DIVINE INTERVENTION AND HUMAN ACTIVATION

DIVINE INTERVENTION AND HUMAN ACTIVATION Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

The Scripture clearly states that the members of the Church, the royal priesthood, are elected according to the sovereign choices of God. The Scripture clearly states also that in order for the sovereign choices and decisions to operate they must be activated by the choices of the individual. Both of these conditions must be accepted in full force if we are to be wholly scriptural.

DIVINE INTERVENTION AND HUMAN ACTIVATION

It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. (Romans 9:16—NIV)

Later the others also came. "Sir! Sir!" they said. "Open the door for us!" But he replied, "I tell you the truth, I don't know you." Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25:11-13—NIV)

The Scripture clearly states that the members of the Church, the royal priesthood, are elected according to the sovereign choices of God. The Scripture clearly states also that in order for the sovereign choices and decisions to operate they must be activated by the choices of the individual. Both of these conditions must be accepted in full force if we are to be wholly scriptural.

If you will think carefully about the above two passages you may notice that they appear to be contradictory.

The first verse, Romans 9:16, declares that the calling of God does not depend on what people do.

The second passage, Matthew 25:11-13, cautions the believers to be careful to keep filled with the Spirit of God. If they do not, Jesus warns, the door will be shut in their face when the Lord appears.

Both concepts are equally true and valid. Many verses can be presented to support each of the positions. To favor one over the other is to invite error in both thinking and practice.

Let me tell you what got me started on the topic of Divine intervention and human activation.

A couple of days ago I received via E-mail a question from someone who is on our daily essay list.

This reader asked to the effect: "You are stating the Law of Moses holds sway over us until such time as we reckon ourselves crucified with Christ and resurrected with Christ. Isn't it true rather that it is God who has set aside the Law of Moses and it is not determined by our reckoning ourselves crucified and resurrected with Christ?"

This is certainly a respectable question.

I looked to the Lord for the answer. I will tell you how I responded to our friend.

The first point is that the Ten Commandments are an abridged form of the eternal moral law of God. Because the eternal moral law of God is God's very Nature, and is written in the conscience of people, it can never be done away with. Under the old covenant the moral law was written on tablets of stone. Under the new covenant the moral law is written in the mind and heart. The moral law of God always shall be the basis by which God's creatures are finally judged.

The second point is Paul's statement concerning the manner by which we come out from under the requirement that we obey the Ten Commandments by means of our own effort:

In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4—NIV)

If we are to pass from the authority of the Law of Moses to the Law of the Spirit of Life, and still receive the righteousness that comes from keeping the Law of Moses perfectly, there is something we must do. We must turn aside from the lusts of our sinful nature and live according to the desires of the Spirit of God. This requires a life of cross-carrying obedience, of daily prayer and Bible reading, of fellowshiping with the saints, and of presenting our body a living sacrifice to God.

God has set aside the Law of Moses. But in order for us to receive the benefit we must activate that which has been sovereignly offered.

Divine sovereignty has spoken, but for it to be effective the human must respond in faith and obedience.

Some of the computer software packages include programs that are present in the material but not available to the user until the required cost is paid. The user has the material but must activate it by sending money.

A scriptural example follows:

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (I John 2:2—NIV)

Christ has made an atonement for the sins of every person. This is a Divine intervention in the affairs of mankind. We have the material on our computer, so to speak. But the atonement does not operate until we pay the cost of activation, which is faith and obedience.

We recognize this fact when we speak of accepting Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.

So it is true that God is willing to set aside the requirements of the Law of Moses. But this blessing does not accrue to us until we activate this Divine intervention by choosing to count ourselves as dead with Christ and risen with Christ.

Every aspect of our salvation is an opportunity!

Let us turn now to the ninth chapter of the Book of Romans and notice the basis for the Christian teaching that stresses one aspect of this seeming inconsistency (Divine intervention) to the virtual exclusion of the other (human activation). The current overemphasis on Divine intervention to the neglect of the need for human activation has greatly weakened the moral strength of the churches.

The light of good works, which is the only light the world can see, is missing because of the overemphasis on God's role, and the neglect of our role, in the operation of salvation. Sometimes we view salvation as a ticket, not as something that must be worked out with fear and trembling. Is this true?

What follows in the ninth chapter of Romans is too strong for American humanistic thinking. Yet it is just as much the Word of God as John 3:16; it is the basis for current Christian thinking; and it is not to be watered down or compromised in any matter whatever. We always must say Amen! to all of the written Word of God regardless of whether we fully comprehend it or not.

