Saturday 11 June 2011

Brian Coatney on Election and Free will. Bonnie Morris on Purpose v. Plan

Election or Freewill , Fish or Fowl -Max Escher

Structure in Romans: the most famous election in history, yours

Posted on June 10, 2011 by Brian Leslie Coatney

Romans 9 brings up many conundrums, and how well I remember my systematic theology studies and the many earnest schemata on the doctrine of election, along with attempts to reconcile them with freedom. I’m already tired just thinking about how tired that made me, and surely one can know the sovereignty of God without undue intricacies.

Let me address freedom for a moment. Freedom is not a quality apart from God that He gives us whereby we make choices; freedom, rather, is the foundation of God’s being, out of which God operates, beginning in the free sea of nothingness and proceeding to His eternal choice to be for others, which is why there is a Cross in the heart of God. Therefore, when God gives us freedom, He cannot give it apart from Himself, for all He can give is Himself, making even freedom a process in God alone, into which we enter and in which we decide whether to unite with the Cross in His heart or to shrink back from the Cross in His heart into a potentiality of misused freedom that God Himself eternally never enters into.

Having said that, let me get started with Romans 9 and lave my opening comments where they are, with the suggestion that any may see a fuller treatment of freedom in The Cross in the Heart of God by Alan Parker. Sylvia Pearce has made this available on her web site in the reading room there.

Paul no sooner in every way affirms with all passion that nothing can separate us from the love of God than he says that he is willing to be accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his countrymen, the Jews. Notice, though, that this is his voluntary depth of love and not a legalistic constraint. Further, Paul does not think this up himself, but it is the full formation of his own son-ship that leads him to say this, meaning that as a son of God in Christ, he has embraced the same Spirit that Jesus did in going to the Cross, in that Paul is willing for Christ to do in him, Paul, as Christ Himself did on our behalf.

Paul is not saying that Christ did not do in totality all required for our salvation. Nothing can add to the blood and body of Christ that saved us, and no other can accomplish that for us. Paul is not suggesting differently; he is mirroring what he says in Colossians where he makes it plain that once someone knows Christ living within, the full measure of that comes out is passion to be used up in an intercessory way whereby Christ continues laying down His life in the world for others, but now he does it by those in whom he is formed in son-ship.

Also, in case readers might think that Paul’s passion for the Gentiles sprang out of disillusionment with the Jews, he tells us how deep and permanently his love in Christ runs for the Jews. His love is no less, no matter how greatly his love for the Gentiles grows. Plainly, though, not many Jews at that time received the Gospel. Numerically, the number of converts from Judaism to Christianity was only a remnant, but this did not indicate failure on the part of the Gospel.

Paul states this in a way similar to his approach in Romans 1 and 2 where he says, “He is a Jew who is one inwardly” (2:29 RSV). Fleshly, external identity does not constitute one’s identity; faith constitutes one’s identity. Further, works, either good or evil, have nothing to do with God’s choice since God’s word to Sarah, and then later to Rebecca, had to do with supernatural birthing, not natural birthing. The argument here is that a son of God, no matter who or when, is a true son by miraculous conception in the Spirit and not merely externally by race.

The outcry of the fleshly mind against this concerns a supposed desire for the preservation of justice. If our good or bad actions do not serve as the defining weights on the scales of justice, then how can life make sense? Wouldn’t the universe be capricious and random? No, because the new birth must be a birth that doesn’t hinge on anything about the human but hinges only on God’s mercy. Why God created those whom He knew would reject Him is His business, and Paul says here that God did this in order to birth offspring who are offspring only by His mercy. He called the Jews by mercy, and He now also calls the Gentiles by mercy.

A huge key to understanding Paul’s thought here depends on seeing that he writes this chapter not as an exercise in systematic theology, but as a passionate apologetic for his ministry to the Gentiles. You see, he tells us about Sarah, and Isaac, and Rebecca, and Jacob, in order to get to a huge point: the GENTILES! He is showing that God all along intended to open the door to those not apparently called, just as He has always, even with the patriarchs, called those apparently not called by birth order, rank, office, power, etc.

Clearly in the Old Testament, the Jews were called, and the Gentiles were not called. Paul affirms this in Ephesians chapters 3 and 4, and he says it was a mystery hidden that the Gentiles would be invited into the family of faith and seen as the elect, and Paul cites Old Testament scriptures down the stretch in Romans 9 to make this very point – that scripture all along indicated really, between the lines, that the nations of the world would be invited into the elect family.

