Calvinism 3 - To Will and to Do
051-00761 Philippians 2:12-13
I. That’s not fair!!!
A. Anyone who has lived or worked with children know this mantra well.
1. He got some and I didn’t. That’s not fair.
2. She gets to go but I have to stay home and do chores. That’s not fair.
3. His is green and mine is white. That’s not fair.
B. But it’s not only children who cry unfair. They have only learned from we adults who cry out as well.
1. Often labor disputes are phrased in terms of Unfair Labor practices.
2. Those who want taxes to increase more for the wealthy than for the middle class or poor whine about fairness. Evidently it is fair to tax different earnings at different rates.
3. When the state has to reduce spending every group that might see cuts coming their way moan That’s not fair.
C. However, nowhere do I hear the complaint more than from those who do not like the Christian doctrine of election.
1. The most basic complaint is that it is not fair for some people to be saved and not others.
2. With a little more sophistication, it is said that it is not fair for God to offer salvation to the whole world if the whole world cannot be saved.
3. Then, the most controversial argument of them all states that it is not fair for some to be saved and some not to be saved without individuals having the choice to be saved or not.
4. Now I understand these feelings of unfairness, but let’s take a moment to understand what is really behind them.
D. There are three primary synonyms that often get confused in regard to fairness: fair, just, and equitable. (Webster’s)
1. Fair implies an elimination of one’s own feelings, prejudices, and desires so as to achieve a proper balance of conflicting interests <a fair decision>.
2. Just implies an exact following of a standard of what is right and proper 〈a just settlement of territorial claims〉.
3. Equitable implies a less rigorous standard than just and usually suggests equal treatment of all concerned <the equitable distribution of the property>.
a) We must be careful not to mix up the use of these words for in common speech people want to speak of justice, but they call it fairness and they want to say equitable but use the word just.
b) If the three words are kept appropriately separated, then we will notice an important distinction between them.
(1) Equitable must begin with the presumption of equality among the parties. Hopefully, I was able to show you last week that such an ideal is patently false, at least when it comes to human beings.
(2) Fair suggests that it is possible for one to set aside their own feelings, prejudices, and desires to find a proper balance between conflicting interests. Yet there is no method of determining what is a proper balance, which is why all parties in a dispute cry unfair.
(3) Justice, though, demands a standard and the exact following of that standard.
(a) So, in baseball, if the catcher drops a ball on a third called strike, the established standard is that the batter may run to first base and try to make it before the catcher can throw the ball to the first baseman.
(b) That’s an easy one because there are specific rules written for playing baseball and you either follow the rules or you do not.
(c) But what about when the rules don’t seem so clear?
4. When it comes to fair and equitable, the standard is often tangled up in personal interpretations so the standard is generally unknown and constantly shifting. What was a good standard yesterday may not seem like a good standard to me today.
5. But, where justice is the issue, then the standard needs to be agreed upon before justice is attempted. And one of the crucial beliefs of Christianity is that there is an absolute standard that exists whether or not anyone agrees. That standard is the nature of the Creator who made all things.
6. Fairness and equity are human constructs which attempt to manage disputes between humans. But justice is a divine construct for all justice is only justice when it conforms to the nature, purpose, and will of God Almighty, creator of the heavens and the earth.
E. Jesus illustrated this very truth with the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Matthew 19:30-20:16 …many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. …the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?” “Because no one has hired us,” they answered. He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.” The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. “These men who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.” But he answered one of them, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.
II. With a proper understanding of fairness in mind, I would like to turn to the Calvinistic teaching called Unconditional Election.
A. In the late 16th century, a Dutch theologian thought that the doctrine taught by the Reformers concerning the election of God unto salvation was unfair, and since God could not be unfair, the doctrine of election had to be altered.
1. Arminius came up with a new idea. Rather than election being determined unconditionally, God elected those to salvation who believed. Election thus was conditioned upon the faith of the individual.
