Monthly Archives: August 2016

Life thoughts: God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsiblity

God’s sovereignty is the teaching that He possesses all the power to do all things as He is the ruler of all things. He works according to His purpose even if events seem to contradict or oppose His rule. In light of our study in Soteriology, this means that God acted and made a way for us to be saved through the death of Jesus Christ in our place. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Ephesians 2:4-5 says, But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” With all the technicalities involved, I understand it this way: God rules everything beyond whatever I can imagine or even begin to imagine. He is the God who created all that I can see, hear, breath, eat and touch. But even though it seems that He is too big for me to grasp, He loves me and wants me to love Him back. This leads me on.

Human responsibility is our side of the story. Though God is sovereign, we are accountable to Him for the actions we make. Romans 3:19 says, Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God.” Romans 2:5-11 talks about their accountability to God and his judgement because of their stubbornness and unrepentant heart. In light of our study of Soteriology, this is our response to God’s wooing of us while we were still unregenerate. In Ephesians 2:1,5, being dead in our trespasses and sins mean being spiritually separated from God. We are not dead and unable for God cannot woo us thus leaving us with a choice of following Him or not. He is not a divine rapist as some may subtly suggest for that erases the idea of God being a loving God. 1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” Instead we are incapable. Psalm 107:14 says, “He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, And broke their chains in pieces.” We were chained when we were in sin, and we responded to God’s love. For how can we break the chains on our own without Someone who is able break it for us? So I understand human responsibility this way: I was good as dead, bound to receive my punishment. God’s saving grace was just there waiting for me to say yes to it. How can I receive it if I do not agree to receive it in the first place?

But in all of this, it is still about God. We cannot say yes to something if there is nothing to say yes to. We cannot agree to remove our chains if we did not know that we could have it removed by God.

I admit that it is difficult to understand. But Paul clearly affirms His sovereignty and our responsibility in Romans 9:19-23:

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel [a]for honorable use and another [b]for common use? 22 [c]What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,

Brand, Chad, Charles Draper, Archie England et al. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.

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Life thoughts: God’s Rainbow

Genesis 9:12-16

 

This started as my desire to know something from God that concerns rain. It’s been raining a lot here in Manila. Rivers are widening, streets are becoming flooded. I thought of teaching on something that concerns rain. I can’t think of anything else “rain” but Noah.

 

12      God said, “This is athe sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for 1all successive generations;

13      I set My abow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.

14      “It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud,

15      and aI will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and bnever again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.

16      “When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the aeverlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

 

 

New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ge 9:12–16.

 

I think everyone who has read this passage know the promise of the rainbow–the Noahic Covenant; God’s promise of not destroying the world with water. But I wanted to dig deeper. So, why a rainbow? Why not a tree? Why not a star? Why a rainbow for a covenant? The answer is actually mind-blowing, yet very simple. In Ezek, 1:28, we find a reference to a rainbow to God sitting on His throne.

 

28      As the appearance of the arainbow 1in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the bglory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I cfell on my face and heard a voice speaking.

 

New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Eze 1:28.

 

In Rev. 4:3, we find this reference of the rainbow within God’s presence upon His throne in heaven.

 

3      And He who was sitting was like a ajasper stone and a bsardius in appearance; and there was a 1crainbow around the throne, like an demerald in appearance.

 

New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Re 4:3.

 

The rainbow is not just an earth-made, natural wonder, but it is in fact an object from heaven. Not just any object, but an object surrounding the throne of God.

 

So I ask: People are so fond of rainbows. Why? I mean, personally, if I could take a picture of all the rainbows I see, I will. Once, I encountered a double rainbow on the way to work. That was probably the first time I saw two very clear rainbow one on top of the other. Nothing can beat that, yet.

 

The principle of the rainbow is this: God’s promises are true because a part of who He is given to us. The rainbow is a part of heaven, a part of His throne, a part of Him. And He has made us see a glimpse of heaven when He made a covenant to Noah with a rainbow.