This does not mean that the Jewish nation is now excluded; it means that the non Jewish nations are included, and that Christ fully forms Himself in anyone who receives Him and presses on into son-ship. The Bible does not recognize partial versions of salvation wherein a believer settles merely for going to heaven some day. The all out drive in scripture is for fully developed sons who operate the Father’s business of restoration and dominion in the world.

My point in all of this is to say what Paul’s point is in all of this. He is not expostulating on ideas about election that have to do with calling or not calling individuals according to an abstract plan. God is calling real people to really know Him and be known as sons, to whom He according to mercy establishes them as His friends and heirs. He does this according to faith, and in Paul’s day, God opened up this calling to anyone in whole world who would like to be included. The means is miraculous birthing in the Spirit into the body of Christ and is negotiated by faith alone.

This is what Romans 9 is about.
Chris writes:
Election and Freewill are sorted out for me , only within Union, this glorious mindblowing thing that God has already declared in Jesus in John 17....and is just as really making it ever more manifest here on planet earth.
Namely,He, the Father, in the Son,making their home in us by the Spirit.
It was always going to be that the eleven brothers were going to bow to Joseph, the other brother. and it worked itself out ever so naturally....despite everything they did to prevent such an outcome. The Joseph community today, that portion of Jew and Gentile who already believe in the Son, by letting the Holy Spirit shape, form and bring to maturity could so easily then be something the remaining 11 Jewish brothers (Israel) might wish to be around. But it won't be a forced thing. it will outwork itself quite naturally.

