Why is it so difficult for Christians to accept the Authoritative Will of God? It seems that we ever seek to rewrite Scripture so that it reflects our own definitions of who God is and how God responds to His creation. This message discusses how predestination, election, and God’s authoritative will work as a single unit.
A few days ago, while speaking to one of my pastor friends, the subject to predestination and God’s sovereignty came before us. The conversation became a bit touchy. My friend is of Advent persuasion. In matters of salvation, he rejects the full sovereignty of God wherein God says:
“(I)… will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy,” (Exodus 33:19).
Now I fully believe and accept all that the God has caused to be recorded in Holy Scriptures. Thus I teach the doctrine of election of the Saints. According to Romans 9 and Romans 9:16 in specific, no one came come to God except that God by grace provides saving faith to that person.
“So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy,” (Romans 9:16).
Because of his Advent viewpoints, many Christians define my friend as an unredeemed person. I say that you should be careful not to add to that which is necessary for salvation. Else you too end up in a classification of misinformed believers. My friend fully accepts the core truth of Christianity. He believes that Christ was:
- Born of a virgin
- Baptized in water
- Filled with the Holy Spirit
- Lived a perfect sinless life
- Complied to all of the God-revealed Old Testament laws
- By death on the cross, atoned for the sins of all who will believe
- Was Buried
- AND rose in victory over death on the third day.
Furthermore, this pastor lives a Christian life, bearing fruit, and trusting God that by faith he will enter heaven. Works accompanies his faith, but he clearly proclaims that grace not works quickened his spirit.
Yet two major points of belief divide our understanding of Scripture, the first being that of predestination and election, and the second having to do with the nature of judgment. My pastor friend also refuses to believe that a “loving” god will send unrepentant sinners into “everlasting punishment” in hell.
He accepts the false doctrine “Total Annihilation” wherein, upon that final Day of Judgment, God will cast each unredeemed person into a lake of all-consuming fire. This fire will consume all, including the spirit, and that person will merely cease to exist.
But I want to walk right past that particular issue, and rather focus on the doctrine of election, predestination, and God’s Sovereign plan to choose for salvation those people whom he wills to be saved for his purposes. A rebuttal of the doctrine Total Annihilation is for another day.
In the course of our discussion, my pastor friend stated that it is God’s will that everyone should be saved. His thoughts, I believe, are based upon the text in 2-Peter 3:9, which reads as follows:
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
If we read between the lines, and ignore all other components of the text, we can get a sentence that reads in this manner: “The Lord is not willing that any should perish.” Thus we end up with a confused understanding of the text.
Acknowledging Authoritative Will of God Necessary For Rightly Understanding Scripture
To rightly divine this section of scripture, consider these three points:
- Taking text out of context is an invitation to error
- Understanding how we should treat this application of God’s will requires that we also understand the various aspects of God’s applied will
- AND when using a word so vague as the term “any,” we must use the surrounding text to qualify that word.
As to taking the scriptures out of context, this we all sometimes do, partly because we believe the words can and do stand alone, and partly because we assume that those who hear us speak already know the context of the words. And there are, of course, those deceivers who deliberately speak words out of context. As to my friend, I think he is speaking in brief concerning a matter that he feels fully capable of expanding to anyone who is willing to receive the expansion. And that, my friend, is common to all forms of communication.
As to understanding which aspect of God’s will should be applied to the text, we must first grasp the nature of God’s will. This comes in three aspects:
- The Authoritative Will of God, referencing of course to God’s declared and irresistible voice of decision and command. This is reflected in the book of Genesis when God commanded and creation followed. It is also reflected in the book of Jonah when God forcibly moved the unwilling prophet to preach to the people of Nineveh. God’s Authoritative Will can and does override the free will of man.
- The Preceptive Will of God, referencing God’s legal expectations concerning men and their behavior both toward one another and toward Himself. It involves those things that God disallows as well as those things within the range of God’s legal expectation. Unlike the Authoritative Will of God, the God’s Preceptive Will does not override the free will of man – although eventual judgment will accompany man’s failure to submit to the Preceptive Will of God.
