Monthly Archives: April 2016

God’s Foreknowledge and Man’s Free Will

The basic question this study will attempt to very briefly and incompletely answer is “Does God’s foreknowledge preclude man’s free will?” Some say it does. They see a dilemma between the two concepts. Others argue that God’s foreknowledge and man’s free will are perfectly compatible.

First of all, the Bible clearly teaches man has free will. Many scriptures could be adduced which demonstrate that man has the freedom to either obey or disregard God’s will. For instance, Joshua charged the children of Israel, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve” (Josh. 24:15). Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). Upon hearing Jesus’ teaching, “the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him” (Luke 7:30). On and on the list could go. Each example shows that man has a real choice of various and sundry options.

Those who argue that God’s foreknowledge does preclude man’s free will argue that if God knows what is going to happen in the future, then nothing else can happen but what He knows. If nothing else can happen, then man cannot be truly free but must do what God already knows. If we could do something other than what God already knows, the argument goes, then God would be wrong and, thus, not omniscient and, thus, not God. In order to get around this alleged dilemma some argue that God limits His knowledge of some future events. By limiting His knowledge, they argue, this allows man to exercise free will.

However, the Bible just as clearly teaches that God is omniscient. The Bible teaches that God’s knowledge is infinite (Psalm 147:5). God knows the secrets of men and the thoughts of their hearts (Psalms 44:21; 94:11). The thrust of Psalms 139 is that there is nothing that God does not know. Job finally was made to understand that no thought can be withheld from God (Job 42:2). There is no searching of God’s understanding (Is. 40:28). God knows what things we have need of even before we ask (Matt. 6:8). He searches all hearts and understands all imaginations of the thoughts (I Chron. 28:9). The Lord asks, “Can any hide himself that I cannot see?” (Jer. 23:24). He knows all of His works from the beginning of the world (Acts 15:18). And God even declares “the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa. 46:10).

How, then, can this seeming paradox between God’s foreknowledge and man’s free will be harmonized? Consider the following.

First, it helps to understand God’s relationship to history. God is not part of the time line of human history waiting to see what unfolds. From the scriptures above, God clearly stands outside of time, above time as it were, looking down on our history. At any one moment, we see but a very thin, incomplete slice of time and space from our finite, fallible human perspective. But God sees everything, everywhere that happens at all times. Because God sits on this lofty perch, He can see the choices that people are making in the future just as He can clearly see the choices made by people of the past, and just as He can clearly see the choices made be people of the present time.

To be clear, it is not that He is forcing these choices, but He observes the choices of free will agents. In other words, the problem with the Limited-Knowledge Position is that it assumes that which it is trying to prove–namely, that if God foreknows a thing, then there is no free will. This can be seen when one understands that the event happens not “no matter what I do,” but precisely because it is what I decided to do! In other words, it happens not because God foreknows it, but God foreknows it because it is what happened!

Second, if knowing what happens in the future precludes man’s free will, then why doesn’t knowing what happened in the past preclude man’s free will also? I ate a cheeseburger today. I know this. Does that mean now that I had no choice in it? That I could have done nothing else? It is true that now I could make no other choice, because I have already eaten the cheeseburger, that time is passed. But God sees the future just as we see the past. For God to know what I will do in the future no more precludes my free will tomorrow than my knowing the past precludes my free will yesterday!

Finally, the case for God’s limited knowledge must overcome an extremely formidable obstacle–-the scriptures. Not only is God’s word replete with refined statements on the extent of God’s knowledge, it is also filled with examples of God’s foreknowledge of events and choices of men which in no way limited man’s free will actions.

