God: The Initiator of Salvation

This post was submitted by a reader, Jenai Rothnie, and we are grateful for her contribution. Edited by Eric Kemp.

Recently, Dr. Roger Olson wrote a blog post, “For Fellow Arminians and Quasi-Arminians (Non-Calvinists): Prevenient Grace” [1] in which he asked the thoughts of those who do not identify either as Calvinists or Arminians on the topic of prevenient grace. This is the question he addressed:

“Is a special act of the Spirit is required to overcome the fallen nature of a person so he is then able to believe?”

Dr. Olson framed this as there being only three options: Belief in irresistible grace; belief in prevenient, but resistible grace; or belief that the initiative in salvation is human.

However, there is a more fundamental question that Dr. Olson leaves unaddressed. Does spurning the idea that an unregenerate, fallen man is incapable of responding to the gospel in faith, the theory of Total Inability which is shared by Calvinists and many Arminians, mean that one must believe that man is “the initiator in salvation”? I do not see a good reason to think so. Indeed, this is a false dilemma, since there are other options. In other words, there is no logical reason that disbelief in one would mandate belief in the other. All Christians can agree; God initiates salvation. To illustrate this let me ask yet another series of questions I will spend the rest of the article exploring:

What does it mean for God to initiate salvation? How does God initiate salvation? And would a response to the gospel in faith outside of a special act of prior regeneration or enabling grace be the logical equivalent to man initiating salvation?

“Initiate” As a Verb

As with many soteriological topics, it is important to define terms. As I define the different ways “initiate” can be used, I will show how each understanding does not require Dr. Olson’s presumption of “Total Inability” for God to initiate salvation. The Miriam Webster definition of the verb ‘initiate’ [2] is as follows:

1: To cause or facilitate the beginning of: set going, such as to initiate a program

The ‘program’ God initiated is Salvation. He caused the beginning of this program by sending Christ as Savior – something He planned from the foundation of the world – and revealing Him to man (Acts 28:28, I Pet 1:20, Tit 2:11.) The exact method for this program He initiated to be effectually fulfilled is the New Covenant in Christ’s shed blood, salvation being given to those who enter this Covenant through faith (Lk 22:20, Gal 4:24-31.) News of this program is then spread through the gospel message (Acts 8:12, Isa 52:7, Rom 1:16.)

2: to induct into membership by or as if by special rites

God inducts believers into His household and into the church as members (Eph 1:5, Rom 8:14, Rom 8:29, Jn 1:12-13, I Cor 12:27.) The first ‘rite’ He uses is baptism – identifying the believer as dying with Christ to their old self which was dead in sin, and raising that believer to new life in Christ (Rom 6:3-4, Rom 7:6, I Pet 1:3.) The born-again believer is granted the indwelling Spirit, given spiritual gifts to aid in the edification of the church, and adopted as a son of God and brother of Christ. (Rom 8:9, I Cor 12:7-11, Jn 1:12, Eph 1:5.)

3to instruct in the rudiments or principles of something: Introduce

There are many elements God uses to instruct in the rudiments and principles of salvation. The general law of God written on people’s hearts, the general conviction of sin the Holy Spirit gives the world, the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, scripture, and the gospel message are just a few of them (Rom 2:14-15, Jn 16:9, II Tim 3:15, Eph 2:19-20, Rom 10:8-11, Heb 4:10). Even the law points us to Christ and the need for a Savior (Acts 7:52-53, Gal 3:24.) These all ‘introduce’ us to Christ, the good news of the Kingdom of God, and the way of salvation. For the believer, God continues to teach and instruct us via the indwelling Holy Spirit, scripture, and our relationship with Christ (Jn 14:26, I Jn 2:27, II Tim 3:16, II Pet 1:3-11.)

“Initiate” As a Noun

Initiate:

  1. A person who is undergoing or has undergone an initiation

The person who repents and turns in faith to Christ is the one undergoing God’s induction into His household and the church (Eph 2:17-19, I Cor 12:27, Col 3:15)

  • A person who is instructed or adept in some special field

The believer is given the Holy Spirit to instruct Him in all things, scriptures to develop godliness, and relationship with Christ so that he may bear fruit (Jn 14:26, II Pet 1:3-11, Jn 15:5.)

The Initiate Is Not the Initiator

If God inducts the believing one, then it can be said that the believer is inducted by God. The believers’s agreement to join Yahweh’s group or program doesn’t change that. Yahweh is the one to admit the new Christian into membership and instruct the believer. The believing one’s assent to undergo the initiation merely affirms God’s role as initiator; it does not somehow make the believing one the initiator.

A fallen human hearing the gospel message about the Savior and subsequently turning in repentance and faith to Christ in no way makes that human the initiator of salvation. It is a logically absurdity, a contradiction in terms; the initiate cannot be considered the initiator.

Initiation into the New Covenant

One of the most important concepts in scripture is the New Covenant (also known as ‘The New Testament.’) The New Covenant is a two-party covenant between God and His people, attested to by the blood of Christ (Gal 3.) Yet a person has to enter that New Covenant by faith to become part of it. Only inside the New Covenant can he be cleansed by Christ’s blood and claim the promises of it (Heb 9:11-22, Gal 3:14.)