Also, we must not take favorite passages and deduce truth from these. The Bible must be approached inductively, that is, we must accept all verses and construct truth from these rather than adding our own "therefores."

It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. (Romans 9:6-8—NIV)

Paul here is supporting his argument that the Jew who practices the letter of the Law of Moses is not necessarily the one who is favored of God. Paul is getting ready to show that the promise, which alone insures God's blessing, can come also to Gentiles.

Paul is saying being born of Jewish parents does not insure the status of belonging to Abraham. Rather the critical factor is that of the promise of God, the promise that many times comes through a prophetic declaration.

The idea is that since God's blessing does not come through human birth, or by human efforts to do the works of the Law, but by sovereign Divine choice, no person can boast. God's mercy and choice are the deciding factors.

For this was how the promise was stated: "At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son." (Romans 9:9—NIV)

Ishmael and Isaac were both sons of Abraham. Because of the Divine promise, the Messianic blessing, the Olive Tree, passed to Isaac but not to Ishmael.

The fact that Ishmael was born from a servant and not Abraham's wife has nothing to do with it. Several of Jacob's sons were born from servants rather than from Jacob's two wives. Yet the blessing passed to them by promise.

Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: Not by works but by him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger." Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." (Romans 9:10-13—NIV)

Some have explained the fact that before they were born God loved Jacob and hated Esau, by reasoning that God knew their personalities before they came into the world. People who take this point of view emphasize God's foreknowledge.

The Scripture supports this reasoning, at least in part (Romans 8:29).

However, Paul's following statements seem to stress God's seemingly arbitrary decisions rather than His foreknowledge of a given personality.

If the sole answer is God's foreknowledge, then we may be saying in the last analysis it actually does depend on our goodness, the goodness God foreknew. Therefore we have a basis for boasting of our own goodness. God loves us because He saw in advance that we would be a good person.

This definitely is not the direction Paul takes in this chapter.

Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. (Romans 9:18—NIV)

I do not believe the above verse can be explained solely on the basis that God knew in advance what kind of person Pharaoh was. It sounds to me like an arbitrary (at least from our point of view) decision on God's part.

One gets the impression that God is a Potter who takes a lump of clay. From the same lump he makes one piece of pottery for honorable use and another for dishonorable use.

The Potter chose Moses for honorable use and Pharaoh for dishonorable use according to the Potter's desire, not because either Moses or Pharaoh deserved their destiny.

They both came from the same piece of clay!

Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (Romans 9:21)

That God would make such seemingly arbitrary decisions concerning people may seem to us grossly unjust. Therefore the final question becomes: Does God have the right to give one person a desire for righteousness and harden the heart of another individual? Does God actually have the right to do this apart from the "innate" goodness of the individual? Does God maintain His own righteousness when so doing?

If He does, then our response must be: "His ways are so high above us that we are unable to judge the righteousness of them."

If God does not have this right, then we ultimately are declaring we are saved by the righteousness of our personality and not by sovereign choice, and that the righteousness of our personality belongs to us somehow and was not given to us by the Lord.

Paul's writings suggest God indeed does have the right to make one vessel to honor and another to dishonor according to His own will. Humanistic reasoning would never agree to this.

If we accept the first position, that God does with people as He will, we agree then that we have no basis for boasting before God. He works in us to will and to act according to His good pleasure.

We understand something else from this discussion. We see what a solid foundation Christians have when they maintain our salvation is a sovereign intervention of God in our life and does not depend on our works.

Yet it is the conclusion drawn from this solid scriptural position that has wrought moral destruction in the Christian churches. The prevailing conclusion is that even if we Christians do not serve God as we should we cannot possibly jeopardize our salvation, our standing in God's sight. One can perceive how such a conclusion could be reached, given Paul's attitude toward God's sovereign intervention in our lives. The problem is, there are other passages of Scripture that absolutely prevent this conclusion.

So now we pass from sovereign Divine intervention to human activation. How important actually is our response to our Divine calling? Can we change that which has been sovereignly imposed? Can we be called of God and then lose our place in the Kingdom of God?

Current Christian teaching often answers no, we cannot. Salvation is a Divine intervention in our life, it is claimed; and although, to show our gratitude, we should make an attempt to live righteously, it is an affront to the cross of Christ to believe our efforts really affect that which has been given from God.

It is my point of view that this is not true. Although our calling as saints is a sovereign intervention in our life, we have to activate our calling to make it valid. I think the Scripture teaches that we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling—fear that we shall not be found worthy of the Kingdom of God.

