Good and Evil

Preface

The following paper is comprised from a number of thoughts I have been dwelling upon of late, all of which are related to the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man. These thoughts followed a study I undertook recently of an exposition from the Book of Romans, chapters nine through eleven. This particular exposition was actually a series of sermons preached by Dr. Herman Hoeksema[1] many years ago on this text. The original reason for my interest in this portion of Scripture was actually concerning something other than what is contained in this paper. I was studying this section of Scripture out of an interest in resolving in my mind exactly what the apostle Paul meant when he said in chapter eleven “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” (Rom. 11:26,27). My primary interest was in God’s covenant, especially since I have been writing on the subject.[2]

Like many passages of Scripture, this one is often used to make a certain case for a future millennial kingdom in the middle east from the present state of Israel. And like many other passages of Scripture that people use to make their case on various things, this one too seems to be used in exclusion to what is being said in its larger context. Obviously, I am referring to dispensational writers here. But, when I looked to a number of other non dispensational writers for hopefully, something better on this particular text, I didn’t find anything that was too much better. What I mean to say is that these verses, and I should say vs. 25-27, always seem to be taken superficially when commented upon. When these verses are read in the larger context in which they appear this idea of a future millennial kingdom in the land of Israel as part of Gods overall plan of redemption seems to be extremely strained.

Anyway, I don’t intend to take this matter up now in this brief statement of purpose, that I will save for another time. Instead, I say all this to give the reason for my interest in studying this section of Romans. It is clear to me that the key to answering my question about Israel and the church in God’s plan of redemption requires an examination of chapters nine through eleven of Romans in order to ascertain Pauls thought in its fullness on the matter. But here is where the present meditation comes in. In doing this, I was blessed to consider a second yet concurrent theme in this passage from the apostle. This theme is what I am concerned with at the present in this paper. It happens to be the matter of Gods sovereign decree regarding His covenant plan and purpose for His redeemed. In the narrower sense of this theme, what I specifically mean to consider is the relationship between Gods sovereignty and man’s freedom. To get even more to the point, how can God be sovereign in His decree and yet, man both free and responsible in what he does? For after all, man is not a robot, and God certainly does not make him one. Not only that, how can a righteous God decree all things that come to pass and yet, not incur any guilt from the evil that often results from that decree?

Introduction

The opinions surrounding God’s decree and man’s freedom of choice as it concerns good and evil are moot, meaning that it is a much debated subject, but without final agreement by all the parties involved in the debate. There are various opinions on this matter that range from virtual stoicism to virtual open theism, and everything in between. Here at the outset of our treatment of the matter it is asserted that unless any opinion that is formed be based exclusively upon what Scripture clearly teaches, it is not worth any consideration at all. For this is not a subject that arises from philosophical speculation, nor does it come from scientific discovery or any other thought process known to mankind. The subject at hand is a matter of Biblical doctrine from the revelation God has given to us of Himself. Therefore, not only should we consult the Bible for the information necessary to form our perspective on this subject, but it must be based on an accurate treatment of the Scripture for it to be legitimate.

The starting point for this consideration arises from what the apostle Paul says in Romans chapter nine, verses 13-23 about election and reprobation. We don’t intend to do an exposition of these verses here at this time but rather consider from Scripture how it is that God decrees the sin of the reprobate but is yet free from its evil in His Being. The problem of this question has led many to deny the doctrine of reprobation all together. But here in Romans nine this doctrine is clearly asserted and even defended by Paul from its detractors. What remains though is the perplexing question, how do these things work out providentially? Perhaps perfect understanding of this is impossible because of the nature of the problem at hand, to wit, the depth of God in His Being and knowledge and the limitation of man in his.

For the sake of brevity let us say that there are two general positions on how to understand the relationship between the sovereign decree of God and mans free activity in reference to sin. Observe that we said the word free, not the word responsible. That is at issue too, but since guilt from sin is assumed as well as the sovereignty and holiness of God, the focus will be more on the issue of right and wrong as a matter of predetermination and its resultant activity. One point of view on this focuses entirely on the freedom of man while the other point of view focuses entirely on the freedom of God. In both of these opposing views there is an obvious tension present within them, so that when they are explained it usually leads its proponents to some sort of insurmountable problem in proving their case. It may seem brash to make the assertion of having a solution to the matter, so rather than do that, instead we will say that the problem in the debate lies in the particular approach taken in the formation of the Biblical data. In other words, instead of throwing out proof texts that pit God’s sovereignty against man’s freedom, or, vice verse, consideration should be given to what Scripture says that harmonizes them.

