A Puzzling Paradox

I love to read, study, and meditate on the Bible. I believe The Bible is the inerrant Word of God that points me to Jesus Christ, my personal Savior, Lord, Master, Shepherd and King. The Bible is my lifeline and my GPS for life. I started really focusing on the Bible at age 29 after I fully believed in and committed my life to Christ (finally after 21 years of confusion after having sensed God’s call to me as a child of eight years–that story is told elsewhere in my blog). I feel like I got a late start on Bible study that I regret. I also deeply regret not having the chance to have a proper Christian education.  I feel I’ve been trying to play catch up all my life.

The more I’ve studied the Bible, the more convinced I’ve become of its truth and that it is indeed the ultimate message from God to the human race.  The Bible does not contradict itself as so many people regrettably believe. There are no errors in the Bible, only errant humans who make mistakes in understanding and interpreting it.  There are many excellent books written which prove the dependability and accuracy of the Bible if you are interested in that topic.  I’ve been on quite a long journey, or rather a race God has marked out before me, of learning how to properly understand and interpret the Bible.  I desire to know it, understand it, and to apply it and live it out.  My application of the Bible has totally influenced and changed the way I have lived my life for the better, by God’s grace.

In recent years I’ve been learning about some high, difficult doctrines that I believe truly defy full human comprehension.  This is because God’s ways are higher than human ways, and God’s thoughts are higher than human thoughts (Romans 11:33).  So much of the higher, advanced things of God are paradoxical in nature. So much of Christianity is upside down from human thinking and so counter intuitive.  Overcome evil, not by returning evil, but with good (for one hard to live out example).  Without veering into naming denominations within Protestant Christianity, I would like to try to explore the most difficult doctrine for me: the doctrine of the election of God’s people (believers). This doctrine goes to the question of “how” does God give salvation to those who believe (not to the absolute necessity of sinful humans needing their Savior).  There are other paradoxical doctrines that I may write on later.  But please note, the most important truths of scripture, the basics of the gospel and the need for every sinful human to receive and believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord, as well as how to live as a believer, are very clear and are not disputed in the Universal Church.  The really important stuff is crystal clear and more easily understood by believers by grace.  Hmmm, maybe Jesus wants us to focus the most on those things.

This topic of election may not be for beginners and I hope young believers will not be discouraged or confused by this post, however, I wish I had understood and been pointed to the truth of election, and been aware of the controversies on this topic in the Universal Church (which means all true believers) at a much younger age.  So perhaps this post will be helpful to someone besides me.

There are raging debates across the Universal Church between so called “Calvinism” which includes the doctrine of election among other points and so called “Arminianism” which stresses the free will of humans. I have studied and considered these view points up to wazoo and find it mind -boggling and ultimately, paradoxical. If you are interested in knowing more, there is a lot of information available online and in published books.  It can be overwhelming and confusing to decipher.

I am convinced that God does elect, call, and choose those persons who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord.  What that really means is hard to understand.  Election is taught and shown all through the Bible.  My own personal experience confirms this–God called to me and opened my heart toward Him.  I chose him with my “free will” by faith, but only AFTER my heart was awakened from being spiritually dead by the Holy Spirit’s call to my heart after I heard the gospel.  Ephesians 2 is very clear that people are dead (not just a little sick but totally dead) until God calls to their heart to awaken them spiritually.  Ephesians 2 is clear that a believer’s salvation is a gift of God by grace through faith.  There are so many other scriptures to reference on election (as well as on “free will”), and there are studies done by great scholars and not just this layperson writer to turn to.  I want to try to keep this communication short and simple. So I will site only Ephesians 2 and Isaiah 53 (which refers to salvation for “the many”, not “all people”) which are my personal top scriptures that convince me of God’s election and calling of His own.

