Jason Garwood

the good news is good.

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Last week our family went with a couple other friends and their families to the Detroit Zoo. It’s a fun place, and when you have a curious 6-year-old like we do, it makes it even more fun. (He was perplexed that I liked the Penguins so much. He couldn’t wrap his mind around it. “I think it’s funny that daddy likes the penguins!” he retorted. Hilarious.) Anyhow, when we returned from our trip, we were asked the famous question. Do you know which question I’m talking about? We’re all guilty of asking it at some point in our lives. We ask it after movies, we ask it after we eat a meal, and we ask it (unfortunately) after ‘church’. Which question? Here it is:

How was _______?”

Maybe you were expecting something else. Either way, I’m sure you can relate. “How was the zoo?” “How was dinner?” “How was church?” “How was ____?”

Now, to those who will read this and know that you asked me the question, I want to be sure to say that I took no offense. At all. It actually made me think about drafting this post! So, thank you for helping churn some thoughts in my mind.

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Misunderstood Verses: Romans 8:29-30

We are continuing our series on misunderstood verses by taking a look at a couple of very important ones from the greatest letter ever written: Paul’s letter to the Romans. (Be sure to check out previous posts in this series: John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9, and 1 Timothy 2:4). Here is

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (ESV)

As always, context is important. The Apostle Paul is writing this letter to the church that resides in Rome. The church itself, historically speaking, consisted of Jewish and Gentile Christians–which was no small task to promote unity! Considered the greatest theological treatise on the earth, Paul lays out redemption and God’s unique plan to bring Jews and Gentiles together under the Lordship of Christ. In he talks about our struggle with the flesh post-conversion and by the time he gets to , he’s ready to discuss the work of the Spirit, and a bit of the future that awaits us. For Paul, God will bring the fullness of redemption to bear on Creation, as the earth, much like our bodies, groan inwardly waiting for it to happen (8:18-25). From here Paul says that the Spirit helps us in our weakness because we oftentimes do not know what to pray (vs. 26); also, the Spirit searches our hearts and intercedes for the saints (vs. 27), and in God’s sovereignty, He works out all things together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

Don’t miss that last part, because Paul is clearly telling us the “Who?” of this passage. In context, he’s speaking of the elect, God’s people, Christ’s sheep, those indwelt by the Spirit, the believing ones. The very first word in is “For,” (Gr. hoti) and it, of course, is a connection to what has been said beforehand. These sets of verses refer to the ordo salutis (the order of salvation). Just how does salvation happen for us? What’s the order? Paul tells us.

Those whom he foreknew he also predestined. Some like to say that God foreknows everybody because He “looks down the hall of time” to see who would choose him. This is most assuredly a case of eisegesis because: 1) the context forbids it (It’s about those who are saved, not potentially saved in some obscure future), and 2) the text doesn’t say this. To insist that God looks down the hall of time to see who would choose him: 1) Does not alleviate the tension between free will and God’s Sovereignty (because those whom He “saw” in the future still have to choose what He saw!), and 2) Implies that God doesn’t have infinite knowledge, and that He has to go searching for information by looking to the future (a HUGE problem indeed), when Scripture says he has declared the end from the beginning (). The problem people have who take this approach is that they make God an impartial observer. And that, He is not!

The text is clear: The people he set his special, saving love on (this is what foreknowledge means), he predestined. Foreknowledge is not primarily used in Scripture to talk about God’s advanced knowledge about how a person acts, but instead how God loves. To be known by God () is to be loved by God in a special, covenantal way. That love leads to our post-regenerate response of obedience to God’s irresistible grace. We love because He first loved us (). Predestination simply means in Greek, predestination. This is not arbitrary election, or “unfair” election (as some like to accuse God of)–this is unconditional election. God does not have to save anyone. It’s a miracle of His grace that He DOES save! God sets his love on His people, not based upon some foreseen merit, but because He chose to do so. All of this so that we could be conformed to the image of his Son

Those whom he predestined he also called. God foreknew His chosen sheep (), set his love on them, and chose them. In other words, God arranged that in due time, His elect would hear the outward call of the gospel and through God’s means of preaching, respond to God’s love after the Spirit regenerates their dead hearts. This is the “inward call” of the gospel. Without the Father drawing, no one can come to him (). Lazarus didn’t come out of the tomb on his own, he was called!