Bonnie Morris
from her Bridgebuilder site
This article is unlike anything I have ever attempted to write. It will address subjects that have been the topic of many heated debates amongst Christian theologians, as well as lay members. After much study and consideration of the schools of thought on both sides of any given issue in different church beliefs, I was always left with many thought provoking questions that were never answered. I was also left without conclusions to things concerning God that I did not believe had to be so elusive. I also did not believe anyone found solid revelations concerning these subjects as there were holes in their concepts which provoked my questioning them. Over the years, I have continued to ask God for the answers to these questions.
In the 1990’s (I don’t remember the particular year), a prophetess pointed to me in a meeting and spoke the following word over me: “Questions, questions, questions!!! God says you have so many questions and He wants you to know that one day you will discover that He has answered every one of them.” That day is TODAY!
The following article is an explanation that has satisfied the quest of my own journey to understand a few things concerning our God. Maybe it will satisfy you too; maybe not. But for me to have spent the major portion of my walk with Christ searching this out, I think it is at least worthy of your consideration.
The Lord shared one key with me that solved every dilemma I had with every subject. SELAH! Pause and think about this a moment. ONE KEY!!! …AND it answered EVERY question? YES! It was like a miracle! All of a sudden nothing contradicted itself. Scriptures that hadn’t made much sense, now made sense. God could be seen! Sometimes in searching for answers, God seemed like He was schizophrenic, saying one thing here and another there. It was simply because I wasn’t seeing clearly. I can see clearly now and the rain is gone. AND to think there it was! ONE KEY to it all. Amazing, simply amazing!!! I am still amazed.
So first, rather than write about the subjects that caused all the questions, I am going to give you the key to answering all of them. This is the key: Properly understanding the difference in two words: PLAN and PURPOSE.
Many will say, “I didn’t know there was a difference in those words. Well, you see, this was my problem too. I didn’t know there was a difference either… until… He whispered it in the ear of my heart. AND… then it took days, weeks, and months for it to sink in and REALLY make the crooked paths straight in so many areas of my thinking. Romans 12:2 Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. Remember, it took me years of seeing things incorrectly; it takes time to work the truth fully through one’s thinking to get to where it changes areas of confusion in our souls.
Others will say, “I have always known there is a difference in the words plan and purpose, but I didn’t realize the meanings were so meaningfully different insofar as the interpretation of scripture goes.. Well, let me say this NOW…. IT IS MEANINGFULLY DIFFERENT! It is almost this important: I had heard of Him with the hearing of my ears, but now mine eye doth see!!!
Still others will read this article and say: “I don’t know what the big deal is.” I can only say to that: “then you missed “HEARING” it” May I suggest to you that you read it again. AND again! UNTIL you GET IT.
Some understanding of the difference between plan and purpose can be seen by reading Webster, but not entirely when it comes to relating it to the scriptures. The scripture itself never mentions the word plan. This is a real indication that believers have not understood this as they constantly say “God has a plan…for the gospel…for my life. This is simply not true. WHY isn’t it true? I will give you 4 reasons (for now) why this is simply not true. Now I adjure you to please get past this statement and read the rest of the article because I can just hear religion hitting many of you over the head right now and you are thinking… She’s nuts! It is very interesting how, many times, when we hear something that destroys a sacred cow, at first it oft times comes to our ears as a sacrilegious, heretical or even a blatant lie. This is why we remain teachable or we miss many wonderful truths.
4 reasons why we cannot use the word plan when it comes to God
1. Because God is far more spontaneously creative than He is systemic. In fact, I have discovered that He is so much more spontaneously creative than what we give Him credit for.
2. Our God is a God of relationship. People ask me if I had but one word to describe the Bible, what would that word be and I tell them that I would use the word “RELATIONSHIP”. Plan is not a word that denotes relationship. It denotes FORMULA.
3. Let’s suppose you plan a trip and your plan includes being in Chicago in 3 days. Half way to Chicago your car breaks down and you have to spend 2 days getting it fixed. You now have to change your plan. Many believe God planned for Adam to sin because they cannot reconcile that if He didn’t, then Adam fouled God’s plan up and He had to go to plan B. There was no need for God to go to plan B because there was no plan A. This misinterpretation has so colored God’s nature that it is a shame.
4. The scriptures never use the word plan. I bet only 1 in a million people know this. Check it out in Strong’s!
Now, concerning the word PURPOSE: Purpose is used 36 times in the Bible. Purposed is used 19 times. Purposes is used 5 times and purposeth is used once. 61 times altogether, the various forms of the word purpose is used.
Purpose denotes relationship. It speaks of flexibility, temperance, hope, forgiveness, do over’s, encouragement, love and all other attributes of God’s nature in His relationship with us.
So, in the beginning God purposed!
What was God’s purpose? We all know! He PURPOSED to make man in His image! Not “A” man in His image, but man in His image! I have come to know this about our God. When He purposed to make man in His image, He knew He was capable of accomplishing that purpose, regardless of what man did. Our Almighty, all Powerful, all Knowing God believed in His own ability. He understood something that I have fully come to appreciate about Him; He knows that no matter what decisions man makes, He is capable of working those decisions after the counsel of His own will. AND… His will was to make man in His image.
This point is well brought out in the book called “The Shack”. In the chapter titled “A Meeting of Hearts” on page 189, Mac is having a discussion with God. . Basically Mac has just asked God why He doesn’t get upset with people when they don’t get it right. God states His answer this way: “Let’s say that I (GOD) know it will take you (MAC) 47 situations and events before you will actually hear Me. That is, before you will hear clearly enough, and change. So when you don’t hear me the first time I’m not frustrated, I’m thrilled - only 46 more times to go and that first time, will be the building block to construct a bridge of healing that one day you will walk across.”
Now if God PLANNED to make a man in His image, we have a problem. In these days God is speaking to us by His son Jesus. Jesus was the first one to become perfect or (to be made in the image of God). Made is an interesting word as it speaks of completion. It is very different in it’s concept from the word create. What was it about Jesus becoming the image of God? Well, Jesus always obeyed God. He loved the law. He did always what He saw the Father do. He grew in wisdom and stature. He laid down the last vestige of His own will at Gethsemane and did the Father’s will. Remember Jesus said “nevertheless not as I will but as thou wilt”. (which proves to us that man has his own will to deal with). Although Jesus suffered a great contradiction of sinners and He suffered being tempted, He became perfect. AND…. because He did, there will be many other brethren to follow as a direct result of the obedience of one.
But nonetheless, IF God planned to make man in His image: we have a problem, because just like planning a trip to Chicago, there are several steps you make in getting there. You can’t miss a step without changing your plan. So, God created Adam with a purpose in mind, not a plan. Whoops! Adam disobeyed God!!!. Did God have to change His plan? No! People say that God planned for Adam to fall and that proves He didn’t have to go to plan B. No, God didn’t plan for Adam to fall, and no, He didn’t have to go to plan B because there was no plan A. How ridiculous would it be for a God who has told us that death is an enemy but plan for Adam to fall, knowing the result of falling would be death. Is God therefore our enemy? See the problem with that!!! It is schizophrenic thinking, and a double minded man you do not want to be.
But, seeing clearly, we know that when Adam fell, it did not change the purpose of God. No matter what choice Adam made, God was more than capable of working it after the counsel of His own will and not lose His own integrity in the situation. He is beautiful for situations. Remember “The Shack”!!!
So, did it matter what Adam decided. NO! Not to God! He remained in control. When Adam made the wrong choice, God never lost control; He simply worked Adam’s choice and resulting action after the counsel of His own will. You can choose, but God controls you on the basis of your choice. YES, He gave you a choice!!! Some believers argue that you do not have a choice. HOW SILLY! Now, there is no choice that is made without influence, as that would be impossible and still live in an environment. But two people can be in the exact same environment and make different choices. Choices are based on what is in the heart. Does God want you to commit adultery? No, so we can also safely say that God’s will is not always done in the earth AND YET… God remains in control no matter what choice you make. He said, “I lay before you life and death, choose life”. It is ridiculous to think you have no choice. When you choose life, God responds one way and He responds quite another way if you choose death. He is so spontaneously creative. This is balance folks.
So, did God need sin to make man in His image? Jesus is the example. No, God did not need sin to make man in His image. God only needed the law. The law is the knowledge of good and evil.
How do I know that God did not need sin to fulfill His purpose? Because Jesus never sinned. However, the law was present to obey and in Christ’s obedience He became perfect. Would God give us a law that could not be kept? NO! Jesus proved that. Remember, he was fully man. The law was never kept by another because no one else wanted to keep it. It wasn’t that man Couldn’t, it was that he Wouldn’t!!! The law never made anyone sin; it merely EXPOSED sin that was already there. The law was made to be kept. We have heard the old saying that rules were made to be broken. NO, a 1000 times NO! Rules are made to be kept. May I suggest you obey the speed limit. This law was made to be kept! But, to the point: What kind of Father would tell his child to do something that he KNEW he Couldn’t do? Sadistic! God has gotten so much blame for things He was not responsible for. This reminds me of another situation that came up in “The Shack”. Mac is talking to God and it wasn’t long before it was pointed out that Mac liked Jesus more than God. Mac went to Jesus for forgiveness because he saw Jesus as gracious and when he didn’t want to tell God why he couldn‘t go to Him for forgiveness, he stammered…. so God said what was in his heart:…… “because I’m mean“? The story continues by God pointing out how strange this is because Jesus came to show people who HE (God) is. God says: “They are still playing us as good cop - bad cop.
This is so the truth! When man wants to control someone, He points to God as stern but when man needs forgiveness he goes to Jesus. How sick is that? So many things have been said about God, that if these same things were said of a natural man, that man would be put in jail. I, for one, have set my heart to reveal the true and living God in whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning. God is love!
When you understand the difference in the meanings of the words plan and purpose, predestination is no longer a debatable issue either.. Of course God predestinated us. When you consider God KNEW He was powerful enough to bring about His purpose, predestination makes sense. God believed in Himself so He knew His purpose would come to pass! … AND… He didn’t need a formula to make it happen. He only needed Himself. But how beautiful to serve a God who is big enough to allow us our choice and work with us to become that which He purposed. My husband always says it takes a bigger man to give you a choice than it does to simply control your every move. God is big, but more than that, He is so beautiful; how marvelous are His works.
What does all this mean?
1. It means you are not a robot.
2. It means you have a choice.
3. It means God never loses the control of man or the earth.
4. It means we’re in a working relationship with a God who loves us
5. It means man is responsible for his own actions. You can make
it hard on yourself, or easy on yourself, but you WILL be
conformed to the image of God. Remember, He is making MAN
in His image…not “A” man. His purpose will be done. SELAH!
6. It means God took the responsibility to get us out of the jam we
put ourselves in.
7. It means that God’s will is not always done.
8. It means that man has a will of his own.
9. It means God never planned for us to yield to evil.
10. It means God is spontaneously creative and purpose driven.
11. It means that the law does not cause you to sin but merely
exposes sin that already exists.
12. It means that God works all things after the counsel of His own
will while still allowing man the freedom of relating to and
influencing Him.
13.. It means predestination is simple to understand.
14. It means CHOICES are VERY important.

