After the Counsel of His Own Will
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After the Counsel of His Own Will
Does Mankind Have Free Will?
Including Twelve Examples of How God Deals With Mankind
Part 1 – Who Are They Who Refuse Christ?
Mat 21:45 and Luk 14:1 tell us Jesus was talking to the “chief priests and Pharisees” in Mat 22.
In Luke 14, the excuses given for not coming to the supper were “I have bought a piece of ground”, “I have bought five yoke of oxen” and “I have married a wife”. In response to these excuses, the “Lord” the “master of the house” had these men of industry replaced with “the poor, the maimed, the halt and the blind”.
Christ concludes this parable “none of those men…bidden shall taste of my supper”. “Taste of my supper” is to receive and understand Christ. (Joh 6:32-35). This declaration “I am the true bread: is placed right after Christ fed the five thousand (Joh 6:10).
Clearly Christ is saying that those who refuse to come to the “great supper” are those who refuse Him. The parable of the marriage supper is preceded by this statement:
Mat 21:45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
So there is no question who those who were too industrious to attend the “marriage …dinner” of Matthew 22 or the “great supper” of Luke 14 are. They are the religious leaders of the people of God of every generation. These are the very same people who say…
Rev 3:17 …I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
The question more precisely is why did they refuse to accept the invitation to come to the “great supper” of Luk 14:16 or the wedding ‘dinner’ of Mat 22:4? The question at the heart of these parables is: WHY WOULD ANYONE REFUSE AND REJECT THEIR SAVIOR? Why are “the multitudes” led by their leaders away from Christ?
Why is one blessed if he accepts the invitation to this marriage supper?
Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy [is] he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Once again the question is still why would anyone refuse and excuse himself from what is simply the single greatest honor that can be bestowed upon anyone in all of the history of mankind? No one doubts that these two parables represent the first resurrection:
Rev 19:9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed [are] they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
The excuses given in both parables are the same:
Mat 22:5 But they made light of [it], and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:
Part 2 – The Real Reason Christ is Rejected
When we ask ‘why’, what we are really asking is “does man have a ‘free will'”. “Does man make ‘free choices’?” No one denies that we make choices every day; “Will I take this job or that job?”; “What time will I get up?”; “Will I take time for breakfast?”; “Which food will I choose?”; “Which route will I take to work?”, etc. We make hundreds of decisions every day. No one denies that we make decisions. Those who declined their invitation to the great supper and the wedding chose not to attend. We are told what they chose. It’s not debatable.
But we are also told why they failed to accept their invitation to be in the marriage supper of the Lamb. All know that Israel has rejected her Messiah. “When the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them” (Mat 21:45). These are the leaders of God’s people.
It wasn’t just the leaders though: “…The chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should…destroy Jesus” (Mat 27:20). The multitude…? What multitude? It was the same multitude which the day before had said “blessed be the king that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Luk 19:38). Verse 37 says: “The whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen.” This is called the triumphal entry into Jerusalem the day before Christ’s betrayal.
One day the multitudes are calling him “the king that comes in the name of the Lord”, and the next day the same multitude is “persuaded [by the chief priests and elders]…that they should…destroy Jesus.”
How is it possible to be so fickle? Outwardly it was “…because he was nigh Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. But overnight Christ had been taken prisoner and was standing before them in shackles before Pilate. “All the mighty works they had seen that had inspired the multitudes to say “blessed is the king that cometh in the name of the Lord” all of a sudden didn’t seem so mighty. No matter how many times we may think scripture says otherwise “he that taketh a city” will always be considered “mightier than he that ruleth his spirit” while God considers the opposite to be true.
Pro 16:32 [He that is] slow to anger [is] better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
This is only the apparent reason for the multitudes and their leaders rejecting Christ. The scriptures give us the true reason. Here is the true reason:
Luk 19:41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,
Luk 19:42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things [which belong] unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
This of course is in complete accord with Mat 13:11: “…To them it is not given…to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.” This ‘blindness of Israel’ referred to by Christ here in Mat 13 is quoted from Isa 6:9-10 and is repeated again and again in the other gospels (Mat 4:11 and Luk 8:10 and Joh 12:40) and throughout Paul’s epistles (Rom 11:8, etc.).
Why does Israel reject their Messiah? “Because…to them it is not given…to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” Who blinds them to this vital knowledge? What are we told? Are we told anywhere in the pages of scripture that because of the free will of the chief priests and elders and because of the free will of the multitudes, Israel ends up refusing their invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb? No, we are not told such a thing.
Here is what we are told.
Act 4:27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
Act 4:28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. That is the “of a TRUTH” of the whole matter.
Just how far does this “thy counsel determined before to be done” go? Does it go no further than man’s free will permits? Could Judas, the chief priests and elders, Pilate or the multitude possibly have of their own free will chosen not to destroy Christ?
Will we believe what a minister tells us or will the word of God have pre-eminence for us? Here is what the scriptures teach from Genesis to Revelation:
Eph 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
Eph 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
Is it unfair at this point to ask, did the nation of Israel reject Christ after the counsel of their own ‘free will’? Is there anything that is not after the counsel of His will? Is anything too evil to be included in all things? Only if you believe that the lives of ‘X’ number of men are more valuable than the life of Christ whom God according to Act 4:28 “determined before” to be slain. All the lives and suffering of all the men and women, boys and girls from Adam to the consummation are not to be compared to that which was sacrificed for their sins. That sacrifice was by the counsel of God and Him alone. Men’s choices were simply used to accomplish that end.
Yes, we ‘choose’ in all the decisions we make every day, but is this really the result of our free will? What happens when our free will conflicts with “the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of HIS OWN WILL”?
The answer is obvious. There can only be one truly free will to which all others are subordinate. Only One will can work “all things after the counsel of His own will.” All other decisions are ‘worked’, caused by that One will and may appear to be free, but we will demonstrate they are always in “all things” caused decisions.
Too often we read these parables of Christ and apply them to the religious leaders of Christ’s day instead of applying them to Christianity today and to ourselves as well. What do the scriptures say of this “pass the buck” attitude?
1Co 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
Rom 11:22 …continue in [his] goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
The point made repeatedly in Christ’s parables was two-fold: 1) the first shall be last and the last, first, and 2) many are called but few are chosen (Mat 20:16).
Nowhere in scripture are we told “many decide to come to God, but few decide to endure to the end”. There are many admonitions given to us in scripture; ‘don’t eat of the tree’, ‘choose therefore life’ (Deu 30:19), ‘come to the marriage…dinner’ and ‘come to the great supper’, etc., etc.
This God, who gives us so many admonitions, wants us to “know…that…I form the light AND…darkness…good AND evil” (Isa 45:7). He informs us that the trials of Job were HIS idea (Job 1:8); that “all the evil that the Lord had brought upon” Job was indeed from the Lord himself (Job 42:11).
Yes, Adam was told ‘don’t eat’. Did an all-knowing God choose not to know what Adam’s choice would be? Has He chosen not to know what our choices will be? After all, we are all “in Adam”. What do the scriptures teach ultimately happen to “all” who are in Adam?
1Co 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
We are told that we were called in Christ “before the world began” (2Ti 1:9). So God must have known in advance what Adam and each of us and those who refused to come to the wedding would choose.
Israel has been broken off for rejecting her Messiah, and yet Peter and John and the entire church in Jerusalem prayed “with one accord” (Act 4:24).
Act 4:27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus whom you hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
Act 4:28 for to do WHATSOEVER THY HAND AND THY COUNSEL DETERMINED BEFORE TO BE DONE.
Why did the Jews refuse to come to the wedding feast? Was it because they chose to put other things ahead of their Messiah? Of course that is the obvious, outward, carnal, fleshly explanation. Yet we are plainly told that while we appear to make choices, good or bad, of our own “free will”, the spiritual, scriptural fact is: “We wrestle [in our apparent ‘free will’] not against flesh and blood, but against [spiritual] principalities, against [spiritual] powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places [the celestials – Strong’s’ #2032 – epouranious]” (Eph 6:12).
Yet it appears from our perspective that the chief priests and Pharisees and “the people of Israel” chose “of their own free will” to refuse their Messiah.
The “first Adam” in the temple of God, “the beast” is loath to leave that temple. He of his own ‘free will’ will never admit that while yes, he makes choices every day, those choices have nothing to do with ‘free will’. Every choice we make, from casually scratching our head to choosing Christ as our savior is a caused choice.
Why did “the people of Israel…gather together…against thy holy Child Jesus”?: “…to do whatsoever [God’s] counsel determined before to be done” (Act 4:28).
Was this a unique situation that was of such importance that God had to personally step in to see for sure that Satan would enter Judas, and Judas would betray Christ to the chief priests and they would send him to Pilate to be crucified? Is this what “thy counsel determined before to be done” means?; that God steps into the affairs of men only occasionally for Esau, Pharoah, maybe even Jeremiah, certainly in the case of Christ’s crucifixion, yet only occasionally? Is that what scripture teaches us about the counsel of God?
Eph 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
Eph 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
If “the very hairs of our heads are numbered”, why would we believe that the all-knowing God who hardens hearts, blinds eyes and stops ears is not also, through the “principalities and powers” at His disposal, causing every trial and test, every chastening and scourging, and yes, causing ALL things especially our very hearts and thoughts and choices “according to the counsel of HIS WILL?”
These are the scriptural truths concerning the extent of the counsel of His will. Nowhere do the scriptures teach otherwise. The fact that God insists that we give an accounting for and confess our sins has nothing whatsoever to do with our being responsible for our wretched actions and condition.
It was God’s free will that created us of dust instead of spirit. It is from His hand that every person born comes into this world naked, testifying of our sinful, dying, of the dust composition.
God Himself takes the responsibility for every evil act ever committed (Isa 45:7), even the most evil act of all time, the death of our sinless, perfect, spotless Savior. (Act 4:28).
This all being made so clear in scripture, one would expect a just God who hardens hearts, blinds eyes and stops ears to make provision for the salvation of all of his creatures. Is that indeed the case? Here is what the Savior Himself has to say: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw (Strong’s #1670 – helkuo – drag) ALL MEN unto me” (Joh 12:32).
Part 3 – Did Peter agree with Christ?
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that ANY should perish but that ALL should come to repentance” (2Pe 3:9).
Indeed we must all choose day by day to pick the good and reject the evil. But it seems that the God of the universe, the God who not only created light to bring us out of darkness, is also the creator of the very darkness out of which we are to come.