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” I Tim 3-6a

The New Covenant is initiated by God. The securities and promises of the New Covenant are also initiated by God (Gal 3:22, Gal 4:30-21, Heb 12:22-25). Becoming a ‘grantee’ of those promises by faith does not, even in part, make a person the grantor. Christ initiated the ‘New Covenant’ in His blood, sealing it with His death and thus making it available for all mankind to enter it through faith. Our willingness to enter the covenant does not mean we made or initiated the covenant or initiated the giving of its rewards, including the promise of salvation (Gal 3:10-29, Col 1:21-23). At best we could say, colloquially, that our entering the covenant by faith begins our entering the covenant by faith – but that is just a tautology, and not treated in scripture as an impossibility for man like fulfilling the works of the law would be, but rather a requirement (Jn 6:28-29).

God As Initiator

God ‘initiates’ salvation by revealing the Savior and the offer of salvation to everyone, asking them only to believe, like a King both preparing a feast and sending out invitations asking people to come. For most people today, that invitation will be upon hearing the gospel. Faith is our acceptance of that invite, our trust in the feast to come.

God then effectually grants the believer salvation – we die with Christ and rise by the power of the Spirit to new life in Christ, an entire process which is initiated by God, sustained by the power of the Spirit, and continues until the believer physically dies and is resurrected with a new spiritual body. At no point does man do any of the actual ‘saving’ part, whether by accepting the offer or continuing to abide in Christ and walk by the granted indwelling Spirit.

Just as the initiator of a group or rite might have conditions for the initiate to follow, so God has the requirement of faith to be inducted into His household, to be grantees of the Covenant, to receive a regenerate nature, and to be recipients of Christ’s deliverance. If a fallen human were capable of responding to the gospel in faith, that would not logically make him the initiator of salvation – it just makes him an initiate. As such, the argument that the only alternative to Calvinism’s ‘Irresistible Grace’ or Arminianism’s ‘Prevenient Grace’ would be ‘Man Initiates Salvation’ is unfounded.

Below you will find brief comments of other passages which all Christians should be able to agree shows that God initiates that, we would argue, do not require Total Inability.

Further Evidence

Here are 12 other non-exhaustive ways in which God initiates both the general offer of salvation to all mankind and the effectual granting of salvation to those who believe:

  •  God sent Christ into the world as Savior (Isa 63, Jn 17:3, Jn 3:17)

Man did not ask for a Savior or bring up his own savior or save himself. This sending was initiated by God.

  • Christ ‘illuminates’ the way to eternal life. (Heb 1:3, Jn 1_3-4)

A man who sees the light and walks into it does not initiate the light. Without the light given first, he would not have even walked into it, so it cannot even be said that he initiated coming into the light. He responded; he did not initiate.

  • God spoke to mankind through Christ during the Earthly ministry of Jesus (Lk 3:23, Heb 1:1-2, Matt 4:23)

This teaching of the kingdom of God and other truths was not initiated by man. Jesus taught the message to His disciples who shared it, but they did not teach by their own initiation. And no one who heard or even believed him initiated His words.

  • By the Father’s will, Jesus was lifted up, drawing all men (Jn 12:32, Isa 5:26, Isa 10:11.)

Jesus is the one who is the beacon or rallying-point to which the nations look. He initiates the signal. He initiates the shelter offered to those coming to Him. He initiates the deliverance granted to those coming to Him.

This lifting up also initiated the opportunity for true healing to all. As Moses lifted the snake on a pole so that anyone who looked at the snake would be healed by the power of God, so God initiated the opportunity for healing through Christ’s work on the cross. Anyone who trusts in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross would be healed by dying to sin and be given eternal life in Christ (Jn 3:14-16, I Pet 2:24)

God initiates that call to be healed to all, and initiates the healing itself to those who look. Those who look do not become the healer, but merely accept that call to be healed and accept the healing God will then effectually initiate.

  • Now that Jesus has ascended into Heaven (Heb 4:14,) God continues to illuminate the way through the gospel about Christ (II Tim 1:9-10, Jn 12:46, etc.)

By making the “righteousness apart from the law” known to all the world, anyone can now ‘see’ the way of salvation when presented the gospel. The gospel message ‘introduces’ those who hear it to Christ and the way of salvation, and some will respond to it in faith. (Rom 10:8-15.)

  • The general revelation of God’s natural law written on the hearts of man shows the reality that we all sin (Rom 2:15-16.)

God ‘writes’ His law on the heart of man. An unbeliever who, at times, follows this law does not initiate the law or actualize it somehow by obeying. Their obedience, incomplete though it is, is rooted in the prior law of God written on their heart.

  • The general conviction of sin in the world by the Holy Spirit reveals the need for a Savior (Jn 16:8-11.)

When man feels convicted for a sin he commits, it is not himself that initiates the conviction. The Holy Spirit does. If he heeds the conviction and repents, that repentance is still rooted in the conviction that the Holy Spirit initiated. It cannot even be said that man initiates his own repentance, since that ‘change of mind’ was initiated by the conviction of the Spirit that his natural mind was wrong. Man can also choose to ignore that conviction or reject it, rather than repent, but that cannot stop the Holy Spirit from continuing to convict the world regarding sin.

  • An unbeliever who turns in faith becomes the baptized initiate, not the baptizing initiator.

For a new believer, God inducts him into the church, the body of Christ, through the ‘ritual’ of baptism. He takes the dead-in-sin condemned person and cleanses their conscience before Him, identifying that person with the death of Christ and so ‘killing’ the old self which was dead to sin (I Pet 3:12, Col 2:20.) As Christ’s death fulfilled the law, so the believer dies to the law (Rom 7:4.) God then identifies him with the resurrection of Christ, regenerating him unto a new life by the power of the Spirit, which then is given to that believer to indwell him as a helper. The new ‘alive in Christ’ believer is now dead to sin rather than dead in sin (Rom 6:1-14.) The believer is now ‘born again’ of the Spirit (I Pet 1:3, I Pet 1:23, Jn 3:5.)