While it means other things, this is a beginning of a beautiful understanding on simple things that man’s complex mind has spun for far too long. We see that the simpler you get, the closer you are to understanding God.
I am so surprised at how many believers I have heard say that God is in control and so He’s responsible for man’s actions. This indicates to me that there are people who do not want to accept responsibility for their choices. They want to blame someone else. Doesn’t that remind you of ADAM?!!!
However, we are so blessed because God took the responsibility to get us out of the ultimate consequences of our choices: ie: DEATH!!!
God said: Because YOU have done this… He did not say: because I made you do this.
My purpose in the rest of this article is to share something that has caused many to misinterpret experiences.
First, we understand that experiences should never be used to establish doctrine or, heaven forbid, His nature. How many times have we heard someone share an experience they had with God and then turn around and think that everyone else has to do what they did to find the freedom they found in any given area of their life? Or my favorite example of making doctrines out of things, is all the “HOW TO BOOKS”. on spiritual matters. Specifically, I would mention the book “7 Steps to Receive the Holy Spirit”. Thank God I had already received Him when I happened across this book because I might have fallen into the trap of following the proper steps as I now know others have. Then some wind up not receiving what they think they are believing God for; they blame themselves and think they are not good enough for Him. We have all thought some of these same kind of crazy things. After reading “7 Steps to Receive the Holy Spirit, I realized I had missed every single step. How ridiculous are these “HAVE TO“ steps!!! Again, it’s just another plan of man and his own idea of God.
Experiences that are misinterpreted bring us lots of comfort words. Words that comfort from misinterpretations are lies. These lies have established far too many false ideas of God. Permit me to give you an example of something that happened in my life, in the past 18 months, that so drove this home to me that I can see this very plainly now.
God wanted me to help 2 different people. I started to help one of them but my heart was following after the other. I passed that off with my own reasoning, thinking… “well, I can help her next year,” as helping each one required a goodly sum of money so I couldn‘t help them both at once. I now know the tugging in my heart was God, and I missed it. Now this caused me 18 months of frustration. Ultimately God had his way, but it caused a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering for me, as well as others.