 

How does a covenant or promise become legit enough? I think that covenant are remembered when an object represents it. A ring for a married couple associates one’s spouse with that ring in that whenever one looks at it, so many memories of love and joy flash back. A letter from a loved one associates that person to that letter. So even independent of the content of the letter, one remembers the giver of that letter because one is associated with it. I saw a film once about my favorite Romantic composer, Ludwig van Beethoven. Researchers claim to have found a handful of strands of his hair encased in a vacuum sealed dome. Literally, a part of Beethoven is remembered until now just because of those strands of hair. As a musician, I will always say that every composition of mine contains my heart and soul. So if asked what my favorite work is, I would say everything, because a part of me is hidden somewhere within the music.

 

In the same way, we remember God because a part of Him is seen through the rainbow. And since that rainbow was established to be a remembrance of His promise to Noah, we can be sure that His promise will never fail. And as a God who is immutable and holy, and eternal, it is who He is that makes that covenant true up to today. He never changes, He is not double-minded like we are. And He has given us a physical reference of Himself through the rainbow. Maybe that’s why we are fond of rainbows. It doesn’t only signify the end of a storm, it doesn’t only signify God’s covenant, but it reminds us of God. Who knows, maybe we are looking at Him sitting on His throne. And since we see Him through the rainbow, we see hope, love, life, joy and remember our salvation. So next time you see a rainbow, say hi to God. You are looking at Him.

Life thoughts: Assurance of Salvation

Security and assurance are very much inter-related that it is actually difficult to look at one without the other. Allow me to define the two.

According to The Handbook to Bible Study, security or eternal security is:

The biblical teaching that God will not fail to bring into his presence for unending enjoyment of spiritual blessings those who have placed their faith in Christ;

Assurance is:

a person’s inner knowledge, given by the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the Scriptures, that he is a child of God; involves understanding the “terms of salvation,” namely that, if a person has taken a step of exercising genuine faith in Christ, he is accepted by God and becomes the recipient of all the blessings of salvation.

These two doctrines are related because if eternal security is a correct doctrine, which it is (Jn. 10:28-30), because of the testimony of Jesus Christ and God’s faithfulness in keeping His promises (Rom. 8:29-39), then one can be sure of the salvation he or she has in Jesus Christ. He is the author of our faith (Heb. 12:2), and only He can be the source of our security. Therefore, the assurance a believer can have does not rely on his own works, for the perseverance of the faith is impossible to be a basis of assurance. It is based on four truths:

      1. When we were saved, we were placed in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). The Bible doesn’t teach that a believer can be removed from that body, lest be stripped off of salvation.
      2. We were sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13, 4:30). God’s seal can never be broken.
      3. We are kept by God when we believed (Jn. 13:1)
      4. Ultimately, nothing can really separate us from His love (Rom. 8:29-39).

To explain this to someone is somewhat a daunting task for me because every detail needs to be precise and accurate as not to confuse or even distort these two important doctrines. Both assurance and security should be a concrete belief of every believer. But the truth is, most Christians doubt their assurance of salvation in that they sometimes fail to conclude that “I am saved once and forever, therefore I am going to be with Him someday.” Let me try explain it through an illustration.

If you have not known, I am a musician. I have an undergrad degree in music and pursuing a graduate degree in music the same time as I am doing graduate studies here in GSOT. I am a composer and conductor so I will use my experience to best explain security and assurance.

I’ve done a lot of concerts here in the Philippines and around Southeast Asia. Once in a while I will conduct a piece for orchestra and voice, where the voice is usually a soprano soloist. My security will come from my knowledge that the soloist has had years of experience as a student and concert artist. So every cue I give, I am secured that she will sing in correct rhythm and melody with great expressions. Say we just met for a particular concert. Her experience and education is my greatest security, but I might not be assured that she will sing correctly because we have not rehearsed yet. In other words, my part of believing in her is not concrete even though she has all the experience she could ever need for the piece.

This is sometimes my problem. Before this discussion, and before reading the chapters on assurance and security, those two doctrines where not clear to me. I’ve heard a lot of teachings about it but never heard security taught side by side with assurance. Praise God because He is sovereign. We can never really do anything for any merit. We can also ultimately be sure of His love because nothing can separate us from His love.

 

 

Sources:

 

Karleen, Paul S. The Handbook to Bible Study : With a Guide to the Scofield Study System. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. A Survey of Bible Doctrine. Chicago: Moody Press, 1995.