The Nature of Knowledge

This brings us to the next part of the problem which is how to do this very thing, how do we go about harmonizing the Biblical data that addresses the subject at hand? The problem is that the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man are both asserted as doctrines in Scripture, hence, we get the two opposing camps. Compounded with this is the fact that oftentimes Scripture talks about God as though He might do this or that if we do this or that thing first, implying an openness to the will of God in reference to His knowledge, or, in this case, foreknowledge (Is. 1:19; Jon. 3:9,10). By the same token there are certainly many places shown in Scripture where mans inability to be free in an absolute sense is asserted too (Prov. 16:1,9; Acts 17:26).

To complicate the matter, there has been a certain camp of Christian thinkers over the centuries that has attempted to take a middle ground approach on this. We might add also, that there is more than one group of believers within this theological camp of which we speak. The manner in which these people have sought to harmonize the data with its problems is to suggest that God has two wills. One is preceptive and one permissive, thereby allowing for the free activity of man. There was even a doctrinal position in the seventeenth century referred to as “middle knowledge” that suggested God had more than one knowledge as well as more than one will. In this case, these folk said God has three different forms of knowledge.[3] But here is where all of them tend to find agreement. All the so-called middle grounders resolve the matter of freedom and responsibility by asserting both doctrines to be true, even though the explanation they give is contradictory. They resolve this perceived contradiction by saying that it is a paradox.

Here is where this position runs afoul of Scripture. To start with, the God who calls Himself “Logic,” ie, The Word (John 1:1), does not deal in paradoxes. To be sure, there are many seeming exegetical difficulties in Scripture that the careful student is required to resolve, but there are no exegetical contradictions. A good example of this[2] is seen in many of the gospel accounts where three of four writers relate the same narrative but with different information. Does this imply contradiction in Scripture, or a real paradox? Hardly, for it must be remembered at once that these are different people relaying the same historical event through a different set of eyes, or, if you will, a different mind set. Both Mark and Luke are not believed to even be first hand witnesses of the things recorded in their gospel accounts. Yet, the unifying principle in them is that each one of these writers was guided by the same Holy Spirit. So it is then, when we read any of the gospel accounts it is necessary for us to harmonize them in our study in order to get the full picture of what the Spirit is conveying in them. When this is done properly, there is no conflict that can be discovered in the gospels.

The purveyors of Scriptural paradoxes like to say that difficulty in understanding doctrine is the same as that found in say, the gospel narratives. If Moses says one thing, Paul says another, and Jesus says something else, this is all paradoxical to them. To these folk we don’t need to harmonize and understand paradoxes, we simply accept them as tenets of our faith. In other words, it is the certification of faith to believe a collection of contradictory doctrines from Scripture.

This is where the second point needs to be made, and it is done so in refutation of the notion of any paradox in Scripture. The God who calls Himself “Logic” deemed it necessary to put in His word clear statements on His sovereignty as well as the same on mans responsibility to Him. We venture to say that this was done not to confuse, but to inform faith. We venture to say also, that God did this in order to force the readers of His word to be honest and accurate in what they do with it, not injecting opinion into it, nor pitting one proposition against another in its exposition. Our present thesis is an attempt to do that very thing. There is however, no claim whatsoever made here to infallibility in trying to do this. Nor is this short collection of thoughts intended to be an exhaustive treatment of the subject of Gods sovereign rule and mans free activity. This is simply a concise presentation of some things that we believe are relevant to the question at hand in trying to harmonize the two.

The Nature of God’s Decree

God determines all things that will come to pass according to His sovereign decree. “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,” (Is. 46:10). That is, God does by decree declare everything that will ever happen, be it good or bad before it happens. God then brings to pass everything that He has decreed. But this presents a philosophical problem to us concerning evil. God is Holy and righteous, He is One who cannot bear to look upon evil much less perform it in any way (Hab. 1:13). The idea of an eternal sovereign decree concerning good and evil appears on the surface to be this very thing, it seems on its face to suggest that God is somehow the author of evil.

