In my last post, I critiqued Norman Geisler’s view of compatibilism and the biblical passages he gave intending to support his point. I examined the context of both of those passages and concluded that faith and works are not the same thing: we were not saved BY works, or BECAUSE OF works, but saved FOR WORKS! As Ephesians 2:10 told us in the last post, God prepared the works beforehand for the believer. Those who profess faith in Christ have a plan set by God, where, if we yield to the Spirit, we will conform to the image of His Son.
In this post, I am gonna continue to attack Geisler’s remarks regarding foreseen faith. Let me give the quote again here to keep us focused:
"This view faces SEVERAL PROBLEMS. First, the biblical data seem to say more than God simply KNEW what was going to happen. Scripture seems to say that God actually DETERMINED what was going to happen and that he even assures its accomplishment by effectively working to bring it about…Second, if God’s choice to save was based on those who chose him, then IT WOULD NOT BE BASED ON DIVINE GRACE BUT WOULD BE BASED ON HUMAN EFFORT. THIS FLIES IN THE FACE OF THE WHOLE BIBLICAL TEACHING ON GRACE (compare Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7). And it is contrary to the clear teaching of several passages of Scripture that salvation does not spring from the human will. John said believers are ‘children born not of natural descent, NOR OF HUMAN DECISION or a husband’s will, but born of God’ (John 1:13). Paul adds, salvation does not ‘depend on man’s desire [will] or effort, but on God’s mercy’ (Rom. 9:16)” (Norman Geisler, from “Predestination and Free Will,” by eds. David and Randall Basinger, pages 66-67).
I’ve already explored Eph.2:8-9 and Titus 3:5-7; now I will tackle John 1:13 and Romans 9:16 respectively.
Let’s look at John 1:12-13—
12 But to all who did receive (P) Him, (Q) He gave them the right (R) to be [h] children (S) of God, (T) to those who believe (U) in His name, (V) 13 who were born, (W) not of blood, [i] or of the will (X) of the flesh, (Y) or of the will of man, [j] but of God.
Notice here that “those who believe in His name” receive “the right” of adoption as sons. Then, John writes that these people were not born “of the will of man, but of God.” All John is saying here is that God’s will is for humanity to be saved, that those who believe in Him are born of God. The Lord Jesus said the same thing to Nicodemus in John 3:
1 There was a man from the Pharisees (A) named Nicodemus, (B) a ruler (C) of the Jews. 2 This man came to Him at night and said, " Rabbi, (D) we know that You have come from God (E) as a teacher, (F) for no one could perform these signs You do unless God were with him." (G)
3 Jesus replied, " I assure you: Unless someone is born again, (H) [a] he cannot see the kingdom of God." (I)
4 "But how can anyone be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked Him. "Can he enter his mother's womb a second time and be born?"
5 Jesus answered, " I assure you: Unless someone is born (J) of water and the Spirit, (K) [b] he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 Whatever is born of the flesh (L) is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit (M) is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I told you that you [c] must be born (N) again. 8 The wind [d] blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don't know where it comes from or where it is going. (O) So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
Here the Lord states that, unless a man is born “again,” born “from above,” he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus, using a spin on the Greek word “anothen,” meaning “again, from above,” told Nicodemus that he needed a “re-birth,” a spiritual birth—although Nicodemus believed that Christ was talking about a physical birth (Jn. 3:4).
In verse 5, Jesus expounds in greater detail what He meant by being “born again”: “Unless someone is born of WATER and the SPIRIT, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” What did Jesus mean by the water and Spirit? Paul again comes to the rescue:
5 He saved us (A) — not by works of righteousness that we had done, (B) but according to His mercy, (C) through the washing of regeneration (D) and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
By regeneration, the rebirth, we are washed and made anew by the Spirit. Paul explains the washing further in Ephesians 5:
25 Husbands, love your wives, (AH) just as also Christ loved (AI) the church and gave Himself (AJ) for her, 26 to make her holy, cleansing [g] her in the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and blameless.
The washing occurs “by the word.” So when we are regenerated, we are “washed by the water of the word.” In the same way that water washes, cleans, and makes new, so does the word. The water here is a metaphor, as is made clear in Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John 3. So when Christ talks about being born of the water and of the Spirit, He is not talking about baptism per se, although we think of baptism as part and parcel of the process. No, the key to Jesus’ words (and Paul’s) is that the Word is what brings about the rebirth. For “how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher?”(Romans 10:14, HCSB)
The importance of the Word is so great that, as John 3 unfolds, Jesus begins to explain the Old Testament Law to Nicodemus, who is supposed to be a Pharisee, a teacher of the people:
9 "How can these things be?" asked Nicodemus.
10 "Are you a teacher [e] of Israel and don't know these things?" Jesus replied. 11 " I assure you: (Q) We speak what We know and We testify to what We have seen, but you [f] do not accept Our testimony. [g] 12 If I have told you about things that happen on earth and you don't believe, how will you believe if I tell you about things of heaven? 13 No one has ascended (R) into heaven (S) except the One who descended from heaven (T) —the Son of Man. (U) [h] 14 Just as Moses (V) lifted up the snake in the wilderness, (W) so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in Him will [i] have eternal life. (X)
16 "For God loved (Y) the world in this way: He gave His One and Only (Z) Son, (AA) so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (AB) 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might judge (AC) the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Anyone who believes in Him is not judged, (AD) but anyone who does not believe is already judged, (AE) because he has not believed in the name (AF) of the One and Only Son (AG) of God.
The serpent that was lifted up in the wilderness in the book of Numbers is a prefiguration of Christ, who was to be “lifted up,” or “crucified,” so that every man would have the opportunity to be saved.
So when John writes about being born of the will of God and not man, he is saying that man’s plans did not involve salvation—but God’s plan did. And the Word tells us how the Lord achieved His purposes for mankind at Calvary; for those who believe on His name (upon hearing the Word),they have the opportunity to become adopted as sons.
I will expound on Romans 9 in my next post.