© Charles A. Clough 2002
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 3 – The Historical Emergence of the Church
Lesson 192 – Emergence of the Church – The Work of God the Father
28 Feb 2002
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Tonight we’re going to finish, hopefully, the chapter on the emergence of the church and we are doing that by going through the Third Person of the Trinity, not the third person in the sense of the order, but we’ve gone from the Holy Spirit’s work to the Son’s work to the Father’s work. We’re on the work of the Father, and the way to think of this Trinitarially, if I can use that as an adverb, is to think of the Father as the speaker, the Son as the message, and the Holy Spirit as the results of that message. So when you think of the works of the Father, think of these six works as causes; these are causes of the plan. Think of the six works of the Son as the content of God’s plan, and think of the work of the Holy Spirit as the results.
We talked about the works of the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts plus the intercession, the interceding ministry of the Holy Spirit. Then we went to the Son and we said He provided righteousness that’s imputed to us, He died and He rose from the dead; He provided eternal life, He does the priestly ministry, He’s the guy who is the head of the church, He is the priest who makes intercession. All these things that He does are the center of New Testament revelation. These are to, but these actually are the result of that. For example, the regeneration ministry of the Holy Spirit, there would be nothing to regenerate were it not for the existence of eternal life so eternal life actually becomes the thing that is manifested in regeneration; the Holy Spirit manifests that eternal life.
You have Christ’s intercession which takes that righteousness and continues to apply it before the throne of grace. It’s the priestly of the Lord Jesus Christ takes His cross work and the atonement for sin, and He applies it to the Christian before God. When the Father, in the throne room…, remember Satan is the accuser of the brethren, and the Lord Jesus Christ takes the result, He doesn’t re-sacrifice Himself, it is a once and for all sacrifice. This is where Protestantism and Roman Catholicism differ here in that we don’t see the Lord Jesus Christ as continuing a sacrifice in the mass, over and over and over again. What Jesus does do though is He continues to apply it to defend the legal ground of why God can carry on a personal relationship with believers.
The sixth work of the Lord Jesus Christ is that He judges. All judgment, both for unbelievers and believers, all judgment has been passed to Him because He is a peer. This is judgment by peer. The Father is not the one who judges, the Holy Spirit is not the one who judges, it’s the Son to whom all judgment has been given. That’s the Gospel of John. It’s the Son who does this because the Son can answer objections to the judgment. Example: well, God, you know it’s easy for You to sit there and judge me, You’ve never been a human being, You’ve never walked around the earth, You’ve never faced temptation, You’ve never done this, You’ve never done that. So really, while You have the power to judge me, it’s not really a fair judgment, because I’m not being judged by someone who is my peer. Well, the Lord is the peer because He is God made man. That’s what the incarnation is all about. So He becomes the one who judges.
Now we’re going through the works of the Father, and these are all in the area of causation. They are primarily things that the Father causes to come about. The means involved in these acts aren’t really in view, it’s the cause. That’s why these acts are very controversial sometimes because people forget … turn to Romans 8:28–30, these works the Father does are actually the things that cause the rest of the work. So people get fixed on these things, these words about what God the Father does, and they so concentrate on the narrow work they forget it’s the cause of something.
I want to point out, since we are dealing with cause again we want to review the basic difference between paganism and Biblical faith. We’ve seen this diagram a number of times. This chart gives the essence of the difference between the truth of divine revelation and the speculation of man in history. The truth, the record, or the deposit of truth, as theologians call it, that body of verbal revelation God has given to history, comes down and is observable in these areas throughout history. Today they’re observable in what we call fundamentalism inside Christianity. They’re observable in the Bible. That’s not say, by the way, that outside fundamentalism they’re not, it’s just that what’s happened theologically, if you know church history of the last sixty years or so, the confessions, the great historic creeds of the denominations, all the major denominations going back have very strong creeds actually. But nobody, very few, people in them adhere to them. I come out of a denomination that has a very good creed, very straight Reformed creed. You can’t find one person in the congregation that even read it, leave alone follows it so all that deposit of truth is kind of just chucked.
What we’re saying is that down through history we’ve had ancient monotheism, which was the survival of the Noahic Bible up through the time of Abraham and later on in certain isolated tribes, the book on that is Eternity in Their Hearts by Paul Richardson, then you have ancient Israel as a witness to the truth, then you have the Bible. And the essence of it is that the Creator/creature distinction is an absolute one. It’s failure to understand the Creator/creature distinction that gets all the intellectual tools screwed up on down the line. I’m going to review that again because we’re getting into foreknowledge, into predestination, and these things become big issues, and I’m convinced that half the issue isn’t an issue, it becomes an issue because we’re sloppy in how we think about them and we get in trouble.
The Creator/creature distinction is absolutely necessary to understand anything. If you are not solid on the Creator/creature distinction you cannot intellectually handle truths of foreknowledge and predestination, because what you do, we all have this tendency, is to set up some idea, whether it’s foreknowledge, predestination or election, and we think of it as though it’s something that’s true of both God and man in the same way. And it’s not! The Creator/creature distinction holds. The Creator’s sovereignty is not the same as human choice. It’s like they’re opposed to one another, they’re two different things. One is that quality of a Creator and the other is the quality of the creature. There’s correspondence between them, there are certain analogies, but there are also disanalogies. That’s why I’ve emphasized the Creator/creature distinction.