  • For believers, God inducts us into His household by adoption (Gal 4:4-7.)

    God adopts us, we do not adopt Him. Our willingness to accept Him as Father is not the same as being the one who initiates the actual offer of adoption or the one who initiates and performs the adoption. Not only this, but this adoption was already settled before time began, when God predestined that He would adopt all those ‘in Christ,’ i.e. adopt all believers (Eph 1:4-5.)

  • For those initiates in the New Covenant (believers,) God initiates the promises of the Covenant according to when He says they will occur. For present members of the Covenant: the Spirit to teach us and perfect us and flow from us like living water, God’s peace and armor to guard us, etc. (Jn 16:13, Jn 7:37-38, Gal 3:3, Eph 6:10-17.) For the future, Christ to raise all believers on the last day and grant us new Spiritual bodies, and for God to usher us in to His eternal rest (Jn 6:40, I Cor 15:42-58.)
  • For believers, God initiates the bearing of Spiritual fruit (Gal 2:22-26, Jn 15:1-8)

    “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” Jn 15:4

The believer must remain in Christ and walk by the Spirit. But does this ‘initiate’ the fruit? No – the initiation is from Christ our support, the power of the Spirit, and the will of the Father.



[1] Olson, Roger. “For Fellow Arminians and Quasi-Arminians (Non-Calvinists): Prevenient Grace.” Roger E. Olson My Evangelical Arminian Theological Musings, Patheos, April 26th, 2019, https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2019/04/for-fellow-arminians-and-quasi-arminians-non-calvinists-prevenient-grace/

[2] “Initiate.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, Inc, 2019. Merriam-Webster.com. Web. May 14 2019.

805 thoughts on “God: The Initiator of Salvation

  1. FOH
    In Calvinism these verses just make no sense….because the verses say that Paul is partly responsible (becomes all things to all men) for them being convinced.

    br.d
    Yup! I totally agree.
    Their philosophy presupposes one thing – while the language of scripture presupposes the opposite.
    And that’s what makes them do the Calvinist Tap-Dance routine! :-]

  2. FOH Posted this one:
    “If JTL wants to call me a Polynesian, he must do it to Paul also! Paul is constantly saying that he convinces people (meaning they are doing some deciding themselves). He is constantly saying what he (Paul) did makes a difference in their decision.”
    —–My Response—-
    It was FOH who termed himself as a “Polynesian” not me. Originally, I call him “Semi-Pelagian” but according to him he prefers to name himself as a Polynesian from a certain country that I already forgot in his previous posts at SOT 101

    The apostle Paul can never be a Semi-Pelagian and can never be called as such. FOH is just daydreaming here. He wants to drag Paul to a Pelagian erroneous doctrine that has been rejected in history and has been tagged as “heresy” by the Church fathers.

    Based on the apostle Paul’s personal life experience, he was a spiritually blind Pharisee, persecuting and killing the Christians was right in his sight when he was still Saul. He was unblined (regenerated) by God while on his way to Damascus and was able to see the truth for himself.

    Like the Calvinists beliefs, the apostle Paul was so dependent on the Grace of God’s Divine intervention in all of his attempts to bring the gospel to the lost. He had declared that the gospel for his fellow Jews is a “stumbling block and foolishness to the Gentiles”. Paul knows this very well, he can never add any merits in the doctrine of Soteriology that it is God who unblinds the fallen man and restore their spiritual hearing. Without these Divine intervention the gospel remains a “stumbling block to his fellow Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles” – This distinguishes the apostle Paul from FOH’s doctrine in soteriology.

    1. jtleosala
      This distinguishes the apostle Paul from FOH’s doctrine in soteriology.

      br.d
      AH! But that remains to be shown
      Long-winded theatrics is nothing more than blowing smoke :-]

  3. Hi guys – just a question for anyone. I was asked this by someone: With regards to the idea that men must believe in order to be saved I have heard some Calvinists state that in essence this means Christ died for all but that he never really died for anyone. They say this because inasmuch as all were able to respond it was not guaranteed that any would respond and thus Christ died in hoping rather than in absolute certainty. Any posts or comments on this here or links someone can send me to check this question? Or even respond here? Thanks

    1. Hello Greg,
      Assuming the essence of the question is divine foreknowledge – the scripture does not provide explicit details to that question.
      And where scripture does not provide explicit details to something – men develop theories based on inferences within scripture.

      So in that regard – the views held by Christians can be seen as essentially based on whether the future is OPEN or CLOSED

      In Calvinism – the future is CLOSED
      The function of CHOICE is solely reserved as a function of divine sovereignty only.
      All choices that can be made – are made at the foundation of the world.
      The creation’s future is FIXED at the foundation of the world
      Multiple options are not made available to the creature – because the future is CLOSED
      As such – the necessary condition for CHOICE (i.e. multiple options) does not exist

      Therefore – there is divine certainty of what man will be and do – because the choice of what man will be and do is not granted to man.

      The other views do not entail Divine Determinism – and therefore do not entail a CLOSED future.

      There is the “Simple Foreknowledge” view
      On this view – multiple options are OPEN and thus granted to the creature from which to select.
      Therefore the creature has the function of choice
      Divine foreknowledge of what choices creatures will make – is base on simply looking into the future and observing.

      There is the “Open Theism” view
      On this view – multiple options are OPEN and thus granted to the creature from which to select.
      Therefore the creature has the function of choice
      The divine mind has omniscience – but he cannot do that which is logically impossible
      If he leaves something OPEN for the creature to choose – then prior to that choice – the choice is NOT POSSIBLE to know.

