Archive for September, 2011

Is God Responsible for Sin?

The question “Is God Responsible for Sin?” is one of the more difficult questions posed by any system of theology. It is clear from a Biblical standpoint, that God is not responsible for sin. 1 John 3:4-9 reads, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.

Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” Not only can God not sin, neither could Jesus sin, because He was born of God, in whom there is no sin. Sin itself is defined in the Word as “falling short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Obviously God cannot fall short of His Own character and glory. So, it is clear that God cannot sin. God is righteous in everything He does. (Daniel 9:14)

Man is no doubt responsible for his own sin. Does God share in this responsibility for sin? There is no doubt that God allowed sin to come into the world and He continues to allow sin to reign in the world. Anyone who acknowledges God in His omnipotence and omniscience has to accept the validity of this statement. The question is to what extent is God responsible for sin? Calvinists look at this question from the standpoint of God’s grace. There are two basic positions on the Grace of God with respect to sin. First of all, there is God’s common grace that is extended to all men, who are all sinners. Because of God’s common grace, depraved men are not as depraved or as evil as they could be. God’s common grace extends various blessings to all men, righteous and unrighteous alike. God’s common grace allows men to experience love one for another. God’s common grace allows men to live even in a depraved, unregenerate state.

This common grace does not produce saving faith in the unregenerate man. There is a special or a saving grace that God gives to the elect to produce regeneration that leads to saving faith and repentance and new birth. This is necessary because the Calvinist understands that unregenerate man is dead in his trespass and sin. He is born with this sinful nature and the only thing the unregenerate man can do is sin. Without God’s special or saving grace, this sinful man cannot “not sin.” When God places this special saving grace into the unregenerate’s sinful heart, a new nature is born in the heart of this individual and he NOW has the potential to “not sin” and therefore exercise saving faith and repentance. In fact, he not only has the potential to “not sin”, he will not sin in falling sort of the glory of God in conversion; for he WILL come to Christ in saving faith and repentance and be born again. In this case, God is directly responsible for the new born child of God passing from death unto life. Conversion is solely and singularly God’s responsibility.

So, is God responsible for those who do not exercise saving faith? Is God responsible for those who die without Christ’s imputed righteousness and do not go to heaven? The Calvinist will say, “No. God is not responsible for any who die and go to hell. All men sin and the wages of sin is death. So, those whom God chooses not to save, simply get what they deserve. God is not unjust in the execution of His justice. Because of His Grace, some are given eternal life and those will escape hell and live in heaven with God for all eternity.

God is responsible for those who come to Christ, according to the Calvinist. It appears that even though all men are sinners and all men deserve to die, since God has chosen to save some to eternal live, He has at least by default, not chosen to allow others to live. This makes the God of the Calvinist responsible for those who are allowed to escape the penalty for their sin and consequently equally responsible for those who are not able to escape the consequences of their sin. Like it or not, Calvinism cannot escape the ramifications of reprobation. If God is solely responsible for allowing some to escape the penalty of their sin, He is directly responsible for those who are not given that privilege and He is therefore solely responsible for their eternal damnation. He is not responsible for man’s sin, but He is completely responsible for their not being set free from the penalty of their sin.

Here is where the error can be found in Calvinism. Calvinism looks at the Grace of God as if Grace is the motivating factor for everything that God does. Since the Calvinist sees everything related to God through the lens of His grace, common grace and special grace are paramount to the Calvinist. If love and not grace can be established as the motivating factor in the heart of God, one might be able to formulate a completely different set of parameters for God’s will to operate in with respect to man and the issues of the existence of sin. Consider the following concepts.

God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in His would not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) God has loved man with an “everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3, Romans 8:31-39) God created Adam and Eve and saw that it was good. “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ’Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food’; and it was so. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. (Genesis 1:28-31)

God created man for fellowship that would be based on a special relationship. God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the garden. Even after Adam sinned, God came into the garden and called out to Adam, “Adam, where are you?” God did not have to ask that question. He knew what had happened. He knew where Adam was and praise God He knew what He was going to do to right the relationship that Adam had broken.