Then we come down to the last thing which is implicated tonight, and that is at the bottom, the Biblical view holds to personal responsibility. That comes about because there is a personal sovereign God over all. If there wasn’t a personal sovereign God there would be no such thing as responsibility. That’s why I always have to laugh at all the skeptics and particularly … you get some of these real arrogant intellectuals who want to attack the gospel. They’re usually found in college classrooms where they live off of the tuition of the college student’s parents and then proceed to intellectually abuse the kids while they’re in class. These guys and gals that do this do not seem to ever get it, that you can’t get human rights (that they’re always talking about) in the universe where there’s no God. You go back to the Declaration of Independence of this country, and all Americans ought to know this one, what is one of the most famous sentences in our Declaration of Independence? “All men are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights,” unalienable rights, not alienable, but unalienable.
Why do you suppose they put that sentence in there? Because if the state is the true source of rights, if the community by a 51% vote is the real source of rights, that’s an alienable right. Whoever gives the right can take it away. This is why we’re seeing our rights taken away today left and right, by the idea that the state has all power. So the state wages war against the family, the state rages war sometimes unintentionally, but it does. It’s like a 600 -pound gorilla going after a 5-pound baby. That happens because there is no discipline, there’s no higher control, there’s no ultimate responsibility.
You come over here to the unbelieving side and the Creator/creature distinction is denied. For centuries this is denied, all paganism has the feature that God, man and animals are only gradations of this being, this existence. The result of that, bottom line, is that we have an impersonal Fate or Chance that’s running the show the furthest back. I mentioned you can go to movies like 2001 where Kubrick and Clarke really knew what they were doing, and that’s why in that movie you will see the flipping of the tablet, in the front end of the film and you’ll see it at the end. In ancient mythologies they spoke of the Tablet of Destiny. Clarke knows what he’s doing, Arthur C. Clarke was a very good writer, and there you see the Tablet of Destiny flipping over and Kubrick, when he filmed it, he designed it like the classic picture we all have of the Ten Commandments. But the problem is there’s no person to write it, there’s no person there, it’s just a cold stone tablet.
That’s the problem, without God you have impersonal Fate and Chance and what that does … and this is something that we as Christians need to understand. There is an agenda going on. Don’t buy into this idea that ideas are morally neutral, that there’s no hidden agenda going on behind the scenes. There’s a hidden agenda and if you look at this diagram you can see that the agenda actually results in something very important. It produces an environment in which I can declare myself a victim; I don’t have to accept personal responsibility for what I do and where I am. On the right side of that chart what you’ve got is you’ve rendered the universe safe for sinners. That’s the agenda. So all the intellectual hoopla ultimately has a spiritual foundation of manufacturing and reinventing a view of the world, a view of the universe that keeps the sinner safe from an intervening God to whom they are responsible.
All that [is] by way of introduction, because now we go to Romans 8 and we get into the hard stuff, because this deals with causation. Romans 8 is a good place to look at it because it’s verse 28, all Christians know this, that “all things work together for good,” and we like that promise, “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Maybe as you’ve read this before you didn’t notice the verb in the last clause, but if you look at that text, and you look at that last clause, what is the verb? The verb is “called.” Notice the tense, it says “those who are the called,” if you have a passive voice, and a past tense in a passive voice, the subject receives the action. The subject of the verb in the last clause is receiving the action. So it says that “those who are called according to His purpose.”
It’s that clause that leads Paul into the next two verses by way of explanation. Paul likes to do this. If you sometime want to see how it works, you can get a grasp of how Paul’s mind works by taking a big sheet of paper and start diagramming one of his sentences. You’ll see that he flits. He’ll start out and plop some big idea out there, and then he comes back in and he starts going through all the ifs and qualifications, etc., and he backs it up. Here’s a case where he does that. See where he sets up that clause, the first part of the clause we like, “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God.” But then he qualifies those to whom “all things work together for good.” All things do not work together for good to all men; this is not a universalist verse. It’s a verse that is limited to a subset of the human race, and it says “all things work together for good to those … who have been called,” or “who are called according to His purpose.” The action of the verb falls back on the subject, and the subject of this action are “those who are called.” So “those who (understood) are called,” this is the verb, it’s passive, and the action goes back to the subject, “those who have been called.” Then he qualifies the calling, the calling is not a chance thing; the calling is not something that involves human agency here. The calling is “according to His purpose.” “Who are called according to His purpose,” it doesn’t say according to their purpose. It doesn’t say according to the committee’s purpose. It doesn’t say God and His consultants; it says “His purpose.” The pronoun “His,” is it singular or plural? Singular, God’s purpose, no one else’s purpose, it is God’s purpose alone, His final purpose.
So he’s made some assertions here that really make us start to think and that’s why in verse 29-30 he now expands that. What is His purpose? We are “called according to His purpose,” but tell us more about the purpose Paul. So he does, in verse 29 he starts out with “For,” to explain what’s going to happen. Let me explain it, he says. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated,” the first clause, “whom He foreknew,” foreknowing is active voice but the “whom” is a pronoun in the accusative, it’s not who, it’s “whom He foreknew.” And of course this is an accusative or an objective tense so the verb again is acting on the direct object of the verb, “He foreknows,” “whom He foreknew.” He foreknows whom? Again notice the direction of the action of these verbs. We want to keep watching the verbs and their voice and how they point. “Whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren,  and whom He predestined,” again the accusative pronoun, “whom He predestined, these He also called,” again it’s the accusative, it receives the action of the calling, “and whom” again “whom” is the relative pronoun, “whom He called,” so again object of the verb “call,” “He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
So we have five actions listed here in this text: foreknowing, predestinating, calling, justifying and glorifying. You’ll notice that they all hang together, all these divine actions; a lot of people are foreknown and then only some of those are predestinated, that’s not the way the grammar reads. The sentence says… a silly mathematical example, if five people are foreknown, how many people are predestined? Five, five, five, and five. Five are foreknown, five are predestined, five are called, five are justified, and five are glorified. It’s not like there’s five foreknown and four predestined, and three called and two justified and one glorified. The grammar doesn’t permit that. All these actions are part of the same salvation package.