      There is the “Middle Knowledge” view
      On this view – multiple options are OPEN and thus granted to the creature from which to select.
      Therefore the creature has the function of choice
      Divine knowledge of what the choices creatures will make – is based on perfect knowledge of the creature.

      1. Thank you br.d. Much appreciate the divine foreknowledge breakdown. Sorry the question – albeit that to some extent there are ideas of foreknowledge – was more along the lines of the atonement. If unconditional election is not true and Jesus died with the idea that free will in salvation remain in tact, then who was Jesus dying for knowing that it could have been the case that no man ever chose to accept His salvation offer.

      2. Greg
        If unconditional election is not true and Jesus died with the idea that free will in salvation remain in tact, then who was Jesus dying for

        br.d
        Your question has an unspoken presupposition in it – that Jesus was dying for SPECIFIC people.
        That presupposition tags along with unconditional election.

        If you remove that presupposition – then the wording of your question answers itself.
        If Jesus died with the idea that free will in salvation remain intact – then your question is answered by Jesus himself where he said:

        I am the water of life.
        If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink
        Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said: ‘Streams of living water will flow from within him

        Since Jesus’ death and resurrection – millions of people have believed on him as their Lord and savior.
        Many of those people were willing to be crucified, beheaded, torn in two, burned as human torches, and survive years of torture for the name of Jesus Christ.

        You may also find this side note about things being “Unconditional” in Calvinism interesting

        In Calvinism – election is actually both “Unconditional” and “Conditional” at the same time.

        There are two different senses in which the term “Conditional” is understood.

        1) Man’s election is “Unconditional” in that it is not conditioned upon the will of man
        2) Man’s election is “Conditional” in that is conditioned upon a divine decree.

        When you realize that – and when you realize it has its roots in EXHAUSTIVE DIVINE DETERMINISM – then you realize – that aspect of Calvinism is not limited to just election.

        With EXHAUSTIVE DIVINE DETERMINISM – everything concerning man is both “Unconditional” and “Conditional” .

        1) All human actions are “Unconditional” in that man has no say in the matter of actions he is infallibly decreed to perform.
        2) All human actions are “Conditional” in that they are conditioned upon an infallible decree

        1) All human sin is “Unconditional” in that man has no say in the matter of what sins he is infallibly decreed to perform.
        2) All human sin is “Conditional” in that it is conditioned upon the infallible decree

      3. “If unconditional election is not true and Jesus died with the idea that free will in salvation remain in tact, then who was Jesus dying for knowing that it could have been the case that no man ever chose to accept His salvation offer.”

        I haven’t read thru every comment here, so this might have already been addressed. If so, disregard. If not…..

        By the time Christ died on the cross, there was already a multitude of believers (millions; perhaps more) waiting to have their sins forgiven in Abraham’s bosom (paradise). Adam, Abel, Seth, Lot, Moses, and Abraham, even up to the thief on the cross, still had to have their sins paid for before they could enter the heavenly realm. So even if no one accepted his offer going forward, His death would not have been in vain, the sins of OT believers still had to be addressed.

    2. As Br.D already went through there are a number of models/theories of time/knowledge that could come into play here. But I’d add in a few more things:

      “Hope” in scripture is not like wishful thinking. It generally refers to a future certainty. So even if we framed, for some reason, Jesus dying merely in the ‘hope’ some would believe – that wouldn’t be a wishy-washy, baseless hope that may or may not come to fruition. It would actually be the certainty that some would be believe in the future.

      And that certainty would be based in many things:

      – The gospel message is powerful and persuasive “good news” (Rom 1:15-17, Rom 10, II Cor 5:11, Acts 18:13, etc.) Just think of how much faith is tied in with the concept of “persuasion” – faith is a type of belief, and of the sub-type of believing something because you are persuaded it is true, such as by secondary evidence or testimonies (vs. wishful thinking or hard proof/sight.) For Christ to ‘worry’ in some way that no one would believe, or not be sure ‘anyone’ would believe, the gospel would have to not be persuasive at all. Yet that is clearly not the case.

      – Believing the gospel is easier than keeping the whole of the law. There were many in the OT who tried to keep the law, even some non-Jews who converted to Judaism. And if there were some people willing to do what is hard and difficult, wouldn’t it stand to reason that even more people would be willing to do what is simple and relies on the work of another and not their own merit? As Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matt 11:38
      Even before Christ died, He would have already been seeing the phenomena that it was the weak, the sinners, the infirm, etc. which were flocking to Him and even trusting in Him, while it was those who trusted in their own self-righteousness who were refusing Him.

      – When Jesus was lifted up (most immediately on the cross, but by His Resurrection as well) He drew “all things” to Himself. (John 12:32) This not only would act as proof to His disciples that He was who He claimed (John 8:38,) and would have acted as evidence for doubting Jews that His claims were true (John 12:34) but would have an effect on *everything* – not just all men, but even the entire universe as all things are drawn under Christ’s rule.

      – Jesus came as the “light” of the world, who enlightens every man. To worry that no one would come into that light would be as strange as worrying that just because humans ‘can’ huddle inside in darkness and hide from the sun, every single last one of them will.

      – Following Jesus’ death and Resurrection, the Holy Spirit also convicts the whole world in regards to sin (John 16:8.) Even prior to this, God writes His laws on the hearts of men (Rom 2:15.) And there was clear evidence already that even among the Gentiles some responded to that lesser, more vague conviction of conscience. Why then would Jesus not be sure some would respond to greater conviction and a clearer message of salvation?

