A call is the extension of a divine grace offer to any individual. It is also divine guidance.
There is a general call of the salvation offer, which is given to all mankind;
There is a specific call of salvation at the moment that anyone hears the gospel or identifies God consciousness.
There is a call to the ministry that includes the awareness of divine guidance to a specific ministry.
There is a general call to the ministry that is the identification of the spiritual gift of evangelism or pastor-teacher.
A divine calling is therefore divine communication into the life of a human being.
We are called to salvation, holiness, and faith, (2 Thessalonians 2:13f.), to an eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15), to fellowship (1 Corinthians 1:9), and to service (Galatians 1).
Galatians 1:15 makes it clear that the means of the calling is grace, and the content of the call is truth (2 Thessalonians 2:14 cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:4f.; Romans 10:14ff.).
This is the sum total of the expression of divine sovereignty in human history.
The classic definition comes from R.B. Thieme, Jr.: “The decree of God is His eternal (always existed), holy (perfect integrity), wise (the application of omniscience to creation), and sovereign purpose, comprehending simultaneously all things that ever were or will be in their causes, conditions (status), successions (interaction with others that leads to certain decisions), relations, and determining their certain futurition.
This definition begins by expressing the source of the decrees. “Comprehending” refers to divine omniscience.
The definition also expresses the attributes of God in terms of divine will in human history.
The definition emphasizes that the omniscience of God knew simultaneously in eternity past everything that would happen in human history (the thought, action, and decision of every person in his life), furthermore, everything in relation to all of the things pertaining to it.
But has God given all the events in human history certain futurition? That is, did He decree everything beforehand? And if so, then how can man ever have free will? This is a very ancient question indeed, and one we will answer fully below.
Note this distinction: God has given the conditions of human history certain futurition. Not the events.
Election is the choosing action of God toward certain individuals in the human race.
There are four elections in the Bible: Humanity, Israel, Jesus Christ, and the Chruch.
Election is the expression of Divine sovereignty, and God is sovereign over all.
Election never violates the integrity of God, and it never violates the principle of human free will.
Election is synonomous with predestination. Just because God has chosen you before the foundation of the world does not mean that you are compelled to accept His choice.
There is no special election of believers.
God knows all things from eternity past; He knows all possibilities of human history before they exist.
He knows every consequence and condition of human history; He knows the courses of our lives, should we take any option.
He knows how every possible option and combination of options will turn out.
In foreknowledge, the pre-set conditions of the decree are combined with the knowledge of human events.
God is perfect and infinite; He is omnipotent, and has the power to perform any act.
But His perfect character limits the function of His omnipotence, because He will not do anything that violates His perfect sense of integrity.
Kenosis is God’s self-limiting action, due to integrity. It operates under all conditions and at all times.
Kenosis acts as the protection for all of God’s interaction with His creatures.
Lapsarianism is an observation of the logical order of the conditions of human history, as set forth in the divine decree.
It concentrates on the principles of kenosis, providence, and election.
Lapsarianism, from the word “lapse,” refers to the fact that man is a fallen being.
Lapsarianism, then, deals with the order of the decrees. It deals with the logical rather than with the chronological order of the decrees. By logical is meant that although the entire decree is one thought in the mind of God, the principle of cause and effect is involved.
This is one of the primary conditions of human history, as set forth by the divine decree.
God determined that all decisions made by human beings would have their consequences, good or bad, according to His justice.
God promised from eternity past that humanity would receive justice according to their decisions, all in good measure.
This is synonomous with election. In eternity past, God set forth His desire of the highest and best for every human being.
Every human being has a highest and best destiny; with divine foreknowledge, every human being has a highest and best destiny from any point in their lives.
Every person’s destiny waits for fulfillment through the function of free will. Many do not fulfill their destinies because of their bad decisions in life.
In predestination, God chose certain conditions which would result in the function of His justice toward. As a result, you can always be confident that you good decisions will leave in in His direct will.
Predestination always sets God’s highest and best for you from your current position, morally, spiritually, and physically.
The is the anticipation of grace for all the possibilities of our lives.
