The Mystery of the Call—A.W. Tozer

Here are some thoughts from chapter three of A. W. Tozer‘s book, God’s Pursuit of Man (Camp Hill: Wingspread, 2007)…


Called to be an apostle . . . called to be saints. (1 Corinthians 1:1-2)

A. W. TozerThe little word called as used here by the apostle is like a door opening into another world, and when we enter we shall find ourselves in another world indeed. For the new world into which we pass is the world of God’s sovereign will where the will of man cannot come, or if it comes, it is as a dependent and a servant, never as a lord.

Paul here explains his apostleship: It is by an effectual call, not by his own wish or will or determination, and this call is a divine thing, free, uninfluenced and altogether out of the hands of man. The response is from man, but the call, never. That is from God alone.

There are two worlds, set over against each other, dominated by two wills: the will of man and the will of God, respectively. The old world of fallen nature is the world of human will. There man is king and his will decides events. So far as he is able in his weakness he decides who and what and when and where. He fixes values: what is to be esteemed, what despised, what received and what rejected. His will runs through everything. “I determined,” “I decided,” “I decree,” “Be it enacted.” These words are heard continually springing from the lips of little men. And how they rejoice in their fancied “right of self-determination,” and with what comic vanity do they boast of the “sovereign voter.” They do not know, or refuse to consider, that they are but for a day, soon to pass away and be no more…

Yet in their pride men assert their will and claim ownership of the earth. Well, for a time it is true that this is man’s world. God is admitted only by man’s sufferance. He is treated as visiting royalty in a democratic country. Everyone takes His name upon his lips and (especially at certain seasons) He is feted and celebrated and hymned. But behind all this flattery men hold firmly to their right of self-determination. As long as a man is allowed to play host he will honor God with his attention, but always He must remain a guest and never seek to be Lord. Man will have it understood that this is his world; he will make its laws and decide how it shall be run. God is permitted to decide nothing. Man bows to Him and as he bows, manages with difficulty to conceal the crown upon his own head.

When we enter the kingdom of God, however, we are in another kind of world. It is altogether other than the old world from which we came; always it is different from and mostly it is contrary to the old. Where the two appear to be alike it is only in appearance, “the first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47). “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). The first will perish, and the last abides forever…

There is another and worse evil which springs from this basic failure to grasp the radical difference between the natures of two worlds. It is the habit of languidly “accepting” salvation as if it were a small matter and one wholly in our hands. Men are exhorted to think things over and “decide” for Christ, and in some places one day each year is set aside as “Decision Day,” at which time people are expected to condescend to grant Christ the right to save them, a right which they have obviously refused Him up to that time. Christ is thus made to stand again before men’s judgment seat; He is made to wait upon the pleasure of the individual, and after long and humble waiting is either turned away or patronizingly admitted. By a complete misunderstanding of the noble and true doctrine of the freedom of the human will, salvation is made to depend perilously upon the will of man instead of upon the will of God.

However deep the mystery, however many the paradoxes involved, it is still true that men become saints not at their own whim but by sovereign calling. Has not God by such words as these taken out of our hands the ultimate choice?

It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing. . . . No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. . . . No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. . . . Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. . . . It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me. (John 6:63, 44, 65; 17:2; Galatians 1:15-16)

God has made us in His likeness, and one mark of that likeness is our free will. We hear God say, “Whosoever will, let him come.” We know by bitter experience the woe of an unsurrendered will and the blessedness or terror which may hang upon our human choice. But back of all this and preceding it is the sovereign right of God to call saints and determine human destinies. The master choice is His, the secondary choice is ours. Salvation is from our side a choice, from the divine side it is a seizing upon, an apprehending, a conquest of the Most High God.

God has indeed lent to every man the power to lock his heart and stalk away darkly into his self-chosen night, as He has lent to every man the ability to respond to His overtures of grace, but while the “no” choice may be ours, the “yes” choice is always God’s. He is the Author of our faith and He must be its Finisher. Only by grace can we continue to believe; we can persist in willing God’s will only as we are seized upon by a benign power that will overcome our natural bent to unbelief.

So keenly do we men enjoy dominion that we like to think that we hold in our own hands the power of life and death. We love to think that hell will be easier to bear from the fact of our having gone there in defiance of some power that sought to rule us…

While few would dare thus to voice their secret feelings, there are millions who have imbibed the notion that they hold in their hands the keys of heaven and hell. The whole content of modern evangelistic preaching contributes to this attitude. Man is made large and God small. Christ is placed in a position to excite pity rather than respect as He stands meekly, lantern in hand, outside a vine-covered door.

