was WRONG. It was WEAK. It did not have the power to produce righteousness. Rom. 8:3 makes this clear. "For what the law could not do, in that it was WEAK through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." This is further substantiated by Heb.7:18,19. "For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the WEAKNESS and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God."

William Barclay, in his excellent book called New Testament Words deals at length with the nature of sin. The Bible words for sin are Hamartia and Hamartanein, which in Greek meant failure, or missing the mark. It could be likened to a man throwing a spear at an object, and missing the mark. However, in the New Testament it means much more. It does not mean certain acts of sin; it describes the state of sin, from which acts are the result. Hamartia is universal. "ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23) No one escapes. It is not a sporadic or spasmodic outbreak; it is the universal state of men. It is a power that has man in its grasp. As Paul said, "sold under sin." Sin, in a sense, rules man. The Greek word used is Basileus, meaning "king over man" in which; man is his absolute possession or dominion. It is in this sense that Paul wrote in Rom. 6:9,14, "Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over you. For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law but under grace." (See also Rom. 6:15-23.)

Barclay continues, that sin takes us captive as Paul describes in Rom. 7:23. We are actually a prisoner of sin, and sin is within us just as an enemy rules over territory he has conquered like an occupied territory. In this state we become the 11 slaves" of sin. The position of a slave was so absolute that no part of his life, no moment of time and no activity was the personal property of the slave. That is to the degree in which sin has mastered us. Paul emphasizes the close connection between law and sin. Paul said when he was in sin, he was "apprehended" by Christ. To be apprehended is to be arrested. Being outside the law, he was a violator to be brought to justice. Peter was apprehended and put in prison. A garrison was stationed outside Damascus to apprehend Paul. Thus Paul said he was apprehended of Christ. (Phil. 3:12,13) The law can define sin but it cannot cure it. It is like a doctor who can diagnose a disease, but who has not the power to control it or arrest it.

Hamartia is connected with flouting God's law, by putting oneself in the position God ought to have, thereby grieving Him. Sin is deceitful. It always promises something it fails to deliver. Sin is desiring, coveting that which ought not to be desired ... Sin is lawlessness, wanting our own way instead of being subject to God's rule. Sin is that which refuses both its duty to God and man, and seeks only to satisfy self. Sin is to have respect to persons, and thus judge things by man's standard rather than by God's standard. We see then that, "The wages of sin is death." (Rom. 6:23) "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law." (1 Cor. 15:56) But wait! "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Cor. 15:57)

Let us examine briefly what Christ has done. Forgiveness is not obtained by the good works we offer God after being saved and resolving to obey Him. Forgiveness is obtained by what Christ has done for us. He took our place and bore our penalty. It is by believing on Him that we are saved. "Jesus answered and said unto them, "This is the work of God that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent." (John 6:29) Jesus saves us from our sins. (Matt. 1:21) We are in the position of people who need to be rescued, and that rescue is carried out by Jesus: at the cost of His life. Our sins are wiped out. This is the sense of Acts 3:19, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted that your sins may be BLOTTED OUT, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." In olden days the scribe wrote upon parchment or vellum with ink that contained no acid and all it needed to erase it was a sponge with water to completely remove all that was written, and enable the scribe to begin again. This is the way Jesus "blots" out our sins.

In Acts 22:16 we read, "And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptised, and wash away thy sins, calling on the Name of the Lord." The word used here for "wash" is katharismos from which we get catharsis, or cleansing. It is as though life was stained, muddied and soiled by sin, and Jesus has the power to cleanse it. In Heb. 1:3, it contains, "When He had by Himself purged our sins." To be thus purged is to be made clean.

In Rom. 4:6,7, Paul quotes Psa. 32:1,2, "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered." This is the same as if a veil were drawn across our sins. The verb opikaluptein refers to a snowfall that obliterates everything beneath it and leaves the ground clean and white. It is like a man blindfolding himself so that he cannot see, or as if God drew a veil over the sorry past, and never looked at it again.

"Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." (Rom. 4:8) "Impute" comes from the word logzesthai, which is an accountant's term meaning to set down to someone's account. The idea is to put us completely and unpayably in God's debt. The balance of the ledger in life is infinitely against us, but god wipes out the debit balance against us which we ourselves could never pay. It is imputed to another, charged to Christ's account. We are liberated from sin-just as sin grasped us and held us prisoners to its harsh demands, so Christ released us from sin. "Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." (Rom. 6:18) It means to give someone his freedom. Just as we have seen how we became slaves of sin, and under sin's control. Christ became our Emancipator and Liberator, allowing us to go free.The coming of Jesus athetesis us (i.e. cancelled our contract) with sin. This a legal Greek word used for the cancellation of an agreement. Were the strict letter of the law carried out, then man could only face condemnation. Through Jesus Christ there is a cancellation of the debt we owe.

The most commonly used word to denote forgiveness is aphiesthai. It covers a wide range of matters of forgiveness. A man may be condemned to exile and the sentence already passed but aphiesthai (forgiveness) will release him from the sentence. It can be used for acquitting a man from a verdict that might have been carried out. It can be applied to releasing a man from a service or duty he might have been compelled to do. The whole essence of the word is the undeserved release of a man from something that might justly have been inflicted upon him or exacted from him. Thus, through Jesus Christ, man is released from the punishment and penalty that God had every right to inflict upon him. It is a word that tells us that god deals with us in love rather than justice; in mercy through Christ rather than according to our just deserts.

THE RELATION OF THE LAW OF GOD TO THEOLOGY...