In concluding, let me mention just one example. It was God’s will that all in Noah’s day repent of their sins. Inspiration tells us that God was longsuffering and waited in the days of Noah (I Pet. 3:20). Noah preached for 120 years to bring man to repentance (Gen. 6:3; II Pet. 2:5). Yet in God’s foreknowledge, He had Noah build an ark that would only hold Noah and his family (or at least a very few people) and two of every kind of animals. God said “the end of all flesh is come before me” (Gen. 6:13). God foreknew that everyone else would reject the truth. While God sent Noah preaching righteousness to the world that then was, He had Noah build an ark that would not accommodate every person in the world. If God could not have known or limited His knowledge of the future moral choices of all the individuals in the world, then, for all God knew, every individual may have repented.

So much more could be said, but to summarize: The Bible teaches that God is omniscient and it also teaches that man has free will. These two concepts are not contrary one to the other.

Eric L. Padgett

Outline of the Book of Galatians

I offer the following as an alliterative outline of the Book of Galatians. The reason Paul wrote this epistle was twofold. First, Paul was defending his apostleship. Everywhere he went he had to deal with those who questioned his apostolic bona fides in Christ. The second reason was to argue against the view propagated by those Judaizers who taught that the Gentiles had to obey the law of Moses and be circumcised in order to be saved.

Introduction of the Gospel (1:1-5)
Key Verse: Galatians 1:4 – Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
Observation: This concise statement of the basics of the Gospel is a fitting introduction to the Gospel in Galatians.
Imprecation of the Gospel (1:6-9)
Key Verse: Galatians 1:8 – But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
Observation: A curse rests on all who would dare alter the word of God (Prov. 30:5,6)
Inspiration of the Gospel (1:11-24)
Key Verse: Galatians 1:11-12 – But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Observation: The Gospel which Paul preached is a certified Gospel, certifiably from heaven and not from men (II Tim. 3:16,17; II Pet. 1:16-21).
Impartiality of the Gospel (2:1-14)
Key Verse: Galatians 2:8 – (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
Observation: The Gospel is not just for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles. Peter had forgotten the lesson he had previously learned (Acts 10:34,35).
Independence of the Gospel (2:15-21)
Key Verse: Galatians 2:21 – I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Observation: If one could be saved by the law of Moses, then Christ did not need to die. God’s grace was frustrated by going back to that law that would not save.

Perfection of the Gospel (3:1-7)
Key Verse: Galatians 3:3 – Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Observation: The “flesh” represented the law of Moses; the Spirit, the New Covenant. Going back to the old law would not bring them to perfection, or bring about their salvation.
Promise of the Gospel (3:8-14)
Key Verse: Galatians 3:14 – That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Observation: The blessings promised to Abraham (Gen. 12-17) can be ours through Jesus Christ by faithful obedience to God’s will (James 2:21-24).
Person of the Gospel (3:15-29)
Key Verse: Galatians 3:16 – Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
Observation: The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is the story of man’s fall and redemption through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the seed promised in the Fall (Gen. 3:15), to Abraham (Gen. 12:3; 17:8), and to David (II Sam. 7:13,14; Rom. 1:3).
Parentage of the Gospel (4:1-11)
Key Verse: Galatians 4:3-5 – Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Observation: Two figures are used in Scripture for our being added to the family of God. One is the new birth (John 3:1-8) and the other is adoption (Rom. 8:14,15).
Portrayal of the Gospel (4:12-31)
Key Verse: Galatians 4:30-31 – Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
Observation: Paul uses Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael, to demonstrate the difference between the Old and New Covenants. The New Covenant having been God’s plan from the beginning (Rev. 13:8), we are the children of promise as was Isaac.