Coupled with this fact concerning God’s eternal decree is the fact that evil does indeed exist within the cosmos. The world is without doubt a place of incredible goodness and abundance. But this reality is tempered by the reality of many disasters that happen to subvert the happiness of its creatures. Take for instance the weather. Storms appear on earth, tempests at sea which all conspire to destroy property and harm people. It is also the cause of drought and famine. Extreme conditions of hot and cold pummel the earth and its inhabitants, especially in certain regions susceptible to it. Volcanic activity has wiped out whole cities down through history, and earthquakes have done nearly the same. Wild beasts threaten the safety of humans, even though they provide food and other resources good for use. Many of the smallest of life forms on earth perform many noble tasks in nature, but also at the same time they present dangerous situations for humanity such as poisonous bites and stings. Trees fall on people maiming and killing them. People drown in bodies of water, sometimes relatively small in size. People fall, slip and hurt or kill themselves in accidents too numerous to mention. And disease and old age eventually take their toll on all that live and walk upon the earth. In the midst of these things we read in Scripture what God says about this, “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.” (Is. 45:7). In other words, God brings to pass everything that happens by way of His providence, be it good or bad as it concerns us (Am. 3:6).

Not only does the principle of evil exist within creation itself, but it is perpetrated by creatures made in the image of God, creatures that are endowed with the ability to reason rightly about it, and to do so volitionally (Gen. 1:26,27). Man commits evil against man in ways so numerous all the volumes written on earth could not sufficiently describe it. And even more than that, man raises his fist to God declaring himself to be his own captain (Rom. 3:10-18). The world is full of many religions all claiming theirs to be true (Acts 17:16-21). Pure atheism abounds too, especially in places of higher learning contending that there is no God and all religion is false (Ps. 14:1). Men lie, cheat, and steal from one another. Murder is rampant throughout the earth, whether it is done as a matter of personal offense or in a nation going to war against another nation. If this is true, how then can God declare His counsel, assumed to be absolutely good just as He is, and to be true if man has the ability to resist Him and decide for himself what he will do instead?

The Source of Good and Evil

The word of God holds the key to unlocking this obvious dilemma. This key is found in Genesis chapter three where the introduction of evil into the world is first found. In Christian doctrine we know this chapter as the one that presents the probation and fall of man. Man was made originally good, and put in the garden of Eden to serve God. In his original creation circumstance, man was given the freedom to do so, or, so it would seem.

We read in the first pages of Genesis at the outset of creation that God placed a certain tree in the garden of Eden, one that was ordinary in every way except for the fact that it was expressly forbidden by Him for mans use. This tree is called in Scripture the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:16,17). At this point there are two things to consider about this to help in our understanding of the origin and presence of evil in the world.

The first is this, good and evil are two different things but we see the essence of them contained in a single object, the tree. In reality, it was the use or non use of the tree that was at issue. This amounts to what can be called, a matter of principle. That is to say that the doing of good or of evil springs from an underlying principle from which they flow. But man was made good, there was no prior principle within him to account for his doing anything other than good (Gen. 1:31).

The second thing about good and evil is this, they are both also a matter of experience as is witnessed in the nature of the warning and prohibition from God, which is to say that man was warned not to do something in reference to this tree. Now actions, whether they are good or bad, is something by way of necessity which flows from an original underlying principle. How it is that man would act to choose evil without a single atom of underlying principle toward it in his bosom is surely a mystery. This is also a mystery that if revealed, could help to bring understanding how a Holy Being such as God is could decree that evil should occur within His domain. Certainly, if man was not predisposed by any original underlying principle to partake of this tree, if he should do so anyway, he most definitely would have experienced evil.

This is important to consider because this is often overlooked by those who advocate for absolute freedom on the part of man after falling into sin in the garden by doing the very thing he was warned not to do, eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because man did that very thing he became a sinner, which means that he acquired through experience this inherent principle within to do evil. Scripture tells us further that this evil has been transmitted to all of mankind through divine imputation, something that the free willer’s deny. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Imputation is by decree, the very thing we are presently considering (verses 13,14). Here we have it clearly stated in Scripture for all to see so that it cannot be denied. The free willer believes that in spite of original sin affecting all men, they are still neutral when it comes to choosing good or evil. But here in Romans five we see that not only do all men die because of the first sin, but they became sinners as well by divine imputation rather than by choice.

Curiously enough though, even the middle roader’s play fast and loose with the matter of original sin in the way they perceive its consequences. Although these folk do not deny the imputation of Adam’s curse on all men, what they deny is the absolute effect of it by believing that God determines the eternal destiny of the lost based on the foreknowledge He has of their free will choices and actions. There is a twofold issue at stake here in this proposition. The first one is depravity. The second one is practice. The spiritual death Adam incurred as a result of his one sin left him with negative righteousness, this is what was imputed to all men. If evil actions flow from an evil principle, then the imputation of Adams unrighteousness is what account for the sins of people today, even though they are the ones committing them. There is no way to deny either the decree of God or the freely performed actions of man.