How deeply do men err who conceive of God as subject to our human will or as standing respectfully to wait upon our human pleasure. Though He in condescending love may seem to place Himself at our disposal, yet never for the least division of a moment does He abdicate His throne or void His right as Lord of man and nature. He is that Majesty on high. To Him all angels cry aloud, the heavens and all power therein: to Him cherubim and seraphim continually do cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of the majesty of thy glory.” He is the Fear of Isaac and the Dread of Jacob, and before Him prophet and patriarch and saint have knelt in breathless awe and adoration.

The gradual disappearance of the idea and feeling of majesty from the Church is a sign and a portent. The revolt of the modern mind has had a heavy price, how heavy is becoming more apparent as the years go by. Our God has now become our servant to wait on our will…

We need to have restored again the lost idea of sovereignty, not as a doctrine only but as the source of a solemn religious emotion. We need to have taken from our dying hand the shadow scepter with which we fancy we rule the world. We need to feel and know that we are but dust and ashes and that God is the disposer of the destinies of men…

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15 comments

  1. pastordavidnance

    From the article:
    However deep the mystery, however many the paradoxes involved, it is still true that men become saints not at their own whim but by sovereign calling. Has not God by such words as these taken out of our hands the ultimate choice?

    It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing. . . . No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. . . . No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. . . . Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. . . . It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me. (John 6:63, 44, 65; 17:2; Galatians 1:15-16)

    Ken,
    Here is where my thinking is at the moment – I don’t disagree that God is sovereign and that I only live, let alone come to faith, because of His condescension. Neither do I disagree that men become saints not at their own whim but by God’s call. My disagreement is in the application (by men) of this truth. It is one thing to say that God calls men and men respond because God has graciously allowed it (and the context of John 6 above I think is illustrative of the principle of God giving more light to those who have responded to the light He has already given. The “grumblers” were being passed over because of their willful rejection of previous revelation – verse 45 makes that clear.) It is another thing entirely to say that God by design only calls some men and therefore intentionally doesn’t call others and even manipulates the response of the men! As per my response to your original question, I cannot explain the apparent disparity of opportunity to hear the Gospel from one man to another but I rest in the knowledge that God is just and good and that any appearance of injustice is due to my lack of complete knowledge. That seems to me to be a far better solution and does not cause any contradiction of the other qualities of God that are revealed to us in Scripture as Calvinism does. Building upon what I said before, I believe it is far superior to take the approach that because there are things that I do not and cannot know I must trust that God has handled the details rather than to believe I have the mind of God figured out and therefore construct an incomprehensible and contradictory theological system to explain what it is I don’t know.

    Tozer was truly a gift to the church, thanks for sharing the article! As an aside, I meant what I said earlier – I appreciate being challenged. I want to be challenged because I want to know God as best I am able and may I never think that I have accomplished that!

    David Nance

    • Ken Hamrick

      David,

      I understand. You know beyond doubt that God is loving, good, kind and just; and you have no place in your thinking for any ideas that do not seem to fit with that. But I wonder: have you ever considered that maybe God really did unconditionally choose whom He will save, and the apparent injustice and contradiction are due to your lack of complete knowledge? You are right that God calls all men everywhere to repent, and He graciously allows them to come to Him. And you are right that God gives more light to those who have responded to the light He has already given. But I hope that you will eventually come to a place where you also realize that unless God “manipulates the response of the men,” no one would ever accept any of the light that He gives.

      The Libertarian begins with the truth of the love of God; but he has trouble seeing the truth that men are so depraved that no one has it within himself to respond to God. The Calvinist begins with the truth that no one has it within himself to respond to God; but he has trouble seeing the goodness and compassion of God toward all men, even those not chosen. Both are “contradictory theological systems.” You can choose to study out your own system and face its contradictions, or you can take the “head in the mission” approach and not concern yourself with them. But please understand that trusting God to handle the details does not mean that you have escaped contradiction. As students of God’s Word, we are all called to systematically study the Scripture in pursuit of a better understanding of God and truth. How else can we teach the deeper truths of God? Those truths are not mere academic trivia. The need for a firm grasp of such truths increases as the moral and spiritual problems in the world become more complex and the attacks on the truth become more intense.

