RESPONSIBLE OR PREDESTINED?
A Difficult Subject And Situation Which We Need God To Teach Us How To Deal With.
To claim man has no responsibly about, nor has any choice about his eternal destiny, and that God rather merely predestinates men to their destiny of either greatest blessing or greatest punishment is so farfetched one wonders how anyone can believe or even imagine such. The general tenor of the Bible is very opposite of such. It rather portrays a just and good God who although bestowing many gifts upon humanity (and most of all the gift of salvation), nevertheless certainly gives man a responsibility to attain His blessings. Yes bestows His blessings upon those who love and seek Him rather than to those who choose evil and lies. This truth can be proven with a multitude of Scriptures from Genesis to Revelations and including many of Paul's great teachings. Now on the other hand a research of the five Old Testament Scriptures which Paul used as a basis for his seeming predestination rather than responsibility teachings brought great heaviness and deep questions within me. I simply could not and cannot grasp how those five texts could be used as a basis to teach seeming predestination rather than responsibility. Yes used to teach a message that strangely contradicted Paul’s many solid and wonderful teachings as given elsewhere, as well as strangely contradicts the rest of the Bible. None of the five OT texts Paul used as a basis for his seeming predestination teachings particularly portrayed God as predestinating to blessing or punishment without responsibility, and rather all could readily pertain to God’s miraculous foreknowledge. Further one of the five texts actually seems to very strongly teach the opposite, and rather show that our just God certainly would not randomly predestinate and thus punish or bless without responsibility and justice. The below pages carefully inspect these five Scriptures and related issues.
Paul in his predestination teachings written to the Romans appears to have been earnestly seeking to portray his people, the Jews, to some elite Romans in the best way he could, and could have stretched himself too far in trying to point to predestination rather than responsibility as the reason why the Jews were significantly cut off, and the Gentiles significantly received the Kingdom. God in His foreknowledge certainly preplanned or predestined that when the Jew’s fall came into fullness that He would open the door to the Gentiles, and further has predestined that those who lack a love for truth would often be greatly blinded. Nevertheless even in that there certainly still is responsibility! A close look at these five Scriptures and how Paul applied them as shared below is very perplexing to say the least. No man is perfect, and Paul was neither and likely never imagined this particular text would be placed in the Bible cannon. Or did parts of his letter to the Romans somehow get distorted? We likely will never know the answer to these issues, but one thing we can know is that we DARE NOT allow a teaching strangely contrary to all other Scriptures (including Paul’s other teachings) and based on Scriptures that do not really support the teaching, to subtract from what the rest of the Bible teaches and including what God Himself as well as Christ declared. These are my thoughts and may God have mercy on me and those who try to get to the bottom of things in their search for truth.
We will now consider Paul's peculiar predestination teachings and the five Old Testament Scriptures that Paul quoted as his basis for his perplexing predestination teaching to see if some OT Scriptures actually teach that God loves and shows grace to a predestined elect, and cuts off and heinously punishes others, regardless of behavior and responsible and sincere works. The five OT texts Paul used as his basis in his predestination teachings are Gen 25:23, Mal 1:2-4, Ex 33:19 (a text which closely relates to Ex 32:32-33 & 34:6-7), 1 King 19:18, and Psa 32:1-2.
In Romans 9:11-12 Paul writes, “(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, THAT THE PURPOSE OF GOD ACCORDING TO ELECTION MIGHT STAND, NOT OF WORKS, BUT OF HIM THAT CALLETH;) 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger." Since the declaration, “The elder shall serve the younger”, was given (with regards to Jacob and Esau) before they were born and before they had done any good or evil, Paul here takes it as evidence that man’s position before God is a matter of predestination rather than something to do with man’s works (behavior). Now let’s take a careful look at the original OT Scripture. It reads, "And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger." (Genesis 25:23). Notice how this Scripture certainly could readily be a matter of prophesy, rather than having anything to do with discrediting works and advocating that man’s negative or positive position before God is predestined by God and without giving regards to man’s works (behavior). Esau’s irresponsible choice to sell his birthright certainly had much to do with the elder serving the younger! Regarding this OT Scripture God certainly expected it to carry its own and real message for many years before Paul ascribed it to predestination, while here we do not want to add anything else to it. Why Paul applied it as he did here is a very perplexing matter, as Christ and all other writers of our Bibles, including Paul himself, clearly advocated the importance of good works or behavior and that God is a rewarder of those that diligently seek and obey Him.