God told Moses, “I want to be your God.” (Exodus 6:7; Leviticus 11:45; 25:38; 26:12; Numbers 15;41) Then Jeremiah and Ezekiel proclaim that Israel will be God’s people and that He will be their God. (Jeremiah 30:22; Ezekiel 36:28) This special relationship that exists in Adam, Abraham, Moses and throughout Israel’s history, is the story of God’s special love for Israel and the world. This can be seen in God’s curse on Satan, that Eve’s offspring shall bruise the head of the serpent. Eve’s offspring is a general reference to mankind as well as a specific reference to the Lord Jesus. In I Kings 10, the Bible says that God loved Israel and this is the first direct reference to God’s love for men. However, it must be understood that God created man so that He could have a relationship with him. God not need this relationship; however, He did have a desire to create man for a relationship. In this quest to have a relationship founded on the principle of love, God loved man unconditionally. His love for His creation was not predicated on man’s love for God in return. In this setting, God’s grace is an expression of His love, in that it is His love that is totally and completely unmerited and undeserved by man. God loved man in spite of his sin.

Here is where the principle of love differs from the principle of grace. If the motivating factor of man’s creation in the mind of God is love and not grace, then sin can be seen as the result of man’s failing to love God in response to His love for man. While it is true that God’s love for man is unconditional, His provisions for man are conditioned by man’s response to His love. In the Garden of Eden, God did not cause sin. He had nothing to do with the sin that Adam and Eve committed. He was responsible for the love that He demonstrated to them. Adam and Eve were responsible for the choices they made in response to the love God showed to them. Their continued choices determined His continued presence and protection and provisions. They chose to defy His Word to them. God’s love for them did not change with their sin. His relationship with them did change.

In the exercise of this original sin, Adam lost the personal presence he enjoyed with God. Sin separated Adam from God’s presence. God told Adam in the day that you eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, you shall surely die. (Genesis 2:17) What happened? Death is the absence of life. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the Life.” (John 14:6) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4) “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, give us this bread always.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’.” (John 6:33-36) “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63-64) God is the giver and sustainer of life. He is the creator of life. When Adam and Eve sinned, they lost the perpetual presence of God. Their sin separated them from God which caused their death. Sin causes separation from God; separation from God is the definition of spiritual death. The root of sin in the garden was the failure of Adam and Eve to rightly respond to God’s love for them by remaining obedient to Him.

Abram’s faith is predicated on his response to God’s command for him to leave his homeland and go to a land that God would show to him. Abram no doubt learned about the love God from his family. Abram is the tenth generation from Noah. Noah’s father was the great grandson of Enoch, who walked with God and was no more. (Genesis 5:21) Abram knew about the God of creation. He knew about the God that Enoch walked with. He knew about the great God who saved Noah from the flood. When God promised him a son, Abram trusted God and followed Him for 25 years before he received the son of promise.

In Deuteronomy 30:11-20, God delivers the following discourse to the children of Israel concerning their response to His love for them and their choice concerning His continued provisions and protection: “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.”

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

It is clear in this passage that man’s choices do not alter God’s love for man but they do affect His presence, which affects His protection and His provisions for man. God’s love remains constant but His grace is predicated on man’s response to His love as revealed by His Word and His efforts to reconcile the world unto Himself. This is why God sent Jesus into the world in the first place. Jesus is the ultimate expression of the Love of God for men. In John 14, Jesus tells the disciples that they who have seen Him have seen the Father. The He goes on to make the following statement, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21) Again, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:9-10)

“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:1-5) “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.” (2 John 6)

Here is the real point. It is love and not grace that is the motivating factor in God’s creative work in mankind. Love demands a response. Reciprocal love is not even possible if there is no choice and no possibility of rejection. A relationship is not possible without the potential for rejection. In creating Adam, God knew that rejection was inevitable. He knew that Adam would sin. He knew that Adam would fail to respond perfectly to His love for him. God knew that Adam would not respond in perfect love to Him. That is what sin is. Jesus did fulfill the Law perfectly and did respond perfectly to God’s love for Him. In doing so, Jesus never experienced separation from His heavenly Father and that means death never had dominion over Him until the sins of the world were placed on His shoulders. In the resurrection, Jesus overcame death, hell and the grave because He Himself never experienced the sting of death spiritually. He died physically so that those who would believe in Him could live with Him spiritually forever and the same power that raised him from the dead is the same power that will raise up those who have placed their faith and trust in Him in this life.

