God’s sovereignty, power and wisdom with man’s free will ?

Being sovereign for God is not an anachronism to the concept of free will. Both free will and sovereignty can interplay, be consistent and aligned with one another. God can impose his sovereignty based on his good judgment and wisdom that one option is better than the other.

An example of this “forceful imposition” of his will is the story of Jonah. He did not like to go to Nineveh and went instead opposite from the direction towards that city. He was then swallowed by a big fish, died and found himself in the shores of Nineveh to prophesy against that city. He may still refuse (based on “free will“) to follow God’s will, but he did not because “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom“.

Contrariwise, in the narrative of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, his personal will was not to go through with his prophesied death by crucifixion. But, he was “not forced” by the Father. Nevertheless, voluntarily, Jesus said, “not my will but yours will be done“, i.e., his Father’s will (Luke 22:42). 

In both circumstances, they had freewill to disobey but did not. And, their impetus was different. While Jonah’s motive to follow maybe because of fear to disobey and be swallowed again by a “big fish” and die, Jesus’ was based on “faith in the Father” (before his death) that his promises to him will be fulfilled. This is suggestive that the exercise of “free will” to follow ultimately has to be “faith-based“,

God of All gods

True, YHVH Elohim (Lord God) is “above all gods”(Psalm 95:3) and “God does what he pleases” as in Psalms 135:6.

Also, God’s sovereignty is a given, as in:

For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’ ” (Isaiah. 46:9–10).

All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ ” (Daniel 4:35).

“I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

The preceding verses clearly show God has control overall. But does God’s sovereignty actually extend to what we do and the choices we make? As God is in charge of our lives, even down to the smallest detail, this truth maybe misconstrued and stretched to extend to the same broad-stroke assumption that “God ordered your steps” and “nothing happens at random”, regarding what the succeeding verses actually mean:

But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand” (Isaiah . 64:8).

The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11).

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:4).

Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?” (Lamentations 3:37–38)

The preceding verses are indeed true. But, altogether, the precise message is confined to his control and he has the power to do anything. He is omnipotent and omniscient.

God’s sovereignty also extends to the decisions we make. The scriptures do not have ambiguity here, too:

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:1).

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33).

Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand. ” (Proverbs 19:21).

The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1).

“I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).

All that the preceding verses emphasize is that God is the ultimate being who ultimately chooses and decides what is best for man. Nowhere should these verses be interpreted as “God violates our free will” to be saved within the context of “time appointed” for his calling. Some Christians take a position that “unless God violated our ‘free’ will, no one would ever be saved.”

And that teaching is a stretch, and was based on: “everyone is born dead in sin” (Ephesians 2:1), “alienated from God (Ephesians 2:3), “lives in a natural state of rebellion against God such that no one seeks Him on their own” (Romans 3:11), “all humanity is enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:20), hostile towards God (Colossians 1:21), and “unable to come to Christ unless the Father draws them” (John 6:44, 6:65). Instead, the preceding verses simply state man’s total depravity and cannot attain salvation on his own as Jesus is the only “way, truth and life”(John 14:6). Nothing in these verses should be extended to suggest lack in man’s “free will”. And, since man is “weak on our own”,(Matthew 26:36-46) we need the gift of the Helper/Advocate (John 16:7).

While Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith” and our “carpenter and builder of the God-kingdom, we ourselves have a role in our salvation. As Paul said, “continue/persevere to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”(Philippians 2:12),with “God’s Holy Spirit of power working in us”(Philippians 2:13). Jesus is continuing to build his creation from physical to spiritual, for us to “be one”, eventually into a “God-kingdom”. , all “spirit-composed“.

God imposes his will, when and who to blame?

True, there are verses that proved God can impose his will as in regard to Egypt’s Pharaoh whose heart was “hardened” by God himself, as in Exodus 4:21 also “I have raised you up for this very purpose” (Exodus 9:16) and “One of you will say to me: “One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” (Romans 9:19).