When we start to discuss these, and the first discussion hangs on this verb “foreknow,” here’s a question to think about. Based on the grammar of verses 29–30, is it proper or not to say that foreknowing is the same as omniscience? No, it’s not right, because omniscience - God knows all things - that’s a label for a divine attribute: God knows all things. But foreknowing can’t be a synonym of omniscience because He’s saying here that those whom He foreknows He justifies, and we know He doesn’t justify everyone. Furthermore, this is only talking about people; it’s not talking about dogs, cats, rocks, the planets. Those are objects of His omniscience, but as far as Paul using the verb foreknowing those are not objects of His foreknowing.
So foreknowing is not a synonym of omniscience. Foreknowing is something else, something more restricted than just God’s omniscience. And it appears to be, from the sentence structure, that it is a knowledge in eternity past of the elect or the saved people, that in this case, (we’ll get into predestination and destiny in a minute but right now) foreknowing, wrapped up in its very meaning implies that God has already focused, He’s already focused on a subset of the overall human race. Why He focused on that subset, that’s the debate. Is it because, as some people would say, is it because in eternity past He looked down the corridors of time and I know… and I’ve used this illustration myself, and as I’ve got into the text I realized that I probably shouldn’t have used this. You’ll hear some people say foreknowing is God looking down the corridors of time and seeing if someone is going to believe or not, and those whom He sees that are going to believe He foreknows. That sounds good and many times people have a good motivation in using that, what they’re trying to do is get the reality of choice in there. The problem with that is, if you turn to Matthew 11, it quickly runs into a buzz saw when you get looking at the text.
Matthew 11:20, The Lord Jesus is reproaching certain Jewish cities who heard Him and who rejected Him. And He makes a stunning statement. Verse 20, “Then He began to reproach the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.” Notice, first of all, are these people ignorant of revelation? No, because verse 20 says they’ve been faced with the revelation. Here’s the Lord Himself, the living Word of God, who has gone into these cities, shown His life clearly. Are we going to say that well, they really didn’t see because it wasn’t clear? Are we going to say that the Lord Jesus was so sloppy, ineffective and confused in His life style that it wasn’t a clear revelation? Surely not. The Lord Jesus was a clear revelation. The problem here is if somebody is complaining that they don’t see the light, and there’s a bulb here and you can’t see the light, that’s not an indictment of the bulb. [can’t understand phrase] So He’s rebuking these people because He had done the miracles, He had revealed Himself, and they didn’t repent, they didn’t respond.
So now He says “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred” now look at this, look at this sentence, “if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented,” let’s stop and think about that. If the revelation that had come in New Testament times to Chorazin and Bethsaida had come in the Old Testament to Tyre and Sidon, who by the way were the capital cities of what culture? Phoenicians. And do you know who the Phoenicians historically are related to, genealogically? The Canaanites.
The Canaanites were a white degenerate race in Palestine. The Phoenicians were people that were their kin. In fact they also went into another place in the Mediterranean which is very famous in world history, a place called Carthage. And it’s very interesting; everywhere this group went they spread this religious pollution all over the place. What Jesus is saying, you know, you Jews, historically you were against the Canaanites, you thought you were so much better than they were; let me tell you something. Jesus said I walked around here and I’ve done miracles for you, I’ve healed your sick, I’ve told you the gospel, I’ve given all the revelation that you possibly could want, you Jews, and I had done the same thing back to those people who are related to the Canaanites, Hamites, they would have repented. That’s what He’s saying.
There’s some awful hard-hitting stinging remarks to this, that are absolutely insulting to a Jew who knows his history, to be compared to Tyre and Sidon, the cities of debauchery, and Jesus said yeah, they would have repented had they been here. What does this imply? This implies, it seems to me, that God controls the amount of revelation given to all men, everywhere, at all points in history. And to some men He gives more revelation and to some men He gives less. Isn’t He saying here in verse 21 that Chorazin and Bethsaida had more revelation than Tyre and Sidon? I think so. So if God gives a variable amount of revelation to different people at different times in different places, and He knows in advance …, I mean, He’s our creator. He knows, for example in Tyre and Sidon, here are all the people in Tyre and Sidon, what the Lord Jesus is saying is had these people received the revelation I just gave Chorazin and Bethsaida, these people would have believed. Whoa! That means that God did not give sufficient revelation, I mean they had sufficient revelation to be condemned because the issue is clear; all God’s saying is I could have made them repent if I gave them more revelation, but I didn’t do that, it’s not in My plan. So who controls the shots!
That’s the problem with saying God foresees responses—the responses to a set of circumstances that God Himself controls. The idea here is that Matthew 11:21-22 give a problem. By the way, this is a text that’s centuries old, I mean it’s centuries old because it’s in the New Testament, but it’s centuries old in the discussion of this, it’s not something Charles Clough thought about last night when I had to do the notes. This has been a subject of discussion going back prior to the Reformation, Matthew 11, this passage and the Reformers thought long and hard about this because this is one of the passages that they had to cope with.