      – Jesus had already hand-chosen and trained many Disciples and had other disciples who followed Him. Some already believed He was the Messiah. There would be no reason to doubt that those who already believed would somehow *not* believe following His Resurrection, which would again act as an even greater proof for them. (Also, Jesus knew what was in their hearts – so it’s not like He had to ‘guess’ as to how their thought processes worked.)

      – In some cases God gave extra proof or intervention in the early spread of the gospel to people who already followed God, but did not yet realize Christ was the Messiah. As they were already true, devout followers of God it was not really “doubtful” in these cases that they would believe once the gospel was presented and they gave it a fair hearing.

      – There were already many searching intently for salvation (I Pet 10) – and some even among the Gentiles awaiting it (such as the proselytes.) Would it be likely for every single one of those people hoping for what was to come to refuse it once it was revealed?

      Etc.

      We could go on and on examining the many reasons that the gospel preaching salvation by faith is compelling, easier than trying to impossibly achieve salvation on one’s own, and something people would generally flock to – not something that might potentially “miss” and no one in the world find persuasive.

      By analogy, think of putting a pot of water on a heated stove to boil. You personally have no idea where each molecule of water inside the pot will go, nor which will excite to the point they escape as steam vs. which do not heat as much as others. Yet, do you have mere wishful thinking that the pot will boil, or a large degree of certainty that it will come to boil short of an Act of God, the stove quitting, or Christ’s return in the interim? Worrying about an obviously untrue hypothetical like it being possible that “no one would believe” would be a lot like anxiously refusing to put on pot on a heated stove out of worry the pot will never boil and so the action would be “wasted.”

      While it is quite possible (even highly probable) that God knows for certain who will respond to the gospel, or who would respond positively if given the opportunity (for those who die before hearing it) – that exact knowledge wouldn’t actually *required* to know that many would respond to the gospel. God’s the one who created mankind, and who knows the hearts of men. So He planned a salvation that did not require man to be able to ‘achieve’ it on their own, and one that would be compelling and persuasive to mankind in general.

      Jesus wouldn’t need to suffer anxiety that no one would believe. He could trust in His own work that it would act like a beacon to the nations and a light to the world, drawing men in like ships to a lighthouse or moths to the flame. Even many of the metaphors used of Christians are that of a city on a Hill, stars in the universe, a lighthouse, etc. And would a lighthouse keeper not bother to turn on the light because in theory ships could ignore it? No! He lights the light for the ones that will, knowing that some, even many, will because in general the ship captains on the sea don’t “want” to crash but want to come to shore safely.

      1. And to repeat a key point, God doesn’t “have” to determine something to know it. So there is no scriptural reason that God “couldn’t” know who would believe in the future unless He “first determined” who would and would not believe.

        So regardless of whatever specific philosophical or scientific model of knowledge & time one finds most persuasive or probable, the Calvinist charge here against non-Calvinists is rooted in the *assumption* that God cannot know what He does not first Decree or pre-determine. And that just isn’t a restriction scripture puts on God’s knowledge.

      2. Wow is that wonderfully said Jenai!!!
        Your words were a pleasure to read!! :-]

      3. This is awesome. Thank you so much Jenai. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this thanks for all the effort.

    3. Hi Greg. The hypothetical that no one might have received God’s offer of grace through faith is pragmatically a non-question since we know many already have.

      1 John 2:2 – For the sins of the whole world

      He IS the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, not WAS. This opens the door for all to receive the benefits of His sacrifice if they will only trust Him for it! See “whole world” used by John in 5:19 to get an idea of whose sins are being talked about in 2:2.

      If you heard me say that I paid for my family to travel to Jerusalem, would you think I was lying if you heard me say later that I paid for everyone in my church to travel to Jerusalem?

      What if you found out that some of my family and church members didn’t go, even though tickets were purchased for them? Would it still be true that I paid for them all?

      Of course this is just an illustration. I wish I had that kind of money! 😉

      Universal in value, offer, and intent, but limited in application to those who freely trust God’s mercy for it.

      Even Reformed theology believes Christ’s sacrifice was of more value than what was needed to cover the sins of the whole world from the beginning of time to the end of the age. Every time light and grace was offered to those who lived and died in OT times, it was offered based on the value that would be provided in Christ for all their sins.

      They were free to accept that light and grace to draw them to a decision of faith, which if they placed it in God’s mercy and did not reject His offer, they would immediately be imputed with His righteousness and would later receive the rest of the benefits of Christ’s death after He died and rose again. Pretty simple really!

  4. John 10:11 I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep (not to goats), then in verse 15 it goes ” … I lay down My life for the sheep”. Christ’s statements here reveals a Particular Atonement, i.e. the sheep.–not universal atonement No one in his right mind would ever argue with Christ concerning as to whom did He lay down His life. Christ can never be mistaken when He clearly identify the legit recipients whom He extended His Mercy and compassion.

    1. Welcome Joe! You are committing the negative inference fallacy! The verse does not say – “only for the sheep.”

      1 John 2:2 – For the sins of the whole world

      He IS the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, not WAS. This opens the door for all to receive the benefits of His sacrifice if they will only trust Him for it! See “whole world” used by John in 5:19 to get an idea of whose sins are being talked about in 2:2.

      If you heard me say that I paid for my family to travel to Jerusalem, would you think I was lying if you heard me say later that I paid for everyone in my church to travel to Jerusalem?

      What if you found out that some of my family and church members didn’t go, even though tickets were purchased for them? Would it still be true that I paid for them all?

      Of course this is just an illustration. I wish I had that kind of money! 😉

      Universal in value, offer, and intent, but limited in application to those who freely trust God’s mercy for it.

