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There are those who are convinced that our salvation was predetermined before the foundation of the universe. Incidentally, I believe that. There are scriptures that make it clear. (Eph.1:4 among them) However, to fully understand that, we need to think some things through.
In Matthew 11:20-24 Jesus denounced the cities who did not repent.
It is important to note that Jesus did not say, “When you saw those miracles you could not repent because you were not chosen.” This passage seems to indicate that they would be condemned in the judgment “because they did not repent.”
I recently saw the question on the Facebook, “What is Calvinism.” The answer given was Romans 8: 29,30.
l want to emphasize the word, “foreknew,” in these verses. A strong Calvinist might point out that the word “foreknew,” here refers to a previous relationship, rather than knowing your hair color or your name. However, while this certainly refers to more than the omniscience of God, it cannot mean less. God has always known every decision you will ever make, every thought you have ever thought or ever will think. And He has known everything about your character and destiny from before the foundation of the world. In Matthew 12:37 Jesus told us we would be acquitted or condemned by our words. He has known every word we have spoken or will speak.
Now, let me connect the parable Jesus told of the sower and the seed in Matthew 13. Let's read the first part of the passage First beginning with verse 3.
Before Jesus explains this parable, He tells His disciples why He speaks to the people in parables. And I think it is important for us to look at this explanation before we go on to the explanation of the parable.
“But your eyes are blessed because they do see, and your ears because they do hear! For I assure you: Many prophets and righteous people longed to see the things you see yet didn’t see them; to hear the things you hear yet didn’t hear them."
There are two things that I think are important to see about why Jesus spoke in parables, and why some people receive the word of God and others do not. First, hearing and understanding the word about the kingdom of heaven is a gift. Verse 16 clearly says, “Your eyes are blessed because they do see, and your ears because they do hear.”
But there is some personal responsibility in this truth. In verse 13 Jesus says He spoke to them in parables so they would not understand. But the reason he gives for their not understanding, from the prophecy of Isaiah, is that they won't understand what they have been told. And He seems to be saying, “If I made this clear enough, even these people who reject Me would come to understand and I would cure them.”
Recently, someone approached me on Facebook, asking if it was fair to say my position was that some people will receive Christ because they are righteous. I answered, “No, my position is that the matter is complex.”
There are two points upon which I strongly disagree with this notion. The first is the concept of righteousness here. To say that some of us are righteous because we admit we are not righteous and need a Savior, is strange indeed. The only possible way you could say that, was if righteousness were comparative. Is someone righteous because someone else is worse? The only One we can compare our righteousness to is Jesus. None of us come close to His holy standard.
My second concern, is that this answer is more simplistic than what Jesus gives us. I do not know how many kinds of barriers may stand between a person and the grace of God. I do not know that we have anything to do with some of them. For instance, I was born in a place, and into a family where I would hear the gospel all my life. To be honest, I really didn't understand it in my younger years. And I certainly cannot explain why God put up with my hard-headedness as long as He did. But God put me in the place of hearing His word. I did not choose where I would be born. If you are concerned about the fairness of salvation, how was my privilege fair? I too believe God is absolutely just. And that will be demonstrated in the end. (Eph.3:10) But for now it is complex. What other barriers might there be to someone's being chosen by God? This is far more information than God has given us.
So we finally come to the parable itself. Let me point out a few crucial things that explain why some of us come to Christ, and some of us do not.
I will briefly enumerate what I have to say about these verses.
Now, I have written this so people will think these matters through. I think that is important whether you agree with me or not. I am aware this has become a painful issue. And there seem to be 3 faulty positions on this issue. At this point I do not wish to give arguments for why I think these positions are faulty. I would simply like you to think about them.
Some of you will label me as a hide-bound Calvinist, and write me off as a heretic. More of you may think this theology is too complex to understand or worry about. And some of you will call me an Armenian. You at least need to know that is not necessarily accurate. Armenian beliefs are fairly specific. And it often seems to me that people are excluded from the fold by what I would label, extra-calvinisticum. George Whitefield and John Wesley disagreed over these issues. But at the funeral of Wesley, Whitfield recognized the Holiness of his brother in Christ.
I love the poem by Edwin Markham that Charles Swindoll has slightly rearranged in his sermons.