Perhaps if the middle roaders understood the twofold nature of sin, it would not be hard for them to accept the fact that God’s decree is actually double predestination. Because of this, the average middle roader interprets the decree of God in Romans nine on election and reprobation as dependant on the free will actions that men make, even though it does not say that. This is where all that business about preceptive and permissive wills comes in. God says He loves one and hates the other, and not for anything in them or what they do “(for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls)” (Rom. 9:11). Nowhere do we see anything about two wills, only two outcomes from God’s one decree.

The principle of depravity that Adam acquired from a single experience is such that it rendered him incapable of doing anything other than sinning. And his unrighteousness as it was imputed to all men by God did render them incapable of doing anything but sinning too. Yet, all men do also freely commit sin and that they do by choice. So that even though sin is imputed by God, nevertheless, a man is judged responsible because it is he that commits the sin and no one other than he does it for him.

So to sum this particular point up we must say that ones man’s sin, predetermined by God to occur is what decided the fate of all men before they were born. That is, except for those whom God elects to salvation of course, their sin is dealt with at the cross.

The Knowledge of Good and Evil

We come now to consider the specific source of mans first sin after the serpent tempted the woman to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree shown in Genesis chapter three. This is where we believe the answer to the question of where evil originates is answered, at least as much of it as may be possible.

The serpent came and said to the woman that if she ate of this tree she would become like God knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:1-5). But before going any further in this we hope the observant student of Scripture catches onto what actually took place here. Although this was the first occasion for man to sin, it was not the first occasion of sin. The serpent, whom we understand to represent the devil was already at this point in rebellion from God. Otherwise, he would not be called the tempter in Scripture, nor would the serpent have tempted Eve to sin (Matt. 4:3; I Thess. 3:5). This is both a curious and an important point, one that deserves our consideration. The devil, or, Satan and Lucifer as he is called is one of a class of created beings we call angels. The devil is in fact, the greatest angel among the entire host of them. Now, there is no mention of angels, nor of their rebellion from God in the early pages of Genesis. Obviously, these were part of the original creation mentioned in Genesis one which says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1).

We can only speculate as to why there is no mention made of this here, one very good possibility may have to do with the very thing we want to consider about the devil. This would be the fact that there is a vast difference between angels and men. We read in Genesis one that man was made in God’s image. This is not true of angels. Hence, it would stand to reason that the origin of man, his trial, fall and redemption are of far greater significance to the recorded narrative of early Bible history. Angels are spirit beings that are not endowed with the same free moral choice as men are. There are a couple of things of note in Scripture that attest to this. First of all, good angels are referred to as the elect angels (I Tim. 5:21). These elect angels are set in sharp contrast to those who sinned because they were reserved or selected for judgement (Jude 1:6). Second of all, when we read of Satan’s origin, the highest of all the angelic beings, there is no mention of him being put on any trial or probation at all. What we read of this in another text however, is quite interesting, for it’s there that God says to him “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.” (Ez. 28:15). Satan was made perfect but ordained by God to sin! In a sense, Satan was made to represent the very embodiment of the principle of evil.

There was never any intention on the part of God to redeem angels for they were never made for any other purpose than to serve God as good or bad creatures. And we might add also, that the elect angels were made as Gods ministers, to serve Christ and His people (Heb. 1:6,7). The evil angels were made to be God’s ministers as well, but in a much different way, and Satan was too. Satan was destined by God for evil as its originating source within the cosmos, for he was given the very power of death. Likewise, Christ was destined to come and destroy the works of the devil as they had wreaked havoc upon man as well as all other areas of creation (Heb. 2:14; I John 3:8). Jesus was given the power of life over death (John 3:16).

Coming back to the garden of Eden, we can see how this purpose of God played itself out. Satan was designed to be the source of all evil so that it might be dealt with, condemned and separated from God and His people forever. God even prepared a place for him and all who follow him in his rebellion (Matt. 25:41). And those who follow Satan are also said to be his, God designed them for this very purpose too. Jesus said to the Pharisees “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44). Now here is where the essence of the matter is discovered contained in the principle which John states here in this text. What we are referring to is the principle of truth. Truth and error are the chief principle upon which all other things hang. For instance, notice what is said of those who follow the devil, that they have his desires, desire for what? A desire to lie and murder, to lie about God and to murder Him if he could through the murder of those made in His image. And notice that this principle arises in Satan as an original one, “his own resources.” Although God made Satan and decreed that he would be evil, God did not make him evil nor did He commit any evil in that which was committed by this creature. What we are dealing with here is the potential for evil.