- The Dispositional Will of God relates to God’s emotions. It speaks of God’s will that his creation be pleasing to Himself. In 1-Kings 3:5-10, King Solomon requests that God give him wisdom. The Scripture says that, “…the speech pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.” Therein we see that when men act according to God’s Dispositional Will, our Creator responds with blessings and honor.
Thus when reading the text from Second Peter, we must always bear in mind the three aspects associated with the will of God, therein enabling ourselves to rightly divine meaning from the text.
Applying God’s Authoritative Will to Word Qualification
Now, as to qualifying the term, “any,” we must correctly identify the associated focus. If we assume that “any” includes every classification of human beings, the purpose for speaking from this scripture is obvious: My friend is saying that if God saves according to his sovereign and declared will then everyone will be saved. However, since not all are saved, this evidences that God does not save according to predestination or election. In other words, in this text Peter is speaking according to God’s Dispositional will rather than the Authoritative Will of God.
However, if the text in 2-Peter is to be taken in the sense my friend suggests, we encounter a serious conflict in scripture. For the entirety of Romans 9 is devoted to a declaration of Sovereign election. The key scripture reads:
“So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy,” (Romans 9:16).
I did not go into this argument with my friend. Only those who are seeking can be swayed by pure discussion. But for the sake of this message, let us take a deeper look at Romans, Chapter 9.
The text begins with a statement concerning the adoption, the glory and the covenants of God. In speaking via the pen of apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit includes statements concerning the promises of God, and then goes on to make example from Old Testament text wherein God declares a special love for Jacob over Esau. The text reads as follows:
“As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated,” (Romans 9:13).
From this statement, the Spirit leaps ahead in time and presents a similar declaration as spoken to Moses in the book of Exodus, wherein the text reads:
“I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion,”
Then comes verse 16, a text that so conflicts with the understanding my pastor friend has concerning Second Peter Chapter 3. When my spirit links these words to John 1:9- 13, the error in understanding clearly falls against my friend.
“That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” (John 1:9-13).
Notice how John, in mentioning creation, uses the Authoritative Will of God to precede the concept of salvation also being a component of God’s Authoritative Will. This is purposeful writing, wherein the author clearly leads to reader into a right understanding of a given subject matter.
Back again to Second Peter, but now taking additional Scripture so as to rightly qualify the word, “any.” Review the text:
“This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” (2-Peter 3:1-9).
To determine to whom the word “any” must be applied, we begin by determining to whom this letter is addressed. This is made clear in the first verse wherein Peter declares that he writes to the “beloved.” This is a term used to identify those who are already in Christ. This is further confirmed by verse five when the author switches terms when defining those who are willing ignorant. Thus we see a distinction between the “beloved” to whom Peter writes, and the “they” being those unwilling to hear the truth. Notice in verse eight that the “beloved” are warned against being “ignorant,” thus once more enforcing a distinction between the those who are in the body of Christ versus those who are not in the body of Christ.
Now read once more the full text of verse nine wherein it is written:
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” (2-Peter 3:9).
See that word, “us-ward.” Notice how it precedes the phrase, “…not willing that any should perish.” Clearly the “any” refers only to the “beloved” to whom this scripture is directed. Thus when we apply the Authoritative Will of God to this statement, we see not a conflict between the words and Romans 9 and the words in Second Peter, but rather a confirmation of a single truth that aligns with all other scripture that pertains to predestination and election.
My friend is confused, mislead by false teachings from false teachers. Rather than permitting the Holy Spirit to lead his understanding of bible text, he has chosen to ignore or even remove Scripture that reveals his error. To believe this error is to believe that men have within themselves the will and the power to evoke faith in Christ. This is merely another way of turning salvation into a work of man rather than the work of God. And then, my friend, you run head-on into a conflict with further Scripture. And this is where I end…
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” (Ephesians 2:4-10).
This, my friend, reflects the full and declared Authoritative Will of God.