      Even Reformed theology believes Christ’s sacrifice was of more value than what was needed to cover the sins of the whole world from the beginning of time to the end of the age. Every time light and grace was offered to those who lived and died in OT times, it was offered based on the value that would be provided in Christ for all their sins.

      They were free to accept that light and grace to draw them to a decision of faith, which if they placed it in God’s mercy and did not reject His offer, they would immediately be imputed with His righteousness and would later receive the rest of the benefits of Christ’s death after He died and rose again. Pretty simple really!

    2. The Jesus who said…. “I lay down My life for the sheep”

      Is the same Jesus who just previously said…

      Matthew 10:5-6 (NKJV)…..
      “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

      Matthew 15:24 (NKJV)….
      “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

      1. He also said He came to seek and to save that which was lost (not “dead”).

      2. “He also said He came to seek and to save that which was lost (not ‘dead’)”.

        LOL. True.

        Also….

        Luke 15: 4-7 (NKJV)….
        “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

        Analysis: All 100 in the wilderness are sheep. No “goats” in the story. Jesus finds the “lost” sheep and takes it “home”, not back into the fold still wandering in the wilderness. The 99 sheep, still in the wilderness, are never taken back home, because they never came to realize their lost condition. But all 99 are still sheep.

        Ezekiel 34:30-31 9NKJV)…
        Thus they shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and they, the house of Israel, are My people,” says the Lord GOD.’ “You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your God,” says the Lord GOD.

      3. It also says Christ came to set the captive free. Captive or “dead”?

        Christ said it is not the healthy who need Him but the sick. Sick or “dead”?

        JTL and Calvinists say man is “too dead” to respond, but Christ says (just read what the Bible says, not Calvin) that man is lost, sick, captive…..but not dead. In fact the only dead man Christ talks about is the prodigal son (twice called “dead” in Luke 15). But he says that the “dead prodigal” “came to his senses”. Christ’s kind of dead or Calvin’s kind of dead?

        What is the Calvinist answer to Christ on that?

      4. That reminds me of the Calvinist version of the good shepherd.

        There was once a shepherd who had 100 totally depraved sheep.
        One of the totally depraved sheep – he took into his house and gave it all of the comforts his home could provide.
        The other 99 sheep he sent to the torture chamber to be slowly tortured until they died from intense agony

        When is good pleasure was accomplished – he congratulated himself and said:

        I have saved the one sheep and tortured the 99
        Because all 100 of them were totally depraved.

      5. JTL,
        No word back from you on whether Christ is right that men are sick, blind, captive, lost…or whether Calvin is right that they are “buried/dead”.

        Please let us know who has it right. Christ or Calvin?

        And to think…..when I was young….one of the “gotcha” ideas that was pulled on me by a Calvinist friend was “dead men dont make choices.” If I had only known my Bible better I could have seen that they do (Luke 15), and I would not have wasted those years being a Calvinist!!

      6. JT might not be able to answer you – because there is a high probability he is not ELECT
        And if he is not ELECT then he is dead.

        And in such case the impulses coming to pass within his brain are infallibly decreed “dead” impulses! ;-D

      7. Fromoverhere, “Please let us know who has it right. Christ or Calvin?”

        Great question and if they’d only be intellectually honest they’d have to deny the truth… not a good choice EVER!! Thank you for the push back i agree with Br.d he has no response —hmm maybe he’s seeing through the truth of Scripture rather than man’s view!😊

      8. That depends on we define “man’s view”

        The nature of scripture – is that it is the word of God – as written by man.
        And as such it represents “man’s view” of God and his relationship to man.

      9. Agreed & if we trust the Helper who was sent here to guide us into all truth —though written by man through inspiration we can trust calvinism falls short in harmonizing what we read.

        John 16:13 NKJV — “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

      10. br.d
        Yes!
        If you unpackage Calvinism’s doctrine of decrees – it becomes obvious – that the ability to “come to the knowledge of the truth” is not available to the Calvinist.

        Let’s use a thought experiment to see how that is the case:

        1) Let’s say James White is required to answer a TRUE/FALSE question on a written exam.

        2) Now remember – whatsoever comes to pass – is established by infallible decree.

        3) Consequently – whatsoever PERCEPTION will come to pass within James White’s brain – must be established by an infallible decree. And alternative PERCEPTION is not granted existence.

        4) If the decreed PERCEPTION is TRUE – then PERCEIVING the answer as FALSE is not available

        5) If the decreed PERCEPTION is FALSE – then PERCEIVING the answer as TRUE is not available

        6) Thus – we can see – James White is not granted the function of discerning between TRUE and FALSE – because that would require a choice between TRUE and FALSE – which is not granted to James White’s brain – because doing so would falsify the doctrine of decrees.

        7) Since the function of discerning between TRUE and FALSE is not available to the human brain – then it follows “knowing” whether something is TRUE or FALSE is also not available to the human brain.

        8) The only function that is available – is the function of having an infallibly decreed PERCEPTION – which – per the doctrine – is determined solely and exclusively by Calvin’s god.

        CONCLUSION
        Per Calvinism’s doctrine of decrees – the process of a “coming to the knowledge of the truth” is not granted to humans.

      11. Br.d; “8) The only function that is available – is the function of having an infallibly decreed PERCEPTION – which – per the doctrine – is determined solely and exclusively by Calvin’s god.”

