Sunday, October 10, 2010

Eternal Security and Its Implications For A Theology of History, Pt. IX: The Presence of Perseverance In the Present

I am back today for part nine of our series on Eternal Security (ES) and its implications upon a theology of history. Up to now, I’ve been drilling home the fact that a proper theology of history cannot exist if ES is true. God chooses to actualize real relationship with His human creation in history...and this divine choice itself testifies that there is something real to time and its passage (not static and predetermined). If God had wanted things to unfold in a robotic manner (as Calvinists believe), then God made quite a bit of extra work for Himself by allowing time to exist (not to mention, He was unusually cruel to His human creation, putting them through their struggles with sin and sickness, disease and despair, so as to give the illusion of free will and genuine choice). As I’ve stated here at the site, I don’t believe God actualized history because of His mere whim; rather, I believe God did so because He too, is committed to the idea of genuine choice in time.
My last post dealt with Hebrews 11:5 and the special case of Enoch. Have you read that verse lately? I highly suggest that you reread Enoch’s case. Verse 5 is one that I still can’t get over mentally because Enoch’s faith even defied death! Can you imagine having such strong, genuine faith as Enoch’s?
Today, I’m back to deal with what I call the key verse of Hebrews chapter 11--- that is, the summary verse, Hebrews 11:6. Let’s read it together:
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, NKJV).
The Greek reading of this verse helps provide insight into the meaning of verse 6. The Greek word for “without” is “choris,” meaning not only “without,” but “apart from.” In other words, there is no other way to please God “apart from” faith. This should stump the idea, as provided by Calvinist theologians (or even compatibilists) that faith is apart from God’s good pleasure.
Steven Roy does this in his work on divine omniscience:
“And in addition I would argue that the ‘corporate only’ understanding of the election of Ephesians 1---the election of all those who are in Christ, WITH THE FACTOR determining whether any particular individual is a part of that group BEING HIS OR HER UNDETERMINED FAITH---GOES AGAINST THE SPECIFIC TEACHING OF EPHESIANS 1:5 (WHICH SAYS THAT CHRISTIANS HAVE BEEN PREDESTINED TO BE ADOPTED AS GOD’S CHILDREN ‘IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS PLEASURE AND WILL’ RATHER THAN IN ACCORDANCE WITH OUR FAITH) and Ephesians 1:11 (which says that we have been chosen and predestined ‘according to the plan of HIM who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of HIS will’)” (Steven C. Roy, “How Much Does God Foreknow? A Comprehensive Biblical Study.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006, pages 85-86).
When Roy writes in the quote above, that “the factor” determining election is not “his or her determined faith” but “His plan...His will” (quoting Ephesians 1), he does the text a great injustice. Why? Because God’s will (or desire) is that “all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). How can men be saved apart from faith (John 3:16; Rom. 10:9; Ephesians 2:8)? God’s will is not “apart from” faith, or “without faith,” but “with faith.” Hebrews 11:6 checks the presuppositions of Calvinists and Molinists who argue unconditional election. And as I dive deeper into this verse, you will see why, with all the conviction in my heart and mind I can muster, I cannot be a Calvinist or a Molinist (although I am sympathetic to the Molinist cause).
The next key word of the verse is “impossible,” which is rendered “adunatos” in the Greek. The same word (“adunatos”) used here as “impossible,” is the same Greek word used in Hebrews 6:4 when the writers talk about falling away from the faith. The word impossible, “adunatos,” literally translates to “not able,” “of no power,” etc. So the one who desires to please God “is not able” to do so without faith.
When we get to the word “please” in the text we find something interesting: the Greek word for “please” here is “euarestesai.” The word is a compound word, made up of a prefix (“eu,” meaning “good”) and “aresteo” (“to please”). The fullest expression of pleasing God here is to “please good,” or to be “well-pleasing.”