Those whom he called also he justified. Is everyone justified? No. Which means that not everyone is called (inwardly, that is, because of sin), not everyone is predestined (this would be the heresy of universalism), and not everyone is foreknown (in the special “loving” way, as the word is defined). But rest assure, those that God consigns to salvation, he justifies! Christ’s substitutionary death is sufficient for all, but only efficient for the elect. We should note that justification is by faith alone, and that faith is a gift (). When God calls a man, He quickens faith in him through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, and because of it, the  man is declared, “Not guilty!” The Bible never indicates that we are saved because of our faith. It says that we are saved through faith.

Those whom he justified he also glorified. Paul uses the term “glorified” in the past tense (edoxasen). Why would he do this, when glorification, as indicated earlier in , is something in the future? Because salvation is of the Lord. This salvation is a guarantee–a sure thing. God never, ever, ever, ever goes back on his promises. He gets what he pays for, and he does it for His glory. Alone.

The doctrine of sovereign election is a comfort for believers. Too often people criticize it because they view it as arbitrary, or worse yet, fatalistic. But this is not the God of Scripture. He is the certain God who provides a certain salvation. He is the God who sets His love on His people and does so without wavering an inch. This removes all human boasting! Instead of superiority, it creates humility. Instead of pride, it creates meekness. The Golden Chain of is a rock-solid promise that Jesus saves. Glory to God, alone!

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (ESV)

7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)

8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (ESV)

10 declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (ESV)

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? (ESV)

19 We love because he first loved us. (ESV)

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (ESV)

44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (ESV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

Ephesians 2:9

not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (ESV)

8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (ESV)

Misunderstood Verses: 1 Timothy 2:4

is oftentimes used in partnership with by some to deny a definite atonement, or as it is sometimes posited, particular redemption. The verses in question are also used to try and discredit unconditional election. Here are those two verses:

  • “[God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Tim. 2:4, ESV)
  • “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (, ESV)

Usually the presupposition goes like this: “Man has a free will, and God won’t violate man’s free will; therefore, everyone has an equal opportunity to choose Jesus because God desires that every single person on the planet be saved because He isn’t willing that any of them should perish.” In other words, the Biblical plan of redemption is reduced to Jesus trying His darndest to save people, but He can’t quite do it all because of this pesky thing called “free-will,” and God doesn’t want anyone to perish, so He’s doing His best to make sure that happens.

Last time I addressed in it’s appropriate context. This time I intend to do the same with Paul’s pastoral letter to young Timothy.

But before we get into the exegetical and contextual work, I want to mention some things regarding God’s will. In a recent discussion on Facebook, someone I was dialoguing with tried to put me in a corner by saying that I don’t believe God loves everyone.  According to his view, God loves everyone and is trying very hard to save people but many refuse to choose Him. Do I believe that God loves everyone? Like a good politician, I will answer yes. And no.

Perhaps an illustration will help. I love my wife very much. I love my kids very much. But my love for them is different. I love my church, my job as a pastor, I love to write, preach, pray, read, and mow my lawn. But “love” in each of these scenarios is different based upon the context. The same is true for God. He does love the world in the sense that He created it, and by His common grace, He causes the rain to fall on the just and unjust. But His love isn’t flaky. It’s ferocious. God is love (we should note that as D.A. Carson once pointed out, Scripture never once says “God is Wrath”). But love is not god. God also hates. (See, for example: , , , , and ). God hates anything that violates His holiness (otherwise He wouldn’t be holy!). But His love and wrath are not at odds, nor is he schizophrenic. So for us to be consistent with Scripture, we have to believe that God is love, and holy, and that anything that violates this He hates.