The God who creates the good we are to choose is also the God who creates the evil we are to refuse.
Isa 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things].
These are profound scriptures rigorously avoided by the bulk of Christendom. I need to reword that because the scriptural truth is that they do not avoid this scripture; the truth, according to Christ, is that God has blinded them to this scripture, and they don’t even know that it is in the Bible. Being blinded by God Himself, when it is pointed out to them they still cannot see it: “To them it is not given…to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 13:11).
To whom is it not given to know the mysteries of the kingdom? “All these things spake Jesus to the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake He not unto them” (Mat 13:34). For what purpose did Christ speak in parables? “…lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and should understand with their heart and should be converted and I should heal them” (Mat 13:15).
Here’s the way Mark puts it: “But without a parable spake He not unto them: and when they were alone, He expounded all things to His disciples” (Mar 4:34).
I’ve already quoted Mat 21:45, but let’s be clear that the “chief priest and Pharisees” and “lawyers and Pharisees” were indeed included in those to whom Christ spoke in parables “to whom” it is not given…to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven”. Here again is…:
Mat 21:45: “And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard His parables, they perceived that he spake of them”.
As I understand the question you asked, “Who are these people who refuse to come to the wedding supper?” The answer is: it is those to whom Christ spoke these very parables. It is those to whom it is not given to “know” or to “see” or to “hear” or “be converted” or “be healed”.
Why are these things not given to them while on the other hand we are told “because it is given unto you to know…but to them it is not given”…blessed are your eyes for they see and your ears for they hear” (Mat 13:11 and 16).
The answer is: God had decided, not “before the world began”, but “before eonian times (the Greek word is aionios – Strong’s #166) that certain predestinated according to the purpose of Him who works ALL THINGS after the counsel of HIS OWN WILL” (Eph 1:11) would be “called… with an holy calling, not according to our works but ACCORDING TO HIS OWN PURPOSE and grace which was given us in Christ before the world began (before chronos aionios – before times eonian)” (2Ti 1:9).
Now John the Baptist had admonished the same scribes, lawyers and Pharisees to “repent for the remission of sins” (Luk 3:3). Had the multitudes, including the scribes and lawyers and Pharisees repented, Christ would never have been crucified, and we would have no savior. But things are not left to chance with God.
Those who crucified Christ certainly did not consider themselves robots any more than you or me. Indeed robots are nowhere to be found in scripture. The scriptural word for us all is far more basic and simple than robot. In God’s eyes, we are nothing more than slightly moist dust. We are clay, and God is the Potter. Here are God’s words to every one of us:
Jer 18:4 And the vessel that he made of clay [the first Adam made by the Potter] was marred in the hand of the potter [that’s God]: so he made it again [the second Adam] another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make [it]. Jer 18:5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Jer 18:6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay [is] in the potter’s hand, so [are] ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.
This too, is couched in admonitions to repent, yet in the same breath we are told that it is God who makes the “marred vessel first and then destroys the marred vessel and replaces it with “another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make”.
This is in accord with how the first Adam [that’s us] comes right from the hand of the creator, the Potter. He [we] was naked, meaning according to Rev 3:17, he was a sinning machine, and of the dust, corruptible. Serpents do not literally eat dust, but the Adversary certainly does feed on our flesh. “Dust shalt thou eat” has been the nourishment of the Adversary since Adam. We have all come from the hand of the creator naked, sinful and of the dust, corruptible. Anyone who believes that Adam would never have died if he hadn’t eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil believes that flesh is after all incorruptible and can live forever.
One must eat of the tree of life to live forever. The first Adam never did that. Adam did not die and become corruptible because he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam sinned, was spiritually naked, because he was corruptible and of the flesh, of the dust, and was dying: “In the day that you eat thereof DYING you shall die”(Gen 2:17). Few people notice that the tree of the knowledge of good has the same root as the tree of the knowledge of evil. Consequently they are confused as to why Cain’s offering to God was rejected. After all Cain “brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord”(Gen 4:3).
They are very few indeed who are given eyes to see that it was God Himself who planted the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Fewer still see that both good and evil HAVE THE SAME ROOT.
But there is much more revealed here in chapter two of Genesis:
Gen 2:9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
The truth which seems to be the least understood of all is that even the tree of life is ‘made to grow out of the ground’. The truth of this simple statement gives the lie to Satan’s “you shall not surely die” untruth (Gen 3:4). Satan convinced the first Adam of a lie which has been ensconced in Adam’s children from the beginning. In effect what Satan told our parents and is still telling us today is ‘you will never surely die.’ But Christ tells us:
Joh 11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life…
That is why Christ had to come in the flesh and partake of our earthy, dusty composition. “OUT OF THE GROUND made the Lord to grow…the tree of life” (Gen 2:9).
Both trees grow ‘out of the ground’. What this tells us about ourselves is: “that they [mankind] might see that they themselves are beasts” (Ecc 3:18). Paul puts it like this: “…that was NOT first which is spiritual but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is OF THE EARTH [even Christ, the tree of life] earthy: the second is the Lord from heaven” (1Co 15:46-47).
The scriptures teach us that ONCE Christ died to put away the sins of the world, and “it is appointed unto man ONCE to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:26-27). We are NOT immortal, and we are NOT ‘spirits having a physical experience.’ “Dust thou art”, destined to have a spiritual experience, but only after Christ enters into our lives. When He does enter our lives, we receive His spirit as an earnest of the paid-for possession: “Now are we the sons of God”, but we still have to die to the flesh here and now, and even if we live till “He shall appear [and] we shall be like Him” (IJn 3:2), we still must be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Salvation is not in us coming out, it is rather outside of us through Christ coming into us and changing us.
The essence of this whole subject is that “the Lord made to grow…” ALL is of God, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life BOTH “the LORD MADE TO GROW.” And they both have their beginnings “OUT OF THE GROUND”, not out of the spirit.
The elect are saved “by means of death” (Heb 9:15 & 27), not from death. That is how ‘life’ comes ‘out of the ground’.
This is all a perfect picture in types of Eph 2:8-10. “By grace we are saved through faith…for we are HIS workmanship.” Christ, our sacrifice, shed his blood for us “while we were yet in our sins” (1Co 15:17). It is not shed for those who ‘decide to repent’. It was shed for us “while we were yet in our sins”. Those who fill the master’s house at the wedding feast are not those who willingly chose to come to the wedding: “the Lord said…go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luk 14:23).
Who fills the master’s house for the wedding? Those people who are compelled and dragged to the wedding. That is what scripture teaches everywhere.
We don’t even contribute the faith to our calling. “It is the gift of God.” We are dragged and compelled to accept Christ. The Greek for compel here in Luk 14:23 is anagkazo – Strong’s #315. It appears nine times in the New Testament and never has anything in common with the concept of “free will” or “free moral agency”.
Anagkazo is the same word in Act 28:19: “I was constrained to appeal to Caesar…”. Paul did not want to appeal to Caesar. He felt “constrained” to do so. In all nine instances it has this concept. Those affected by being “compelled” are never the initiators of the actions taken upon them. “And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme…” (Acts 26:11).
Another scripture tells us who it is who will fill the master’s house at the wedding supper: “No man can [choose to] come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (Joh 6:44). Very few Christians indeed are aware that the Greek word translated ‘draw’ here in John 6:44 should be translated “dragged”. The Greek word is helkuo – Strong’s #1670. It appears eight times in the New Testament. Every time this word is used, it is instructive to us to understand exactly how God “the Father draws” us to His wedding supper. Counted down they are:
8) Jas 2:6 – “…do not rich men draw (drag) you before judgment seats.”
7) Act 21:30 – “And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul and drew (dragged) him out of the temple…”
6) Act 16:19) – “And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas and drew (dragged) them into the market place unto the rulers.”
5) Joh 21:11 – “Simon Peter went up and drew (dragged) the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three…yet was not the net broken.”
4) Joh 21:6 – “And he said unto them, cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw (drag) it for the multitude of fishes.”
3) Joh 18:10 – Before I quote this scripture, let me say that it is my strongest desire to avoid what Peter does here. It is typical of overzealous Christians to use the sword (the word of God) as Peter does, and it is hard for anyone to hear if his “ear’ has been cut off by the sword. The high Priest’s servant was obviously not being “dragged” by the spirit of Christ. Nevertheless, there is a spiritual message in this and in every incident recorded in the scripture. The lesson here is that God’s word (the sword) when used rashly on a uninquisitive and unreceptive soul has the effect of cutting off their ‘ears’. Those who are not being dragged by the Spirit, but are still forced by overly zealous converts to look at scriptures they’ve never seen and don’t want to see, end up without “ears to hear” (Mat 13:13). But Christ gave the high priest’s servant back his ear. I personally like to think that this is telling us that this entire experience gave this one servant the ability to see and hear the words of salvation from the One who is capable of “dragging all men” to himself (Joh 12:32) each in his own order (1Co 15:22 and 23).
But now back to Joh 18:10: “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.” Depending on the weight, it is most likely that ‘dragged it’ would not be the best translation here, but one thing is certain; swords do not decide to jump out of scabbards any more that fish decide to come to land or jump into boats. It is God who tells us that we are “given eyes to see and ears to hear”. If we don’t see and understand, the only reason we don’t is because “to them it is not given…to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 13:11-16).
2) Joh 12:32-33 – “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw [drag] ALL MEN UNTO ME. This He said signifying what death He should die.”
Has Christ been lifted up on the cross of crucifixion? Of course, He has. Now through the fiery chastening and scourging of grace, He will drag every man who has ever been born to Himself: “For God so loved THE WORLD [while we were yet in our sins – 1Co 15:17] that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life…that THE WORLD through Him might be saved” (Joh 3:16-17). Is this just a weak wish on God’s part or is this what will happen? “Every knee should bow… and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Php 2:10- 11).
1) Joh 6:44 – “No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me DRAW [drag] him…”
No doubt many would have followed Christ before His crucifixion just as they did, 3000 in one day, after His resurrection. But they were not dragged to Him by the Father. Instead, He gave them eyes not to see, ears not to hear and hardened hearts lest they should be converted and He should heal them.
These are the eight times the word ‘draw’ appears in the entire New Testament. Once again, we are shown that it is “the Lord God made to grow every tree…the tree of life…and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:9).
