As I shared on the blog yesterday, I have not always been reformed in my thinking as a Christian. In coming to embrace the doctrines of grace, certain things impressed me. I was very much impressed that most of the great theologians of the church taught these doctrines of God’s Sovereignty. While they certainly had their differences on some things, when it came to the doctrine of Divine election, they all seemed to be in complete agreement.
None of these men individually, or even all of them collectively, could be in any way classed as infallible, yet because they all saw these issues in the same way, I remember thinking that this fact alone should cause me to pause and reflect a little.
I realized that it would be the height of pride on my part to dismiss everything they have to say without giving them a fair hearing. God had used these men greatly as his champions in church history; entire nations were affected by their ministries, both in their day and on into our own, and humility would teach me to at least become somewhat familiar with their words and works, and not just read what others might say about them with all the bias that usually goes with that.
However, it was not the greats of church history that carried the most weight with me. It was not their writings and commentaries, as good as they were. What convinced me was seeing the doctrines clearly taught in Scripture. Understanding what Paul taught in Romans 8 and 9 as well as Ephesians 1 and 2 (after dispensing with much of my human traditions in the process) had a huge effect on me. Yet what brought me all of the way over into seeing it, and much more than that, embracing it, and delighting in it, was seeing the doctrines taught through the words of the Lord Jesus Himself.
I think what was true for me is true for most Christians. Many do not share a love for the theologians of the church, but every Christian loves Jesus. All Christians want to learn of Christ. When I teach Christians these truths now, I usually start with the clear words of Jesus. I find that there is far more likelihood that people will be open to hear the words of Christ than the words of an Augustine, Luther, Calvin or Edwards.
I remember being puzzled and even alarmed that Jesus taught parables not so that everyone could clearly understand Him. I was perplexed because this was not what I had been previously taught.
The text says: “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.” (Mark 4:11, 12) Jesus taught in parables so that some would understand and others would not. I remember seeing this and thinking, “wow, that is so different from what I have believed up to this point.”
What amazed me further was Jesus attitude towards His Father’s Sovereignty. He did not just accept Sovereignty with some reservations; He absolutely delighted in it. This I could not understand at first. But clearly, Jesus seemed to be so excited about Sovereignty and I was not; and I wondered to myself, “what am I not getting here? Why is Jesus excited about His Father revealing things to some and not to others?”
Whatever the answer was, it was clear that Jesus was excited to see His Father active in revealing or hiding His truth.
Luke 10:21-22 says, “In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.””
I remember the moment these two verses impacted me. I realized for the first time that for Jesus, seeing His Father at work revealing truth to some or hiding truth from others was something majestic and glorious. Jesus had no issue with election. Quite the opposite! That is because Jesus saw election the way it should be seen. For Him, it was not in any way ugly. Jesus actually “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” concerning the way His Father dispensed Sovereign grace.
Seeing His clear words in John 3, John 6, John 10, John 17.. and so many other places, I began to see that Jesus did not just teach election in some hidden corner. He was very up front about it.
I remember asking myself this question: “why do some believe and others do not?” Of course, those who believe will be saved, but why is it that some believe and some do not?
I was not sure of the answer. Then one day I was reading John 10 and came across these words that were just part of a longer sentence. Jesus was looking at a group of people and said, “you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.” (John 10:26)
I remember being stunned into silence by these words. Rather than escape to my man made traditions for some sort of safety or comfort, for some reason that day, I decided to stop, pause and reflect on these words. I remember looking at the text and reading it over and over again. As I did so I noticed what Jesus did not say.. He did not say “you are not my flock because you do not believe” – He actually said the exact opposite. He said, “you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.”
Arminian teaching has to reverse Jesus words here, but I remember thinking, “who am I to reverse Jesus words?” Of course, I had no right to change the order of Jesus’ words here. Instead it was I that needed to reverse my thinking and allow the Master to teach me His truth.
According to Jesus, the reason why some believe and some do not, has everything to do with Divine Sovereign election. The reason people do not believe is because they are not part of Jesus’ flock. That is what He said.
There is a lot more I could say, but these things I remember so well as I came to understand these precious truths – truths that at one time were hidden from my view because of the traditions I had. I see this unfolding of His truth as a work of grace in my own heart and life and pray that all Christians will come to know these things too, because it makes grace the amazing thing it is.. when I was dead, it was God alone who brought me to life, and all the glory for salvation rightly belongs to Him.