        Such mind gymnastics indeed to trust such a systematic!! & yet it brings such strong opposition and accusations if refuted, sooooo irrational “if” every molecule is set in place and in motion!! “If” i believed this i could see sinking into a rather false confessing of wrongs as “if” i could do otherwise in any real sense of deciding right from wrong..Oh of course they get around this with their pre-faith regeneration poof you want to choose etc which is cloudy and esoteric baggage.. I’m thankful I’m not in the forced to camp and rather the get to camp of;

        Deuteronomy 6:5 NKJV — “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

        “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Mark 12:30-31)

        One simple thing I’ve notice along the way in this system they seem to want to love God with their minds first and it’s never first🌻

      12. br.d
        Yes! Well said.

        They actually don’t have the function of choice – even though it is critical for them to claim they do.

        Logically savvy Calvinists understand that there is no such thing as CONTRARY choice for the creature within the doctrine of decrees.

        CONTRARY choice – would – for example – be a choice between TRUE and FALSE.

        If one chooses TRUE – then one has chosen CONTRARY to FALSE -etc

        CONTRARY choice – is by definition – Libertarian choice.
        And that is why logically savvy Calvinists acknowledge they don’t have it.

        But they still want to claim that they have the function of choice – so that they can retain an Non-Calvinist version of human moral accountability.

        The difference between the Calvinist version of human moral accountability and the NON-Calvinist version is probably best enunciated by John Calvin himself. – where he distinguishes between the terms FOUND and MADE

        In the Arminian/NON-Calvinist view of human moral accountability – humans are held morally accountable for what they are FOUND to be and do.

        In the Calvinist version of human moral accountability – humans are MADE morally accountable – for what they are MADE to be and do.

        John Calvin
        -quote
        by the eternal good pleasure of god THOUGH THE REASON DOES NOT APPEAR, they are NOT FOUND but MADE worthy of destruction. – (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of god pg 121)

        -quote
        Not only the destruction of the wicked is foreknown, but that the wicked themselves have been CREATED for this very end—that they may perish. – (Commentaries Romans 9:18)

        So in Calvinism for example – Esau was created to be hated – before he existed and did anything good or evil.

        Now on the issue of CHOICE

        If you look at any number of dictionaries – you will find a repeating theme.
        A NECESSARY CONDITION for the function of “Choice” is more than one option – and the ability to refrain – in order to constitute what we humans understand as a “Choice”.

        In Calvinism – per the doctrine of decrees – for every human event – and every human impulse – there is ever only ONE SINGLE PREDESTINED RENDERED-CERTAIN option.

        No Option(s) + No ability to refrain = NO CHOICE

        In other words – “Choice” as it is NORMATIVELY understood – is in fact what the Calvinist would call CONTRARY “Choice” – which is something he knows does not exist for himself.

        But he still wants to claim to have the function of “Choice”.

        What he is in fact doing – is using the word “Choice” as a replacement word for IMPULSE

        What he actually has – are infallibly decreed IMPULSES – which he is granted NO CHOICE in the matter of.

        Determinism entails the thesis that whatsoever comes to pass – is determined by antecedent factors outside of human control.

        Therefore – IMPULSES which come to pass in the human brain – are determined by antecedent factors (i.e. infallible decrees) totally outside of the brain’s control.

        He doesn’t want to acknowledge that he has no control over the IMPULSES in his brain.
        So he uses the word “Choice” as a replacement word for “IMPULSES”.

        Then he can claim that man is held responsible for his “Choices”
        Which – of course – do not really exist in his system.

      13. Wow very clear, vivid description and actually really needed this day —thank you br.d !!! This masquerade wearing hopeless version of how their system trusts & views an infinite God is depressing and cruel at best, but viewing the system through a non calvinist eyes it sure does look diabolical!

    3. Jesus is establishing Himself as the True Shepherd of Israel. He is emphasizing that the real shepherd, unlike hired hands, puts His life on the line and even lays down His life to protect the sheep. As the Pharisees were well studied, Jesus’ teaching in this chapter would also call to mind many passages of the Old Testament where Israel is likened to sheep (and sometimes good sheep and bad sheep within the same flock, or good goats and bad goats within the same flock, at that.) It would have also called to mind many rebukes to false prophets and bad rulers in the OT who had hurt the sheep of Israel.

      “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Matt 9:35-37

      “…who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”” Num 29:37

      “So Micaiah declared: “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘These people have no master; let each one return home in peace.'”” I Kings 22:17, II Chron 18:16

      “My people are lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray, causing them to roam the mountains. They have wandered from mountain to hill; they have forgotten their resting place.” Jer 50:6

      “Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to [a]those shepherds, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should the shepherds not feed the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you searched for the lost; but with force and with violence you have dominated them. They scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every animal of the field and scattered. My flock strayed through all the mountains and on every high hill; My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them.”’”

      Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: “As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “certainly, because My flock has become plunder, and My flock has become food for all the animals of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not search for My flock, but rather the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 10‘This is what the Lord GOD says: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them and make them stop tending sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I will save My sheep from their mouth, so that they will not be food for them.”’”

      For the Lord GOD says this: “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and look after them. As a shepherd cares for his flock on a day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land. I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing place will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down in a good grazing place and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I Myself will feed My flock and I Myself will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord GOD. *“I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken, and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will eliminate. I will feed them with judgment.*

      *“As for you, My flock, this is what the Lord GOD says: ‘Behold, I am going to judge between one sheep and another, between the rams and the male goats. Is it too little a thing for you to feed in the good pasture, that you must trample with your feet the rest of your pastures? Or too little for you to drink the clear waters, that you must muddy the rest with your feet? But as for My flock, they must eat what you trample with your feet, and drink what you muddy with your feet!’”*

      *Therefore, this is what the Lord GOD says to them: “Behold, I, I Myself will also judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Since you push away with your side and shoulder, and gore all the weak with your horns until you have scattered them abroad, therefore, I will save My flock, and they will no longer be plunder; and I will judge between one sheep and another.”* Ezek 34:1-24

      23“Then I will appoint over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. 24And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I the LORD have spoken.