This is the real reason the Jews rejected Christ. This is the real reason most people are (temporarily) ‘lost’ during this age. This is also why Christendom in general will refuse to come to the wedding.
Here are a few plain, straightforward scriptures regarding God’s methods of operation. Eph 1:11 – “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of him WHO WORKETH ALL THINGS AFTER THE COUNSEL OF HIS OWN WILL. Eph 2:8 – “By grace are ye saved through faith: and that (faith) not of yourselves: it is the gift [“to you it is given” – Mat 13:11] of God.”
Paul equates this gift of faith with God showing mercy on us: “So then IT IS NOT OF HIM THAT WIILLETH [no free moral agency] nor of him that runneth, BUT OF GOD THAT SHEWETH MERCY.” (Rom 9:16).
This plain straightforward statement, which annihilates the false doctrine of man’s “free will”, is preceded by this declaration from Him who “worketh all things after the counsel of HIS own will”: “…I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy…” God is insistent that we understand that we have virtually NOTHING to do with our being called and being dragged to Him. It is all by “predestination” and “the counsel of HIS OWN WILL” (Eph 1:11).
The life that we “now live in the flesh [is not of our choosing but] by the faith of [not in] the son of God” (Gal 2:20) “that [faith] not of yourselves IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD” (Eph 2:8). It is the faith of the Son of God, not of you or me or any other man, but the faith of Christ.
“Moreover whom he did predestinate, them He also called…” (Rom 8:30). “So then it is NOT of him that willeth…but of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom 9:16) is in this context: “For the children [Jacob and Esau] BEING NOT YET BORN, neither having done any good nor evil [before ever being given a chance to choose the good and refuse the evil], THAT THE PURPOSE OF GOD ACCORDING TO ELECTION [predestination – Rom 8:30 and Eph 1:11] MIGHT STAND…as it is written ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom 9:11 and 13). This is before they were born, and it is written for our admonition. This is not telling us of an exceptional case. This tells us how God operates “all after the counsel of His own will.”
This, Paul knows, sounds so unfair, unjust and unrighteous to us. “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God…?” (Rom 9:14). He then goes directly into the total sovereignty of God: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy…It is not of him that willeth, but of God who showeth mercy” (Rom 9: 15-16). To reinforce the truth of which Paul was well aware: “I [God] create evil (Isa 45:7), he adds this to the fact that God hated Esau before he was even born: “…the scripture saith unto Pharoah, even for this same purpose have I raised you up, that I might show my power in thee, And that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore HE hath mercy (Drags) on whom HE will have mercy and whom HE will HE hardeneth [blinds] “(Rom 11:17). But doesn’t the scripture teach that blindness comes from “the God of this world”?
Of course, “the God of this world (age – aion ) hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2Co 4:4). That’s the same reason Christ spoke in parables “lest they should be converted and I should heal them” (Mat 13:15). Who sends the god of this age to blind the minds of unbelievers? “He [God] hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted and I should heal them” (Joh 12:40).
And again: “God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear unto this day: (Rom 11:8). This is what Paul means two chapters earlier where he says: “So then it is not of him that willeth…but of God who sheweth mercy…Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy and whom He will He hardeneth (blinds, gives them the spirit of slumber, does not open their eyes or ears) (Rom 9:16, 18).
Since He hardened Pharaoh’s heart before Moses ever arrived back in Egypt (Exo 4:21), since it is He who blinds people’s eyes and stops their ears, and since it was He who gave the murderers of our Lord the power to do their evil deed, since “none is able to withstand…” Him (2Ch 20:6); why DOES He yet find fault?
In other words, if the people who chose not to attend the wedding supper were actually fulfilling God’s purpose, and if those who do attend are dragged against their own fleshly will, through chastening and scourging to the wedding supper, WHY DOES HE YET FIND FAULT?
Does Paul now contradict himself and the entirety of scripture and say God finds fault with sinners because they choose to close their eyes, they choose to stop their ears, they want the spirit of slumber, they have chosen to harden their hearts and they chose not to attend the wedding feast?
No, that’s not his answer. He first rebukes us for our ignorance:
Rom 9:20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed [Esau, Pharaoh, those who refuse to attend the wedding feast, you or me] say to him that formed [it], Why hast thou made me thus?
Paul realized that those who repent and come to Christ only do so because they have experienced something from God which opened their blinded eyes and their deaf ears; raised them from their spiritually deaf condition, and brought, or dragged them to realize that they were in desperate need of a savior. Here are those who will fill the seats at the wedding supper:
Mat 11:5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
Why were these people blind, lame, leprous, deaf, dead and poor? The answer is because they are being dragged to Christ. These are all absolutely incurable conditions that require a “road to Damascus” experience to be cured of them. We sometimes think “if I were struck to the ground, saw a bright light, heard a voice and became blind for three days, I too, would be a dedicated disciple.”
God tells us of our walk with Him:
· “Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth EVERY son who He receiveth” (Heb 12:6).
· “…We must through MUCH tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (Act 14:22).
· “If…we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom 8:17).
· “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him…” (2Ti 2:12).
Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus is not given to tell us how unique Paul was, rather it is for our admonition. Anyone, who truly knows Christ, knows Him not because he has been a zealous disciple of some organized church, as Paul was. Those who truly know Christ read His word for themselves. Jesus Christ Himself strikes them down and “chastens…and scourges EVERY SON He receiveth.” He brings them to see how blind they have been while in their service to the organized church. While being made aware of our blindness, we are assured that we will be given sight.
We must be brought to understand that we are, of ourselves as good as dead; we must see ourselves as incurably lame and leprous and deaf. Now we have been ‘dragged’ to Christ. Now we have a personal experience and relationship with the only head of the church. We eventually see ourselves as the temple of God for He now dwells in us. The beast of Ecclesiastes 3:18 has been cast out of the temple. We no longer serve the beast. We have overcome his mark for “here is wisdom, let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man…” (Rev 13:18).
There may or may not ever be a physical temple built in earthly Jerusalem. Neither the temple, nor the beast with which God concerns Himself, are built with hands. “He that hath understanding” will see that our warfare is spiritual (Eph 6:12). Knowing the time of the appearing of some man, his date of birth and his name and street address will do one no spiritual good if the spiritual beast is still demanding one’s wholehearted worship in the only true temple of God.
“To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom 8:6). The true temple is a spiritual temple, not made with hands. It is occupied by the beast from the moment of birth. That’s why John, two thousand years ago could say “the time is at hand” (Rev 1:3). “He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond to receive a mark in their right hand or in their foreheads” (Rev 13:16). Two thousand years ago Christ said “the time is at hand”.
We all belong in at least one of those groups: either small, great, rich, poor, bond or free.
Who are those who stand on the sea of glass mingled with fire before the throne of God?: “…and them that had gotten the victory over the beast [in themselves – Ecc 3:18] and over his image [churches claiming to be Christian that are truly in the image of the first beastly Adam] and over his mark [in their right hand and their foreheads] and over the number of his name [“it is the number of a man…”] And they sing the song of Moses” (Rev 15:2-3).
Why do they “sing the song of Moses”? It is because like Israel of old, they have been dragged toward God. Israel did not ask to be delivered from Egypt. “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. As they [Moses and Aaron] called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images” (Hos 11:1-2). Israel was constantly wishing they had never left Egypt. At the first opportunity, when Moses was in the mount forty days, they returned to the idol worship to which they were so accustomed.
The point is that Israel did not choose God; God chose “Israel according to the flesh.” And “as [He] called them so they went from [Him].”
Is it the same under the new covenant? “Now ALL THESE THINGS happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world [Greek word aion or age Strong’s #165 -] are come” (1Co 10:11).
So why did all these things happen to “Israel according to the flesh”? “Now these things were [for] our example…now all these things happened unto them for ensamples [#5179 – Greek word is tupos or types] and are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends [Greek – telos #5056 – the predetermined end or outcome] of the world [aion #165 – age; a long or short lifetime or a long or short period of time]. Never in scripture used to mean eternity or endless time. More on this later…] are come” (1Co 10:5 and 11). Where in the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James or Jude is there even a hint at “free moral agency”?
Part 4 – Does James Teach ‘Free Will’?
You might answer ‘right here in this passage Paul says this is for our admonition.’ Then you would probably ask, why are we given admonitions if we don’t have freedom of choice? Does not James teach us “Let no man say…I am tempted of God…but every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed” (Jas 1:13-14). Is not this scriptural proof of “free moral agency”? Doesn’t this statement of James prove that we have freedom of choice?
The scriptural answer is absolutely not! Doesn’t it prove we choose? It surely does! Does it prove our choices and choosing is ‘free’ and uncaused and of ourselves without a cause? Not according to James. James teaches us we ought never to say “we will…for that [because] ye ought to say IF THE LORD WILLS, we shall live and do this or that” (Jas 4:13-15). Does that sound like James believed in man’s ‘free will’? Notice what James says leading up to this statement that “every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. ” Does he teach us that this proves we have freedom of choice apart from the will of God? Is James teaching us that our salvation hinges upon our free choice? Here is the whole of what James taught concerning being tempted: “My brethren count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations. Knowing this that THE TRIAL OF YOUR FAITH WORKETH PATIENCE. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (Jas 1:2-3). He then ties this need for patience to a need for wisdom. An impatient person is certainly not a wise person since “in you patience possess ye your souls” (Luk 21:19). Now we come to verse 12 of James 1: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.”
Now for the oft quoted verse 13: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God.” This word ‘tempted’ in the Greek is peirazo – Strong’s #3985. This is the singular form of the same word used in verse two: “My brethren count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations (peirosmos – Strong’s #3986). Why is James in verse two telling us to “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations”, and then in verse fourteen telling us that “every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed?” Is James saying we should be aware of our own lust and rejoice in it?
Of course that is not what James is saying. If you believe in
· ‘freedom of choice’ however, or if you believe that
· your choices are free from the influences of a God who “creates evil”, who “blinds and stops ears lest they should be converted”, who “hated Esau before he was born while he was in his mother’s womb having done neither good nor evil”, who “hardens whom He will and shows mercy to whom He will”, who declares “so then it is not of him that wills, but of God that shows mercy… therefore hath He mercy on whom he will have mercy and whom He will He hardeneth” (Rom 9:16, 18);
· if you still believe that “grace through faith and that [faith] not of yourselves” actually means freedom of choice, then you must certainly believe that James too is teaching ‘freedom of choice’.