      Do you agree that all men are fallen, sinful and self-worshiping to the point that none would ever come to God on his own? Didn’t your own conversion require more than for God to merely enable you to make a decision between accepting and rejecting? You were already born with the ability to make the decision, as proven by the fact that you continually rejected God from the moment of your first sin right up until you bowed before Him in faith. You needed more than the ability to reject God. You needed God’s gracious influences to work in your life to such an extent as to result in your surrender in repentant faith. Every believer can testify of how God influenced them, pursued them, “wooed” them, taught them, and drove them to the end of their rope and the end of their self in order to drive them, call them, and bring them to Him. Are you any different? I submit that it has happened in every case.

      Since every man requires such influences before he will be willing to come to Christ, then the question is unavoidable: Who is responsible for such influences? Either God is responsible for such influences, or the destinies of men have been thrown to the winds of chance and circumstance. This is “a hard saying.” How can a loving, good, just and compassionate God choose to save only some and not all? But consider also, how can a holy, righteous God permit sin to occur and even use it to further His glory and accomplish His plans? God allows what is utterly repugnant to His nature in order to accomplish His greater purposes. The answer to the question of why God would only save a remnant can only be answered by the fact that sin must have its consequences. Even you must admit that the reason for why so many perish is ultimately because Adam sinned. Had the race not sinned in Adam, we would not be in this mess, and there would not be multitudes of unbelievers. And we both agree that none perish due to a lack of love, compassion or provision on God’s part. And if you think about it, you should also agree that God knows every man completely and no man is too difficult for God to persuade him and graciously bring him to faith. Either way, Adam’s sin has limited the grace that God pours out on the race in such a way that only a remnant will be saved.

      Thanks for your reply. It is good for us to challenge each other, as you’ve pointed out. Be blessed!

  2. pastordavidnance

    Ken,

    You are correct that in my “heart” I want to begin at one place but I also know (with my head) that the heart is a fickle and unreliable thing so my hope is to always begin with the text and allow it to inform both my heart and my head. I freely confess that I am considerably less than perfect at that and that is why I appreciate being challenged. While I am here. let me also say that I have known only one person – ever – who was Calvinistic in his thinking with whom I could have a gracious (read grace-filled) dialogue. With most people I usually do not discuss this aspect of theology for that very reason. Thus far you have shown yourself to be gracious.

    Having said that, yes I have considered – and with much diligence – the proposition you posit. My earlier points were meant to convey that though I still have unanswered questions (and suspect that I will until my faith becomes sight and probably still beyond that) that I do not find the “proofs” offered by Calvinist theology to be convincing and believe that their system that proposes to answer my questions itself raises different questions such that I am convinced that from all of us a measure of humility is required and not too often displayed (on both sides.)

    I am not at all advocating the “head in the mission” approach, I am much too curious for that. As I stated previously I want to know Him and I am willing to wrestle with the text in order to do so! I actually enjoy the “headiness” of this – probably too much. In fact, I have to remind myself that the majority of the people in the pew don’t appreciate it as much as I do!

    I am obviously not a Calvinist, neither am I an Arminian. I am not sure yet if a Traditionalist label is adequate, either. I recognize that God is intimately involved throughout the entire process of drawing/convincing/converting. I also know that he has commanded His servants to “go and tell” so I am obviously involved in that process as well. I know that man – though sinful – is nevertheless a rational creature and that my mind was just as involved in my conversion as was my heart. I do NOT believe that depravity = total inability. Cain responded to God and yet was not converted as did others throughout Scripture. Paul says that all men are sensible of God and without excuse. Jesus said He would draw all men to Himself. Paul said how can anyone believe unless they hear and how can they hear unless someone tells them? Paul told the Athenians that God has orchestrated things so that men MIGHT seek Him. Paul said that He became all things to all men so that he might win some. Some are converted and some are not because some choose to respond positively and others do not. Choice is implied because otherwise there would be no need to “win” or convince. Some are driven to the end of themselves as you say. Some however come to faith as little children with simple faith and apparently little struggle.

    I do not know if I agree with your statement that Adam’s sin has limited the GRACE that God pours out on the race – I will have to think about that one… Also, intentionally passing by the majority of humanity is not necessary in order for sin to have its consequences. The consequences of sin are evident – separation, suffering, and death. The consequence of grace is equally evident – a real, genuine chance at reunion, relief, and life – for every one who believes!