Theology is the name given to the study or science of God. For many it is the study of religion. But there is a great difference between being merely religious and being a Christian. When Paul was in Athens, he was impressed by the fact that the city was very religious. The King James Version describes this as superstition, while the New International Version has this to say: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and observed your objects of worship, I found even an altar with this inscription, to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you." (Acts 17:22,23) The Knox translation has this wording, "So Paul stood up in full view of the Areopagus, and said, Men of Athens, wherever I look, I find you scrupulously religious." The Athenians had religion, but they were far from Christianity. The Jews of Christ's time had religion, but they resisted and rejected Christ. In Mark 3:2-4 it says, "Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched Him closely to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus asked them, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath, to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they remained silent." It appears here that the law of God conflicted with the traditions of the religious leaders at Jerusalem. The religious prejudice was so strong that the Jews sought to kill Christ as a result of His healing. (Read verses 5 and 6).

Possibly no theologian has had greater influence on Christian dogma than John Calvin, the French theologian who ministered in Geneva. John Calvin espoused Five Main Points under the heading of 1) Election or Predestination, 2) Limited Atonement, 3) Total Depravity, 4) Irresistibility of Grace, 5) Perseverance of the Saints, sometimes called "Eternal Security," or once saved you cannot be lost. Calvin also emphasized the Sovereignty of God in the bestowal of grace. Although Calvin maintained this dogma with great skill and substantiated it with formidable appeals to Scripture, yet there are gaping holes in his contentions in many areas. Calvin himself was then a recent convert from the Papacy where he formerly held to the Supremacy of the Pope. Having been persuaded of the impotence of the Pope, it was an easy thing for Calvin to ascribe most of the Pope's prerogatives to God.

That there are Scriptures in the Bible that seem to support predestination and foreordination, no one will deny. One has to understand the context in which these Scriptures are used. An example is found in Rom. 8:29,30. "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of the Son, that he might be the first born among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called, and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified." At first glance this would appear to teach foreordination, that is predestination, and other forms of God's operation of man's destiny. Calvin taught that God predetermined all who would be saved and all who would be lost before the time of man's creation. This would not only make God partial toward those who were to be saved, but it carried through to its logical conclusion, it would make God the Author of sin, since man would have no choice of his own. God did not predestinate whether a certain number would be saved and another certain number lost. He predestinated that believers would be conformed to His image.

To illustrate this, let us suppose that a man is out hunting, and while in search of game, a blizzard suddenly sweeps over his path. In a short time all his familiar signs are obliterated. He is lost. His waning strength gives way to despair and in exhaustion he sinks into the snow. Moments later another hunter who knows the region accurately stumbles upon the fallen man and discovers there is still life in him. He wrestles with him until he rouses him and gets him up on his feet again. Then he tells the exhausted man to come with him. "There is a cabin just ahead of us a short distance. "The man is persuaded to try. His decision to try is his own, but once inside the cabin with its blazing fire, he is predestined to get warm. So God has provided the means of Grace from eternity, but we must decide to seek His help. Once we do, we are predestined to be conformed to His (that is Christ's) image: for everyone who yields to Christ bears His likeness. God does not distribute grace to some and not to others, but He provides the means of grace to all alike. Those who accept His grace are saved; they become His children, and they are then; predestinated to be conformed to His image.

God is not partial to some and not to others.

The same is true regarding the possibility of backsliding. God does not prevent one from backsliding. Paul said, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." (2 Tim. 1:12b) The keeping of our soul is safe so long as we do the committing. But the law of God operates impartially for all alike. If grace were the irresistible act of God, man would be reduced to the level of a machine, and it would be no credit to a man that he turned to Christ, and by reversing the situation, it would be no guilt for a man to refuse if the decision were determined by the irresistible operation of God.

This takes nothing away from the Sovereignty of God. God is Sovereign in the realm of His law. Take the laws governing electricity for example. If man cooperates with electricity, it will serve him and provide enjoyment and faithful returns. But if man violates the use of electricity, it will exact a penalty, often death. The operation of all of God's laws in nature, are impartial. If you cooperate with them, they will be your servant: If you do not submit to them, they will destroy you. James puts it in these words, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (Jas. 1:17). There are no exceptions for any cause, no means of circumventing it. It is impartial. If we are in harmony with it, we can operate without fear.

The laws of God governing His spiritual realm are not different in operation. There is not one rule for the "elect" and another for the damned. If salvation were the result of God's irresistible grace, it would be meaningless and superfluous to say, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden." (Matt. 11:28) Or Paul's, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." (2 Cor. 5:20) Or to use Joshua's memorable words in Josh. 24:15, "Choose you this day Whom ye will serve." Such pleas all through the Bible for surrender and the exercise of choice would be meaningless, if God irresistibly made the mandatory choice for us.

The same argument obtains in regard to the possibility of being lost subsequent to having believed. Why are the epistles literally filled with exhortations to continue, to rectify wrongs, like those listed in 1 Cor., and instructions about conduct, if the saved would persist in grace regardless. Paul's reference to Demas is a case in point. He said, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world." (2 Tim. 4:10a) We read in James 4:4, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. "Or as we read in I John 2:15, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." "Looking diligently lest any man fail of (fall from, marg.) the grace of God: lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled." (Heb. 12:15) "But now, after ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage." (Gal. 4:9) It is evident from these and many other texts that backsliding and separation from God is a distinct possibility, and has happened many times.

We should perhaps pay heed to the frequent references to the "elect." It would seem that there is a special means of grace conferred on certain ones by means of which they are predestined to be the chosen of God. But this is only an apparent conclusion. The election of God is not a predetermined operation of irresistible grace, but rather the exercise of man's free choice. Once he has chosen to yield to the call of God, he is counted among God's elect, or chosen ones. The operation of God's law is impersonal, unvarying, and unequivocal. It applies to all men fairly and all men equally. In other words: we are judged by the law of God: not by someone's theology or interpretation of a doctrine. We are all under God's law and governed by God's law. If we step beyond His law we will suffer the consequences. 

 


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