But James is not teaching the sovereignty of man in his own salvation. James knew that “the spirit that dwells in us [given us by God – Rom 9:20-21] lusteth to envy” (Jas 4:5). He also understood that the solution was not ‘freedom’ of choice but “He giveth more grace.” James also knew the whole meaning of the word grace (Tit 2:11 & 12). This scripture teaches us that GRACE CHASTENS US. The word “teaching” is really “chastens”.
Jas 4:15 Explains Jas 1:13-14
It is James who reveals to us the exact opposite of what christendom deduces from Jas 1:14-15. It is not what the flesh will accept. Here again is the true teaching by James regarding ‘freedom’ of choice: “Go to now ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. [And what’s his point?] For what is YOUR LIFE? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time and vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings [freedom of choice]: all such boasting is evil” (Jas 4:13-16). Our lives are as a vapor and subject to “if the Lord wills.”
That is the teaching of James concerning the subject of free moral agency and freedom of choice. Unless, of course, our stubborn flesh wants to ignore Romans 9, “It is not of him that willeth” and here again in James “what is your life.” Are we to believe that James is teaching God’s sovereignty over our financial affairs, but he stands back and leaves our salvation entirely up to us? No. James taught “if the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that.” If our very life in the flesh, which we must all experience before we are given the opportunity to choose Christ, is dependent upon “if the Lord will”, then surely that choice itself will be “His workmanship”.
This teaching of James concerning the sovereignty of God in all things is in accord with the teachings of Paul that the elect are “predestinated unto the adoption of children according to the good pleasure of His will…being predestinated according to the purpose of Him WHO WORKETH ALL THINGS [Jacob, Esau, Pharaoh, you and I all of the same lump] AFTER THE COUNSEL OF HIS OWN WILL” (Eph 1:5, 11). His is the only free will mentioned in scripture. All other wills are contingent upon “If the Lord will…: (Jas 4:15). “If the firstfruit [those in Christ] be holy, the lump [those who reject Christ in this age] is also holy” (Rom 11:16).
Let’s return to Romans 9. Here Paul tells us that God “hated Esau before he was born” while he was in his mother’s womb having done neither good or evil, THAT THE PURPOSE OF GOD ACCORDING TO ELECTION MIGHT STAND…As it is written Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated…so then IT IS NOT OF HIM THAT WILLETH [man’s ‘free’ will] BUT OF GOD THAT SHEWETH MERCY…For the scripture sayeth unto Pharaoh even for this same purpose have I raised thee up. That I might shew my power in thee and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath He mercy [by dragging some to him through chastening and scourging – Heb 12:6)] on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth [by ‘giving them eyes that CANNOT see and ears that CANNOT hear lest they should be converted and healed’]”
Rom 9:19 Thou [those who believe in ‘free’ will – this is definitely not James] wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
No one! (2Ch 20:6).
“Nay, but O man [who refuses to admit his will is not a ‘free’ will], who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed [by God] say to him that formed it [for destruction], Why hast thou [God] made me thus? Hath not the potter [God] power over the clay [man] of the same lump [all humanity] to make one vessel [those He drags to the wedding supper] unto honor, and another [those who refuse their invitation to the wedding supper, those He blinds, gives ears that CANNOT hear and hardens “lest they should be converted and I should heal them”] to dishonor” (Rom 9:11-21).
Paul concludes this chapter: “But Israel which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness… because they sought it not by faith but by works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone…” (vs. 31-32).
Is Paul contradicting himself? Do verses 11-21 place all the responsibility for the wrong choices of Esau and Pharaoh on God’s shoulders while verses 31 and 32 place the responsibility for Israel rejecting their Messiah on Israel’s shoulders? Does Israel refuse to accept their wedding supper invitation without a cause? Is their choosing to refuse their invitation “free” choice? Was God gambling that the Jews would reject Christ and crucify him when He sent down His son? Did they stumble at that stumbling stone by choice, of their own ‘free’ will? NO! “God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, unto this day” (Rom 11:8).
“But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail [placed there by God] untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day when Moses is read the vail is upon their heart” (2Co 3:14-15).
Mat 13:11 …Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
All these statements and many, many others arebmade concerning the very people who were being admonished by John the Baptist and Christ to “repent” and be converted (Mat 3:2 and 4:17).
Why then does James say “every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed…? James said those words because they are true. God himself does not force us to sin. He doesn’t have to force us to sin. He created us of the dust, corruptible. We came this way from the creator’s hand. Adam was flesh and blood which “cannot inherit the kingdom of God”; and he was this way from the creator’s hand.
The statement is made before they even ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “and they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Gen 2:25). This is not a simple statement of history here is Gen 2:25. It is the same statement made in Rev 3:17: “Thou…art wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked…[but you aren’t ashamed] because thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing…” (Rev 3:17).
Do you think Adam was ashamed of his nakedness? We are told that neither he nor his wife were ashamed. Was Adam thinking “Wow, I’m in a terrible spot, I’m flesh and blood; I’m corruptible and subject to death. I need a savior.” No, Adam never saw his wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked condition until he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “…I had not known sin but by the law…” (Rom 7:7). Only after Adam saw that he had disobeyed God, did he see that he needed a savior, a covering for his ‘nakedness’. Even then there was only the type of the ultimate sin offering at hand for Adam and his sons until the real sin offering was finally offered by God’s sovereign decree (Act 4:27-28).
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a type of the “law of Moses” (Act 13:39). It made Adam aware of the already existing death he was dying: “In the day that you eat thereof, dying you shall die” is the proper translation of Gen 2:17. Adam was dying by virtue of being made of the dust and being naked from the creator’s hand. So there was no doubt in God’s mind what Adam would do. Did God Himself tempt Adam? He didn’t have to do that. Did God have to force David to be tempted by Bathsheba? No, and like David we are all willing volunteers for the job of sinning. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Like Adam, we are not aware of our sin until we are under the law: “I had not known sin, but by the law…” (Rom 7:7). “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ”(Gal 3:24).
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not the “tree of sin”. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil did not make Adam and Eve naked and of the dust, corruptible. “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid…(Rom 7:7). The law, like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, does not cause us to sin; it merely tells us what sin is: “I had not known sin but by the law” (Rom 7:7). So what was the ultimate cause of Adam’s sin? It was his earthy, dust, fleshly composition combined with his naked [in sin] condition (Rev 3:17). Add to this also a tempter and Adam’s fate was sealed. Now, let’s ask honestly and scripturally who was responsible for all of this.
Isa 45:5 I [am] the LORD, and [there is] none else, [there is] no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:
Isa 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things] [harden hearts, blind eyes and stop ears to the truth]. I make peace [with those to whom I show mercy] and create evil [vessels for dishonor, hardened hearts, blind eyes, deaf ears, leprous dying bodies, etc.]
Whether it is physical or spiritual “who maketh the dumb or deaf, or the seeing or the blind?” have not I the Lord?” (Exo 4:11). “Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight [make righteous or honorable] which he hath made crooked [hardened and made dishonorable]?” (Ecc 7:13).
Let’s now ask a few questions and answer them with the scriptures James knew so well.
- Who makes evil men? “The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea even the wicked for the day of evil (Pro 16:4). “Behold I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy” (Isa 54:16)
- Who causes some to refuse their invitation to the wedding supper? “O Lord why hast thou made us to err from thy ways and hardened our heart from thy fear…” (Isa 63:17).
- When our hearts are hardened and we sin against God, who is responsible for our chastening afflictions? “Wilt thourefrain thyself for these things, O Lord? Wilt thou hold thy peace and afflict us very sore?” (Isa 64:12).
- Who is responsible for those who repent and end up filling the seats at the wedding supper? “No weapon formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, AND THEIR RIGHTEOUSNESS IS OF ME, saith the Lord” (Isa 54:17).
- Who is responsible for our repentance and turning from our own ways? “…Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; TURN THOU ME, [by chastening grace – Tit 2:11-12; Heb 12:6] and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God” (Jer 31:18).
- Who is responsible for the fate of Israel? “And the vessel that He made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter…” (Jer 18:4) [God the potter does not make mistakes; He deliberately created a ‘marred vessel’ first: Adam, Cain, Ishmael, Pharoah, Esau, King Saul and physical Israel] vessels of dishonor, created for “the destruction of the flesh that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord” (1Co 5:5).
Since the vessel was made marred, God made it again [the new vessel is not the same as the old one; it is the new covenant of 2Co 3:6 and Gal 6:16 as opposed to “my kinsmen according to the flesh” of Rom 9:3 – another vessel] as seemed good to the potter to make it…O house of Israel [the physical descendants of Abraham, the marred vessel; the many seeds of Gal 3:16], cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel” (Jer 18:4-6).
When the world turns on God’s people, who will ultimately be responsible? “Israel came into Egypt and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham…He [God] turned their heart [Egypt, the world] to hate His people…” (Psa 105:23-25).
When Paul says that we are “predestinated according to the purpose of HIM WHO WORKETH ALL THINGS AFTER THE COUNSEL OF HIS OWN WILL” (Eph 1:11) does He really mean ALL THINGS? “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord (Pro 16:33). “The preparations of the heart in man and the answer of the tongue is from the Lord” (Pro 16:1).
Scripturally, the sovereignty of God is total. The flesh will not accept this for it leaves the flesh with nothing in which to boast.
Have we made a choice to reject the admonitions of scripture? Woe be unto us. Every statement concerning the sovereignty of God in the lives of individuals or nations is always followed by admonitions to choose the good and refuse the evil. This is true because God has always reserved a remnant to Himself. (Rom 9:27, Rom 1:5)
Do we choose to die to self, take up our cross and follow Christ? Very well. We will all be judged according to our deeds [Greek – ergon, Strong’s #2041 meaning works]
But either way the scriptural truth is: “But now O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay and thou our potter; and we are all the work of THY HAND” (Isa 64:8). In other words, “By grace [chastening and scourging – Heb 12:6] are ye saved through faith and THAT [even just the faith] NOT OF YOURSELVES, it is the gift of God. Not of works [that we do ourselves – Isa 54:17] lest any man should boast. For we are HIS workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto GOOD WORKS, which GOD HATH BEFORE ORDAINED [predestinated] that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:8-10). “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and THEIR RIGHTEOUSNESS IS OF ME saith the Lord” (Isa 54:17).