Liberty of the Gospel (5:1-12)
Key Verse: Galatians 5:1 – Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Observation: For the Jews to go back to a system never intended to provide salvation, would only bring them again into spiritual bondage. To do this, would be to fall from Grace (v. 4).
Love of the Gospel (5:13-16)
Key Verse: Galatians 5:13 – For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
Observation: Being free is not a license to sin. Love should govern our actions.
Lead of the Gospel (5:17-26)
Key Verse: Galatians 5:24 – And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Observation: Following the teaching of the Holy Spirit, we will have purged from our lives all works of the flesh and will have begun producing the fruit of the Spirit
Law of the Gospel (6:1-10)
Key Verse: Galatians 6:2 – Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Observation: The law of Christ is to love one another (John 13:34) and in so doing we will help each other bear the burdens of life.
Laud of the Gospel (6:11-18)
Key Verse: Galatians 6:14 – But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
Observation: Those who would glory in some material connection or accomplishment are misguided. They are brought to nought (I Cor. 1:28). While the world views the cross as foolishness, the true glory is in the cross and in our Lord (I Cor. 1:31).

Eric L. Padgett

Reaching the Lost

One of the issues which often arises in discussions in business meetings and among faithful brethren in other settings is how we can effectively reach the lost? We fret because we seem unable to reach large numbers (or even small numbers) of people consistently with the truth, with enough impact for them to obey the gospel. While this author does not profess to have all the answers (or even some) to this important question, he would like to offer a few observations on the subject.

First, we must recognize that some of the greatest teachers in the world were unable to affect obedience in their audience. Noah preached impending doom for 120 years, but was able to save only his own family (II Pet. 2:5; I pet. 3:20; Gen. 6:3). The prophets were often regularly ignored and killed (Matt. 23:30,31). Jesus, the Master teacher (John 7:46), did not always get a positive response (John 6:66,67). In Athens, Paul encountered those who mocked him (Acts 17:32). If these had their troubles with reaching the lost, why do we suppose that we would be any different?

Second, we must recognize the limits of our responsibility. Our obligation is not to convert or save anyone, but to preach the gospel (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16). We, ourselves, cannot save or convert anyone. It is the word which convicts and converts (e.g., Acts 2:36). It is God that gives the increase (I Cor. 3:6). If we go with the idea that we are to convert, then we will most likely be disappointed. Let us be content to limit our activity to that which the Lord commanded and He will be pleased with that.

Third, we seriously err if we think that we can substitute the gospel of Christ with worldly attractions to lure people into the church. We all know how to draw huge crowds: simply offer people what they want to hear instead of what the Lord says they need (II Tim. 4:3,4). Jesus condemned this type of attitude when He condemned those who followed Him only because of the loaves and fishes (John 6:26,27). Too many churches of Christ offer people things, things like various kinds of classes unrelated to Christ or His word, food, giveaways, fairs, etc., in exchange for their continued patronage of the local church. This is neither scriptural nor moral.

Furthermore, all this does is to cause people to think materialistically. It doesn’t pique their interest in spiritual things. Our affections should be set on things above, not on things on the earth (Col. 3:1-3). It is the gospel of Christ which has the power to draw people to Him (John 12:32). If you lure people in with material things and activities, then you will have to keep them there with material things and activities.

Fourth, there probably is no one reason why people refuse to come to the Lord. For some, it may be that they do not want to tacitly condemn their family by obeying something their family did not do. No one would purposely condemn their family to hell, which is what they may feel like they are doing when they, themselves, obey. For others it may be a love of the things of this world is too strong a pull on them (Matt. 13:7,22). Some may not understand the teaching of Christ or the importance of obedience to Christ. It may be these things and many things more or it may be many of these thing all rolled up into one bundle. Each case is unique.

Fifth, sadly, there are some people who are just unreachable. Some have hardened their heart so much that the light of the gospel will not shine in unto them (II Cor. 4:3,4; Eph. 4:17-19). Jesus said of Israel that “this people’s heart is waxed gross and their ears are dull of hearing” (Matt. 13:15). Jesus recognized this and said that we must cast the dust off our feet in such situations (Matt. 10:14).

Finally, the best way to reach people with the gospel is to get it out there where it can be believed. There is no possibility of the seed producing fruit if it is not sown. Seed kept stored in a bag will not grow. It grows only when it is sown in great quantities. The more we know of God’s word, and the more opportunities we take to teach others, the more likely we will reach people with the truth. There is no magic formula for positive results that does not include hard work.