But do these verses mean that God really “order all your stepsall the time and in every circumstances? Sometimes, yes, depending on God’s wisdom, but not necessarily always. Indeed, we can not blame him as we ourselves have to choose and decide. Things happen even without God’s will, although allowed. Even, random things occur, like earthquake, hurricane, other personal disasters, and not necessarily because of him, although, again “allowed as he can intervene” dependent on his wisdom and ultimate plan.

His sovereignty also allows him to chose whether to limit his powers. In fact, as omniscient as he is, he can still chose to remember “our sins no more”, as in;

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. (Isaiah 43:25)

Summary

Indeed, God has sovereignty which is an expression of his omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. He can do anything he pleases, anytime, anywhere and whatever the circumstances are, although his action may not necessarily be for everyone at all times. Sovereignty does not make him powerless to decide on every circumstances. He may chose sometimes to limit his awesome powers.

Evil thoughts of humans are actionable by them and do not necessarily need God to put them in their mind, although he may do or allow those to occur. Remember:“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.(Galatians 5:16-17).

Love and wisdom are predicates of timing his final action. The Father is the final arbiter (John 6:44) as to who will be in Christ’ body and who, with “free-will”, voluntarily follows His will after having been given the gift of the Holy Spirit of power and be an “overcomer“(Revelations 3:21). All told, he decided from the very beginning as to who will be “called“, at his appointed time, to receive the Holy Spirit of power, whether in the ” spring harvest or fall harvest” of “spiritual fruits“.

God bless 🙏😇

Original Post: April 28, 2019 Hyperlink version

Dedicated to those celebrating birthday today.

Is Mary perfect?

Mary is blessed (Lu 1:28, 46-47) among all women and deserves our respect and reverence, but not to be worshipped. She is not more perfect than Adam & Eve, as “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. She needs salvation as all of mankind. But, to be chosen by God, for him to dwell incarnate in her virgin womb is “once in a lifetime” blessing.

More important though is the realization that she was a “surrogate” mother of Jesus. There was never an egg from Mary or sperm from anyone else’s in the conception of Jesus. Christ came “from above” (John 8:23) along the genealogy of Adam and kingly/priestly line.

Who resurrected Jesus and why?

As proof that Jesus is the Messiah, he was resurrected in 3 days and 3 nights (Matt. 12:40 ). Similarly in John 2:18-21 “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.” Read also Matt 16:21; Matthew 26:61; 27:40;Mark 14:58; Mark 15:29; Acts 6:14

Also, while it is true that his resurrection gives the “adulterous generation”(Matt. 12:39; 16:4) proof that Jesus is the Messiah, the reasons for his resurrection may even be more far-reaching. Aside from being a proof, the following verses give us an inclination as to why:

Rom. 5:6-10″For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”
The preceding verses show that the purpose of his death is to reconcile us to the Father since “all sinned“, as in:

Rom. 3:23-26“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

Jesus, being dead means exactly that… dead completely, not alive. And, without him being resurrected or be alive he would still be dead and would not have received the promise by the Father of the Holy Spirit to in-dwell in us, meaning “saved by his life” (Rom.5:10).

And, John 16:7 is clear that Jesus has to be resurrected, be alive, to go to the Father to get this promise of the Holy Spirit and subsequently to dwell in us. Notice, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
As to the question who is that God who resurrected Jesus? Was he the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit? In New Testament times, when the word “God” is mentioned, it refers to the Father to differentiate it from Jesus, the Son of God (the Father). Consider then the following:
Galatians 1:1 “Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.”
The apostle Peter stated in his first sermon on the Day of Pentecost: “This Jesus, God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32). Subsequently, in Acts 3:15, he told his audience that they had “killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses”.

The apostle Paul also testified in Acts 13:33; compare verse 37: “God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus”. Continuing now in Acts 17:31“Because He [God] has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man [Jesus] whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead”.

Ephesians 1:20 ” …he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,”

But what about John 2:19; see verse 21 also when Jesus said, “Destroy this temple [referring to His body being slain], and in three days I will raise it up [implying His resurrection]”. If Jesus meant by this that He would come back to life on His own, he contradicted other testimonies. Rather, after God the Father brought life back to him while in the tomb, He would stand up and “raise it up” himself from his lying down to then get out from the grave.