Now how did this translate into what took place in the garden? Let us examine this. Even though in one respect the serpent lied to the woman in his successful attempt to lead her into sin, still, there was something in what he said that is paramount to understanding what actually took place. What this something is lies in the vast difference that exists between God and man. It concerns the knowledge of good and evil, which involves this principle of truth. Satan said to Eve“For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5). There is both truth and error mixed together in what Satan told her. This is exactly what error always is, it is a lie disguised as the truth.

The truth is that God knows the difference between good and evil even though He has never experienced it. This should be an obvious thing for anyone to comprehend for God is absolutely Holy in His Being. Because God knows Himself, and ultimately is the only One who can do so with absolute knowledge, He knows that anything that is unlike Him in the sense of His moral excellence is evil. God does not have to experience evil to know what it is, He simply has to know Himself and that He is Holy, which He does. Next, God cannot experience evil because He cannot experience anything! A case in point is the fact that God has no body, part or passion as we do as humans (Num. 23:19; Ps. 50:21; John 4:24; Acts 14:15). This is why it is sin to make any likeness of anything created and call it God (Ex. 20:4). Experience is something that affects the subject, something that is utterly impossible to happen concerning God; God is not moved by anything outside of Himself; God makes this declaration of Himself, “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob” (Mal. 3:6).

So then when the serpent said to the woman to be like God is to know good and evil, he most certainly was not lying (Gen. 3:5). The lie Satan told was in making the assertion that God knows evil by way of experience, something which He most certainly does not. God could never know evil except to know that it is opposite what He is. As we said, God knows Himself that He is Holy, His decree is like Him, eternal, infinite, absolute, unchanging, and beyond reproach. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?” (Rom. 11:33,34).

Man on the other hand, is a creature and as such knows nothing true except what his Creator reveals to him. In fact, God did not make man to acquire knowledge through experience, but through His revelation. This is why God warned man that to violate his word was the knowledge of evil. Man knows nothing at all but evil by way of experience-based knowledge as he found out all too quickly to his peril when he sinned in defying God. There is nothing new that ever happens as King Solomon once said, “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc. 1:9). No one has ever arrived at truth or the knowledge of God through experience or sensory perception. Nor can we ever arrive at a right understanding of God in His word if we insist on following Satan’s approach to knowledge. Knowledge is revelatory plain and simple. Sensation is the foundation for the flesh that carnal part of man’s being, not of the mind which is the soul, as Gods word also states quite clearly. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.” (I John 2:15,16).

The serpent said something else to Eve that was true and false also. The serpent did not lie when he told the woman that if she should act in an absolutely free and independent manner concerning the use of that forbidden tree that she would be like God, knowing good and evil. But that is as far as it goes for this is where the serpent lied too, and where the matter of good and evil concerning the decree of God is settled. Because man acted in the garden in opposition to the express will of God, he came to know the difference between good and evil in an experiential way, something that God could not ever do. Independence is indeed a godlike quality, but not for man who as a creature was made to serve and worship his Creator.

God did indeed decree the sin of Adam, or in the particular case given, first Eve then her husband (Gen. 3:6). This did not make God the author of sin in any way for He is not the one that committed it. As we have already noted God could never know evil in an experiential way, even though He comprehends what it is in principle. God had no need to know evil in any other way for Him to know what it is. In fact, man did not need to know evil by way of experience either, all he needed to know was to obey God. The question of the origin of evil concerning the first man (and women) is then answered by this event. God cannot commit anything that denies Himself, who He is by nature. But man who is less than God can most certainly do this and he did do it. Man experienced evil in violating Gods express command not to partake of this tree.

This brings us closer to the question at hand which is how do we understand the decree and sovereign will of God in reference to the matter of evil? God decrees everything that He then brings to pass. God alone is the only free agent in regard to the circumstances of time and eternity. We have seen that it was the creatures God made and not Him that sinned, and we might add also, are morally and responsibly accountable to Him in doing so. Nobody tempted or compelled the devil to sin. Even though the serpent did tempt Eve, she had no prior compulsion whatsoever to sin, this was what she did of her own choosing.