We want to come back to the notes and look at this foreknowledge thing, and while we’re going back to Romans 8 go to 1 Peter 1:1–2 because here the word “foreknowledge” occurs again. Look at the last clause of verse 1 and the first clause of verse 2. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens [or foreigners] scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen,” notice passive voice again, they “are chosen  according to the foreknowledge of God.” That’s another example showing how the text, the New Testament text tends, when it describes the work of God and His calling, and His purposes, it tends to use this word foreknowledge, however we define it, to be that which can be conceived as the first thing He does, He foreknows. And it’s His choice because He has set up history this way.
Maybe another example that might help us think through this. Forget about salvation for a minute. Let’s just talk about Satan and the angels, forget about man. God created Satan; we have to say that, right? When God chose to create Satan did God know that Satan would fall? Sure He did. And He chose to create the other angels who would fall, He created angels who didn’t fall, He chose to create the story. That’s why I said I think to me one of the most helpful mental exercises to do get a handle on some of this is to think of yourself if you were an author of a story. C. S. Lewis uses this. Think of it, if you were the author of a story, when you write your story would your characters that you write about, would they have character and choice? Would they respond? Would they do this? Sure they would, you would create them with choice because that’s what those characters would do. And you’d create a story and a plot and maybe it’s a suspense novel or something, whatever kind of story turns you on, but you’re writing your story and you’d have this character and that character, this character and that character, and they’d be all genuine people interacting. But you’re writing the story. They are doing what you want them to do because they’re your characters in your story. That’s the way to look upon history. This cosmos that we’re in, we’re His story. He’s the author. He writes, He puts us into existence with choice. We’ll come to the choice thing in a little bit, but we’re responsible. He judges us.
So we have responsibility, but the whole thing, all the revelation here and the non-revelation here, and the angels here and Satan here, man here and Jesus there, all that together is a story that He chose to write. And nobody twisted His arm and said, “God, you’ve got to write the story that way.” He chose freely to write the story. We often don’t like that because we’re afraid that that makes God the author of sin, but it doesn’t. If you don’t hold to the fact that God is the ultimate author then you’ve got to do something else. If you do not hold that God is absolutely sovereign, then you’ve got to ascribe sovereignty to something else and to what do you ascribe it? Chance?
If God isn’t sovereign over all, He cannot be sovereign at all, because by definition sovereignty is over all things. We can debate the linkages that go on here, and this is why I tried to show why certain things we don’t believe the Reformers finished saying correctly or saying clearly. And one of those things, remember we were talking about the atonement and classical Reformed theology holds to a limited atonement and we said why? Well, they’re concerned with not making the work of Christ go to waste. We can appreciate why they say that. But the weakness is that there are texts in here, like 1 John 2:2, that show that Jesus Christ is the propitiation for the whole world, and it’s kind of artificial to try to ram it and cram it and jam that text. We said back then that one way of viewing this God as sovereign over good and evil is to look at it as a triangle. And God’s sovereignty over the good is much more direct than God’s sovereignty over evil. We coined the term then, when we spoke of that, as God’s sovereignty is asymmetrical, i.e. He’s not sovereign over good in the same way He’s sovereign over evil. How to explain that, we don’t know; all we know is that He’s not the author of evil. Yet He control evil; He created the universe with an evil component in the story, it’s His choice to do that.
People can say, and I want to chase a thought here too, because I’m trying to show you that all of Christian theology hangs together, all these parts. When you start working with one part, and you get fixed on that one part, the relief that you should do is back off and go to some of the other parts and think this through. Let me show you how to do that. Here’s an example: we’re talking here about God as sovereign, and He’s sovereign over evil, and He created a universe deliberately, by a free act of His choice, He created a story that has an evil subplot in it. And we’re saying, and we can have an image in our heads, and people have had this image in their heads when they’ve talked this way, that God is so powerful He does this in an unfeeling way, totally detached, way up at the higher echelons of the universe, and unsympathetic with a suffering and passion that is involved. How do we know that’s an incorrect image of God? Because of the Second Person. Whatever evil God brings into existence in His story, who is it that gets stuck in the middle of it? He does. So the incarnation, this why you see, we say, oh gosh, why has Christianity got the Trinity and the incarnation and all these hard things? Because that’s the way God is. But they’re there for a reason that protects all the other truths.
When we say God deliberately created a story with evil in it, but He put Himself at the center to experience that evil. He’s not like Allah; Allah doesn’t get dirt under his fingernails. The God of the Bible does; the god of post-biblical Judaism stays aloof, He doesn’t get down here down and dirty but in Christianity God does get down and dirty. And that’s what the incarnation is all about. So the incarnation, by going from the sovereignty thing over to the incarnation and back again, it sort of balances your soul a little bit here; it keeps this in perspective, that God is not doing this like He’s totally detached and insulated, doesn’t sweat it. No, He got right in the center of this thing. Why did He do that? We don’t know why He did that, we just know that He did it. And maybe someday He’ll share. Gee, you know, I had five different stories I was thinking about and I chose this one, it was good for the publisher. Maybe He had a reason, maybe He’ll share that with us, but right now we have the words of Paul, of Him, through Him and to Him are all things.