Because of foreknowledge, God can anticipate all of the possibilities of our lives, and account for it with grace.
Providence is the divine provision of grace to us at any given moment. It is the provision of what we need, logistically and spiritually to fulfill our destinies.
Providence is infallible and all-powerful, surpassing all human limitations.
This is the infinite and perfect divine volition.
His decisions are based on His perfect thinking.
His decisions are motivated by His perfect love.
His volition is supreme over all others, and completely independent of any outside factor.
Whenever God makes a decision, it is perfect and infinite, and it supersedes and overrules all creature volition.
God has the right exercise His sovereignty because of His infinity and perfection.
God is fully qualified to exercise His sovereignty because of His infinity and perfection.
Sometime in the distant past, God created angels. As a part of His conflict with angels, he created man.
God is always completely responsible and just toward all His creatures.
The Bible makes it clear that the character of God acts with perfect consistency toward His creatures.
So now the question is this would God have been completely fair to the fallen angels by resolving their conflict through what amounts to a morality play.
If human history is a puppet show, then there is no need for the puppets to have consciousness. The very fact that we have consciousness, and that we are here to resolve the angelic conflict makes it clear that we are not puppets.
This builds an approach to the scriptural passages on the foreknowledge and foreordaining of God.
What we must look for in Scripture are passages that demand the foreordination of all the specific events of our lives. If we cannot find them, then we must prefer an alternative, due to the character of God approach.
God’s motive is always love; He wants the best for all of His creatures, and that is to have a relationship with Him.
But more than that, God wants reciprocal love, and true love from the creatures. This love can only come from true free will. If there is any meddling on the part of God, then it is not true love at all, but just the expression of robots or puppets.
Therefore true love can only be expressed toward creatures with self-consciousness and awareness; it can only be expressed from a creature who has a soul, and true free will.
Human ignorance is not a very complete answer; for even with ignorance plus foreordination, there is still puppetry from the viewpoint of the angels.
It begins in Genesis 2:19: “So Yahweh God formed every beast of the field out of the ground, and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called the living creature, that was its name.”
The qal infinitive construct of the verb RA’AH forms a purpose clause; God’s purpose in bringing the birds and beasts to Adam was to see what Adam would name them.
This was a responsibility for Adam, and God was quite curious to see how this would turn out. This was Adam’s first trial.
But wait a minute… God is omniscient, isn’t He? Doesn’t He know how this is going to turn out?
God is omniscient when He wants to be, and when it satisfies His integrity. Under the principle of kenosis, God may voluntarily restrict the use of His divine capabilities.
We can conclude from this little phrase that God can exercise His omniscience in the form of foreknowledge, but sometimes He chooses not to.
In contrast to what comes next, this is not an anthropomorphism. The purpose of an anthropomorphism or anthropopathism is to explain some action of God in human terms, attributing human attributes and limits and emotions to Him.
The essence of this figure of speech has to do with accomodation. It accomodates God to the human frame of reference. God does not have a head or hands or eyes; He is spirit. But He does things that remind us of our own actions that we take with our bodily members, and so the writers of the Bible employ the terms.
Now the question in this passage is how portraying God as limited in foreknowledge helps to explain His action here.
It simply puts forth a desire of God: He wants to know what the man would call the animals. That is God’s purpose in bringing those animals to Adam.
And if God wants to know, then He doesn’t know, and this lack of knowledge can only be through choice.
Genesis 11:5 “The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.”
This is a good example of an anthropomorphism. The writer gives God a human attribute in order to explain divine intervention into the Babel affair.
Before that time, God had been attentive to human affairs, even looking down with complete omnipresence from His heavenly throne.
But God coming to earth is an anthropomorphic metaphor designed to show the advent of an intervention. I use this all the time.
Genesis 18:21 is just the same as the preceding, “I [God] will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”
Genesis 22:12 is another good passage that demonstrates God’s voluntary blinding of His omniscience in order to give true free will to His creatures: “He (God) said, ‘Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
This stands as a very dramatic example. Before this time, God did not know of Abraham’s respect for Him.
How could this be an anthropomorphism? What does it illustrate about God.