Clearly there is no room for the flesh to take credit for any righteousness which “Christ in us’ may perform through us. “We are HIS workmanship.”
God’s sovereignty is not limited to “every good and perfect gift” (Jas 1:17). The fact that every good and perfect gift is from above does not say that ONLY the good and perfect gifts are from above.
Both James and Paul agreed that “all things” (Eph 1:11) depend upon “If the Lord will…” (Jas 5:15).
The Lord has been gracious to reveal to us that not only does every good and perfect gift come from above, but that for the sake of “the good pleasure of HIS will” (Eph 1:5), [He] worketh ALL THINGS after the counsel of His own will” (Eph 1:11). ‘All things’ includes both the good and perfect and the evil: “O Lord, why hast THOU MADE US TO ERR FROM THY WAYS, AND HARDENED OUR HEART from thy fear?” (Isa 63:17). “It is not of him that willeth, but of God that showeth mercy…therefore hath he mercy on whom HE will have mercy and whom He will He hardeneth” (Rom 9:16, 18).
James was well aware that the “trying of our faith worketh patience” (Jas 1:3) and that all things depend on “If the Lord will” (James 4:15). So when he tells us “…God cannot be tempted with evil neither tempteth He any man” (Jas 1:13), it becomes obvious that James was aware of the details of God’s methods. “It is God which worketh in you both to will [the desire to please God] and to do His good pleasure” (Php 2:13).
So what does scripture reveal to be the method God uses whereby it can be said that God is sovereign over the good and the evil and yet God himself tempts no man?
Part 5 – Twelve Examples of God’s Modus Operandi
Example #1 – The Tempting of Mankind (Adam and Eve)
The first example is the pattern for all of God’s sovereign actions concerning the tempting of man. God’s sovereignty had Christ slain for Adam’s transgression before Adam was ever created: “Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to HIS OWN PURPOSE and grace, which was GIVEN US IN CHRIST JESUS BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN” (2Ti 1:9). And again: “Paul…in hope of eternal life which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Tit 1:1-2).
Obviously God had decided in advance that Adam would be tempted and would transgress his direct command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is most instructive to note that the made-of-the dust, weak, corruptible and “naked” [which scripturally means sinful (Rev 3:17)] Adam, as well as the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil, were both the product of the Creator. The only question now is how will Adam be tempted so that God can truthfully say that He Himself tempts no man? This was no problem for the creator. Adam and Eve were “drawn away of their own lust and enticed” (Jas 1:14). What was the instrument used to effectuate the temptation for which Adam was “made to err from your ways” (Isa 63:17)? It was and always is the Adversary himself or one of his minions called in scripture “evil spirits”. Did God Himself tempt Adam? No, He did not. Did God force Adam to transgress His command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Absolutely not.
God never needs to force anyone to sin or transgress. He made us weak and corruptible “of the dust” to begin with. God never needs to tempt us because the serpent is nourished by the ‘dust of the ground’. Serpents never literally eat the dust of the ground. Serpents are carnivorous. They eat rats, mice, small reptiles, etc. The ‘dust’ spoken of in Genesis is “the spirit that dwelleth in us which lusteth to envy” (Jas 4:5). This statement is made by James, the same New Testament writer who tells us in chapter one:
Jas 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
Jas 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Will anyone who claims to be familiar with these scriptures: “It is the spirit that giveth life (Joh 6:63); “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created…” (Psa 104: 30); “There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding” (Job 32:8); etc, etc. deny that “the spirit in us lusteth to envy” is the very spirit the Creator breathed into Adam which gave Adam his “breath of life”? Yes, it was God who gave us “the spirit in us [which] lusteth to envy.”
No, James was not teaching ‘freedom’ of choice. James was simply teaching choice; choices caused to be made within the influence of the Creator. The Creator is the ultimate cause of all things, including every choice we make.
Understanding God’s sovereignty does not relieve us of giving an account of our actions to God, nor does it relieve us of our daily decisions and choices. Understanding God’s sovereignty simply means that we now understand that all of our choices and decisions are CAUSED choices and decisions.
In our pride and vanity, we do not want to admit it, but the truth of the scriptures is that every choice we make is a caused choice. “Freedom of choice” and “free moral agency” are false doctrines that defy the declarations of God in His word that…
Pro 20:24 Man’s goings [are] of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?
Rom 9:16 So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
Php 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure.
Eph 1:11 …who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
Rom 11:36 For of him, and through him, and to him, [are] all things: to whom [be] glory for ever. Amen.
Part 6 – Twelve Examples of God’s Modus Operandi
Example #2 – The Trials [Temptations] of Job
Updated October 12, 2010]
Most of us are aware that Job was a man of great patience. In one day Job lost all his oxen, asses, camels, sheep and all but one of the servants that cared for each group, and finally all his sons and daughters died in the home of the eldest with only one servant escaping to bring the bad news to Job.
This first chapter of Job is a perfect parallel to what happened to our original parents in the garden of Eden. Note the parallels:
•Whose idea was it to try Job in this way?
Job 1:8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job…
It was the Lord who drew Satan’s attention to Job. What was Satan doing up to that time?
Job 1:7 …going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
Why does Satan do this?
1Pe 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
That’s why Satan is “going to and fro in the earth and walking up and down in it.” He is “seeking whom he may devour.”
•Whose idea was it for Adam to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil Satan’s creation? No, God “creates evil” (Isa 45:7). Did Satan place this tree in the middle of the garden and make it so pleasant and appealing to the eyes that it would tempt our parents? No, this too, was by God’s “predestinated” design and counsel (Eph 1:11). Why, on the other hand, were they not attracted to the tree of life? God NEVER told them they could not eat of the tree of life. Why did they not desire the tree of life? Because it: “hath no form or comeliness and when [they saw it] there [was] no beauty that [they] should desire it” (Isa 53:2). Who was it that created the crooked serpent to entice our parents to transgress God’s command?
Job 26:13 By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.
It was God who formed the serpent and placed him in the garden to tempt Adam and Eve. The entire event was “for to do whatsoever thy hand [God’s] and thy counsel [God’s] DETERMINED BEFORE to be done” (Act 4:28).
We know this is so because, besides this scripture here in Acts, we are also told twice…
2Ti 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called [us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
Tit 1:2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
And once again Rev 13:8 refers to “the lamb slain FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.” Ask yourself, did God know from the foundation of the world and before the world began that the Lamb [Christ] would be slain for our sins and that we would be called with a holy calling “in Christ”, but he didn’t know for sure what our parents would do when He commanded them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Was God trying to thwart His own plan when He gave Adam and Eve that command not to eat of the tree? In other words, did God’s plan and purpose hinge upon Adam’s ‘free will’, or was it all of God “…being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things [including our caused choices] AFTER THE COUNSEL OF HIS OWN WILL” (Eph 1:11)?
No, the scriptures reveal from Genesis to Revelation that “all things [are] of God” (1Co 11:12); “and ALL THINGS [including our good or bad choices] are of God…” (2Co 5:18); and “…the Father of whom are all things” (1Co 8:6) and finally,
Rom 11:36 For of him, and through him, and to him, [are] all things: to whom [be] glory for ever. Amen.
Now if the most heinous crime of all time, the unjust murder of the perfect lamb of God was “whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (Acts 4:28), why would lesser crimes be any less so? The truth is they are no less “whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.”
See how revealing this first chapter of Job is? This is not an unusual event. “There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them” (Job 1:6). Note it does not say ‘there was finally a day’ or that ‘”Satan sneaked in also among them.’ That’s not what the scriptures teach. This is where Satan operates. This is his predestinated function to serve as the crooked serpent, the Adversary, the tempter, the devil.
Satan comes before God daily “seeking whom he may devour.” Here is the truth of scripture. Look beyond the physical and believe what the spirit [the words that I speak unto you…are spirit – Joh 6:63] reveals. Here is what the spirit, the word of God reveals is the truth of what we are really dealing with:
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood [freedom of choice], but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]. [Strong’s #2032 – epouranios– the celestials or the heavens]
“Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed” is certainly the truth of Jas 1:13, 14. This scripture, however, in no way negates or contradicts the fact that the spiritual reality is that our “own lusts” are the very ‘dust’ on which the “spiritual wickedness in the heavens” dines. It is “all of God” who “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.”
What James is saying is “…ye know not what shall be on the morrow” so it serves no purpose whatever to say “I am tempted of God.”
James wants us to “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, knowing this that the trial of your faith worketh patience…If any man lack wisdom [gives in to his own lusts] let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally…Blessed is the man that endureth temptation for WHEN HE IS TRIED, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (Jas 1:2, 5, 12).
It is right at this point, after informing us of the absolute necessity for trials and temptations in the life of the believer, predetermined by the sovereign will of God, before we can “receive the crown of life”; it is right at this juncture that we are told not to use the truth of the sovereignty of God’s will as an excuse to yield to our lusts (Jas 1:13-14).
James is so like Paul. Immediately after telling us we are really wrestling with spiritual wickedness in the heavens, Paul says: “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day…” (Eph 6:13).
Understanding and believing “an evil spirit from the Lord” is used to “[draw us] away of our own lusts” in no way relieves us of still being held accountable for being drawn away of our own lusts. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God [and I can’t resist His will]: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He [Himself] any man” (Jas 1:13). James is saying that since “you know not what the morrow bringeth” [but God certainly does], that to use such a mindset is counter-productive.
Both James and Paul teach us to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7). The fact that we cannot successfully “resist God’s will” (2Ch 20:6, Rom 9:19) is not an admonition to lay down and do nothing. “Not knowing what the morrow bringeth” James tells us, should make us want to say “the Lord willing, we will…” “put on the whole armor of God” and “…resist the devil”. In other words, what James teaches is that since we know that God’s will will be done on the morrow, therefore we should strive even harder to do that very will; “if the Lord will…we shall…do this…” (Jas 4:15).
Paul puts it like this: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21). James says “faith without works is dead” (Jas 2:26). In another place Paul tells us: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal 6:7). There is no difference in the teachings of these two great men of God. There was no doubt schism in the body of Christ, but it was never between James and Paul. Both of them saw and understood the sovereign will of God in all things: “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow…for that ye ought to say, if the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that” (Jas 4:14 & 15).
On the other hand, God knows exactly what shall be on the morrow because He is “the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (Rev 22:13).
Our trials and tests are never for God’s information or benefit. They are rather for our own information and benefit. God is our maker. “He knows our frame, he remembereth that we are dust” [just a meal for the tempter] (Psa 103:14).