In this passage we’re studying, in Romans 8, he says we are “the called according to His purpose,” only one singular pronoun. How He does that we do not know all the details. We do know that we can make certain statements at the boundaries of this problem. We know He isn’t responsible for evil. But while we’re saying He’s not responsible for evil, we have to say that He’s sovereign over evil, because otherwise evil is unleashed as an uncontrolled power over which we would never have victory. God has to be sovereign over evil. That’s the good news of verse 28, that’s why “all things,” all things “work together for good.” They wouldn’t work together if God weren’t sovereign over the whole story; otherwise the promise has absolutely no validity, it’d be just a guess, He does the best He can do. We have theologians, we even have some evangelicals now talking about open theology, where God doesn’t really know the future, He sort of sits there and wonders what we’re going to do. What a sorry God that is, He’s going to take His cue from you and me? Hello! The God of the Scripture doesn’t take His cue from you, me or anyone else. He is a self-contained God who would have been perfectly at home without even creating us to start with, so let’s get perspective. He doesn’t need us around. He has created history to go this way and that’s the way it is, period.
Having said that, let’s see if we can get some content to His work. Go back to these five nouns: foreknowledge, predestination, calling and justification. Foreknowing we can define not as omniscience, but as His focused knowledge upon those who in eternity will be the saved people, the body of the saved, and in particular this is talking about the church here. We’re not talking about Israel; the context here is the church. Then we talk about predestination. In the previous verse, if you back up to verse 29, you get more of a flavor that hints at the content of predestination. Notice what it says, He “predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son.”
A couple of comments: the word “predestinate” is not the same as the word “foreknow.” If it were, two different words wouldn’t be used. Two different words are used because they mean two different things. Predestination emphasizes the future destiny, the fact that God has a plan. Jesus Christ is the plan, by the way, notice, “predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son.” The word “predestinate” doesn’t apply to those who reject Jesus Christ. Down through history we’ve talked about some of the people, some extremes in the Reformed movement have talked about double predestination. What they’re trying to say is God is sovereign over evil, like the chart I had about asymmetry, but I prefer asymmetry, and I’ll tell you why? Because I can’t find any place in the Scripture where the word “predestinate” is applied to the unsaved. It doesn’t apply; it is used with a certain flavor, and the flavor has to do with Jesus Christ. It’s as though God says, “I set forward a universe that I want conformed to My Son, that plan, that design of eternity future.” That’s what I mean when I say I “predestinate.”
That’s why in a verse like verse 29 “that He might be the first-born among many brethren,” the Lord Jesus. See, the Lord Jesus is the center of the predestination. It’s not just individuals that are saved, the flavor of the word doesn’t have that; the flavor of the word centers on Christ, Jesus Christ. That’s why in Ephesians 1, that great long passage of Paul, it occurs that way.
Let’s go on to the third action of the Father, He calls. There are many different uses of the word “call” but in Romans 8:29 clearly the usage of this “call” is the call to salvation, because in foreknowing He foreknows us before we’re born, by the way, Jeremiah uses that too, foreknowing. He predestinates us in that He has a destiny in the person of the God-man Savior. Next He calls, so that’s the point in history when He calls us to believe, He calls us to decide for the gospel. And it is a decision, but He’s calling us to that decision, it’s not something we crank out ourselves.
If you want an example of this, again for the mind’s eye, for the imagination, here’s a good example to think about. Think about if you were there in the garden after the fall, and you kind of looked under the bushes and there’s Adam and Eve. Who spoke first? God, or Adam and Eve? God did. So who called? Did Adam and Eve call for God, or did God call for Adam and Eve? God called for Adam and Eve. So with who, then, lies the initiative in calling people to salvation? God does. You can see this in your own life. I’ll bet most of the people in this room could think back to how you became a Christian, and I think you could narrate if you had to write a 2–3 page story about it, you could probably narrate events that happened in your life prior to the time…
[blank spot] … believed, and it wasn’t just a flash of lightening that happened one day, it was the result of a sequence of things that were going on in your life that led up to that point. This is why, when it comes to evangelism, there’s a practical application here for this. This is why when the Word of God is taught we have to be careful that in our zeal to win people to Jesus Christ that we don’t create peer pressure, we don’t put out guilt trips, we don’t manipulate trying to get decisions for Christ because when we do that, we get decisions all right, but are they the “call” of God? See, the calling has to be synchronized with the calling of God, and you talk to one hundred people, say an evangelist is sitting here and he’s talking to one hundred unsaved people, is God working the same way in all those one hundred people? Are all those one hundred people at the same stage of calling? No.
So why the pressure to “everybody come on down front.” Maybe it’s not time for everybody to come on down front. So you’ve got Joe here and it is Joe’s time, this message cut to his heart and he’s clear to believe, he knows that’s right. So Joe comes down, let’s say we have a call, Joe comes down to the front. Well, Joe came to the meeting with Bob, his friend. Now Bob is sitting there thinking gee whiz, I look kind of unspiritual because Joe went forward, so Bob comes forward, but it’s not his time to believe and he can’t really believe because his heart hasn’t been opened yet. It may be, maybe one day next week, or next month, but this is not the time for that. And that’s the problem with mass evangelism sometimes. I’m not knocking Billy Graham here, Billy Graham is a great evangelist, and if any of us live up to a tenth of our gift the way he does we’ll be doing great.