2. The problems Arminius did not fully account for included the following:
a) If God is sovereign, then he would have to suspend his sovereignty to the will of human beings for he would not be able to elect someone if they didn’t believe.
b) The Bible speaks of election from the foundation of the world, so there had to be some method by which God would know beforehand who would believe and who would not believe. This method became a teaching of God’s foreknowledge as a kind of fortune telling rather than according to his will.
c) Another way of stating it is that God knows whether or not an individual will believe in Jesus Christ for Salvation before that person is even created but that he would not make this person with a disposition to believe and could not interfere with this person’s free will to not believe.
d) God thus becomes subservient to humanity; original sin does not have to affect a person’s ability to believe and come to the truth; Jesus Christ is impotent to save those who do not wish to be saved; and the Holy Spirit has no power whatsoever in directing history along the course of God’s decree.
3. What Arminius was left with, and what those who are Arminians today are left with is a human controlled God in a human controlled world. Another way to put it is that Arminius leaves man to dominate the divine, a reversal of roles that is original sin.
4. What seemed unfair to a man now seems unfair to hundreds of thousands of humans who like the idea of a God who must bow to our glory and not the reverse.
B. There are far too many passages of Scripture which speak directly against this humanistic attitude and identify it for what it is, the elevation of mankind to deity and the debasement of God to creaturely status.
1. This morning I have only time to present one: Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
2. Quickly, let’s break it down to understand what God is teaching though the hand of Paul.
a) “As you have always obeyed…” Obeyed whom? Jesus Christ who just before this comment is displayed in the highest glory possible because he set himself aside for the plan of God, and who put on human flesh, died for human sin, and rose from the dead. Paul commends the Philippians for following the example of Christ.
b) “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” This sounds strange on two accounts.
(1) Paul tells the Romans that they have not been given a spirit of fear but of adoption. Here he speaks of fear and trembling. Isn’t he just contradicting himself? I don’t think so because even though we are adopted by God and no longer fear condemnation, we still approach our calling to holiness with all seriousness and reverence.
(2) If we can’t do anything to please God and we can’t do anything to be saved, how can we work out our salvation? We don’t work out salvation by saving ourselves but having faith in Jesus Christ for salvation demands the daily dying to self and rising to Christ. In other words, as children of God we are now equipped and empowered to obey God, to live godly lives, and to bring glory to him.
c) “For” is a word indicating the foundational reason we can be saved and live according to our salvation. The reason is simple.
(1) We can live our salvation because it is God who works in us.
(2) Notice this carefully. God works in us first in our will and second in our ability.
(3) When we want to be gods we want to make our own choices. The desire to choose is the very sin that started the whole mess. The desire to subjugate God’s will to our own is the root of every rebellious act against God.
(a) Mutiny is when the sailors on a ship think they can make better decisions than the captain.
(b) Sin is when creatures think they can make better decisions than the Creator.
(4) God does not give us any ability to live as we were created to live without first giving us the will to live rather than the choice to die.
(5) Unless you are born again, said Jesus. No one wants to be born, they just are.
(6) After rebirth, we have spiritual life which quickens our hearts with the desire to live in God’s service and for God’s glory, always placing ourselves below the sovereignty of Almighty God.
III. Last week hundreds of thousands of people all around the world placed their names in a pool from which only nine thousand names would be selected “at random” to receive tickets to Michael Jackson’s memorial service in L.A.
A. When the names were drawn, everyone hoped theirs would be among them.
1. If their names were not drawn, few if any ran around calling “unfair.”
2. You see, there was a standard set and explained ahead of time. The standard was the foundation for the drawing.
3. None of the fans were chosen because they were more worthy than any other. It didn’t matter who was worthy. It only mattered whose name was selected.
B. Now, see that crowd of hopefuls in your mind’s eye. And imagine that none of these people wanted to attend the memorial.
1. When names begin to be called out for tickets, imagine that there is some unseen, even unfelt person who changes the hearts of those called so that they do want to attend after all.
2. In the end, everyone who is selected wants to enter into the Staples Center and are grateful to be there.
3. The rest walk away thinking, “Wow. I’m glad I wasn’t chosen.”
4. Even if those who attended tell them about it in glowing words, they are still quite pleased that they didn’t have to go.
5. No one claims it is unfair.
6. That is Unconditional Election.