Our trials, our being drawn away of our own lusts and enticed, show US: “The heart is deceitful ABOVE ALL THINGS, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer 17:9)
So what is it Job needs to see about himself? Why did Job have to suffer the loss of everything he owned including his own children and later head-to-toe painful boils?
If Job were “perfect [Hebrew tawm – Strong’s #8535, undefiled rather than perfect] and upright [man] and one that feared God and eschewed evil” (Job 1:1), why did God ‘take down the hedge’ and all of a sudden, send the adversary to take everything Job owned away from him and shortly thereafter to strike him with “sore boils from the sole of his feet unto his crown” (Job 2:7)?
The answer to this question has to do with much more than simply teaching us about the patience of Job. The very purpose for the book of Job is to teach us that our ‘tawm‘ [the word translated ‘perfect’ in Job 1:1], our ‘good works’ are NOT OF OUR OWN FREE WILL. In other words, what Job had to suffer so much to learn and what WE MUST LEARN, is that our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isa 64:6), that though we may appear to make good decisions on our own, the truth and the reality is that we are “HIS workmanship” (Eph 2:10), and that “thou…hast wrought all our works in us” (Isa 26:12).
When we claim ‘free moral agency’, our works are filthy rags. When we admit we are His workmanship then “thou hast wrought all our works in us”, and now God can accept us.
There is that word ALL again. He “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph 1:11). “For of Him and through Him and to Him are ALL THINGS” (Rom 11:36).
Job did not yet realize this. Job actually believed that his righteousness was of himself. He thought that he was a good man because HE had chosen to be righteous. It was his lack of understanding that “all things are of God” (2Co 5:18 and Isa 26:12) that precipitated and required the trials that Job endured. It was Job’s belief in his ‘freedom’ of choice, his ‘free moral agency’ that he had of himself chosen the good and refused the evil, that God had not chosen him, but he had chosen God; this is what cost Job so dearly. Here are the scriptures:
“For Job hath said, I am righteous: and God hath taken away my judgment. Should I lie against MY right? MY wound is incurable without transgression” (Job 34:5 & 6). These are the words of Job. Elihu, who is quoting Job, was the only comforter who the Lord did not rebuke for his advice to Job. Had Job really claimed to be righteous? Yes, he did. Here are his own words:
“God…hath taken away my judgment…and…hath vexed my soul. …Till I die I will not remove MINE integrity from me. MY RIGHTEOUSNESS I HOLD FAST AND WILL NOT LET IT GO: MY heart shall not reproach me as long as I live” (Job 27:2,5 & 6).
That attitude cost Job dearly. It will also cost us dearly. So long as we cling to ANY claim whatsoever, to contributing anything whatsoever toward our salvation, we are no better than Job. We are saved by grace [chastening and scourging, Titus 2:11& 12, the word “teaching” is actually chastening] through faith and that faith is not even ours. “It is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). “We are HIS workmanship” (Eph 2:10). “That no flesh should glory in his presence” (1Co 1:29).
Now concerning Job, does God agree with Elihu? “…The Lord answered Job and said, shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct Him? He that reproveth God [like Job], let him answer it…Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?” (Job 40:1,2 & 8). God did not pass the buck to Satan or Job’s ‘free will’.
What does Job answer? Does he resort to ’till I die I will not remove MY INTEGRITY from me. MY RIGHTEOUSNESS I hold fast and will not let it go: MY heart shall not reproach me so long as I live”? Is that how Job answered God when God showed Job that his belief in his free moral agency was essentially saying that he (Job) could disannul God’s judgment by making good choices of his own free will, his own righteousness?
No. Like Saul of Tarsus, whose ‘free’ choice was to disannul God’s judgment, Job saw the light. Powers and principalities in high places were at work on Job’s [and on Saul’s] ‘free’ choice. Instead of persecuting the Lord, Saul of his own ‘free’ will recognizes his blindness and asks, “Lord what will thou have me to do?” (Act 9:6). And Job, of his own ‘free’ will now answers “I know that thou canst do everything [including CAUSING our choices by either hardening our hearts or showing his mercy through chastening and scourging till we of our own ‘free will’ say ‘not my will but thine be done]…wherefore I abhor myself and REPENT [‘perfect’ men don’t need to repent] in dust and ashes.” Job had come to see that his righteousness acts were filthy rags (Isa 64:6). Job now realized “the Lord hath brought forth [my] righteousness” (Jer 51:10).
“I know that thou canst do everything, and that NO THOUGHT can be withholden from thee” (Job 42:2), is the truth of the scriptures. The trouble with this scriptural fact is that it flies in the face of the false doctrine of ‘free’ moral agency which of necessity teaches that God has chosen not to know what our choices will be. Therefore His hands are tied, and responsibility for our salvation is in our own hands in the final analysis . The most critical thing to our salvation, outweighing even the death and resurrection of Christ, is our ‘freedom’ of choice, our ‘free’ will; so this false doctrine teaches.
Free Will Exposed
This doctrine teaches that God sent His son into this world to save only those who choose of their own free will to believe in Christ in this fleshly life. If He hardens your heart, blinds you and gives you ears not to hear, He only does this to those who of their own ‘free will’, choose not to accept their invitation to the marriage of the Lamb. So all of God’s efforts to draw all men to Himself are for the most part nullified by man’s ‘free will’ according to this doctrine of ‘free will’. The thinking goes like this: ‘It is because of free will, that many are called, but few are chosen. As much as this pains our Father, our ‘free will’ has tied His hands. It’s out of His hands; most will, depending on just how heartless and helpless a Father one serves, be either eternally dead or eternally tormented, because God has chosen NOT TO KNOW IN ADVANCE what our choices would be. Therefore, so the teaching goes, our eternal death or torment is after all, our own fault, because we of our own free will, have chosen not to attend the wedding of the Lamb.’
Is this what Job learned as a result of all of his trials? No, this is NOT the message of the book of Job. Here are Job’s own words concerning what God chooses to know: “NO THOUGHT CAN BE WITHHOLDEN FROM THEE” (Job 42:2).
- “The preparations of the heart in man and the answer of the tongue is FROM THE LORD” (Pro 16:1).
- “The kings [Pharaoh, King Saul and King Ahab and our] heart is in the hand of the Lord…He turneth it whithersoever He will” (Pro 21:1).
- “Man’s goings [ways] are of the Lord, how can a man then understand his own way?” (Pro 20:24).
- “O Lord, I know that the way [goings] of man is not in himself: IT IS NOT IN MAN THAT WALKETH TO DIRECT HIS STEPS” (Jer 10:23).
What room is there for ‘free will’ in these scriptures?
Let us go back to Job chapter one, and notice how God manipulates the Adversary to accomplish His purpose in Job. It is the Lord who draws Satan’s attention to Job. Satan never asks God first for permission to prove Job. Showing Job His total sovereignty is God’s purpose in this book. It is the Lord who first mentions Job: “And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect [good] and upright man, one that feareth God and esheweth evil?” (Job 1:8) So the Lord himself admits that Job is a good man that fears God and hates evil.
Job’s only fault was his mistaken belief in his own freedom to choose to “fear God and eschew [hate] evil.” Job did not yet appreciate the sovereignty of God; “you have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (Joh 15:16). “No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (Joh 6:44).
Satan has no doubt about the sovereignty of God: “Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face” (Job 1:11).
How does the Lord go about “put[ting] forth thine hand” to “touch all that he hath”? “And the Lord said unto Satan, behold, all that he hath is in thine hand…”
Here is God about to do what he tells us in Isa 45:7 He does: “I…create evil. I the Lord do ALL these things.” How does the Lord do all these things? Does God Himself “put forth his hand?” No, that is not how he “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph 1:11). “God cannot be tempted of evil neither tempteth He [Himself] any man” (Jas 1:13). How can God insist on his sovereignty in all things, including the evil, and yet say He tempteth no man” Job himself tells us: “By His Spirit…His hand hath formed the crooked serpent [the tempter, Satan – Rev 12:9] (Job 26:13). Lo, these are part of His ways: but how little a portion is heard of Him? But the thunder of His power who can understand? (Job 26:13 & 14) Evil spirits are not self created “His Hand formed the crooked serpent.” Satan is not a loose cannon walking to and fro in the earth robbing God of 99% of His creation. Satan “could have no power at all…except it were given [him] from above” (Joh 19:11). He entered Judas and convinced him to betray Christ to the religious leaders of God’s people of that day (Luk 22:3). Was Judas aware of Satan’s influence upon him? Of course not. Judas, like so many of God’s people today thought he was exercising his “freedom of choice”. Judas, like Adam, and like all of us, was certainly exercising choice. Like Adam and all of us, he will have to give account for those choices and will “suffer loss” for “works” of “wood, hay and stubble” [wrong choices producing sin] (1Co 3:12-14).
But neither Adam, nor Judas, nor any of us are exercising “freedom of choice”. Our choices clearly are not free but are all worked “after the counsel of His own will” (Eph 1:11).
Our choices, good choices like following Christ, and our sinful choices, like betraying Christ and living lives dominated by the flesh, are all ’caused’ choices. All ultimately are caused by the ultimate cause of all:
Pro 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.
Here is how we are all “made… wicked for the day of evil”:
Rom 7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Rom 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good I find not.
Rom 7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Rom 7:20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Rom 7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
So our will to do evil really “is no more I that do it…” This is twice repeated. Then we are told what compels us to do evil, and we find that it is because of “a law”. Who is the only lawgiver?
Jas 4:12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?
So we do not will to save ourselves, it is the “one Lawgiver” who either saves or destroys us, and we are “predestinated according to His will, not our own will.
Eph 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
So, concerning our struggles against our natural flesh we are told:
Eph 6:12 We wrestle not with flesh and blood [our supposed free will] but with…spiritual wickedness in the heavens.
Adam’s chances of making the right choice because of some fabled ‘freedom’ of choice were about as slim as Judas’ chances of deciding not to betray Christ. Satan’s “entering into Judas” (Luk 22:3) was no more a matter of Judas’ ‘free’ will than when Satan influenced Peter to rebuke Christ for informing His disciples of the necessity of His impending death. Christ did not turn to Peter and encourage him to make better choices: “But when He had turned about and looked on His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things of men” (Mar 8:33).