This ties into God’s will. For many years, theologians have said that there are, in fact, different levels of God’s will in Scripture. They are “senses,” if you will (pun intended), of God’s will. I will try to be as brief as possible:

1) God’s Will of Decree. This is sometimes called God’s, “secret will.” It’s the whole, “My ways are not your ways” thing (). This is the fullness of God’s sovereignty that ordains everything to come to pass, both directly (through first causes, like creation and regeneration), and indirectly (through second causes, like sin and the burrito you ate last week). It always comes to pass and cannot be thwarted (). Do we understand this will completely? No. ( is related to this sense of God’s will).

2) God’s Will of Law. This is sometimes called God’s “preceptive will.” God’s creatures are under obligation to obey God’s laws, commands, and precepts. Though many of them do violate His Law, no one can ever violate God’s will of decree. His will of Law is the notion that God desires people to be holy as He is holy. He wants them to obey His Law because His Law is very good. Yet sinners do not always do so. In other words, it is not God’s will (of law) that you murder someone.

3) God’s Will of Disposition. As R.C. Sproul has written, “This will describes God’s attitude. It defines what is pleasing to Him. For example, God takes no delight in the death of the wicked, yet He most surely wills or decrees the death of the wicked. God’s ultimate delight is in His own holiness and righteousness. When He judges the world, He delights in the vindication of His own righteousness and justice, yet He is not gleeful in a vindictive sense toward those who receive His judgment. God is pleased when we find our pleasure in obedience. He is sorely displeased when we are disobedient.” (Essential Truths of the Christian Faith)

Given this understanding of God’s will, we should ask the question, “Does God desire to save everyone?” Take for a moment: “…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Two things are happening in this verse. First, it was God’s Will (of decree) that Jesus be murdered by “lawless men.”  Second, it was not God’s will (of law) that Jesus be murdered by these men (murder is wrong). As John Piper points out, and I’m paraphrasing, God sometimes wills that something not be His will in order to achieve His larger will, namely, the display of His glory and righteousness.* Stated another way, God desires (in one sense) and does not desire (in another sense) that this particular event (Jesus’ crucifixion) happen.

Back to the question. Yes, God desires salvation for people. He does not take [sadistic] pleasure in the death of the wicked (). But salvation is not given to all because God’s greater goal (see footnote below) is himself–namely, His glory, wisdom, power, righteousness, and holiness. (This takes the proverbial wings out of an anthropologically-centered view of Scripture that elevates man over God!)

So what is Paul getting at with Timothy? Simply put, the context of the passage starts just two verses above in : “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Who are the people in view? Kings, leaders, rulers, and the like. Who are the people in view, then, in Kings, leaders, rulers, and the like. In other words, God desires all these types of people to be saved. Don’t just pray for the low people (farmers, peasants, etc.), pray for the bigwigs, too. God wants to save them, too. The same Greek word we saw in (pas) is back here in . It refers to “all” those in the group in view. (As John Samson once pointed out, it’s like a teacher who says to her classroom, “Is everyone here?” Surely she didn’t mean everyone in the world!)

Jesus didn’t save everyone in every tribe, tongue and nation, but people from every tribe, tongue, and nation ().  Just as , in context, was about the inclusion of the Gentiles into God’s plans for salvation, so Paul points out to Timothy that Salvation is for all types of people. This is an astounding prayer given the volatile nature of the 1st Century. The rulers were pagans, and most of them lawless. But Paul says to pray for them, too.

We should pray for all people, for salvation is of the Lord ().