I’m just saying you have to be careful, and you have to not be discouraged when you may be sitting there witnessing to someone and think oh, gosh, I’ve gone through the gospel with this person, what is the problem here, I mean, they can practically repeat the gospel back to me and they still don’t believe it. That’s right. Because no one can believe unless God calls. Now He calls us to witness and put the message and the content out there, but there’s a time when it’s going to happen. That is true of kids in homes. Parents will grieve over kids, when is this kid going to believe, make my behavior pattern in this home a little bit better God, and you sit there as a parent and you’re helpless to do that; you do everything you can but ultimately it’s not in your power. You can’t make anyone believe, and no evangelist can and no pastor can. All the manipulation in the world is just going to produce a religious movement, but it’s not genuine conversion, born again. That’s going to be God-called.
That’s the warning here. This is a work, God causes this; He calls. He may use the doggonedest things to call people to salvation. We could go into some odd things; people have been led to Christ in the most irreligious unreligious totally separate stuff that God has used, because He’s sovereign over all things. Every rule that you have for good evangelism is violated one way or another and you can always cite a hundred people that have been led to the Lord in the screwiest ways. Chuck Colson, in his book, The Body, gives the illustration of a famous Russian Christian woman poet and she became a Christian sitting in a classroom in some Soviet city in the middle of a snow storm. She had nobody to witness to her, and she sat there as a young girl in that classroom, and the point was that the professors were all Soviets, you know, in those days they were all the government school system, knock faith, keep them all atheists, so they would always be against God. Of course as a little girl she went hmm, they’re all against God, there must be something to that, why be all upset about God. This is where evil always outdoes itself; it always overdoes itself, so it’s kind of nice to watch the rebellious in the good direction. So this little girl is sitting there wondering to herself, “What is the problem with this guy?” and she looked out the window and it was snowing, snowflakes were coming down. And God used the snowflake coming down out that window to lead that girl to Christ because she saw the snowflakes and… this guy is nuts, my teacher is crazy, every one of those snowflakes has a design to it, she was a smart girl. Her gospel content we wouldn’t even recognize it. How did the Holy Spirit win her to Christ? She didn’t have The Four Laws, she didn’t have a tract, she didn’t even have the New Testament to read. How did she become a Christian? I don’t know.
It’s not an excuse to be sloppy in a gospel presentation, but you go back down through church history, there are thousands of people that became Christians, and you wonder, “How on earth did that ever happen?” They didn’t even have one tenth the gospel knowledge that we have. God still led them to Christ. That’s not an excuse for being sloppy in evangelism. I’m just saying when God wants to call someone to Himself, He can do it.
So we have God’s calling and that’s the time when He brings all kinds of circumstances in and it may be a process. By the way, when Paul uses the word “call” and he thinks of this particular call, do you suppose He had his own personal experience in mind? I’ll bet he did; I bet when he used this word “call” he thought of himself, and he thought what a tyrant I was, I murdered people in the name of religion. And I was going along that Damascus Road, and He called me, I wasn’t looking for… was Paul looking for Jesus on the Damascus Road? No, he wasn’t looking for Jesus, Jesus was looking for him, and Jesus called him, Jesus initiated that conversation, just like He initiated the conversation in the Garden of Eden.
We come to the fourth one, justification. We’ve gone over this a number of times so we spend a lot of time here. Justification is God the Father decreeing us to be righteous with Christ’s righteousness credited to our account. It is a once and for all thing. It refers to something in time, not eternity; foreknowing and predestinating are in eternity, calling is in time, justification is in time, and glorification is in time. And glorification is as I say, on page 83, glorification can be thought to include (you get this by a concordance study of “glorify” when it occurs) regeneration. Glorification can include regeneration. It can also include resurrection so you could say God glorifies us at one point and He glorifies again in resurrection. But it has to do with the work that the Holy Spirit does. This is another instance where, when we drew the relationship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, glorification is one of these works that explains all this work down here. When God made the decision to glorify us, that included all this work down here of the Holy Spirit. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit all work together in this thing.
We go to child rearing [in] Hebrews 12:5–6. This is the sixth work that God does and that is He chastens. It’s a nasty word in the Hebrew, it’s pretty strong, it’s not just He yells at us or something, this means corporeal punishment as well as other kinds of punishments; He chastens. It says, “and have you forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,” Hebrews 12:5-6 is a citation, if you have a study Bible look in the margin and you’ll see where it comes from. It comes from Proverbs; Proverbs is full of instructions to parents in child-rearing and this is one of those passages directed at parents in the Old Testament. “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him;  For those whom the Lord Loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” The analogy is with a Jewish dad and a Jewish son, so God does to believers and this scourge means corporeal punishment here.
I find this amazing in our day. Just think of it, what would God have done with the social workers? I mean, they would be in the house; they’d take the kids all out of the house, because we have a group of women in charge of social work who couldn’t get a master’s degree in anything else so they chose sociology—one of the easiest degrees to get—and wound up in this work of social work. So now they invade people’s homes and take away kids. I’m not saying all of it is not justified; there are cases, of course, where this is necessary. But what’s happening today is because we have non-Christian fools who are in the legal area who define what is acceptable child-rearing. That’s the problem. So the mechanism that we have to protect children against abuse now gets turned against Christian parents.
I know Christian parents who won’t discipline their kid out in public because they’re afraid there’s a social worker around, and they are probably right. Do it at home, behind closed doors, because some of these people are just looking for trouble; they probably are people who are maladjusted and never got disciplined properly themselves, so they resent any kind of authority. This is endemic to the sociology departments. If you go on a college campus, do you know where all the queers are? They’re in sociology and art and psychology. People with brains are over in the math department, pre-med courses or something that requires a little intellect. Yet these are the people going around out society telling us how to raise kids. And here’s an example of it.