Christ was not merely using a figure of speech. Christ knew that Satan “savored the things that be of men”. It was Christ Himself, the Word of God, who had decreed in the garden “dust shalt thou eat.” Christ knew how the universe operated, for the Father had used him to set it up as it is (Rom 11:36). Christ knew that Peter was at that very moment losing, and losing badly a ‘wrestling match’ with spiritual wickedness in the heavens (Eph 6:12).
Peter had to be brought to see this in himself. Because God had predestinated Peter to mercy, he chastened him with a rebuke: “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb 12:6).
There was no rebuke or chastening for Judas but rather, right from the mouth of our Savior Himself: “that which thou doest, do quickly” (Joh 13:27). Satan “entered into” Judas to harden his heart or Judas would never have been able to carry through with his dastardly assignment: “So then it is not of him that willeth [how clear!]…but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth” (Rom 9:16-18).
Man boasts of his ‘free’ will: “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow…ye rejoice in your boasting [we will do this or that; reject or accept Christ] all such rejoicing is evil” (Jas 4:14, 16). Whether we accept or reject Christ will be decided by whether we are dragged to the Father by circumstances beyond our control or hardened into rejection by ‘spiritual wickedness in the heavens’. Yes, we do make choices, but they are never free from “Him who works all things after the counsel of His own will.”
Part 7 – Twelve Examples of God’s Modus Operandi
Example #3 – Jacob and Esau
Isaac was Abraham’s second son, the child of promise, born after both Abraham and Sarah were past the age of being able to bear children. Abraham’s first son was begotten in a natural manner. Abraham had married Sarah’s handmaid Hagar, and Ishmael was born of this union.
But there was nothing miraculous about the birth of Ishmael. It was completely normal and natural.
Isaac’s birth was NOT a natural birth, but was supernatural, foreshadowing the spiritual, supernatural birth of Christ and of all those who are in the ‘one seed’ (Gal 3:16). Now Isaac brings forth two sons; Esau his firstborn and Jacob, Esau’s twin brother. We are told Abraham is the father of the faithful, who brings forth the child of promise. Remember “we, as Isaac are children of promise” (Gal 4:28). If those in Christ are “as Isaac, children of promise”, who then are the twin brothers they bring forth but the many who are called (Esau) and the few who are chosen (Jacob)?
Both are born of the elect. But just as Judas despised his elect position as one of Christ’s twelve disciples “whom also he named apostles” (Luk 6:13), and traded his eonian birthright for thirty pieces of silver; so Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of soup.
Judas had not cast in his lot with the despised cult. The people of God who betrayed and slew Christ were those who were in the vast majority, with thousands of years of traditions on their side. Had not Moses told Israel to swear by the name of Yahweh (Deu 6:13 and 10:20), to hate their enemy (Deu 7:2 and 20:7), eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot (Exo 21:24 and Deu 19:21). Hadn’t Moses told the men of Israel that they could put away their wives “if thou have no delight in her…” (Deu 21:14)? Hadn’t Moses told Israel not to gather food on the Sabbath but prepare for the Sabbath on the sixth day (Exo 16:5)?
Let it be made clear that no one here is advocating that we add anything more to the New Covenant than that revealed in the New Covenant scriptures. The parallel being drawn here is that there is as great a difference between the revealed truths of the new covenant scriptures and the false teachings of orthodox Christendom today, as there are between the old covenant “law of Moses”, and the new covenant “law of Christ ” revealed in Mat 5, 6 and 7.
Christendom has almost two millennia of history and time-honored traditions totally contrary to new covenant scriptures.
Christ said not to fear man (Mat 10:28 and Heb 13:6) so we call our ministers ‘reverend’ which means ‘to be feared’, thus defying scripture. Christ said not to call any man father, yet many Christians do just that when referring to their spiritual leaders. Christ repeatedly said that the dead people he raised from the dead were ‘asleep’. Paul speaks of the dead as those who are asleep in Christ, who without a resurrection are perished, yet Christendom teaches the immortality of the soul. Christ tells us that every sacrifice would be “salted with fire”, yet He also says that He will “draw [drag] all men to Himself”. Paul tells us that those with works of “wood, hay and stubble” will be “tried with fire and burned up, yet he himself will be saved”, “He will have all men to be saved”, He is the “savior of all men specially [but not exclusively] of those who now believe”.
Peter tells us that God is longsuffering toward us, “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Again, Paul tells us that AS through the sin of one man, all are made sinners even so through the righteousness of one man shall all be made righteous. “As in Adam all die, SO in Christ shall all be made alive” (1Co 15:22).
Yet in the face of all these new covenant scriptures, Christendom has a long time-honored history and tradition of teaching the inconceivably cruel and unscriptural doctrines of either eternal death or worst of all, eternal torment in a literal lake of eternal fire with no hope of ever being redeemed by a loving Father.
What do these last two false doctrine have in common? They are both based on another unscriptural doctrine called the doctrine of free moral agency or the doctrine of man’s free will.
So here are the twin brothers of the elect father of the faithful. One will not receive the birthright and will marry the daughters of the people of the land; the other will live in temporary tents in peril of his life at the hand of his more popular and populous twin brother; for his brother is a man of the field (Gen 25:27) which Christ himself tells us is the world (Mat 13:38).
The truly elect of Christ love those who hate them. They have a love that far exceeds mere ‘phileo’ love. The true elect have a love that does not depend on love being returned. It is a carnally impossible love. It is ‘agape’ love. It is the love of God for all mankind.
Esau loves his brother only if his brother loves him, for he is the rejected elect, the many called who come in Christ’s name and admit that Christ is indeed Christ, yet they deceive many.
So why is ‘the many’, who is the rejected twin brother of the elect – why are they deceived and rejected? Is it because they decided to be unappreciative of their birthright? Did Esau choose to be a man of the world? Is that what scripture teaches us of either Esau or of the “many who shall come in my [Christ’s] name and shall deceive many”?
Why do the scriptures say Esau was rejected? “…the children being NOT YET BORN, neither having [chosen to do] any good or evil THAT THE [PREDESTINATED] PURPOSE OF GOD ACCORDING TO ELECTION [BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD] MIGHT STAND, NOT OF [CHOOSING TO DO] WORKS, BUT OF HIM THAT CALLETH…as it is written Jacob have I loved [before he was born] but Esau have I hated [before he was born]…I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy…and whom He will He hardeneth… Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor?” (Rom 9:7-21). That is the ONLY scriptural reason given for Esau’s rejection. He sold his birthright because he was rejected, “being not yet born, neither having [chosen to do] any good or evil…”
He was not rejected because he chose to despise his birthright, but he chose to despise his birthright “that the purpose of God might stand…” (Rom 9:11). His choice was a God-caused choice “that the purpose of God according to election [before he was born] might stand…” Every choice made by either Jacob or Esau was a caused choice…caused by “principalities [and]… powers in the celestials” (Eph 6:12).
Part 8 – Twelve Examples of God’s Modus Operandi
Example #4 – Joseph and His Brothers
Why are “our works” and “our righteousnesses” so despised by God? God Himself calls them “righteousnesses” (Isa 64:6). He does not say our iniquities are as filthy rags. Is it nothing more than taking credit for what HE has done in either “drawing” us to Him or “hardening” us? Is it not simply because this fleshly claim of man’s sovereign choices denies the truth that “O Lord, thou art our father; we are [merely] …clay, and thou art our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isa 64:8).
The story of Joseph and his brothers demonstrates how true this is. Joseph had ‘chosen’ to share a dream he had with his brothers: “Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed” (Gen 37:6). He then delights them with the story of their “sheaves stood round about and made obeisance to my sheaf” (vs 7). Jacob had ‘chosen’ to show favoritism toward Joseph. “When his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they [‘chose to’] hate him, and could not speak peaceably unto him” (Gen 37:4). It was just at this juncture that Joseph decides to tell his brothers of his dream. “And they hated him yet the more” (vs 5).
To make matters worse, Joseph then dreams another similar dream. He dreams that “the sun and the moon and eleven stars made obeisance to me” (vs 9). Joseph shares this dream with his father and his brothers. This time even “his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What…shall I and thy [dead] mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?” (vs 10).
Now even Jacob rebukes Joseph. Joseph’s decisions are not winning him many friends. Of course, this all leads to his brothers plotting his death and being talked out of that by Judah who instead convinces his brothers to sell Joseph to some Ishmaelites who, in turn, sell Joseph to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s captain of the guard.
Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses Joseph of attempting to seduce her, and Joseph ends up spending years in prison where his gift of interpreting dreams finally falls on the receptive ears of Pharaoh’s imprisoned baker and cup bearer. But the dreams are not his dreams now, and Joseph was no doubt questioning whether the dreams he had shared with his family would ever be fulfilled. Next, the Pharaoh himself has a dream which none of his wise men can interpret. The Pharaoh’s cup bearer, whose dream Joseph had correctly interpreted, finally remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh of Joseph’s gift. Joseph is brought before Pharaoh, interprets the dream and is given control of the entire nations to prepare for the famine about which the Pharaoh had dreamed. Every person involved in this long gripping story is making what we might call large and small decisions and choices every day.
As Egypt’s famine intensified, Joseph’s brothers decide to go down to Egypt to buy grain. At this point God uses Joseph as His ‘lake of fire’ to burn up the wood, hay and stubble in his guilt-ridden brothers. The story climaxes with Joseph and his brothers and their father having a tearful reunion. After saving Egypt from famine, Joseph now saves his own family, and in the process, they end up literally bowing down to Joseph and begging him for their lives.
Several years later, Jacob died in Egypt and was carried back to Canaan for burial. At this point, Joseph’s brothers become concerned for their lives and again beg for forgiveness from Joseph. “And Joseph wept when they spoke unto him…” (Gen 50:17).
What Joseph says to his brothers when they beg for his forgiveness after the death of Israel is no doubt the most complete and yet succinct commentary in all of scripture, on the origin and purpose for all evil. Can we believe what is clearly stated here in the book of beginnings?
“And Joseph said unto them, fear not for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you thought [assuming you had free will] evil against me; BUT GOD MEANT IT UNTO GOOD, TO BRING TO PASS, AS IT IS THIS DAY, TO SAVE MUCH PEOPLE ALIVE” (Gen 50:19, 20).