Paul in his anti works and predestination teaching to the Romans, further uses the OT Scripture which speaks of God loving Jacob and hating Esau as supposed evidence that God actually loves and hates by election or predestination and seemingly regardless of man’s personal works. Paul writes, “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. …SO THEN IT IS NOT OF HIM THAT WILLETH, NOR OF HIM THAT RUNNETH, BUT OF GOD THAT SHEWETH MERCY. THEREFORE HATH HE MERCY ON WHOM HE WILL HAVE MERCY, AND WHOM HE WILL HE HARDENETH." (Romans 9:13–18 ). Now looking back at the OT Scripture about God’s love for Jacob and hate for Esau, it appears the focal issue here rather than being anything about predestination was the unique fact that although these were physical brothers, the one was loved of God and the other hated. This OT Scripture then calls Esau a border of wickedness. It reads, "…Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, 3 And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. 4…They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever.” (Malachi 1:2–4). Certainly Jacob had faults but Esau certainly could have had much greater faults and had much less reverence for God. The Bible elsewhere calls Esau a fornicator, and profane person who carelessly sold his birthright (Heb 12:16). Notice how this OT Scripture neither gives any real evidence that God hates, loves, and shows compassion, by a predestinated choice and regardless of works.
Paul then particularly and most strangely uses God’s special quote from the OT which reads "I will …be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy" to also thereby teach that God grants mercy and compassion without regards to man’s behavior (works), although when God made that very statement He quite obviously meant the very opposite of such a thing! At a critical time when Moses asked God to be blotted out of His book because of the Israelites sin, God in His justice absolutely refused to do such, and rather told Moses, “Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book” (Ex 32:33). It was in that context that God told Moses, "I will …be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” (Ex 33:19). Further in that context God then clearly showed the importance of good works (behavior) to obtain mercy and grace saying "…The LORD God … Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children …" (Exodus 34:6–7).
Paul using the three OT Scriptures discussed above as evidence of God predestinating His grace rather than regarding works writes, “(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. FOR HE SAITH TO MOSES, I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I WILL HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I WILL HAVE COMPASSION. 16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." (Romans 9:11–18 ). Thus it certainly seems like Paul here ended up writing something that contradicts his own teachings elsewhere, as well as the general theme of the Scriptures, using these three Scriptures which by no means must have the message Paul allotted to them, with the matter of greatest perplexity and concern being the fact that God’s original declaration in Ex 33:19 quite obviously had the opposite message of what Paul used it to teach in Romans 9:11-18.
Further in Romans chapter 11 Paul uses an OT Scripture wherein God speaks of reserving or having left to Himself seven thousand men in a time of great apostasy, as evidence against works and that God rather predestines His grace to those who He reserves. Paul writes, "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. … answer of God … I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, … Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the ELECTION OF GRACE. AND IF BY GRACE, THEN IS IT NO MORE OF WORKS: OTHERWISE GRACE IS NO MORE GRACE. BUT IF IT BE OF WORKS, THEN IS IT NO MORE GRACE: OTHERWISE WORK IS NO MORE WORK. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; BUT THE ELECTION HATH OBTAINED IT, AND THE REST WERE BLINDED …and … through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles…” (Romans 11:2–11). Let’s here and now take a look back to the original Scripture which simply reads, "Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him." (1 Kings 19:18). Notice how this OT Scripture simply speaks of God in a time of great apostasy still having left to Him seven thousand faithful ones who did not bow the knee to Baal. May we remember to read these OT Scriptures as if we never heard how Paul applied it, as did people for hundreds of years before Paul’s time. This OT Scripture neither accents nor advocates that God grants His grace according to a predestinated plan of grace, regardless of man’s works.
Paul also in Romans 4:6-8 speaks of God imputing righteousness seemingly without regards to works. Here Paul uses one of King David’s statements as evidence of such. Paul writes, "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." (Romans 4:6–8). Here again we will look back to the original Scripture which reads, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." (Psalm 32:1–2) " David here with good reason declared the wonderful and blessed state of the one whose sins are forgiven, rather than his sins being imputed to him, and yes the blessed state of him who has a pure spirit. Notice how David by this statement does not teach or indicate that works are not important and that righteousness is imputed regardless of works (behavior) to some elect. Rather, David relates the blessing and forgiveness to the one whose spirit has no guile (having such a spirit is a good work)!
Paul’s use or misuse of the five above OT Scriptures and his emphasis therewith that discredits works and teaches that God without giving regards to works (man’s behavior), distributes his mercy and grace to some predestined elect, contradicts Paul’s core teachings in many other Scriptures, the core of what Jesus repeatedly taught (who advocated those who keep His commandments and Word would abide in His love), and the core of what all other Bible writers taught, and what God told Adam and Cain in the very beginning. Yet Paul’s above teachings against works have somehow been allowed to taint and confuse Christianity as a whole for hundreds or thousands of years. Works has almost become a bitter word and a matter against grace and supposed truth in much of Christianity. Christianity has been staggering and reeling with regards to the subject of works for ages because of these difficult teachings of Paul. Yes may God have mercy on us in a perplexing world. The question thus remains how should we look at them and deal with them now? One thing is absolute, and that is we certainly should not allow these perplexing texts of Paul to subtract from what Jesus taught and other Bible writers taught, in the very least! If Paul had never written as he did, and someone in our day would denounce works and advocate that God simply predestinates who He will love and reward or oppositely hate and bitterly punish, and regardless of a man’s will for God and seeking of Him and regardless of how he runs his life (works), such an one likely would be counted as a heretic. Paul in 2 Tim 1:15 speaks of all Asia having turned against him, while could it be Paul’s predestination teachings as in Romans may have been some of the reason? Again as said before may God have mercy on me or any that seeks to get to the bottom of things in their search for truth.