It seems to me there are far more passages of the New Testament that teach the critical importance of our response to the Divine calling than there are passages that stress the sovereign intervention of God in the plan of salvation.

Let us consider some of these, remembering they are just as inspired by the Holy Spirit as is true of the ninth chapter of the Book of Romans.

First, there is the parable of the five wise and the five foolish virgins. Would we claim the five foolish were those whom God has not chosen? Doesn't the Lord Jesus stress, in the parable of the virgins, that the five foolish were kept from the Kingdom because they did not bring enough oil? Does Jesus give any indication at all that the five foolish had not been elected to salvation?

How about the parable of the talents? Did Jesus emphasize that the lazy servant wasted his Lord's money, or did Jesus point out that he never had been called of God in the first place?

If it is true that none of us will know whether he has been truly called until Jesus returns and hands out rewards, then we will not know until we die or until the Lord returns whether we actually have been saved.

Some teachers seem to imply that if a person falls away from Christ he or she never was saved in the first place. If the individual does not give witness of a changed life, he really was nothing more than a mere professor of Christ. Perhaps those who advance this concept may not realize they are claiming that the truly saved person is a new, righteous creation. In other words, the Divine intervention must be activated by our behavior. Faith without works is dead.

Notice how the Apostle Peter presented the critical importance of our behavior, the importance of responding to that which God has given to us sovereignly.

If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. (II Peter 2:20,21—NIV)

Had the person at one time escaped the corruption of the world by knowing Christ?

Obviously.

What happened to our saved individual?

He or she became entangled in the sinful ways of the world.

He or she was overcome by sin.

Had the person at one time known the way of righteousness?

Yes.

The expression "the way of righteousness" appears to suggest a pattern of living rather than a theological position. Being entangled in the corruption of the world and overcome portrays behavior rather than doctrinal belief, it seems to me.

Did this person lose his salvation?

It appears so in that it would be better had he never had known Christ.

We must grasp that for which we have been grasped, Paul reminded us.

But does the Apostle Paul, the one who wrote the ninth chapter of the Book of Romans, actually state clearly and definitively that a genuine saint can be barred from the Kingdom of God? And if so, on what basis?

Yes, Paul does say this clearly and definitively. And the basis is behavior.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; Idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions And envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21—NIV)

Is the Apostle Paul saying the unsaved people of Galatia will not inherit the Kingdom of God if they practice immorality and hatred? If he is, then the implication is clear that if they cease their sinful behavior they will inherit the Kingdom of God. Is this what we believe—that unbelievers can inherit the Kingdom of God by ceasing their sinful behavior?

Is the Apostle Paul stating if the saints in Galatia practice immorality and hatred they will be barred from the Kingdom of God? It seems he is.

If this is true, then two facts are evident:

First, we must put into practice that which has been sovereignly given to us.

Second, if we do not put into practice that which has been sovereignly given to us we are in scriptural danger of not inheriting the Kingdom of God, of not being saved into God's Kingdom.

Because of some of Paul's statements in the Book of Romans, which actually are pointed more to Jews who were striving to keep the Law of Moses than to the Gentile believers, there is an overemphasis today on the grace of forgiveness (forgiveness is by no means the only form of Divine grace; the power to overcome sin is another form of Divine grace).

When I first received the Lord I came under the influence of the Navigators. One of the first passages given to me to memorize was Ephesians 2:8,9. Sound familiar?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God Not by works, so no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9—NIV)

It was dinned into me by these dear people that we are not saved by anything we have done, because we could boast if we saved ourselves by our own works.

We are saved by grace, by faith, and by grace and faith alone. Period. Nothing else is to be added.

But they did not add verse ten, not because they were trying to distort the Bible but because they themselves may not have been aware of the critical need for activation.

Let us take a careful look at verse ten; for to employ verses eight and nine apart from verse ten gives us a severely distorted understanding of the Divine salvation.

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10—NIV)

Now, why were we created in Christ Jesus?

We were created in Christ Jesus to do good works.

What if we do not do good works?

Then we are as a branch of the Vine that is not bearing the fruit the Farmer intended.

What happens to branches that do not bear the fruit of the moral image of Jesus Christ?

They are cut from the Vine, from Christ.

Can we, after God has opened our eyes to the Lamb of God and given us of His Spirit, then be cut from Christ?

Apparently so, if the Scripture is to be believed.