    Maybe a good place to begin is at the beginning. My children were all born in the State of Georgia because my wife and I chose to live here at the times of their births. Had we chosen to live in California they would have been born Californians. As it is my kids grew up Georgians, in a particular environment, acquired a particular accent, were exposed to particular influences, etc. Combined with this – and maybe to their chagrin – my kids inherited certain qualities, personality traits, and physical characteristics from us as well.

    Similarly, Adam chose to sin so he “moved” from a state of innocence into a fallen state – or put another way he moved from within God’s presence to without and he lost the option to move back. So, his children were born into this separated state – never having been in God’s presence. Also, we inherit the corrupted nature that became Adam’s upon his disobedience which is perhaps only the natural consequence of the removal of God’s presence upon his nature. But it must also be acknowledged that Solomon said that God has placed immortality in man’s heart, Paul says He has orchestrated times and places so man will seek Him, Jesus said that He will draw men to Himself, God said that He loves the world and takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Peter says that God desires that all should repent and that none should perish. I do not care how you massage it, you cannot construe any of this to mean only some part of men to the intentional exclusion of others without affecting the credibility of God. All of the “proof” texts of Calvinism can be legitimately understood in another way that in my opinion is more cohesive with the overall context of the Bible so as to remove the difficulty and that seems to me to be the better option.

    At the age of 20 while attending college I began to earnestly, incessantly, and methodically study and search the Scriptures. I read it all – all the time. I grew and grew and soon believed that God had called me into ministry (that was 22 years ago!) It is significant to me that in all of my personal study of the Scriptures I NEVER came to ANY Calvinistic conclusions even when reading the difficult passages often associated with it. That was not for lack of study, diligence, or intelligence – I simply did not reach those conclusions. It was not until seminary that I was exposed to such thinking. I began to wrestle with it because it was repugnant to me AND because I was not convinced that was what the text demanded. I was earnestly seeking Him and His truth. I am educated and beyond average intelligence and the Calvinistic understanding was not then and for me remains even now NOT self-evident as I believe it would be were it correct. My being unconvinced of Calvinism is not due to emotion or ignorance. I am simply unconvinced.

    Who is responsible for the influences upon man to bring him to Christ? God is the initiator and man is the responder. Again – I reject the Calvinist notion that man is completely incapable. I believe that as I listed above that Scripture teaches that God has left us with enough of himself that we might respond. Therefore it is our responsibility to respond to what we know and I believe God keeps the revelation coming until we are brought face to face with the Gospel. The following is from the book “Not Enough Faith to be an Atheist” – “…God has provided enough evidence in this life to convince anyone willing to believe, yet he also left some ambiguity so as not to compel the unwilling.” This statement is representative of my position.

    I will continue to think on this and respond – right now my wife thinks I have more important things to do!

    Your brother,

    David Nance

  3. parsonsmike

    Dear brothers,
    God has many different roles in the world, creator, ruler, judge, savior, sustainer, to name a few. And He isn’t always everything to all people at all times. To us he is friend and savior, God and father, Shepherd and brother, among others. We look at our imperfect lives and yet feel and sense the love of God despite our sins. And we cannot imagine God in any other way. But he is not that way to all people. To many he is none of those things for they hate Him. Oh maybe not in a conscious personal way seeing how many worship some god in their life and assume that what they worship is the Who They Should Worship and so by doing so they throw contempt on God Himself Whom of what little they know of Him they ascribe to the thing they pledge allegiance to.
    Back in Paul’s day, it was many and multiple gods the people bowed before, and for many today it still is multiple gods. For some it is Allah or Jehovah but neither of these are the Father of the Son. Still many today claim they worship the Father of the Son but distort the truth and why? It is because they do not know Him personally. They in their fallen state have conjured up a thing to worship that sounds good to them. Even so there are millions more you have no formal religion who worship a good and benevolent god who hopefully will accept them into Heaven because they are basically good people who do more good than bad,
    And in every case with these false religions they discount how holy the One True God is, and therefore they fail to see sin as horrendous as it really is, For in every false religion the path to Heaven is gained and held by good works. Now many of these people are humble, some to a fault, but at their core is a self righteousness or at least a hope of self righteousness that in the end on the day of judgment will preserve them before the Great and Mighty Judge.
    For many of them, there is an air of self righteousness, like a Pharisee, who believe that they are already good enough for God’s Heaven, and they ignore sin as a temporary abstract unless it is someone sinning against them!
    The goal of both kinds of people is to squash the conscience that condemns them, either by rationalization or some other method. And some do have their consciences hardened.
    But for both God is Judge and any real contact with Him is terrifying for His avenging angels could be perceived as demons and maybe some are. They seek to avoid any temporal judgment because for them, in reality, this world is the only one that matters. And the gods they fashion from it to comfort themselves in moments of true lucidity continue to mask the reality of their lives.