This verse would be unacceptable in the eyes of these people. See what’s wrong? They don’t know child abuse if it came up and stared them in the face, because abuse has to be defined in terms of an acceptable standard of behavior. You can’t define abuse unless you have a standard to define it with, and if you don’t have the standard, you can’t define what abuse is. So here’s an example of a standard. God’s character is a standard and He scourges His sons. Why does He do that? He scourges us because we are fallen, miserable, Adamic creatures. I used to have a professor of church history and he was an old stubborn Yankee from Maine, and he’d get up there with his nasal talk, and he’d say “you have to beat Adam out of them,” and he wasn’t talking about beating children, but he was just making a point that children come not as innocent people.
See, this is the other misconception. Sociology today holds to what they call the tabula rasa view, that you come with a blank slate. That’s what that means. It’s actually a doctrine of empiricism. And they hold that the kid in kindergarten and so on, is a blank slate, he’s like open clay, he can be manipulated both ways. In fact, if you want to read this, the justification for all this is a great book called The Messianic Character of American Education by Rousas John Rushdoony. He has a chapter in there on all the people at the turn of the century that set up this framework of thinking, and he actually quotes one of them to show you that these people know what they were doing. Do you know what the name for the kindergarten was when they first started it? The new Eden. That tells you about their theology. Thirty brats in a room is not the new Eden.
The point is that God disciplines children and He sometimes does it very severely, and that is a work of the Father. That’s why, when it says God disciplines kids, what He’s doing here is He’s activating the Holy Spirit. Remember we said the Holy Spirit is making intercession for us. When God says I want chastening, it doesn’t mean He enjoys chastening, He says that these believers need to get shaped up. I mean, they’re going to be living in My presence forever, I don’t want brats around the new heavens and the new earth so we’ve got to teach them something. This chastening is the basis of this thing going on down here with the Holy Spirit, that Rom. 8 passage where the Holy Spirit is making intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. He’s seeing things that need to be changed. Okay, time for change on this one.
These are the works of the Father and on page 84 I made an attempt to give you an idea of how these are all interrelated, each one is interrelated to the others, you can’t really separate them. I’ve tried to separate them just for teaching purposes, but they are all part of the salvation package and they can’t be separated out. We’re going to move from the church becoming its own thing to what’s happened from Pentecost to now, what has the Holy Spirit been doing in church history? Why do we have twenty centuries going on? What’s happening? We want to go through that.
Question asked about calling or nudging, is the calling sort of an on-going thing … : Clough replies: That’s a good question, the question is is calling a one point thing or is it a cluster of different things. I think you have to argue it’s a cluster of different things because, to keep it simple, just think in terms of Paul’s life. Here’s the guy that authored the text we just looked at. So what you do when you get into this pretty hairy stuff, and Paul is known for this, I find it useful to look first at the context of the verse and what he’s talking about, and then you expand over to his other writings before you go visit John or Matthew or Luke, you look at the rest of Paul’s writings, kind of an expanded context. And one of the things that sometimes is not taught too well in Bible study is that you also want to go- not just to the context of his writings, which you do want to do, but you also want to go to the context of his personal life as far as we know that personal life from the Scripture.
In Paul’s case, the way Luke wrote Acts, because Luke was Paul’s traveling companion, tells you that Luke is telling us things about Paul. A neat place where this happens is—remember that passage we went into with Stephen, the speech of Stephen where Stephen got killed? Notice how that chapter ended, and Stephen’s clothes were tossed at the feet of Saul. So that little act occurred weeks before the Damascus Road. The Damascus Road thing was over here, this was over here, but you can kind of tell from the way Luke puts it together that the Holy Spirit was drawing him. The Holy Spirit was drawing Him through these different things. And I’ll be you that if we had Paul here and interviewed him, Larry King would be doing it, but if Paul were here then he would probably tell us about the guilt he might have felt after he murdered Christians. Think of it, when he imprisoned Christians he must have encountered godly people, and it must have haunted them that as he persecuted these people there was something in their lives that attracted him and he saw it. Stephen, of course, is one of the examples, but there were others. There are dozens if not hundreds of people that Paul must have come in contact with. So even though he might not have come in contact with Jesus personally or known of Him, Paul had enough contact with enough little points of that calling, so I think we have to say yeah, calling is a cluster, it’s the whole set of things.
Probably you could argue that it goes all the way back to your birth and then all the way back to how your parents … you know, this is God’s sovereignty, and how He molded your parents so you had a mom and a dad with this particular character and these particular faults, etc. and that worked together for this way and that set you up in that direction. You can just keep on going, going, going, and going because God is so sovereign.
Question asked: Clough replies: That’s another good question, what about the calling and the response to the calling? Here is where you have to keep categories clear. When God is calling someone, and I’m going to use the word “calling” in a broader sense that what we saw tonight; tonight we use the verb “call” there, He’s there talking about the calling that results in salvation, so that’s one kind of call. There are other kinds of call, we have the call to… and this is a point of history, just a side note, but how often have you heard the word “vocation?” Somebody’s vocation is a craftsman, or it may be a designer, or it may be an engineer. We talk about a vocation. Did you ever think of where the word came from? Do you know a little bit about Latin? Do you know what the root of that word “vocation” is? voca, vocare, calling, and do you know where that came from? Christian theology.
Do you know where that came about? It was in the Protestant Reformation. Do you know why it came about? Because in the Protestant Reformation the discovery was that God called people to not just the priesthood, He called people not just to the monastery, but He called people into the crafts. He called people to be students. All of a sudden people … wait a minute, I can follow the Lord in all kinds of professions and my calling over here is just as legitimate as the call to be a priest over there. Okay, end of that diversion. There I’m talking in the sense of calling to what we call a secular skill or your life’s career. There’s an example of calling. Is it divine? Yeah, I think it is. I think God invests people. Think about the gift He’s given the artists and the musicians. Where do these guys get their music from? So that’s calling; that’s calling!
But now what you’re asking about is okay, here’s Mr. X, Mr. X is going down through history and there impinges upon Mr. X these situations that occur, that precipitate him to think hmm, gee, I’m responsible to God, I’m eternally responsible to God, and gee, I have a destiny, I’d better check out things and make sure everything is cool to go. Or, you know, if I trust God with my life He might do things in my life, if he’s a single guy, we used to laugh when I was in Campus Crusade on the college campus, we were joking about how you get all these other thoughts in your head if you trust the Lord with your life, and these guys were saying yeah, if I trust God with my life He’ll make me go to Africa and marry Mrs. Ugly. It’s funny but it’s a fear that if you really trust the Lord, you’re giving Him permission to do things and you don’t really trusting Him to do that. That’s calling, and that’s the kind of psychology that goes along with that often times. It’s fearing to let Him have His way.
The problem then becomes, we don’t know Mr. X’s final destiny, see that’s the problem, so we’re not up here on the level the Creator is, so we can’t tell if everything’s going to turn out all right or not because it’s possible, as Jesus said in His use of another meaning to the call, “many are called but few are chosen.” There He’s using the word “call” different from choice. There’s He’s talking about many people are called but few are chosen. And what He means there, He was referring to this generation of idiots that He’s talking about in Chorazin and Bethsaida, and He was basically saying you know …, Chorazin and Bethsaida are an example tonight, there was a calling but not for salvation because they didn’t respond. So God called and nothing happened, and God got mad. Jesus is God, and God’s saying what is the problem here, and that shows you something about God. He’s not this cold calculating super computer of hyper-Calvinism that just kind of puts everybody down. Jesus is emotionally involved with these people and He’s angry that after everything He’s done for them they don’t respond to Him.
How you can picture God who’s sovereign over all and omnipotent getting mad at His own choices in the story … but this all plays in the role in this thing. It’s like Francis Schaeffer used to say, when you find Jesus crying outside the tomb of Lazarus, Schaeffer says the only thing you can say is Jesus could get angry at death without getting angry at Himself. I think is a very succinct statement; Jesus can get angry at the results of sin without getting angry at Himself for choosing history to include that. How that fits I don’t know.
To get back to the question that was raised, yes, it is possible for people to have been called and they turn away, and there are numerous biblical examples of that. Saul was one of them, King Saul. When God gave Him everything, He gave him a dynasty, but Saul was one of these kind of guys who, when it finally came down to crunch time, it was more important for Saul about what other people thought about him than what God thought about him. My son sent me something, some guys were talking about the witch of Endor and whether Samuel appeared to the witch of Endor, the séance, whether that was a real thing or whether that was a demon impersonating Samuel. To make a long story short, we were discussing Saul and it made me reread 1 Samuel 28, and in the first part of 1 Samuel 28 it says very explicitly Saul had destroyed all the witches and all the mediums from the culture of Israel. So this witch of Endor, she’s the only one left.
But it says that he did that for the community’s sake. It looked like, if you and I were there, boy, this is great, he’s cleaning up around here; yet in his personal life when it came crunch time, about gee, what am I going to do with this battle, the Philistines are coming here, I think I’ve got one more saved over here that I can go check, because he got made that God wasn’t talking to him anymore. Interesting in 1 Samuel 28, you know I can go to the priest and God doesn’t speak thru the priest to me any more; okay, God, if you’re not going to talk to me, I’m going to get my private little witch and she’ll tell me what’s going on. So that’s what he did. In that case Saul had light, he had more light, he had more light, he had more light, and gee, Saul, don’t you hear the bells, what’s the matter. Okay Saul, fine, you have your turn.
So yes, that can happen, but for those in the story whom God has foreknown, according to this passage, somehow the call will be successful, yet not so as to destroy any choice. God doesn’t reach down and destroy our chooser, but He enables it. Luther had a way of putting this. Luther said, I forget exactly, he said that God creates every one of us with the capacity to choose Him but it lies dormant until the Holy Spirit calls it. It’s like it’s a receiver, it’s there but it has to be hit with a signal and that’s the Holy Spirit calling.
Clough asks someone to tell the people the text your father-in-law was preaching when you became a Christian, of all the unevangelistic texts. [can’t hear response] If you were an evangelist would you pick out Exodus for your evangelistic text? I don’t think so. But God used that, and He used the snowflake for the Russian poet, He used the Exodus, see, there are a thousand ways He does this.
Someone says their child prayed for himself apart from himself for his salvation: Clough replies: That’s fascinating. And I guess that’s the fascinating thing about parenting, there are lots of fascinating things about it but the fascinating thing about it is watching the Lord work with your kids and seeing how He does things in a most unpredictable way.
Next week we’ll start church history.