Here we have the reason for everything that has ever occurred; both good and bad. “Having made known unto us the mystery [the secret] OF HIS WILL [not ours], ACCORDING TO HIS GOOD PLEASURE WHICH HE HATH PURPOSED IN HIMSELF” (Eph 1:9). What is His good pleasure that He has purposed in Himself?
Is it to save only a remnant of mankind? Or is it to save all of Egypt – the world? Is it not to “save much people alive”? “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one, ALL THINGS IN CHRIST [as in Adam SO in Christ – 1Co 15:22] both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him. [It is all] predestinated according to the purpose of Him who WORKETH ALL THINGS [even Joseph’s brothers evil deeds] AFTER THE COUNSEL OF HIS OWN WILL” (Eph 1:10, 11). Salvation must depend upon only one will. It cannot be BOTH ours and Gods. The only one it depends on is “HIS OWN WILL”.
Part 9 – Twelve Examples of God’s Modus Operandi
Example #5 – Pharaoh’s Heart is Hardened
While the churches of Babylon would have us believe that the Pharaoh who withstood Moses was simply an extremely stubborn man, the scriptures lead us to believe the exact opposite. While Moses was still in Midian, before he ever returned to Egypt,…the Lord said unto Moses, “When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go” (Exo 4:21). The Lord drug Moses back to Egypt against every excuse Moses could come up with and now he is telling Moses that when he does tell Pharaoh to let my people go, even before the Pharaoh is told to release Israel, God tells Moses, “I will harden his heart, that he shall not let my people go.”
Is God working against himself? Of course not. Anyone who asks such a question is missing the whole point. The point is that God “works all things after the counsel of His own will”. Understanding the sovereignty of God in no way exempts us of being under that same sovereign will in our own lives:
- “Now these things were [for] our examples…”1Co 10:6)
- “ALL these things happened unto them for our ensamples [same Greek word as examples] and they are written for our admonition” (1Co 10:11)
In other words, it was all predestined by God “for our ensamples” and “for our admonition”. To what intent were they done for our admonition?… “That they may know from the rising of the sun and from the west, that I am the Lord, and there is none else, I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I THE LORD DO ALL THESE THINGS…Woe to him that striveth with his Maker!…Shall the clay [that’s mankind] say to him that fashioneth it, what makest thou…” (Isa 45:6-9). Put Isa 45 with Rom 9 and ‘free’ will is revealed for the boasting of the flesh that it is. Certainly we have a will but nowhere is it said to be ‘free’ of the Potter’s hand.
Part 10 – Twelve Examples of God’s Modus Operandi
Example #6 – Abimelech and the Men of Shechem
Another story revealing just how much free will man has is the story of Abimelech, the son of Gideon. Gideon himself, as with all men, was the work of the Potter’s sovereign hand. Gideon did not choose to conquer the Midianites. God chose Gideon and as always, dragged him to do His will. His will was for Gideon to throw off Israel’s oppressor, the Midianites. God was so insistent that we understand how very little flesh has to do with His work that He sent 31,700 men back to their homes and kept only 300 men to conquer vast numbers of Midianites.
Why keep only 300 out of 32,000? “And the Lord said unto Gideon, the people that are with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand [my freedom of choice] hath saved me…by the three hundred men…will I save you and deliver the Midianites into thine hand…” (Jdg 7:2, 7). God literally drug Gideon to do His will, then God saved Gideon and Israel. He worked it all after the counsel of His own will.
But the story of Gideon’s son Abimelech is even more blatant in making the point that God is responsible for all things: “And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives. And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech. And Gideon, the son of Joash, died in a good old age and was buried in the sepulcher of Joash his father, in Ophrah, of the Abiezrites” (Jdg 8:30, 31).
After Gideon’s death Israel immediately forgot God and returned to idol worship. His son Abimelech, the son of “his concubine that was in Shechem”, conspired with his relatives in Shechem to massacre his seventy brothers in Ophrah: “And he went unto his father’s house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren…being threescore and ten person, upon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son…was left for he hid himself” (Jdg 9:5).
Soon after this bloody event, Abimelech was “made…king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem” (vs 6). At this point, scripture reveals to us much of the mind and workings of the Potter. The question posed by the apostle Paul in Rom 9:20 “Why hast thou made me thus?” is answered here. Equally revealing is the biblical use of words such as ‘fire’, ‘trees’, ‘vines’ and ‘brambles’. How these words were understood and used by Christ, His apostles and all the prophets is revealed here in a prophetic challenge issued by Jotham to his brother Abimelech and the men of Shechem: “And when they told it [Abimelech’s coronation] to Jotham, he went and stood on Mt. Gerizim and lifted up his voice and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you” (Jdg 9:7).
Jotham then puts forth a prophetic parable: “The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them: and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? And the trees said to the fig tree, come thou and reign over us. But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said all the trees unto the bramble [thistle] Come thou and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon. Now, therefore if ye have done truly and sincerely, in that ye have made Abimelech king and if ye have dealt well with [Gideon] and his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands; …then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you: BUT if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and devour the men of Shechem and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem and the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech. And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went to Beer and dwelt there, for fear of Abimelech his brother” (Jdg 9:8-21).
What are the trees but the unfruitful, idol worshiping people of God?
What is the olive tree, the fruit of which furnishes the fuel to light the seven lamps in the house of God, but those who having God’s Spirit in them “are the light of the world” (Mat 5:14)?
What is the fig tree but those who have “learn[ed] to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be no unfruitful” (Tit 3:15)?
What is the vine but those branches on the true vine who “bring forth much fruit” (Joh 15:1-5)?
But there exists on this earth mammoth trees which bear no fruit. Such trees when cut down can be used to build the temple of God, but while standing are proud and fruitless. These are the world renowned cedars of Labanon whose “lofty looks…shall be humbled” (Psa 29:5; Isa 2:10-13).
What is the bramble under whose shadow the cedars of Lebanon so willingly place themselves? Is it not those who “bear thorns and briars [and are] rejected, and [are] nigh unto cursing’ whose end is to be burned” (Heb 6:8)?
We now come to the most revealing verse. This verse, like so many which convey the same truth, has been in God’s word all along. But God has given us “eyes that cannot see” through false doctrines like the almost universally accepted doctrine of man’s free moral agency. Man is an ‘agent’ true enough. But he is anything but free. Man is a slave. He is either a servant [Greek- slave] of sin or a slave of righteousness (Rom 6:16-20). Either way man is never a ‘free’ moral agent.
Here now is another verse which teaches us blatantly “man’s goings are of the Lord, how can a man then understand his own way?” (Pro 20:24). This verse shows us why “it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer 10:23). Is there “evil in the city and the Lord hath not done it?” (Amo 3:6). Here is the way God does it: “Then GOD SENT AN EVIL SPIRIT between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech” (Jdg 9:23).
This is the ‘fire’ that “came out of the bramble and devoured the cedars of Lebanon”. This is the ‘fire’ that “came out from the men of Shechem and the house of Millo, and devour[ed] Abimelech.”
Is this not the same fire with which Christ says EVERY sacrifice will be salted? (Mar 9:48 & 49). Is this not also the ‘fire’ of verse 47: “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire”? Of course, it is. Does anyone seriously believe that we will enter into the kingdom of God with one eye? Of course not! This is figurative language. Christ is not teaching us self-mutilation, but rather a whole-hearted life of service to our heavenly Father. The subject does not change from verse 47 to verse 48. Christ, Paul and Peter all understood the meaning of the word ‘fire’ in scriptural terms. It is a figurative word typical of burning out the wood, hay and stubble in our works. So Paul also says: “Every man’s work [not his physical body] shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by FIRE; and the FIRE shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1Co 3:13).
So what happens to us if our works are “wood, hay and stubble” like the men of Shechem and of the household of Millo? “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: BUT HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; YET SO AS BY FIRE [the lake of fire]” (1Co 3:15). This is the “destruction” of 1Co 3:17 – “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are”. When the evil works are all burned up, the old man is “destroyed” yet “he himself [the new man in Christ] is saved though as by fire”.
What kind of fire is this? It is the kind of ‘fire’ that came out between the men of Shechem and Abimelech: “That the cruelty done to the threescore and ten sons of [Gideon] might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, which slew them; and upon the men of Shechem which aided him in the killing of his brethren” (Jdg 9:24).
If “God sent an evil spirit [to let fire come out] between Abimelech and the men of Shechem”, then He no doubt sent an evil spirit to cause “fire to come out between Abimelech and his brethren.” “Shall there be evil in a city [of Ophrah] and the Lord hath not done it?” (Amo 3:6). Understanding God’s sovereignty is the secret spoken of in Amo 3:7 – “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets.”
Once again it is apparent that God “worketh ALL THINGS after the counsel of HIS OWN WILL” (Eph 1:11). This is the first time the scripture blatantly informs us of the origins of evil spirits: “Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech” (Jdg 9:23).
Did God Himself tempt the men of Shechem? No, they were drawn away of their own lust and enticed. But how was this accomplished? Was it by stripping the men of Shechem of their ability to make choices? No. It was accomplished by giving them the ability to choose. They may well have felt they were exercising ‘freedom’ of choice. But what was the actual truth when viewed through the opened spiritual eyes the Word of God affords us? “God had sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem.” And what was God’s purpose in doing this? “…and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech” (Jdg 9:23).
Adam, Job, Pharaoh, Abimelech, King Saul, Judas, Pilate, Saul of Tarsus and you and I must all choose. But don’t boast in your ‘freedom of choice’. It is nothing more than another nourishing meal for the serpent. It is what Ezekiel 14 calls an “idol of the heart”. God’s people today think they are too sophisticated to bow down to a physical idol. But they will kill you and think they do God a service over an ‘idol of the heart’. The adversary couldn’t care less which idol we serve. Any idol makes just another good meal for him. Notice also how Ezekiel puts it: “And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel” (Eze 14:9).
So who claims to be responsible for all the “many shall come in my name saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many” (Mat 24:5), “and many false [deceived] prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many” (Mat 24:11). Read Ezekiel 14:9 for the true, ultimate answer.
Who did Job see as responsible for the incredible trials he endured? “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). “…and they [Job’s friends and family]…comforted him over all the evil that THE LORD HAD BROUGHT UPON HIM…” (Job 42:11).
The first chapter of Job, like Judges 9, informs us that the Lord Himself does not try men. He uses Satan for that purpose.
1Pe 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
Gen 1:31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, [it was] very good. (And this includes Satan who was made for God’s purposes) And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Rev 12:9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
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