Similarly, the same mechanism will apply to us. The Spirit of God gives power. The Father gives the Holy Spirit that brings about life. And by so giving that spirit of life, this is the power we will then be resurrected with. As Paul tells us, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he (the Father) who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you” (Romans 8:11, NRSV).

Clearly, it was God the Father who did it as promised by him to YHVH/Creator before the foundation of the world and before the latter incarnated into man-Jesus. The “faith of Jesus“, as referred to in Rom. 3:22, Gal.2:16, 3:22, and Phil. 3:9, is faith “in” someone. There is nobody else to whom the Son can defer to (I Cor. 15:24-28) but to his Father who knows everything(Mk. 13:32). This faith “of” Jesus is faith “in” his Father who he knows will deliver everything he promised. Everything was planned by the Father and was/will be executed by his Son(I Cor. 8:6). They are “one” as they are together in everything, as we will be “one” with them(Eph. 4:6).

Faith vs belief, hope,wishful thinking and trust?

 Faith vs belief, hope,wishful thinking and trust?

My understanding on this subject is referenced in Heb 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The original Greek for faith is “pistis” which means assurance; substance/”hypostasis” or support;hoped/”noieo” or considered/understood; evidence/”elenchos” or proved.

From the above original derivations, one sees the context has symmetry and that “faith/pistis” is consistent with proof; something real, present and seen; not future as in hope or wishful thinking. Paul differentiated faith from “hope” in Rom.8:24 “…hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?” Salvation is future and hoped for as in “the hope of salvation“(I Thessalonians 5:8).

Faith without proof is dead and can only be proven or shown with “works“(James 2:14-26). Faith in Jesus means proof or evidence of Jesus and his power. Being the Creator YHVH (factual, evidentiary, faith or pistis), he can deliver what he promised to us, from whence we believe and  hope to receive actual salvation in the future when we are changed from “mortality to immortality in a twinkling of an eye” (I Cor. 15:51-53). Notice that the personhood and historical reality of Jesus served as the evidence, the anchor, assurance and substance of our hope. Having faith means having proof or evidence from which one derives conviction, belief and hope that promises will be fulfilled. Faith in the Father means proof of the Father, his existence, All-powerful, that being so, in itself is evidence that he can deliver on his promises.

The faith of Abraham is evidence-based as he was talking to EL SHADDAI/YHVH/pre-incarnate Jesus himself. He knew he helped him in wars against enemies, that this person is Almighty and can deliver what he promised. While our faith is essential for salvation, the initiating event is the faith “of” Jesus in the Father, without which, our own faith is meaningless. Jesus has faith in the Father because as YHVH Creator of Genesis, he was with the Father from the beginning; a definite proof.

Summary

Because of evidence or substance of things hoped for, i.e., faith(pistis)we then believe and trust that what Father God and YHVH/Logos/Jesus promised, they will fulfill.  The apostles did not just “trust” because of unbelief.

They did not just believed willy-nilly. In fact, they were skeptical at the end, abandoned and marginalized him as others before him, who claimed “messiah” died at crucifixion and did not resurrect. Until they found evidence, by his resurrection (as he prophesied while with them), that he was what he claimed to be and will fulfill his promise to them, that they believed and trusted.  Faith in God, of all those promised to people and before the apostles, were evidence-based. Then they believed in his promises and trusted in him. Faith is not hope nor wishful thinking or trust. Rather, it is evidence-based and substantive, i.e., can be substantiated with facts.

So, every time we see the word “faith/pistis” in the Bible, take that as meaning fact, proof, evidence, assurance and not belief, trust nor hope. When the Bible says “have faith” it means have “substance…evidence” of and about God through the “eyes of witnesses” , human or divine witness like Jesus, the only witness of the Father. Moreover, faith is given by God as in:

Romans 12:3

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (NIV)

God bless 🙏👍

Original post: October 27, 2015

Reposted: 3/31/19

Will the Anti-Christ be a Muslim?