There are two conclusions we arrive at from this. One, the decree of God is the plan by which He acts, and two, the foreknowledge of God is the design of this plan (Rom. 8:28,29). That is to say, God does not just plan to do something, He has a purpose, a design in it that is good, even in decreeing the sin that His creatures commit. Why this is so is because God is not glorified in that which is contrary to His nature. The design of the decree is where God is glorified. God knew the devil would sin because He purposed it to happen. God will cast the devil into hell for eternity in punishment for this. God is glorified in His justice. Man sinned against God too, and unless he is saved, he too will perish with the devil, thus glorifying God’s holiness, justice and wrath in the process. But God has decreed to save a portion of mankind. The foreknowledge of Gods has a purpose to glorify Him in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, His beloved Son who came and took on the nature of man to redeem those who were elected to salvation. And so, the decree of God concerning sin is subordinate to these two things which manifest His glory forever. God did not commit any sin in doing this. It was the doing of His creature.

If we put it another way, God’s decree of redemption or reprobation is the cause of both, but not the ground of either of these two things. How can this be so? People go to heaven or hell based on the principle of righteousness. Those who are saved are judged according to their righteousness, but this righteousness is not of their own doing. No, redemption is all of God’s grace and nothing of our works. So how do the redeemed obtain righteousness? The righteousness of the redeemed is a gift of Gods grace, or, more specifically, it is the gift of His Son Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:15-21). The same is true of the reprobate in reverse order. Reprobates are judged according to their righteousness too. But the righteousness of the reprobate is righteousness based on works rather than the alien righteousness that God imputes to His redeemed. In this way, both are judged and dealt with based on the same ground, that of righteousness.

In conclusion, the last thing to consider about predestination has to do with free will, or, the lack thereof concerning man. Those who oppose double predestination say that it denies personal choice on the part of the creature to obey or disobey the gospel of Christ. In fact, this is not true, nor is it found anywhere in Scripture to be the case. The reason for this is that the secret eternal decree of God, and the revealed will of God in Scripture, amounts to two different things. At times both of these agree according to God’s decree. At other times these do not agree, again according to the decree of God also. There is no conflict in this either, for if God has determined some to respond to the gospel and be saved, while at the same time determining that others will not and be lost, is this not decreed too? The revealed will of God in Scripture is what He commands His creatures, to obey, not necessarily what He decrees will happen. Is this a contradiction or unfair? God always acts according to His righteousness, it is not a matter of fairness as man determines that to be. God is always right because He is God, no other explanation is necessary. But what about man, does this not strip him of his accountability to the will of God? Absolutely not, man was made in the image of God being a moral, intelligent, volitional being, able to receive or reject his Makers request of his own doing. God does not force anything upon anyone that they would not otherwise do, and indeed, do not want themselves. Mankind sinned because he wanted to be like God, something the devil thought he should try first. All men deserve to be where the devil will spend all eternity, in hell. But God saves some to eternal life, those who are His elect. God does this by imparting to His own a new heart, one which willingly responds to His command to repent and believe in His Son Jesus Christ.

Notes:

[1] God’s Eternal Good Pleasure, Herman Hoeksema, Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1979. This a collection of sermons preached in 1940.

[2] More articles on God’s Covenant will be forthcoming.

[3] Middle knowledge (Molinism) says God has three kinds of knowledge. 1) God knows all possibilities 2)God also knows all things that will come to pass before they do 3)But God does not know what men will do according to free will acts other than His foreknowledge of them. In this case, as in the other middle of the road theologies foreknowledge is defined as information rather than design. The last of these three ideas is outright heresy.

[4] Skeptics love to point out what they see as contradictions in the Bible. A case in point is the flight to Egypt by Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Matthew records after the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem they were warned by an angel about Herod and instructed to depart to Egypt (Matt. 2:13,14). Luke however, says nothing of this but records after the birth of Jesus they returned to Nazareth (Luke 2:39,40). This so-called contradiction is easily resolved. No time frame is given in either account. We see in Matthew that Herod’s edict was directed toward new born males two years and under, showing his (Herod) lack of knowledge as to the exact time of the birth. Matthew adds after the trip to Egypt and Herod’s death, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to Nazareth (Matt. 2:19-23). So while Luke says only that the family left Jerusalem and went to Nazareth, Matthew fills in the narrative with more information. There are two things to point out in this. First, Matthews concern in his narrative is to show the fulfillment of prophecies to Jews as is witnessed in his quotation from the Old Testament about the flight to Egypt (Matt. 2:15-18). Luke wasn’t a Jew and apparently did not have the same interest in mind. Second, this and many other narratives throughout the entirety of Scripture are reconciled when harmonized chronologically. Looking at a harmonization of the gospel narratives by their writers it is clear that they fit together like a hand to a glove.

Advertisements
Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
%d bloggers like this: