Author: Ron Graham
There is no sweeter state than obedience to the will of God; no sweeter prayer than to ask that you do God’s will. While stubbornly resisting the will of God, your life is imprisoned in conflict and disharmony. But when you yield to God’s will, your sin is conquered; you are an uncaged bird flying free, the whole heaven a theatre for your song; you are embraced by a vast encircling peace. In this lesson, we ask, "What is the will of God for the people of earth?"
God made clear, to Adam and Eve, his will concerning a certain tree. God said, "You shall not eat of it" (Genesis 2:17). However Adam and Eve chose to defy God's decree, and to eat of the tree. They suffered the terrible consequences.
Protestant tradition says: "God's decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of his will."
On those terms, Adam and Eve, by disobeying God's decree, clearly went against God's will. But the tradition does not accept this logic, and goes on to say: "Whereby, from all eternity, God hath, for his own glory, unchangeably fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass."
If that statement is true, then clearly God ordained that Adam and Eve disobey his will. How could God ordain that Adam and Eve NOT eat of the tree (which is what God said) and at the same time ordain that they DO eat of the tree and thereby disobey him? The tradition declines to explain that contradiction, and hastens to disclaim: "Yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin".
Later, according to Genesis 6:6, "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and he was grieved in his heart." If people were doing what God had unchangeably fore-ordained, God would not be grieved. But he was grieved, because his decrees were being disobeyed, and his will was not being done on earth.
When Paul preached in Athens, he said, "God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has set a day in which he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed" (Acts 17:30-31). God is able to judge the world in justice, because he has made his will clear to the world, and his wish that "all people everywhere should repent".
The Calvinist tradition rejects this view completely, claiming that God calls to repentance only a certain number, not all people. The shepherd "lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11) and "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25-27) "as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28) so that "those who are called may receive the promise" (Hebrews 9:15).
According to Calvinism, it is not open to all people to be among these "sheep", this "church", these "many", these "called". They were chosen, individually, particularly, before the foundation of the world. According to Calvinism, God granted and ordained repentance for these elect alone. Calvinists decline to explain how God can, in these circumstances, judge the world in justice.
John refers to "the world" several times, in his first epistle. I wish to compare two instances. John observes that "the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1John 5:19). But earlier he has said that "the righteous one is the atoning sacrifice... for the sins of the whole world" (1John 2:2). It seems clear that the Righteous One died for the same "whole world" that is under the sway of the wicked one.
The Calvinist doesn't see it that way however, saying that God fore-ordained that Christ should die only for those sinners whom God had selected, and not for each and every sinner in the world.
The Calvinist argues that if God willed someone to be saved who failed to be saved, then the unthinkable would have occurred: a failure of God's will and grace, and a failure of Christ's sacrifice. So all must be saved whom God wills to be saved and all must be saved for whom Christ died.
As for those who are not saved, Calvinists decline to explain why, if God did not love them, or will that they should be saved, and Christ did not die for them, the unthinkable has not occurred anyway.
Surely it is a failure of God's grace if God's grace proves unable to embrace every sinner who needs salvation? If God's grace embraces every sinner but many sinners refuse that embrace, that is not a failure of God's grace. It is a failure only on the part of those foolish sinners who could be saved but would not. However, if what the Calvinists say is true, then God's grace is unable to embrace every sinner and those sinners left out or "passed by" have no choice or appeal. Therefore the blame rests on God and his grace which has failed so many helpless sinners.
Calvinists would of course be horrified at what I have just said, and think it tantamount to a blasphemy. They would not countenance a failure of God's grace any more than they would countenance God being the author of sin. However it is their doctrine that produces the errors they reject as unthinkable and unspeakable. I do not accuse the Calvinists of believing these errors. I merely point out that their doctrine, by producing the errors they themselves disclaim, shows itself to be inconsistent in spite of all their efforts to make it so.
The scriptures teach, that God's will and grace reach out to every sinner, lovingly pleading, inviting all to come. God is "longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2Peter 3:9). Every sinner is given the choice and opportunity. Praise the Lord for that!
[Creed quoted: THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH - 1646. This lesson alludes to the beautiful song, "Sweet Will of God" by Mrs C.H. Morris.]