To begin with, an anti-Christ is an adversary. And the ultimate adversary is Satan.
1 Peter 5:8 – Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
Revelation 12:9 – And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Also, an adversary can be smart and be an antitype, a fitting substitute to the real one. In fact, the end times antichrist that comes onto the scene prior to the second coming of Christ, will be a man who will sit in the Temple and institute the Temple rituals.
2 Thes 2:3-4 “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God”

This man is described in Daniel 7:8,20,21,24,25 …”I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things. And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.”

These ten horns are ten kings and represent the ten toes of the image of Nebuchadnezzar described in Daniel 2. At the time of these ten horns/toes, a little horn will appear and “pluck out” 3 of the 10, leaving 7 horns, and this is the 8th and was the 7th beast.

From the preceding, it appears that it does not matter whether the “man of sin”, the “end-time beast” is a Muslim or not. Rather, whether the man fits all the descriptions.

Is the parable of talent referring to good works needed to get to heaven?

Regarding Matt. 25:14-30, the short answer is, Yes they are required.

But, these good works must not emanate from us. They should not be “our” works per se, like atheists doing good. But works or “fruits” that come through the Holy Spirit that we merely expressed through and shown by “our works”.

As such, no one will boast (Eph. 2:9). By faith of Jesus, it took his death and resurrection for us to receive (Jn. 14:16) the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is a great gift, by the grace of God, to have and we must show “fruits of the Spirit”(Gal. 5:22-23).

Any good work that anyone can do by himself is as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) and not consistent or reliably sustainable as our “flesh is weak”(Matt.26:41).
Eph. 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Notice the example of Jesus at the garden of Gethsemane:
“He withdrew about a stone’s throw and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done'” (Luke 22:41-42). Matthew records Jesus as making his request of the Father twice: “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken away from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will'” (Matthew 26:39) and “He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done'” (Matt. 26:42). Mark records his prayer in a positive way, “‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

While not “his will”, he expressed the “will of the Father” through his works empowered by the Holy Spirit. Similarly, we are the “vessel” through which the “fruits of the Holy Spirit” will be manifested. The “fruits/works” are of the Holy Spirit, even if we did those “works” ourselves.

Beware, we might be cut off as in:
Matt. 7:19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Dan. 4:14 “He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches”

See also Matt. 3:10; Lu. 3:9, 13:7; John 15:2, 6;

We need to be overcomers, as in Rev. 3:5 “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life

Is being a good person enough for one be saved?

Doing good works, i.e., following the Law, is not a monopoly of God-fearing people. Rom.2:4 “Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it.”(NLT). Even people from godless societies, like atheists, do good to their neighbors. Goes to show that good works can be done by anyone, if they so choose.

But, even our ultimate good works and what maybe the very best to us may not necessarily be so, as far as God is concerned. Notice how the prophet Isaiah included himself in:
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6). The word filthy is from Hebrew word iddah, which literally means “the bodily fluids from a woman’s menstrual cycle.”

It is God who defines what is good and pleasing to him. In the narrative offering of Esau and Cain:
“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto Jehovah. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And Jehovah had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell” (Gen. 4:3-5).
“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness in respect of his gifts: and through it he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb.11:4).

Notice that both gave an offering but Abel was by faith, and Cain was not. His offering was rejected because it was offered according to his own presumption of what is best for him that is acceptable and pleasing to God. The “fruit” that he sacrificed for, turned out to be as “filthy rags” because it was not by faith. This narrative suggesting the “righteousness of faith” and not of works.

Similarly, the narrative in Genesis about Adam to become like YHVH,(to be His body/church) had to come not from Adam’s work by himself eating the forbidden fruit. That “oneness with YHVH” can only be achieved, not through man-Adam but through the faith and work of the second-Adam, the man-Jesus.

In summary, good works, i.e., righteousness, is defined by and has to come from God. In fact, the fruits of the Spirit require that they had to come from the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit in us. We could not receive this promise of the Holy Spirit unless by grace and faith, through the death and resurrection of Christ. In Eph. 2:10 and 2 Cor. 3:5, the expression of these fruits of the. Holy Spirit as in “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”.
There is only one way for anyone to be saved, and that is through the sacrifice of one person, the Creator YHVH, who incarnated to Christ Jesus, as in “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)