    Now let me take you back to OT times. In Israel there were true and false prophets. How to tell the difference, was the question. One answer was to look at their life words and stone the false prophets who got things wrong. Best not to make too many predictions or at least make them far along the time line. But what about non-predictive words from on high? How could the people know which prophets were true and which were false? We certainly can read of various times in the history of the people where they had a plethora of false prophets and also sought to kill and did kill the true prophets. The shepherds led the people astray numerous times and brought judgment down on the nation by the Judge including times of destruction and captivity.

    And what about the other nations? God didn’t even provide a way or a path to Himself. He didn’t go into Egypt to save the Egyptians. He didn’t evangelize the Philistines. He called Abram OUT of the highly populous place into the wilderness. And what about the millions in India and China?

    God as a benevolent savior remained hidden from these other people groups. And he allowed false prophets to lead even many of the Israelis astray. They still feared Him as Judge. And they sought to mitigate their condemning consciences in myriad ways. But there was no way of grace open to them. It was only open to a small band of Israelis amidst a slightly larger band of Israelis. Of all the people of the earth, only a small amount of people knew the way of grace and salvation.

    So i ask you, is this God we serve so much different than the one in the OT? Does He now seek to save most/all people whence before He ignored them salvifically? To most, even here in USA, God is more Judge than Savior; more some to appease to gain life than someone to love and worship because He has given life.

    And yet we know Him as the most wonderful awesome life giving love sacrificing Creator Sustainer brotherly Fatherly Unifer friend and Holy Righteous savior who in knowing Him trumps all the riches and pleasures of the world put together. Does the world know Him like we do? we tell them but they do not believe us. Why do we see Him in His great Glory and they see Him as our crutch?

    Could it be that He remains hidden from them by His own purpose? That their sin has blinded them to any chance of seeing Him as he is, or even to get a good glimpse? And that we see Him by His grace to us through Jesus and in seeing Him, in glimpsing Him even somewhat, we love and adore Him and willingly abandon the world to serve Him?

    Maybe we put too much value on the importance of man and too little value on the Holiness and Righteousness of God that we could never imagine a God who prefers Holiness to humans.

  4. parsonsmike

    Ken,
    Interesting post.
    Consider this: “Paul here explains his apostleship: It is by an effectual call, not by his own wish or will or determination, and this call is a divine thing, free, uninfluenced and altogether out of the hands of man. The response is from man, but the call, never. That is from God alone.”

    First the idea of the call from God being effectual.
    But what of God does not call? Can man still by his own will climb the mountain?
    If he does call, do you agree that it is effectual?

    As to the first question, let me quote the next lines:
    “There are two worlds, set over against each other, dominated by two wills: the will of man and the will of God, respectively. The old world of fallen nature is the world of human will. There man is king and his will decides events. So far as he is able in his weakness he decides who and what and when and where. He fixes values: what is to be esteemed, what despised, what received and what rejected. His will runs through everything. “I determined,” “I decided,” “I decree,” “Be it enacted.” These words are heard continually springing from the lips of little men.”

    Can a man by his own will ‘latch’ on to God? We agree no man ever will, but i speak to your hypothetical. If a man could, could he also not stand in heaven and boast: “I determined,” “I decided,” “I decreed it,” “I grasped God before he grasped me!”? Is that a possibility for the one certainly follows the other and is unavoidable. Since to me the latter scenario is an impossibility, than he scenario that must lead to it is also impossible, not just certain not to happen, but also impossible to happen.

    So i would agree wholeheartedly with brother Tozer when he says: “However deep the mystery, however many the paradoxes involved, it is still true that men become saints not at their own whim but by sovereign calling. Has not God by such words as these taken out of our hands the ultimate choice?”
    In that the ultimate choice is God’s and God’s alone and that He has taken it out of the hands of men.
    What say you?

  5. parsonsmike

    Dear Pastor David,
    I thank you for your honesty and I am grateful for your desire to know our Lord in a greater way. Ken and i agree on a lot and disagree on some. It is the Spirit who opens the eyes and lets in the light. Always trust in Him and not the words of man. He will guide you in truth and in the holy path. As a body we all need each other to be whole in deed, in knowledge, and in understanding. God bless you pastor.