Yet the Bible is also clear that humans are held responsible to believe in Jesus and that even nature/creation is a witness to God’s reality. The tension of these truths nearly drives me crazy, because an intense focus on election makes it seem to this fallible, prone to error person writing that God is not fair.  If God has to call a person before they can believe, then why doesn’t God simply call everyone? Why does He hold sinners who refuse to accept and trust Jesus as their necessary Savior and Lord accountable to the point of eternal destruction? I have so many friends and loved ones who do not yet believe in Jesus and my heart grieves and groans with my concern for their eternal destiny.  In my old flesh and human thinking I want universalism to be true. (Universalism means that all humans will go to heaven/eternal reward and no one will go to hell/eternal destruction.) Universalism is a terrible false doctrine that is not taught in the Bible. My finite thinking has got to be wrong.  I want to try to be god and make up the rules.  God is God and I am not I realize. There has to be more to understanding this doctrine of election than I have the human capacity to do.  It is a paradox! Somehow God/the Holy Spirit miraculously calls to hearts to be able to understand His truth (their need for Jesus as Savior and Lord) and yet humans are responsible to see the truth of Jesus.  Humans do have the ability to make choices, though we don’t completely have free will in all things (it depends what you mean by “free will” and defining that is beyond the scope of what I’m trying to say here).  This puzzling doctrine of election is something that I simply have to trust God with.  I believe God is good and trustworthy. I believe God is fair and that His righteous justice will be executed in fairness and goodness (and the Bible consistently teaches this).  If God does not judge sin and get rid of it forever, there will be no heaven. God’s plan of salvation is HIS plan and it is trustworthy.  I know I have been called, chosen, and I do believe and my response must be gratitude forever.

This article, if it gets any attention or reading at all, may likely stir up some negative comments.  The commentary on this topic in social media tends to be very divisive and unloving and it does not promote a good example for unbelievers.  I hope and pray that will not occur here.

Instead of questioning God and allowing my faith to be shaken by the doctrine of election, I am choosing to trust God that His ways are higher than mine and past my finding out.  I am focusing not on debating doctrine, but instead on trying to live out God’s commands to me as to how to live for Him, in gratitude for His gift of salvation and call to me.  I am focusing on sharing the gospel, investing in the Great Commission, being an active part of my local church, serving and helping others especially the needy as God enables me by His grace, and daily endeavoring to obey God’s commands.  I am continually repentant because even though my right standing with God was instant when I believed, and can’t be taken away from me, I am such a work in process, by grace.  I am resolved to “agree to disagree” with my friends who are more Arminian in their thinking and to focus instead on our unity in Christ.  While I am more “Calvinist” in my beliefs, I don’t believe that so called Calvinism has everything as neatly tied up with a bow as many of its well-meaning proponents seem to think.  We must beware of coming across as arrogant because of the Bible knowledge we believe we have on either side of this debate.  Unity in Christ must be preserved and the way we believers engage in the debate must set a good example for unbelievers. I can’t wait for eternity when Jesus will finally give us all full understanding and the debates on the higher doctrines will be put to rest forever.

I am praying every day for all the souls I know and love who do not yet know the amazing grace and love of Jesus and the privilege of living for Him in hope of the perfect, blissful, beautiful beyond imagination future that is promised to all those who will believe.  Below are just a few of so many good, true Bible verses that I feel led to share.  I know I have been called and have believed in Jesus and I’m going to heaven even if no one else around me wants to believe and come.  But who will come and go with me to my Father’s beautiful eternal house? Who wants to find “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow?” (from Great Is Thy Faithfulness, my favorite hymn).  Friend, I’m praying for you.

[The Apostle Paul said to his jailer:] Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Acts 16:31

[Jesus said,] Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

[From the Apostle Paul to believers:] And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.  Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— not because of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:1-10

My hope and my prayer is that God will somehow use this layperson’s thoughts for His glory and cover me if I have made any error on this difficult topic; that unity in Christ will be preserved and augmented; and that God will mercifully call many more people to know His great love and to truly believe in Jesus Christ, the only hope of humanity.

 

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