What can we say to all this?

We can state clearly and scripturally that it is not enough to be elected to salvation. We must activate our election by faith and obedience. We must work out our Divinely given redemption with fear and trembling until we bear the fruit of righteousness for which the Farmer is looking.

Fearing what? Trembling because of what? Fearing we will not be found worthy of the Kingdom of God.

Is it scriptural that we must be found worthy of the Kingdom of God?

All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. (II Thessalonians 1:5—NIV)

Is it actually scriptural that we must be found worthy of the Kingdom of God?

What is your opinion?

So we see that Christian teaching is sorely in need of a midcourse correction. Our nation, America, is heading toward Divine judgment. Why is this? It is because the Christians are not keeping God's commandments.

Why are they not keeping God's commandments?

Because they have been taught only one aspect of the two critically important aspects of the Divine salvation. They have been taught that God reaches down and saves us. They have not always been taught that this salvation is not a ticket that gains entrance to Heaven but the authority to pursue the path that leads to eternal life.

The teaching of today is so lopsided! Numerous verses are seldom or never preached, or if they are preached they are taken out of context and forced into the popular mold.

Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death, is preached regularly to the unbelievers to prove to them they must accept Christ so they can go to Heaven.

But Romans 6:23 is addressed to Christians who have been baptized in water, telling them that if they choose, after becoming a Christian, to be the slave of sin they will die spiritually; but if they choose to be the slave of righteousness they will receive the gift of eternal life. And it has nothing to do with Heaven!

Have you ever heard the sixth chapter of Romans interpreted in this manner? Perhaps not. Yet this is what is being taught in the chapter.

Sinners are told they will not escape if they neglect God's great salvation. Yet this verse in the Book of Hebrews is directed toward seasoned Christians who had grown cold.

Sinners are told that Christ is standing at the door of their heart and asking for admittance. Yet this verse in the Book of Revelation is speaking of self-willed Christians who are keeping Christ out of their activities.

Divine judgment is on the way, and not just toward the United States of America. Much of the problem is found in the Christian churches everywhere that are not teaching iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to God.

The Christian churches often are silly, jumping up and down next to their pews in preparation for an unscriptural "rapture."

Such behavior is meaningless to the world that is looking for the good works, the only true Christian light that the nations can see. Will the problems of immorality in the governments of the world be corrected when the political leaders behold Christ's disciples foolishly jumping up and down next to their pews?

The nations sink ever deeper into the quagmire of sin and corruption, and there is no moral light to say: "This is the way. Walk ye in it."

The lampstands of the churches are growing dim because of sin, while the ministry is assuring the people that God loves them, they can never be lost, and they are about to fly away in a rapture. It is a miserable state of affairs.

There are cries for repentance, at least in some American churches. The young people may be stepping out in this direction.

But then the youth, who desire to serve God, are taught, taught, taught by their elders, who themselves do not know the iron of Christ, that they are saved by grace and not by works, without an accompanying explanation of the complexity of this statement. What then shall these idealistic but inexperienced warriors do when the demonic pressures of sexual lust are afflicting them?

Paul is presented as meaning it doesn't really matter how we behave. Imagine! The Apostle Paul, the foremost advocate of righteous behavior!

Truly, the older generation of American Christians, to a certain extent, have failed God. We are foolish, silly, self-serving, sometimes effete and foppish. Perhaps the youth will march forward with the Lord. Let us hope so, and let us try to hold up the banner of iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to God so the younger warriors will have a standard to follow.

Where are the old Baptist and Pentecostal warriors? What has happened to us?

Thank God for the churches where repentance is being preached. But until the current Christian viewpoint, that we are saved by a Divine intervention whether or not we appropriate the work of the Holy Spirit in producing a new creation, is brought back to the text of the New Testament and corrected, the present impetus for repentance and godly behavior will dissipate, just as it has after the remarkable revivals that occurred in America in the early part of the twentieth century.

We must get back to the Bible. We must read again the New Testament. We must discard the destructive philosophy of Dispensationalism, the unscriptural notion of a "state of grace" whereby God does not see the behavior of Christian Gentiles. The idea of a magical "state of grace" is so obviously contrary to much of what Paul wrote that it is a wonder it has gained the foothold it has among devout Christian scholars.

Perhaps God now is enabling us to perceive what actually is stated in the New Testament. Perhaps it would help to have more expository teaching and preaching where the traditional fables are discarded and a fresh look is taken of the verses that have always been in the Book.

Let's get back to the Bible!