—-

*”Though He hates sin in itself, yet He may will to permit it, for the greater promotion of holiness in this universality, including all things, and at all times. So, though He has no inclination to a creature’s misery [He desires none perish], considered absolutely, yet He may will it, for the greater promotion of happiness in this universality.”  [Concerning the Divine Decrees, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), pp. 527-28.]

who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (ESV)

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (ESV)

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (ESV)

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (ESV)

The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers. (ESV)

The Lord tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. (ESV)

23 And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them. (ESV)

16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers. (ESV)

15 Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal;
there I began to hate them.
Because of the wickedness of their deeds
I will drive them out of my house.
I will love them no more;
all their princes are rebels. (ESV)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. (ESV)

10 declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

Isaiah 46:11

11 calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it. (ESV)

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (ESV)

23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (ESV)

23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? (ESV)

2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (ESV)

who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (ESV)

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)

who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (ESV)

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation, (ESV)

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)

But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (ESV)

Misunderstood Verses: 2 Peter 3:9

Last time we kicked off this “Misunderstood Verses” blog series with . As is the case for any verse in Scripture, we are prone to read into the text things that are simply not there, mostly based upon our presuppositions about theology. The same thing can be said about , a verse ripped out of context to somehow justify universal redemption:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (ESV)

Generally speaking, some people take this verse to mean that God is sitting around, patiently waiting for people to hurry up and choose him. After all, it is assumed, doesn’t God get what God wants? I mean, He is sovereign, right? And if He is not willing that anyone on earth should perish, then what’s the deal? At worse this is a text that, if interpreted like I just outlined, leads to universalism. (Everyone will reach repentance because God doesn’t will anyone to perish, which means that God will save everyone!). At best this becomes a misunderstood, misapplied verse somehow meaning that man is neutral with a free will, and that God’s hands are tied because they won’t exercise said free will and come to him, so God has to wait until they do so. “See, God is not willing that any should perish! They need to accept Jesus into their hearts because God is not willing!” But is that what it really means?

It might be helpful again to do some language work, and I will put the words in question in bold:

οὐ / βραδύνει / κύριος / τῆς
Not / is slow / Master / of the

ἐπαγγελίας / ὥς / τινες / βραδύτητα
promise     / as / some / slowness

ἡγοῦνται / ἀλλὰ / μακροθυμεῖ      / εἰς
consider / but  / is long tempered / to

ὑμᾶς / μὴ / βουλόμενός / τινας
you / not / planning     / some

ἀπολέσθαι / ἀλλὰ / πάντας / εἰς
to destroy / but   / all         / into

μετάνοιαν           / χωρῆσαι.
change of mind / to make room.

Before I analyze some of these words, we have to remember that context is king. Though a popular tactic, ripping a verse out of its immediate context does damage to the text and also opens the door to bad theology. The entire context of the passage is the apostle’s affirmation to his friends that the scoffers who are being misleading are wrong (). False teachers were denying that Jesus would return in judgment, and the irony is that their scoffing is evidence of the last days (). Peter goes on to assure his readers that God will in fact bring the world into judgment ().

Question: who is Peter writing to? Answer: “This is the second letter that I am writing to youbeloved…” (3:1) Wait, so there’s a first letter? Who was that written to? Answer: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion…” (). Peter is writing to the elect–to believers who are holding fast to Jesus. If you miss this, you miss the entire point of what Peter is saying in this verse. He’s writing to Christians, the “beloved” of Jesus ().

Why is this important? Because in the Greek above, you’ll see that the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise (which refers to His coming in ), but is patient towards…wait for it…you (eis hymas; “toward you”).  Who is “you”? In context, it is the beloved of 3:1. In other words, “Christ will return in judgment, don’t listen to the scoffers, and though you are suffering, remember that God is not slow, but patient. You can endure.”

The question then becomes, why? Why is God patient, or “long tempered” (makrothymei) towards the elect? Because He is not planning, or wishing, or willing that any (tinas) should perish (apolesthai, which often refers to final judgment and condemnation in Scripture), but that “all” (pantas) should reach repentance. Is Peter saying that “all” means everyone in the world without exception? The context says no. To assert that it means everyone on earth is to bring a theological presupposition to the text instead of allowing the text to speak for itself. The “all” is in conjunction with “you”.