This is a test of Abraham, and the Bible honestly sets forth God’s motive in the test. God’s motive is to gain a knowledge of Abraham’s integrity.
Here is another example of God’s restriction of His own foreknowledge.
Exodus 3:4 has God waiting on Moses before acting, “When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’”
If God waits for us to act, it is an indication that He honors chronology.
Although this is not a direct reference to the restriction of foreknowledge, it does confirm the fact of divine intervention of human affairs.
Foreordination and chronological intervention manufacture a redundancy, for if God foreordains all things, then there is no need at all for chronological intervention.
Intervention implies that there is no foreordination.
Because when you foreordain everything, there is no need to intervene in time.
And if you do both, you are just posing to intervene. Just as free will is false in the foreordination model, so also is divine intervention.
This again assaults the integrity of God.
Deuteronomy 8:2 is another fine example: “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”
Deuteronomy 13:3 is next, “…you shall not listen to the words of that [false] prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
God wants to find out if we love Him. He would not have to do this if indeed He had foreordained it.
Again, this is not a condescension, designed to make us understand an action of God. What action are we to understand here? It is inexplicable, unless there is a kenosis.
That God tests us, and that He does so to find out what we will do, this is indication of the kenosis of foreknowledge on the part of God.
Judges 3:4 continues the avalanche, “They [the Gentile nations] were for testing Israel, to find out if they would obey the commandments of the Lord, which He had commanded their fathers through Moses.”
More of the same. God tested the Israelites through the Gentile nations. He wanted to know if they would obey His commandments under adversity.
How could this be under the foreordination viewpoint?
2 Chronicles 32:31, “Even in the matter of the envoys of the rulers of Babylon, who sent to him to inquire of the wonder that had happened in the land, God left him alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart.”
Psalm 14:2 is yet one more: “The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.” Psalm 53:2 repeats this exact phrase.
Isaiah 65:16, “Because he who is blessed in the earth will be blessed by the God of truth; and he who swears in the earth will swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hidden from My sight.”
This is a clear and real example of the kenosis of the omniscience of God.
In forgiveness God forgets our sins, and they are hidden from His sight.
It is necessary for the sake of integrity that God do this.
And this is a real anthropomorphism. Nothing is hidden from the sight of God. Hebrews 4:13, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”
But it is an anthropomorphism that illustrates forgiveness. And the forgiveness of God means that He restricts His ability to recall that sin. It is truly forgotten, and He knows it no more.
Psalm 103:12 puts this in another way: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
Now again, the integrity of God demanded this restriction of omniscience. God has the ability to remember our forgiven sins, but He chooses to restrict that ability for the reason of integrity.
This is a real restriction; it is integrity.
But there are many biblical instances where God feigns ignorance to prompt thinking in creatures.
Genesis 3:9 - A rhetorical question… “Adam, where are you?” The purpose is to get Adam to think about where he is.
Genesis 4:9 - A rhetorical question… “Where is Abel your brother?” The purpose is to get Cain to think about the location of his brother.
1 Kings 19:9 - A rhetorical question… “What are you doing here, Elijah?” The purpose is to get Elijah to think about what he is doing there.
But the reason for these legitimate illustrations is to contrast them with the incidents where there is a real kenosis of foreknowledge.
Compare these now again to God’s expressed desire to know what Adam would name the creatures. There is clearly a reversal of perspective; instead of the creature perspective, there is the divine, and this is the important observation that we must make.
The focus of the rhetorical questions above is on the man. The focus of the narratives of Adam and Abraham are on God. In each case it is clear that He wants to know for His benefit.
Because any decree with absolute foreknowledge of the outcome is foreordination.
And foreordination destroys integrity. It makes God the author of evil and a lot more.
The decree to elect some to be saved and to reprobate all others;
The decree to create men both elect and nonelect;
The decree to permit the Fall;
The decree to provide salvation for the elect;
The decree to apply salvation to the elect.
The decree to create all men;
The decree to permit the fall;
The decree to provide salvation for man;
The decree to elect those who do believe and leave condemned all who do not believe;
The decree to apply salvation to those who believe.