  6. pastordavidnance

    Parsonsmike,

    Thanks for the kind words, brother.

    I would ask you to carefully consider Isaiah 49:6 “…he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

    I reference again Acts 17:26-30 “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone–an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”

    Abel, Seth, Enoch, and Noah all preceded Israel and yet were called righteous. It is absurd to believe that all knowledge of the One True God was lost – yes, it was rare – so rare that only Noah remained righteous among all the men on earth and the rest were destroyed. So rare that Job was held up by God as an example to Satan.

    Melchizedek, King of Salem, lived concurrently with Abraham (Genesis 14), and was called “the priest of the Most High God” (Hebrews 7:1).

    There are examples throughout the OT of ‘God-fearing’ Gentiles – where did they come from?

    The OT among other things is a history of the Jewish people – we are not told explicitly that God did no work among the Gentiles so to say so emphatically is at best an argument from silence.
    :)

    • parsonsmike

      Pastor David,
      Gosh, once i was a Gentile!
      I am sorry to give the impression that there were no saved non-Jews in the OT, i was only speaking generally.
      My point is that salvation comes to those God personally reveals His saving Word in. Consider this passage from 2nd Corinthians 4:

      And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

      We preach Christ Jesus as Lord to many but to whomever we preach to they get saved even as we did: God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. So likewise they get saved when He shines in their hearts, giving them the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus the Messiah.
      If He does not, they remain blinded still to that glory of Christ, the Gospel truth, and to the reality that only Jesus saves.

      Likewise we read that Abraham was called by God and given a promise and he believed.
      The knowledge of the true one was not lost, for who preached to Abraham?
      But as for all other men we read:
      What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written,

      “There is none righteous, not even one;
      There is none who understands,
      There is none who seeks for God;
      All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
      There is none who does good,
      There is not even one.”
      “Their throat is an open grave,
      With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
      “The poison of asps is under their lips”;
      “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
      “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
      Destruction and misery are in their paths,
      And the path of peace they have not known.”
      “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

      A bleak picture is painted, and we read on…

      Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,..

      Now even you admit that such knowledge was rare. And that my friend is the point. God kept Himself hid, His salvific knowledge rare. Even the outpouring on the Israelis was a small thing for we read in Deut. 7:

      For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

      But it was His chosen servant Israel otherwise known as Jesus that Isaiah speaks about in the passage you brought forth. But even then we see that salvation only comes to a remnant of the people in every land. Even in the USA, once maybe the most Christian of nations, do we see that God is not saving the most only the many.

      i dunno, maybe you think He is trying and failing, after all He has to work with us imperfect battered vessels. i dunno how you see God, but looking at the reality of life across this globe, if His goal is to save even half, He is falling way short. And 56 million people die every year! [http://www.hebrew4christians.com/About_HFC/Death_Rate/death_rate.html] And looking at other tables i can’t see how half of those are Christians. Which means He is losing ground… fast! Over 2.4 million die in the USA every year, and somehow i doubt that even half of those are believers.
      Much disagreement between us brothers comes down to how we see God. Are you letting ideology usurp theology? Truth is truth. Is your God winning or losing?

  7. pastordavidnance

    Mike,

    The fact that salvation was and continues to be rare does not prove that God intentionally passes by some and selectively “elects” others. It proves only that it is rare. It is also possible that God in fact does draw all men through Natural Revelation (Romans 1) and rewards those few who respond with additional revelation (John 6:45).

    • parsonsmike

      Dear Pastor David,
      Salvation as a reward? Respond properly and be rewarded with salvation?
      I guess you and I are farther apart than I originally thought.
      Is that how you imagine you got saved, YOU acted properly and so God rewarded YOU? YOU did good and God rewarded YOU?

      I did nothing to earn my salvation. It was given to me by a gracious lovong God

  8. pastordavidnance

    Mike,

    You misconstrue what I said. I am a sinner saved by grace. I deserve only hell but am given a King’s ransom. Jesus did it all – I did nothing. I said that God initiates and I respond. God calls and I answered. God offered and I accepted. Faith is not a work. Believing is not a work. God graciously giving a partial revelation of Himself and my accepting it and He “rewarding” that response with more revelation is not merit just an unfortunate word choice on my part. This is the kind of fruitless back and forth I wish to avoid. I have given enough clear statements on this blog for you to know that is not my position.