God is not the author of sin. He is the giver of life through the gift of His love. Man’s response to God’s love through revelation and reconciliation is what determines God’s response to man’s immediate and eternal future. Man’s sin is not determined at all by God but rather is the result of man’s failure to respond to God’s love in a perfect way. This in no way compromises God’s love for man. It in no way obstructs His perfect will for a relationship with men. On the cross Jesus provides a way to connect sinful men and a Holy God; for life is contained in the blood. (Leviticus 17:11,14; Deuteronomy 12:23; John 6:53,54) Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Life and love are inseparable. We love because He first loved us. (I John 4:19) Love requires a response. This response is two-fold. Man’s first response to God’s love is seen in his response to His commandments, which is a measure of man’s response to God’s love for him. Man’s response determines God’s response as far as His presence is concerned with men. His presence brings His protection and His provisions. His presence brings God’s best into the life of an individual. The ultimate result of God’s presence is life. When a man’s response is not as God would have it, then His presence is restricted along with His protection and His provisions and men are allowed to flounder in the world on their own until they realize as the prodigal did, that returning to the Father is the only thing to do. God’s love and not His grace is the ultimate expression of His purpose for creation.

Is God responsible for sin? No. God is responsible for love. Man is responsible for his response to God’s love. When man fails to respond to God’s love in a perfect way, sin becomes realty. That sin separates man from God. This separation is the definition of “death”; for death is the absence of life. Since Jesus is life and God is the “Giver and Sustainer of life,” His presence is life. God’s presence establishes a relationship with man. A relationship is an ongoing process of practicing the presence of one another. It is an ongoing process of choices and decisions that are affected by the relationship as well as an ongoing process that affects the relationship. As man fails in the exercise of this relationship, through reconciliation, God is constantly and consistently seeking to repair the relationship and keep it in tact.

The primary purpose of God in creation is the ongoing process of a relationship with man, who is the crown jewel of His creation. Sin is the failure of the part on man in that relationship. Redemption is the process on the part of God to repair that broken relationship. Even though God did not create sin and is not the author of it, He still has power to overcome it because love conquers all by covering a multitude of sins! (I Peter 4:8)

Grateful to be in His Grip!


Unconditional Election

The following is an exerpt from a blog post by Ed Goodman at SBC Voices.

I Agree: “Election is unconditional in that it doesn’t stem from any merit found within a human being; God simply chooses to provide salvation because of His inherent goodness, grace, and mercy (cf. Titus 3:5). A major advantage of examining soteriology from the perspective of unconditional election results in the understanding that salvation can’t be “earned” or even “obtained” from one’s inherent ability. Salvation is truly the gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9) and comes from God alone. Election is conditional, however, in that it requires a faith and belief that results in genuine obedience to God. One cannot be saved without placing faith in Christ (Romans 3:28, 5:1; Gal. 2:16), or “believing unto salvation” (John 3:16, 18; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9).”

Problem: “However, since one has no inherent ability to save oneself, the faith in Christ that leads to salvation comes from God alone (cf. Eph. 2:8-9 once again; although a bit ambiguous, I interpret these verses to mean that grace AND faith are both the gifts from God, and not merely one or the other). Remember, God gives every man faith (Rom. 12:3), and this faith must be placed in Christ alone for salvation.”

Your statement, “I interpret these verses to mean that GRACE AND FAITH ARE BOTH GIFTS OF GOD” is where I believe people make a serious mistake in reading Ephesians 2:8-9. Here is what the verse says: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

“Through faith” qualifies being saved; it is not grammatically tied to “gift”. Salvation is the gift that comes from God and not faith. To prove my point, you can eliminate the phrase “through faith” and the context of the verse is not changed. “For by Grace are you saved; it is the gift of God.” Through faith is the qualifier that validates the gift.

Election is in the mind of God. There is no doubt as to the validity of this statement. However, the application of election as seen in irresistible grace and the efficacious calling of God is another matter altogether.

Faith is a response to God’s revelation of who He is and what it is that He wants to do with us and through us. My definition of faith is “believing that God is everything that He says He is and that He will do everything that He says He will do.” (Hebrews 11:6b) Revelation and reconciliation BOTH demand a response. Revelation and reconciliation are God’s initiative and the response is mine to make.

I also believe a major problem in this whole discussion centers on the premise that it is God’s grace that is central to salvation. I believe the central issue to salvation and life in general, is not God’s grace, but rather His love. God’s love is unconditional but His grace and mercy are conditioned by our response to His love. A relationship must be initiated and then reciprocated and responded to. God is the initiator and we are the respondents and that is the primary problem that the world faces, not this issue of God’s determining who will and will not be among the elect.

His invitation is for ‘all to come” as Jesus indicated in the wedding feast in Matthew 22. It is not the invitation that is central; the key is putting on the wedding garment and sitting down at the table. This is clearly our responsibility and God is not the One who does this. He provides everything necessary and goes to great lengths to compel all to come in; the choice is ours.

Unconditional election begins with God and ends with us.

Grateful to be in His Grip,