Genesis 1:26, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness…”
This verse stands as the only true revelation of divine motive for the creation of man.
And the verse does not speak directly to motive, only to the pattern of creation.
The pattern of creation is the character image of God. As such, it is apparent that God wanted man to represent Him in some vital way.
There is a subtle difference between the creation of angels and men.
Angels were created without the stigma of the angelic conflict. They were created simply to share the fellowship and blessings of a relationship with God.
But mankind not only has the same as angels, it has the initial motivation of resolving the angelic conflict.
This makes God’s love of man no less; but the initial motivation had to do with the angels. The fallen angels required a just forum for their complaints about the character of God, and human history was the result.
Nonetheless, God loves man, and has a plan for the life of every one. And He desires for every human being the fellowship and blessings of relationship with Him.
B. Necessity of free will. Free will is absolutely necessary for an honest love between creatures. It is absolutely necessary that man be volitional in order to get an honest resolution of the conflict of angels.
Evidence of the free will of man.
God intervenes. Since God intervenes, it reveals He believes it will make a difference to man.
Sometimes He intervenes and it does not good; He does not attain the objective of His intervention because of human rejection.
At other times, God intervenes and it brings about the intended effect.
The breakdown of this is that God intervenes knowing that something is truly at stake, depending on the volition of man.
Although a command issues from sovereign and rightful authority, it is still contingent on the volition of creatures for its execution.
That the Ten Commandments should so often be violated by men is sufficient enough evidence for the existence of volition among men.
The many contingencies of Scripture related to the choices of man.
The salvation contingency is found in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” It says whoever, meaning it is open to all.
A fine example of post-salvation contingency comes up in Romans 6:4, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” It says ‘might,’ indicating the contingency.
Permission of the fall.
God determined in eternity past that man would have free will, and that sin and evil would therefore be an option available to human beings.
Evil does not come from God; it exists as the opposite of all that God is, and so has always existed in contrasting possibility.
Since God is perfect, He will never choose evil. Therefore, evil never came into being before there were creatures.
God decided that creatures would have free will, and so evil was a possibility from the beginning.
He would allow the fall, because it was necessary for creatures to have free will in order to enjoy fellowship with Him.
So in God’s mind there was a thought like this: “If they choose against Me, I must allow it.”
Law of volitional responsibility.
Along with the freedom to choose, God emplaced in this world a law as certain as the law of gravity.
Our decisions have consequences. God has given us responsibility for our decisions, along with His character image in our souls.
Responsibility has the presumption of grace: God could only make us responsible if He also provides for us to make those good decisions.
Remedy for fall in unlimited atonement.
2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
2 Corinthians 5:14-16, “(14) For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; (15) and He ded for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
Romans 5:6, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
1 Timothy 2:5-6, “(5)For there is one God, and mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (6) who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.
1 Timothy 4:10, “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”
Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.”
Hebrews 2:9, “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”
1 John 2:2, “…and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
2 Timothy 2:10, “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.”
Ephesians 1:3-5, “(3) The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is blessed, the one who blessed us in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ, (4) just as He selected us in Him before the foundation of the world, for us to be holy and blameless before Him in love (5) after He predestined us for an inheritance through Jesus Christ into Him, according to the good intention of His will…”
Other categories of providential grace.
Of course, we are only focusing on salvation grace here. There are many other elements of grace related to the post-salvation life of glory.
And there is also logistical grace.
God determined to provide both this categories as a part of His responsibility toward His creatures.
D. Determination toward intervention. God determined that He would intervene at the proper time into human lives. The condition for intervention would be need. That is, whenever human beings need intervention, God is immediately and effectively on the scene of their lives.
The Universal Kingdom. Alva J. McLain, in the fourth chapter of his masterful The Greatness of the Kingdom points out some important distinctions of the universal kingdom of God.
This Universal Kingdom exists without interruption throughout all time.
The Universal Kingdom includes all that exists in space and time.
The Divine control in the Universal Kingdom is generally providential.
By the term “providential” we mean control by means of second causes.
(McClain goes on to explain this as the rule of God over nature).