Peter’s Christian friends have to remember that the delay in judgment is a reminder of God’s mercy and forbearance towards them (the Christians), and that the false teachers are wrong. Why does God delay his judgment? Repentance. He desires all of his elect to reach repentance. He is not willing that any of his elect perish. Jesus says the same thing in , “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” If you are a Christian reading this, aren’t you glad that Christ didn’t return in judgment against you before He brought you to Himself?

To assert that this text means that God wills everyone to repent and be saved is to commit a gross error in exegesis.

Now, before I end, I will leave a cliff-hanger. Does God desire all people to be saved? In one sense, yes. In another sense, no. My next post will deal with , “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

We will discuss the different senses of God’s “will” in Scripture, and analyze the context of the verse with the hope of bringing clarity to an often misunderstood verse.

Grace and Peace. Christ is King.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (ESV)

They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (ESV)

knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. (ESV)

But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

2 Peter 3:10

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (ESV)

1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, (ESV)

3:1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, (ESV)

They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (ESV)

39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. (ESV)

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (ESV)

Misunderstood Verses: John 3:16

I thought it would be fun to do a series of posts addressing some oftentimes misunderstood and misused verses, with the hope of giving both exegetical insight and clarity. There are a lot of assumptions about these verses, and like any part of Scripture, they are prone to be ripped out of context (eisegesis). To start this series off, I’m going to address

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)

Before we get to the context, I want to do some Greek to help make sense of the words (this is very important). This is from the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, 27th Edition with McReynolds English Interlinear. I have shortened so it appears in unison when formatted for different screens:

οὕτως  / γὰρ / ἠγάπησεν / ὁ   / θεὸς / τὸν / κόσμον
Thusly / for /   loved      / the / God / the / world

ὥστε   / τὸν / υἱὸν / τὸν / μονογενῆ / ἔδωκεν / ἵνα
so that / the / son / the / only born / he gave / that

πᾶς /   / πιστεύων     / εἰς   / αὐτὸν / μὴ
all / the / one trusting / into / him / not

ἀπόληται                    / ἀλλʼ / ἔχῃ                / ζωὴν / αἰώνιον.
might be destroyed / but  / might have / life     / eternal.

Take note (in bold and underline) the first word in the Greek: houtōs. It means “thusly” or, “in this way.” It can also mean, “therefore,” and “accordingly.” It’s a connection to what has been said before. What was said before? Jesus just had a conversation with Nicodemus and told him that he must be “born again.” Nicodemus is confused, unsure as to how he can get back into his mother’s womb. Jesus tells him that he can’t do it himself. In other words, you can’t born again yourself. Only the Spirit does it. (We call this the doctrine of regeneration). And this isn’t physical, it’s spiritual. The only way to see the kingdom of God is by being born again (), that is, born of the Spirit (). To continue the conversation, John (the writer) draws out even more implications to what Jesus said to Nicodemus by transitioning: “In this way, God loved…”

Here’s where it gets tricky. Many, many people come to the text with presuppositions. Their presupposition is often, “See, God loves the world, meaning everyone in it, and WHOSOEVER (they love to emphasize that part, though it’s not in the Greek as we shall see) believes shall be saved.” Well, that’s true, in one sense. God does have a general loving disposition towards His creation–He made it! But his love is not entirely salvific for everyone (a topic for another day). And yes, belief (faith) is what is required for salvation. But what does the context say about this verse?

1) Jesus is talking to a Jewish leader. This is important, because the word kosmos doesn’t mean every single person in the world. It has many different meanings, and the context always determines what it means. It could refer to the universe as a whole, the earth (in a metaphysical sense), the world-system (evil), the entire human race (e.g., ), humanity minus believers (), Gentiles in contrast with Jews (as is the case here), and it sometimes refers to believers only (e.g., ; also the case here).