Eric L. Padgett

Justified With God

Long ago Bildad the Shuhite, when contemplating the greatness of Jehovah, asked this question: “How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?” (Job 25:4). If not even the stars are pure in His sight, how much less is a man, that is comparatively nothing more than a worm (Job 25:5,6). While not everything Bildad is recorded as saying was exactly right, this question captures the heart of a man who understands his own human failures and God’s perfect goodness. But the question is worthy of consideration: How can a man be justified with God?

For one, the Bible teaches us that we are justified by humility. Jesus said of the penitent publican, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:14). No man who is proud or arrogant is going to submit himself to God’s will. Such an attitude certainly goes before the fall and before destruction (Prov. 16:18; 18:12). God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

Our words are another measure by which we are justified. Jesus said, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matt. 12:36, 37). Our words are a window to our soul for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34; Luke 6:45). God has of old condemned bearing false witness (Ex. 20:16) and taking the name of the Lord in vain (Ex. 20:7). Furthermore, the Lord hates a lying tongue, a false witness that beareth lies and he who sows discord among brethren (Prov. 6:16-19). Even though the tongue is just a little member, it can do great damage that can be very difficult, if not impossible, to undo (James 3:5). If we do not confess Christ, we can never be justified (Matt. 10:32,33).

Clearly, however, we are justified by Christ. Paul said as Christians we are in the process of seeking to be justified by Christ (Gal. 2:17). It is by Him that we are justified from all things from which the law of Moses could not justify us (Acts 13:39). Paul said we are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus (I Cor. 6:11). If we try to be justified through some other means than that revealed in the Scriptures, that is, other than through the Lord, Christ becomes of no effect unto us (Gal. 5:4; Acts 4:12). But how are we justified through Christ?

First, we are justified by His grace (Rom. 3:24; Tit. 3:7). Grace is God’s unmerited favor toward us. We do not earn it, it is given to us freely, but we must obtain it or access it. God manifested His grace and it has appeared to all men in the form of His Son suffering for us on the cross as the propitiation for our sin (I John 2:1). In that act He has shown the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us (Eph. 2:6,7). But that act alone is not sufficient to save us, for if it was, then all would be saved, for it has appeared to all men (Tit. 2:11). But we are saved and justified by His grace through faith (Eph. 2:8).

Second, then, we are justified by faith. Paul wrote, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). 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 (Heb. 11:6). Jesus said that if we do not believe that He is the Messiah, we will die in our sins. Therefore, faith is essential. Indeed, it is through faith that we have access into the grace of God that brings salvation (Rom. 5:2). But faith alone is also itself not enough.

In the third place, then, we are justified by works. If someone were to say “I have faith” but did not manifest any works, that faith could not save him (James 2:14). What if Noah never built an ark, would he have been saved? James emphatically states that we can see from the scriptures, particularly from the life of Abraham, that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only (James 2:24). This is the only time the expression “faith only” is found in the Bible and we are told that “faith only” does not save. The very fact that we are going to be judged according to our works ought to be evidence enough even to the most skeptical, that works are essential to justification (Rev. 20:11-15).

So then how can a man be justified with God? In a word, through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote that we are “justified by the faith” (Gal. 3:24). In the original, the word “faith” is preceded by the article. It is “the faith.” This is the faith once delivered (Jude 3). Notice that verse 25 says that “faith is come.” Faith just didn’t come with Jesus, for Abraham was justified by his faith (Gen. 15:6; Gal. 3:6). Abel demonstrated faith by which he obtained witness that he was righteous (Heb. 11:4). That faith Paul spoke of is the gospel system and it is by it that we are justified. For which cause Paul could write that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, for therein is the righteousness of God revealed (Rom. 1:16,17).

Eric L. Padgett