After this whole experience was over, three times my husband said: “Oh well Bon, it was just God’s timing”… The 3rd time he said that, I heard the Holy Spirit say (very firmly), “NO MAN KNOWS THE TIMING”.

Now, I normally would have comforted myself with the words it was just God’s timing. I’m sure I’ve done that in the past. AND… when I did, I learned nothing. I falsely comforted myself and left a trail of hurts behind. Here was the lesson: DON’T BLAME GOD,… TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS,… JUST PLAIN FORGET THE WORDS: GOD’S TIMING (THEY DO NOTHING BUT DECEIVE US)… and FINALLY,… HEAR AND OBEY.
So now, even though I understand today, that God in His patience, let’s us go even 47 times to get it right… there is something to be said for growing to the place where we hear and obey the first time. Life would be so much simpler. It is where we want to be and I am assured because of His wondrous grace, one day we will walk there. It is how Jesus walked and one day we will see Him face to face for we shall be like Him. This would mean we have learned to hear the first time He speaks, and then obey. Obviously, He is not condemning us when we don’t, but I hear Him saying “Come up hither”.
There are so many more examples I could give you of comfort words, but I just hope this one little example is enough to get you to examine your experiences a little more closely and make sure you are not falsely comforting yourself. I can say this: when I had the truth on this one little experience, it made me feel so much better to repent than to remain in a state of self-justification. It made Him big and caused me to see His love shine forth. It caused me to grow by leaps and bounds in the past few months. I am blessed!
After the understanding of plan and purpose came to me, I spent months challenging myself every time I said plan, to change it to purpose. Every time I heard the word plan, I would make the comparison of the 2 words. It was an exciting trip. It strengthened my relationship with God. Let me suggest politely, that you try the same thing. What do you have to lose?
Blessings be upon you. Experience the peace and rest that the knowledge of God brings. Believe in God the way He believes in Himself, for you ARE His purpose.
The Shack can be purchased at and most book stores.
I also want to thank Carol Holstrom for the research she did on this article.
More related material here

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