    • parsonsmike

      Dear Pastor David,
      I misconstrued not what you said, but you mean I misconstrued what you meant.
      Well maybe.
      First dear brother I want you to know that in my disagreeing with you i am not holding any personal enmity against you, but I am only standing against your doctrine. And even then, only against your doctrine as I perceive it. So I ask of you to not be offended by my words only to seek to listen to the force of my argument and to correct me where I have you wrong.

      I said well maybe because your position is ambiguous to me. It *SEEMS* like you are saying two different things and I can’t seem to put them together. So let me point them out so you can explain them to me.

      Let us start with where we agree. You said:
      “I am a sinner saved by grace. I deserve only hell but am given a King’s ransom. Jesus did it all – I did nothing. I said that God initiates and I respond. God calls and I answered. God offered and I accepted. Faith is not a work. Believing is not a work”

      These are fine words that I think every Christian should wholeheartedly be able to proclaim and should proclaim. We are sinners saved by grace. Jesus did it all and we did nothing.

      But how do I reconcile Jesus did it all and I did nothing with the idea that I responded, I answered, I accepted? For would you not agree that if I had not responded, answered, and accepted, i would not be saved? I think so. I see it as Jesus doing all because my response, my answer, and my acceptance is due to how wonderful He is and is what any person in my shoes, what those who heard His call, would do. That everyone and anyone who heard His call, seen His revelation, glimpsed His glory would do: they would answer, they would respond, they would accept.

      Now that is how I reconcile the ideas that Jesus did it all and i did nothing. It leaves me no place to boast. It leaves me humbled before Him and His love. It leaves me full of gratitude. It brings me to desire Him ever the more every time I reflect on it.

      He is the reason I trust Him. He is the reason I continue to trust Him. And when I am weak and/or sinful, He is the reason I go back to trusting Him.

      Now to the part where i disagree with you which is the part that seems to disagree with you as well.
      You said:
      “God graciously giving a partial revelation of Himself and my accepting it and He “rewarding” that response with more revelation is not merit just an unfortunate word choice on my part.”
      and [discounting your word choice at the moment]:
      “It is also possible that God in fact does draw all men through Natural Revelation (Romans 1) and rewards those few who respond with additional revelation”

      Off the bat and before i start, i do wonder why that since you call your choice of word “unfortunate”, then why in your explanation didn’t you replace it with a more appropriate word instead of reusing it with quote marks?

      Romans 1
      For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

      Now it seems that you are saying that there are some people who do not suppress the truth in unrighteousness and/or who honor God as God and/or give Him thanks and that God rewards [your word] these people with further revelation. Is that what you are saying?

      Okay lets say that is what you are saying. because what else can it mean when you say: “God in fact does draw all men through Natural Revelation (Romans 1) and rewards those few who respond with additional revelation”? I am assuming you mean they respond positively for what else would be the point. So these people respond positively to natural revelation -HOW? Well the Word tells us what people do, so let us then look at the opposite. The Word says they suppress the truth in unrighteousness, or in other words, they sin. The opposite would be that they do not suppress the truth in unrighteousness and they don’t sin. The Word says they failed to honor Him as God or give thanks to Him. So to do the opposite would mean that they did honor God and give thanks to Him. Thus they did NOT become futile in their speculating and their hearts were neither foolish or darkened. They were wise, and not fools and did not exchange the glory of God for an idol.

      This wasn’t me pastor. And by your testimony David, this wasn’t you: “I am a sinner saved by grace. I deserve only hell…” It seems that our testimonies reflect the truths spelled out in Romans 1: that we suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, did not honor God, or give Him thanks and worshiped idols.

      Do you see the contradiction?

      So let us look at the next Scripture you bring up: John 6:45
      It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.
      Now it seems to me, and again please correct me if i am wrong, that you just figured that the place of ‘teaching’ was natural revelation. Did you read someone else that put you onto that?
      Now whenever i want to understand the Scriptures better and the NT quotes from the OT, I go there to expand my understanding. So let us go to Isaiah 54 and read this in context:

      O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted,
      Behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
      And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.
      “Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies,
      And your gates of crystal,
      And your entire wall of precious stones.
      “All your sons will be taught of the Lord;
      And the well-being of your sons will be great.
      “In righteousness you will be established;
      You will be far from oppression, for you will not fear;
      And from terror, for it will not come near you.
      “If anyone fiercely assails you it will not be from Me.
      Whoever assails you will fall because of you.
      “Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals
      And brings out a weapon for its work;
      And I have created the destroyer to ruin.
      “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper;
      And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.
      This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
      And their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord.