The word “for” (Grk. “gar”) tells us that the writers will now give a reason for their previous statement (that is, that a person cannot please God apart from faith). The Greek word for “he who comes,” “proserxomenon,” is a compound word made up of “pros” (toward) and “erxomenon” (a participial form of “erxomenos,” which means “to come”). The phrase literally translates to “the one coming to God,” and the participle itself is a present middle participle. It is not only present tense (implying continuous action, the one continually coming to God), but also a middle voice (implying that the person is the one responsible for the action). In other words, I do believe that the Spirit draws all men and women to Himself (John 6:44); at the same time, however, I do not believe that the Spirit “drags” someone to Himself (as Calvinists translate the word “helkuo” in John 6:44 to mean “drag”). And why? Precisely because of this verse, Hebrews 11:6. The one who is to be saved must be “continually coming to (ward) God.” God desires to save, but He is not going to save you WITHOUT YOU!
The one who comes to God “must believe that He is.” The word “dei” means “must” or “it is necessary.” In other words, the following expectations are requirements of the one who comes to God. And these requirements have been set by God Himself. No one imposed these requirements on God, or made God set them. He did so because it seemed good to Himself to do so.
What does God require of the one who comes to Him? This is where Calvinists like to stop and say, “But God doesn’t require anything of you, except to believe.” However, the moment they throw in “except to believe,” they’ve already added a requirement to coming to Christ. In other words, no one can truly come to Christ “without anything.” Such a notion is ridiculous and does a huge injustice to the biblical text.
God requires two things of the one who comes for salvation: first, that he “believe that He is.” This means that the person must believe that God exists. If a person does not believe that God exists, he will not come to God, he will not desire to serve God, he will not love God because he presumes that God is a fairy tale. Only those who believe God is real will love Him and serve Him wholeheartedly. God will not reserve space in the new heaven and new earth for unbelievers who go to church and eat at all the church picnics but have no love for God within. If you do not believe that God exists, then coming to Him will do nothing at all. While it might impress someone watching you walk an aisle, it will not (indeed, it CANNOT) impress God (to do so would go against the standards God Himself has set).
The last requirement God expects of the sinner who comes to Him is that he believe that “He [God] is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Not only must one believe that God exists, but also that He rewards those who love Him, obey Him, and serve Him. Because He lives, we, His children, can believe that He is kind and gentle toward us, giving us the very best of Himself. It is upon the presupposition that He exists that we can believe God rewards those who truly love Him.
The wording of the last requirement is essential. “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” does not give the wooden translation of the statement. Rather, the statement literally translates to “and becomes the rewarder to the ones seeking out/searching out Him.” The word “ginomai” (becomes) shows us genuine relationship between God and His creature. It does not say “is a rewarder,” but rather, “becomes a rewarder.” The idea of God’s relation to us as “becoming a rewarder” shows that we must walk with God daily in order to see God reward us in time. God does not just reward us with good things overnight; He doesn’t just give us spiritual gifts in a split second. Rather, God gives us responsibilities as believers...and when He sees that we have served well in the first things He has given, then, God may very well be pleased to provide more spiritual gifts and blessings to our lives. The point to be made here is that life with God is not a static relationship whereby God gives everything at once (a Calvinist notion); rather, God gives us blessing and rewards us throughout the time of our lives, some here, some there, because our relationship with Him in time really matters.
I pray that my examination of Hebrews 11:6 has been a blessing to you and will continue to do so in the coming days. For now, let me just state that, once again, we see God’s relationship with us changing as we continue to conform more and more to the image of God’s Son every day. As we walk with God, we change because we become more like Him...and He changes His response to us, from one of wrath (before salvation) to one of love (at the moment of salvation) to one of rewards (as we continue to walk with Him). And all of God’s changing responses to us occur because He is not only loving, but just...and a holy God must reward good... because everything that is good, all goodness, is found in God (whose very essence is Goodness itself).
I will continue with the words of Hebrews 11 in my next post.

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