    4. Well, I guess Jesus doesn’t qualify, then, cuz he’s a LAMB. Or is he a ROCK? Or a LION?

      jtleosalajoe,

      There is no mention of goats in John 10. Matthew 25 is a completely different topic of conversation to have, and it is much like Matthew 7. Matthew 25 is an extended conversation from Matthew 24, and its emphasis is to WATCH (for the return of Jesus, the 2nd coming), meaning, don’t get complacent, but DO GOOD WORKS.

      In short, Matthew 25 are those who are already following Jesus, where some are feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison, etc., where as the other followers of Jesus are just sitting on their donkeys, doing nothing.

      Compare Matthew 7.

      So, as a shepherd, Jesus separates the goats from the sheep. Both Jesus followers. This is much like the book of James, where you need to PROVE your faith by what you DO. IF you say that you have faith, but do nothing to prove it, FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD. Dead faith.

      But John 10, there is no mention of goats, because it’s a different conversation, different topic.

      Ed Chapman

      1. Ed
        There is no mention of goats in John 10.

        br.d
        Calvinists have a secret weapon when it comes to reading the Bible
        They can add and remove words from the text any way they want

        Cuz they use John Calvin’s magical decoder ring! ;-D

      2. br.d,

        Yep. What jt fails to see in Matthew 25:32 is the THREE words “AS A SHEPHERD”, MEANING that Jesus was ALSO shepherding the goats, not just the sheep. Then he separates the goats from the sheep…as a shepherd. And that is how you can tell that both sheep and goats are Jesus followers, but the goats are NOT PRODUCING FRUIT as a follower of Jesus, and Matthew 7 discusses this topic as well, with the LORD LORD scenario’s, too.

        The Goats consider Jesus Lord, too, hence “Lord Lord, didn’t we cast out devils, and prophesy, and do many wonderful works in your name…

        But they were not producing fruit, so Jesus said, Get away from me, I never knew you.

        Calvinists need to know that Goats consider themselves to be Christian, and are currently in our church’s. They are not UNBELIEVERS. They are believers that are not producing fruit. LORD LORD!

        Ed Chapman

      3. Ed
        Calvinists need to know that Goats consider themselves to be Christian,

        br.d
        In Calvinism – Calvin’s god specifically deceives believers with a false sense of salvation.
        Since Calvin’s god derives glory from decreeing his creatures to eternal torment – I suppose Calvin thought the reason he deceives believers with a false sense of salvation – is to magnify their torment.

        But Calvinists – as you can imagine – don’t like that part of their doctrine.
        So they typically will insist they are not one of the deceived believers.
        And in order to do that – they have to deny their own doctrine.

        Every time the deny that aspect of their doctrine – they become very “Divine sovereignty haters – free will worshipers” they accuse everyone else of being! ;-D

      4. The only time goats and sheep are separated from each other is in an eschatological sense at the final judgement. It’s doubtful Jesus is meaning to imply any such distinction here.

        Rather, in the OT both sheep *and* goats are representative of those in Israel, and there are both good sheep and bad sheep, and good goats and bad goats, strong and weak (rich/oppressive vs. poor/humble) that are shepherded. There also are bad shepherds, hired hands, etc. that do not care for the sheep, and prophecies of the future good shepherd. Ezek 34 is one of the longer, more detailed passages on this.

      5. The problem with that explanation is that Matthew 25 is an extension of Matthew 24, and is dealing with believers, not unbelievers. And Matthew 24 is indeed eschatology. Jesus didn’t change the subject in Matthew 25. It’s the same topic, a warning for those who are being complacent, not watching, not doing good works, nor being fruitful.

      6. br.d,

        An addendum to my last comment:

        You can also compare goats and sheep (as a shepherd) to wheat and tares, which Matthew 13 discusses. Both wheat and tares are in our church’s.

        Matthew 13:27-30
        27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?

        28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?

        29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.

        30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

        LET THEM BOTH GROW TOGETHER UNTIL THE HARVEST. Otherwise, you might root up the wheat with the tares.

        Ed Chapman

    5. jtleosalajoe
      John 10:11 I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep

      br.d
      In Calvinism – per the doctrine – no Calvinist has any CERTAINTY of whether or not he was designed/created to be a sheep or a goat.

      Calvin’s god designs/creates a large percentage of Calvinists specifically to be CHAFF

      John Calvin explains:
      -quote
      the Lord….instills into their minds such a SENSE of his goodness as can be felt WITHOUT the Spirit of adoption.
      (Institutes 3.2.11)

      -quote
      He ILLUMINES ONLY FOR A TIME to partake of it; then he ….forsakes them…and strikes them with even greater blindness (Institutes 3.24.8)

      Calvinists are so blessed to have that! ;-D

    6. jtleosalajoe
      He clearly identify the legit recipients whom He extended His Mercy and compassion.

      br.d
      Too bad – you have no CERTAINTY of what you have been created/designed to be a “recipient” of.

      John Calvin explains:
      -quote
      if HE HAS DOOMED US TO DEATH, it is vain for us to fight against it. (Institutes 3:23:12)

      Not a very confident place for you to be I’m afraid!
      I feel for you! 🙁

Leave a Reply to Heather Cancel reply