Nevertheless I am so very happy to say Paul wrote many very wonderful and inspiring letters! It is quite obvious that Paul in his anti works and predestination teachings was trying his best to honor the Jews in the eyes of the Romans, and thus seeking to alleviate some shame and blame from the Jews for their fall and the ensuing reception of the Gentiles. Thus he tried to point the fall of the Jew and reception of the Gentiles to a matter of predestination rather than a matter of works! Paul writing to the Romans certainly honored the Jews. He numerous times wrote “to the Jew first and also to the Gentile”, he said “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God." (Romans 3:1–2). And said, "Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;" (Romans 9:4). Paul speaking of the fall of the Jews even used that to bring honor to them saying "Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?" (Romans 11:12).
Although Paul in his difficult predestination teachings implied that grace and works must oppose each other, they certainly rather can nicely work together, as he himself shows in another letter saying, "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12–13). Although man’s self chosen works of righteousness certainly do not work together with grace, but rather incite pride, the sincere works of seeking God and following His will very much works together with grace! Regarding Paul’s statement about God blinding some, it is true that although God certainly blesses those who sincerely seek Him, He nevertheless may fearfully blind and harden those who close their minds and reject His truths. Jesus speaking of such says, "Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have." (Luke 8:18). Certainly God may have hardened the Jews, before their fall, but certainly not those Jews who sincerely sought Him. Certainly God in his foreknowledge may have preordained that in the fall of the Jews the Gentiles would be received, but He still did not blind or hate those who sought Him!
Although Paul, with regards to the fall of the Jews and reception of the Gentiles, pointed at election or predestination rather than works, Jesus spoke quite oppositely and clearly spoke of the Kingdom being taken from the Jews and given to another Nation because of their evil behavior. Jesus after vividly demonstrating to the Jews their evil in killing the prophets and desiring to kill him (through the parable of the wicked husbandmen) then said, "Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." (Matthew 21:43).
Regarding works, although obviously our best works alone cannot save us, the good works of sincerely hearing and following God, and allowing Him to work in us certainly are needed and make us eligible for His mercies and redemption as provided through Christ and which does save us! In conclusion, regarding Paul’s difficult predestination and anti works teachings, which make works appear as the enemy of grace, may those teachings not be allowed to in the very least subtract from the following plain Scriptures,
God speaking to Adam and Cain at the beginning said, "…Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Genesis 2:16–17, AV). "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door…" (Genesis 4:7)
King David said, “With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.” (Psa 18:25-26). "… the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether." (Psalm 19:9). Jesus echoed this saying "7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." (Matthew 5:7).
Jesus repeatedly said things similar to this, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love." (John 15:10).
James says, "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." (James 4:6).
Peter says, “… be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5).
Paul says, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:7–9). This certainly sounds different than how he used the five OT texts in his predestination teachings!
Not only did God at the beginning tell Adam and Cain the importance of works, but also our Bible very near the end also declares the importance of works reading, "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." (Revelation 20:12). The same message is carried throughout.
Although works as in keeping the commandments or teachings of God are most vital, such does not mean pain and bondage, rather Apostle John rather says "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous." (1 John 5:3). James speaks of them enclosing the perfect law of liberty. That is another whole subject confirmed by many amazing signs and wonders and is spoken of www.HeavensFingerPrints.com at www.CommandmentsOfMen.com .
Numerous of those who I have worked with at my job are Calvinists, and who because of Paul’s predestination teachings believe grace and salvation is all a matter of predestination and election rather than anything to do with our works (behavior choices), while further many Calvinists go as far as to believe it is impossible to fall away from God’s grace if chosen by Him. What would be the most upright and effective manner to convince our Calvinistic friends that our just God absolutely does regard man’s behavior, rather than simply predestining grace and favor to some elect without regards to works? Would not a convincing manner be to show them that not only does the seeming message of Paul’s predestination teachings greatly contradict with the rest of the Bible (including Paul’s other teachings), but that even further the OT Scriptures Paul based his predestination teachings on do not bear out that message, with one even strongly teaching the opposite. Honestly admitting and exposing these drastic conflicts, and therewith naturally having some questions if these contradictory writings of Paul really have virtue as to be included in Scripture canon, likely would be much more effective and convincing, than to claim to believe Paul’s difficult predestination teachings are as the very spoken Word of God although we really don’t believe what they seem to say, and thus believe they should neither. May God give us understanding.
This link shares a long document I wrote many years ago on the subject which also gives much to think about. http://www.teachmegod.com/home6a.htm