Saturday, June 01, 2013

The Called of Jesus Christ

Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 01:05-07, NKJV).

In the inimitable words of Dr. Who: “You've got a few cowboys in here! Well, not actual cowboys, but that can happen.”

By this I mean that the subject of divine calling is closely associated with the issues of God's foreknowledge and His revealed mode of operation known as predestination. These are not trivial subjects and have been the source of much theological controversy for the last 2000 years.

The two most prevalent positions in this regard usually reside under the umbrellas of Calvinism on the one hand, and Armenianism on the other. Both schools of thought, respectively, are named after their most notable human adherents, and therein lies the first problem.

Human beings have, at best, only a partial understanding of how God operates, and that, to be legitimate and even remotely accurate, must be based on Scripture alone, since that is the vehicle through which God reveals Himself.

Calvin believed and taught that God's sovereignty (His unlimited authority over all Creation) takes precedence over all His other divine attributes, and from that starting point, argued that God alone determines who will be saved and who will spend eternity in Hell. Expressed in colloquial terms (informally), Calvinists believe that God predestines individuals for Heaven or Hell – some are born solely for Hell-fire, and some for Heaven, and that divine predestination overrules everything else.

While this represents a very high view of God's authority, it does so at the expense of all His other revealed characteristics, not the least of which is His sacrificial love (called agape in Greek). While God has all authority in Heaven and earth, He is love. Note the difference. Authority is His possession, while love is His very nature.

If Calvin is correct, then all the invitations in the Bible to choose to follow Jesus, and to come volitionally (a voluntary act of will) into His Kingdom, are lies. Why? Because God's sovereignty and predestination make human choice an utter illusion.

Armenias believed virtually the opposite of Calvin, in that his teaching made human will more powerful than God's authority. Taken to its logical conclusion, Armenianism postulates that it is possible to lose your salvation, since it was by your own choice that you attained it in the first place. Consequently, by making a subsequent choice to turn away, you may “give it up”.

While this retains the truthfulness of all the invitations in Scripture to voluntarily believe and be saved, it completely negates all the other promises and declarations about God being able to “keep you”.

Here are just a few:

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29, NKJV).

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:27-30, NKJV).

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; (Philippians 1:6, NKJV).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5, NKJV).

Thus we see the problems with human schools of thought that do not take into account the whole counsel of God.

The Bible clearly teaches that salvation is a gift that can be accepted or rejected. It also teaches that once accepted, the gift cannot be lost or returned. It is irrevocable.

It also contains repeated warnings to keep yourself in the love of God, and not to turn away, and to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith, and endure to the end of this life.

So what can we conclude about these invitations to salvation, this being the called of Jesus Christ? How do we reconcile (bring into agreement), the two apparently contradictory inclusions of warnings about falling away with repeated promises that we are secure?

I believe it is this: both are true. While this may appear contradictory from our limited human intelligence, it is unreasonable to expect that we finite beings can ever really comprehend an Infinite Being. And the key point of reconciliation is this: once we sincerely and fully accept by faith God's call to eternal life, we are changed. We move from death into life. We are born again. We are new creations.

These transformations, once accomplished by God are undoable. No power in Heaven or earth can separate us from the love of God poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Once we are His, we are His forever.
So why the warnings? I believe these are for those who presume (suppose something the be the case without actual evidence) that they are saved for reasons other than sincere faith and a transformed life. Those who use grace as a license to sin.

But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. (Hebrews 6:9, NKJV).

In the end, we can be certain of our security in Christ. He gave His life for us. Therefore being the called of Jesus Christ is a priceless eternal possession and something that, if we understand all that it means, must fill us with immeasurable joy.