Because in His Universal Kingdom God controls the processes of material nature, He is able by such means to control the circumstances of human existence and therby direct the stream of history.
McClain illustrates by the book of Esther, and the crucial night of the narrative: “…at stake, in a very real sense, was the entire divine program for the ages. If Israel perished, there would be no Messiah, no redemption, no Church, no future Kingdom of God among men. With such issues in jeopardy, we might not have been too much surprised to see the arm of Deity breaking forth into the affairs of men with some great supernatural intervention; perhaps something like the deliverance of Israel from the hand of the Egyptian Pharaoh. But nothing of the kind happens. There is not even any mention of God. The writer of the Book of Esther merely records what might be regarded as the master understatement of all time: “On that night could not the king sleep” (6:1). Why he could not sleep, we are not told.”
Fire and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling His word” (Psalm 148:8).
The divine control in the Universal Kingdom may be exercised at times by supernatural means.
The God of the universe is said to be both in the universe and above it. Therefore at any time He may break into the so-called “closed system” of nature with great exhibitions of His unveiled power.
The resort to miracles in the rule of the Universal Kingdom does not mean necessarily that God might not be bale to accomplish His purposes by other and less spectacular means. The supernatural method is rather for the purpose of demonstrating publicly that there is a true God in heaven who always will have the last word in human affairs.
The Universal Kingdom always exists efficaciously regardless of the attitude of its subjects.
The rule of the Universal Kingdom is administered through the eternal Son.
This Universal Kingdom is not exactly identical with that Kingdom for which our Lord taught His disciples to pray.
He said, “Thy kingdom come.”
But here, Christ says “All things have been given to Me.”
As Thieme summarizes: “It is also true that our Lord today, as always, rules in the Universal Kingdom of God, which is administered through providence. Jesus Christ is the absolute ruler over all, but allows human volition to choose His rule until such time as the forces of evil are bound.”
Direct intervention, which is the miracle.
There is much evidence of direct intervention into the lives of men.
The Old Testament has many instances of the theophany - the ‘appearance of God.’
There was the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day. God made an everyday appearance into the Garden of Eden to teach truth to Adam and Eve.
We no longer have theophanies in our dispensation, but God can intervene directly without making a personal appearance.
Through miracles and healings He makes direct intervention.
Indirect intervention. This is far more common.
This comes under two manifestations: discipline and blessing.
Divine discipline comes in the form of circumstances - the negative things that happen to us because we have neglected our relationship with God.
Blessing follow the pattern of discipline: they are tailor-made so that we can know that they are only from God.
People under divine guidance.
God also brings people into our lives.
He is able to guide people through unconscious and conscious means, so that they reach those who need the truth.
Special election, which is the choice of God from personal love toward those with faith.
Grace activation. This is the activation of grace on account of the prayers of believers. Special election is simply the activation of grace at salvation.
God allows intervention from those with negative volition. He allows their viewpoint to exist, and their activities to go as far as divine discipline and divine establishment will allow.
The existence of evil is the outworking of free will.
There are two categories of foreknowledge:
The foreknowledge of possibility, which was exercised before the decree, and at any point of intervention.
The foreknowledge of certainty, which is sometime exercised in time, like with prophecy.
At this time, God exercised His foreknowledge of all possibilities, so as to account for all grace.
God’s function of grace allows for all possible outcomes, and accounts for them all.
God decreed the beginning of human history without foreordaining the outcome.
But He is always ready with grace, knowing what may come.
At this moment, God restrained His ability to foreknow all things, so that the outcome would not be foreordained.
He had so much confidence in His ability to respond with wisdom and righteous deeds that He could let go of the foreknowledge.
God’s ability to analyze each situation on the fly is infinite; there is no need for Him to meticulously plan our lives from eternity past. He has the ability to know what is right in each moment of time - what is right for each of us and all of us.
Once human history is begun, God has the option to employ His foreknowledge when His integrity demands it.
But He doesn’t maintain a constant foreknowledge of certainty, because that would violate His integrity.
Foreknowledge of certainty must be suspended whenever an intervention takes place.