      Who is the Lord speaking about, these “sons”? The last lines of the chapter clue us in:
      This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
      And their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord.

      So let me ask you a question, Pastor David, before one is saved, are they a son of God? If you say no, then how is it you say they are sons taught by God from natural revelation while they are not yet saved? But if you you say yes, then how are they sons except by the election of God? So back to John 6…

      Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.
      Who is God speaking to in Isaiah 54? is it not Jesus? Here is what He says in Isaiah 53:

      But the Lord was pleased
      To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
      If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
      He will see His offspring,
      He will prolong His days,
      And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
      As a result of the anguish of His soul,
      He will see it and be satisfied;
      By His knowledge the Righteous One,
      My Servant, will justify the many,
      As He will bear their iniquities.

      “He will see His offspring”!
      And then in the next chapter, He says of these offspring:
      “All your sons will be taught of the Lord;
      And the well-being of your sons will be great.”

      He says of them in 53:
      By His knowledge the Righteous One,
      My Servant, will justify the many,
      As He will bear their iniquities.

      and of them in 54:
      “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper;
      And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.
      This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
      And their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord.

      And it is these that He draws to Himself in John 6 and it is these He saves.
      But if those being saved it is said:

      And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

      and… just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

      In the first passage, Paul includes his Jewish brethren, “we too”. So that when we read in Romans 3:

      What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written,

      “There is none righteous, not even one;
      There is none who understands,
      There is none who seeks for God;
      All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
      There is none who does good,
      There is not even one.”
      “Their throat is an open grave,
      With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
      “The poison of asps is under their lips”;
      “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
      “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
      Destruction and misery are in their paths,
      And the path of peace they have not known.”
      “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
      Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

      Thus we know, Pastor David, that NO ONE is excluded from falling as detailed by Romans 1. That all are saved by grace even as you and I are. For the Ephesian 2 passage pronounces it. And the Ephesians 4 passage above goes on to say:

      But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

      Are there some lessons you have learned in life that you had no choice in? Do you always know when God is teaching you? Did your salvation hinge not only on Jesus doing it all, but also on you properly answering, and positively responding to His teaching so that one day you could allowingly accept the Lord of Glory into your life?

      How do you reconcile Jesus did it all with your answering, responding and accepting?

      But even so, after all of that, you still need to address the idea that salvation is limited to whom He calls if He only teaches His sons, and all have rejected natural revelation.

      Peace brother.

  9. pastordavidnance

    Mike,

    No, I do not agree that everyone who hears accepts. That is an assumption on your part. “Many are called but few are chosen”, meaning few respond. (In the context of that parable in Matthew 22 people were invited to the king’s banquet – they heard the invitation and chose to refuse it, they were not “insensible” to the call but declined to accept it.)

    Like King Agrippa, some are almost persuaded but ultimately die in unbelief by their own choosing. Some know the truth of the Gospel but like the Pharisees they willfully reject it and so reject their only hope of salvation. Some, because someone with a heart for God and for the lost, like Paul – who endured all things and became all things to all men in order to win some of them – ARE persuaded and are won.

    I said that my choice of the word “reward” (which I used to mean to respond positively) was unfortunate because it does have connotations of merit which I did not intend.

    I already explained myself in detail in previous posts regarding the Lord’s drawing of men to Himself through progressive revelation. All of us, Jew and Gentile alike, would be hopelessly lost without God’s gracious intervention. God giving us ANY light is an act of grace. God giving us ADDITIONAL light is an act of grace. God leading us to the cross through His progressive light of revelation is an act of grace. God allowing me to live long enough to follow the light He has given and to have the opportunity to respond is an act of grace. There is no contradiction.

    John 6:45.b. “Everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to me.” The grumblers rejected what the OT had already revealed about the coming Messiah. They were right then rejecting the testimony of the Holy Spirit verifying Jesus as the Messiah. They were asking for additional signs from Jesus to prove that He was the Messiah (verse 30) but they would not be given any more because they had not believed what they already had been given.

    In context in Isaiah 54 God is speaking to Israel (not the church and not to individual Christians.) The sons there are the sons of Israel (future generations). Jesus – God in flesh – was at that moment standing among those very sons of Israel and teaching them in direct fulfillment of that text in Isaiah and that is the reason He quoted it. He was pointing to Himself in response to their derisive comments in verse 42.

    We will just have to agree to disagree. Adieu.

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