But with regard to the author of this gospel, John, he says in his first letter, not to love the world (). But wait, doesn’t God love the world? Why would he say NOT to do what God does? And why would Jesus say in , “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world (kosmos) but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours”? I thought God loved the world? Again, context is important. The point here in is that God doesn’t just love the Jews… his work of salvation in Jesus extends to the Gentiles, too. Context, context, context.

2) Jesus is explaining His mission and how it works. After this verse, he goes on to say that he didn’t come to condemn the world (Why? Because it’s condemned in sin already!), but to bring salvation to bear on both Jews and Gentiles. The problem many have when coming to this text is trying to reconcile free will, and God’s sovereignty. Some start with a position of neutrality: “God loves everyone and it’s up to them to choose him!” Not according to this text. In fact, it says the opposite. Man is condemned in unbelief because he is a slave to sin. Yes it is man’s responsibility to repent, but he can’t even do that until he’s born again! (see context of ; cf. which confirms that regeneration precedes faith). This gives glory to God because God alone saves sinners who cannot save themselves. That’s why we call it grace. And Christ’s mission is to be a light in dark places, announcing to the world that God has become king. Don’t lose sight of the verses that come after 3:16, either.

3) pas ho pisteuōn. This little Greek phrase is often translated, “whosoever believes.” The assumed implication by some? Man is neutral, sin isn’t that extensive (he’s certainly not so depraved that he cannot help save himself!), and that people will go to hell unless they hear the gospel. It’s true (partly). People do go to hell if they do not believe in the gospel. But they do not go to hell because they do not know God. They go to hell because the reject the God they DO know! (see ). Regardless, pas doesn’t mean everyone everywhere in the world at all times. “All” simply means those people of that condition and/or group. In other words, you can translate this phrase, “all the believing ones.” (See this video for more exegesis). “The ones that believe is a good translation. Stated another way, it does not mean “all can believe,” but “everyone believing.” The word pas is modified by whatever follows. It’s not all (“every single person everywhere”), but “all who do ongoing belief“. Here’s a paraphrase:

“This is how God loves the believers: all those believers with true saving faith (belief) in Jesus will not perish but will have eternal life.”

So, who are the believing ones? Great question. The context of John is clear: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (). Who are the believing ones? The ones given to Jesus by the Father. Why won’t they be cast out? Because they  have been given to Jesus! What about those who come to Jesus, are you saying that can’t? Frankly, yes, at least not without a regenerated heart: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (). But why don’t some believe? “…but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” ().

Perhaps another verse will help: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (). The person who has continuing belief and faith in Christ has been (past tense) born of God. In other words, regeneration precedes faith

says nothing about a universal/unlimited atonement, nor does it say anything about a neutral man with a freed will capable of belief. It says nothing about those who do not believe, either. Pas modifies ho pisteuōn, meaning that the context in is about those within the realm of belief, not those outside of the realm of belief.

Perhaps an illustration will be helpful: Many imagine that Christ is standing at heaven’s door with arms-wide open and that everyone is running to him, but since he doesn’t pick (elect) everyone he turns a bunch a people away by hanging a “This place has reached maximum capacity” sign on heaven’s door. The reality is, however, Jesus is standing at heaven’s door with arms-wide open and no one is coming to him. In fact, mankind is walking in the opposite direction! Yet God in His infinite grace saves some for his good will and pleasure.

is NOT a proof-text for the former example, but an assurance of the latter. It’s a promise from God, that his love is so sure, holy, pure and righteous, that everyone believing will be secure in him and inherit his kingdom forever. Soli Deo Gloria

 

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (ESV)

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (ESV)

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. (ESV)

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. (ESV)

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (ESV)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (ESV)

I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. (ESV)

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)

3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (ESV)

5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. (ESV)

1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (ESV)

37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (ESV)

44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (ESV)

26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (ESV)

5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. (ESV)

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)

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